So what do you do with just 24 hours in Chicago?
Mostly we walked. Our hotel was conveniently located so having checked in we strolled past the historic water tower and down the so-called Magnificent Mile (though having been completely spoiled by London and New York we didn’t find it quite lived up to its honorific).
We then spent the entire afternoon on a self-guided tour of public art in the Loop. Chicago has a really remarkable collection of works by major artists dotted around, and wandering around them all is a pleasant way to pass the time. I was particularly taken with Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, and Calder’s bright Flamingo looked most dramatic against a backdrop of dark glass buildings. We were also amused to see a young family using Picasso’s Richard J. Daley Center Monument as a slide, but felt that he would probably have approved.
We looked up at the Willis Tower but didn’t ascend to the viewing deck, instead opting for cocktails on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building.This turned out to be a brilliant idea – for more-or-less the same price as an observatory ticket you got a tasty cocktail as well as the opportunity to admire the city and lake from above.
We had also timed our visit rather well, so were able to watch the setting sun and see the streets light up. We ended the evening with a walk along Navy Pier, as tacky and touristy as can be but another great place from which to see the city lights.
The next morning began with breakfast at Do-Right – it isn’t often that we seek out a doughnut shop but we had heard that this one sold fabulous gluten free doughnuts, and I was not disappointed. (Tom reports that the regular doughnuts were also worth the trip, and he enjoyed a maple bacon offering.)
There was just enough time left for a very speedy look around the Art Institute before making our way out to the airport for the flight to Portland. We arrived just as it opened, so were the first visitors into the gallery with Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day. I saw this in New York last year when it was on loan to the Met, but it was nice to see it again! Next up was Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte, but the impact of that was completely diluted for me as it shares a gallery with Monet’s Bordighera. I have had a print of this on my bedroom wall at my parent’s house since 1997, and it was just wonderful to see the painting for real (though the Seurat was pretty impressive too!).
We then zoomed around a few other items on the gallery highlights tour, admiring the building as we went. Most of the galleries were light and airy, displays were well put-together, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable space in which to spend time.
I think it was interesting to visit Chicago straight from New York. Several people had suggested that we would find it similar but tidier, and I’m inclined to agree with them – it was all a bit shorter, shinier and more sedate. For me this also meant that it felt a bit flat (both literally and metaphorically), but it was certainly a very pleasant city to visit, and I’d happily go back.
I’ve uploaded lots more pictures into my Flickr album, so please take a look at those too if you’re at all interested.