Please welcome Nichole L. Reber to Writing Space. Nichole has been living the ex-pat life and is currently transitioning Stateside after several years. In this time of transition, she is sharing her love for Chicago, a city near and dear to my heart as well. Reading her virtual tour makes me want to return for a visit. Okay, maybe not for a few months yet. Let the ice melt first.
BIO: Nonfiction writer Nichole L. Reber is stringing words together toward her first book, humorous yet thoughtful chronicle of her life in China, Hong Kong, India, and Peru. A fan of writers challenge season, she is an annual participant in WNFIN and the National Travel Writing Month. Read her blog or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
My Sweet Home Chicago
Architecture overall is one of the most joyful elements of Chicago. This (the older tower-like building) is the 74-story Water Tower near Water Tower Place for fantastic shopping on the Mag Mile and the more modern building is Jeanne Gang’s 86-story Aqua Tower.
I’ll be happy to show you about sweet Chicago. We’ll focus on the arts in the downtown area, known locally as The Loop, before munching and laughing on the north side and clinching your trip with some South Side baseball. First, a little background on our two most popular nicknames: the Windy City and the Second City. The first didn’t originate because of winds. Rather it’s a mockery of Chicago politicians who are/were so full of hot air. And it’s not called Second City because Chicagoans feel inferior to any other city. Rather the city was significantly rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, therefore seeming like a second city. It was also just after that that Louis Sullivan gave Chicago– and the world– its first skyscraper.
The Art Institute is the place to start— especially because of architect Renzo Piano’s recent addition. The museum’s easy to navigate and feeds many interests from ethnic to classic paintings and from architecture to fashion. Then we’ll walk up Michigan Avenue (AKA the Magnificent Mile) and enjoy the earthy smells of autumn on a scenic detour through Millennium Park and Frank Gehry’s amphitheatre, AKA the Pritzker Pavilion.
Take a break at the Chicago Cultural Center, formerly the public library and still my favorite place in the world. Grab a light bite in the commons and listen to a jazz trio or perhaps even Chicago’s own Andrew Bird. Walk around the small art exhibitions, historic architectural art, and arts-oriented gift shop. See the world’s largest stained-glass Tiffany dome, or take a tour to see how events in this building helped shaped Chicago history.
Next stop? A Chicago Architecture Foundation tour via the river or the El. Chicago is, after all, home to Louis Sullivan, grandfather of architecture; his once-associate Frank Lloyd Wright; Mies van der Rohe; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Jeanne Gang.
Now of course you have to try our deep dish pizza. For that best choice is Lou Malnati’s. Beware: after this culinary experience every other pizza will pail in comparison.
Now I want to show you where I saw Ray Brown’s penultimate performance and became a jazz groupie: the Jazz Showcase. The likes of Monty Alexander, Nick Payton, or Kenny the “real Kenny G.” Garrett play here. You might become one too if you close out the night with a late show at Andy’s. Here musicians often play after their sets at the Showcase, local legends pop in for a few songs, and regular acts introduce Chicago’s style of jazz.
Sleep well that night because tomorrow’s another packed day.
We start with the John Hancock Tower for a heavenly view of the city. From there we’ll mosey around the Museum of Contemporary Art or the myriad galleries of River North. Afterwards we’ll enjoy a film or two showing during the International Film Festival or one of dozens of the city’s other annual film festivals. Don’t eat too much popcorn, though. Next up is Wrigleyville, where the Cubs play. While the baseball park is a blast, real baseball comes tomorrow. For now, though, get your shop on at the myriad boutiques and used book shops before cozying up to a local brew and dinner at Penny’s Noodle Shop. We’re off now to Second City, to laugh ourselves silly at the political rants and otherwise improv mecca whose alumni include Joan Rivers, Eugene Levy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Tiny Fey.
Tomorrow’s an exploration of the South Side. We’ll go down Lake Shore Drive in a convertible before driving by the IIT campus, where Mies van der Rohe taught and designed many buildings, then past the house where the Obamas live when not in the White one. Now let’s stop on the University of Chicago campus to go inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie house before finally making our way over to Comiskey. (I refuse to call it U.S. Cellular Park, just as I refuse to call the Sears Tower by its newer name of Willis Tower. It’s difficult, after all, to call family members by new names.)
I’ll drop you off at your hotel now, exhausted after a whirlwind city tour. If you’re up for more, you can read me in variously lengthy increments such as my blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
What is your favorite city for architecture? Are you a museum lover by nature? Native of Chicagoland? What are your picks for must-see places and spaces? Leave us a comment. Mahalo.