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Chicago, I Love it!!!

Well, I lucked out. It was too bad we could not visit my friend Elizabeth in Vermont this week. But if I have to miss out on my friend, I would definitely choose a city vacation if at all possible. I left the choice up to Sara, and she came up with Chicago as our new destination. Our funds would not go as far in a city, as we had planned for a drive-to-a-friend’s-house sort of budget, but we sat down on Sunday and figured out how far we could stretch the resources and in what directions.

Sara wanted as many days as we could get. We decided to go with a Youth Hostel as our lodging, which meant we could go for 3 days and buy a few souvenirs while we were there. My friend Regina had told me she had good luck at hostels in Chicago when she would visit art museums there, so we found one that seemed a good price with free parking. We chose a dorm room, which meant we would share a room with other women.

It turned out just fine. We had 4 other roommates and they all came together. It was two young women from England, one from Scotland and one from New Zeeland. They were in the US this summer to work as camp counselors in Wisconsin, and now they were taking the tour of the US on their way home. They were good company. (When I stayed at a hostel in New York City a few years ago, the room had 14 beds and it was co-ed, both men and women in the same room. This was definitely more cozy in Chicago.)

We had crummy construction traffic all the way to Chicago. In fact, Sara only drove maybe a half hour or less the whole trip. It normally takes less than 4 hours to get there, but this time it took us closer to 5.5 hours or so. We even had traffic delays within an hour from home. I have never had this much trouble on the road to Chicago before. I’ve had trouble *in* Chicago traffic but not on the way. Sara tried to sleep as much as possible on the way there. It went OK, I just let it be, and we got there safely.

The hostel was near Loyola University on the northeast side of Chicago. It was very close to Devon Avenue, not that far from the Indian and Pakistani part of town, which is my favorite part of Chicago. We got checked in to the hostel and headed down Devon for dinner.

We had a nice meal at Udupi Palace, where I had a uttapam (a large unsweet pancake made with cream of wheat, with veggies) and Sara had a dosai (a thin crepe filled with a potato filling). She was amazed at the size of the dosai (please forgive if I don’t spell these foods exactly right, I swear I’ve seen more than one spelling of this word). It was huge next to other very large ones I’ve seen. She ate a good portion of it but said that it was a little greasy (it’s fried) and the filling was more spicy than she wanted.

My uttapam was very good… it had tomatoes, onion, green peas and carrots. I put a sauce on the top of it, which is also sometimes served more like a soup. I’m going blank on the name of that sauce/soup right now but it’s a little spicy and based on veggies, perhaps mostly tomato? I was very happy with this meal, and Sara was OK about it not being her first choice.

That night after we got back to the hostel, we got a good parking spot (whew!) and decided to head into downtown. We had great help from a very friendly subway worker who helped me understand how their fares/fare cards worked (I’ve been on a lot of public transit systems, but they all are a little different). We hopped our way to downtown. It was about 30 minutes by El (otherwise spelled “L” for Elevated train, although part of it is indeed submerged rather than elevated).

We got to downtown and tried to find a place I’d been to a few years back. No luck, unfortunately. I thought we’d get dessert there. We just had fun walking around. We did find a Starbucks coffeehouse. I had a tea and Sara had a strawberries and cream (smoothie? I’m not sure what it really is).

We did discover a really cool outdoor art exhibit near the Chicago Cultural Center. It was a lot of very large photographs of families all over the world, and little blurbs on the families and where they were from. I noticed that none of the families were two people… apparently the photographer defines family in a more traditional way than I do. I definitely consider Brian and I to be a family, but maybe that doesn’t make a good photograph, who knows? In any case, the photos were wonderful, with apparel native to each area of the world. I loved the clothing.

On the way back I took pictures of a wonderful neon sign near the subway. What was interesting on this trip is that so many good neon signs were for so many fairly ordinary businesses. This was a little hole in the wall diner. There was one for a bakery, too.

In my area, you see good old neon signs mostly at bowling alleys, drug stores, and liquor stores. In Jackson there is a great shoe store with a good sign, but that is the exception. In a larger city you find great signs for businesses that would never have one in Lansing. For example, in Jacksonville, Florida they have a two-story tall Krispy Kreme Donut sign with a zillion blinking bits, a truly fantastic sign… for donuts. Not in Lansing! So many times in Chicago we went too fast past something for me to take a photo, but it makes me almost want to take a trip there again with the primary purpose of taking photos of neon. It would be a wonderful and busy trip!!!

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