Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday 27 July - Chicago - Elevated and River Tours

Another very hot day today.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation put on a number of excellent tours of specific aspects of the city's architecture.  These are led by very knowledgeable volunteer docents who make the experience very worthwhile.  This morning we went on a conducted tour of the elevated railway stopping off at stations to discuss the features to be seen.  The CTA loop is very noisy indeed and the trains are not the best.  Many have wheel flats including one very noisy one indeed - it was right under the motorman and must have been very unpleasant for him.  Although parts of the structure have been renovated in recent times, several of the stations are in very bad shape.  Trains seem to arrive at random and there is nothing on the platform to indicate which train is coming next - one must look for the train color to figure out where it is going.
H. Washington Library station
Nickel counters at Quincy station
We started at the Chicago public library and made our way to Quincy which has been nicely restored to its original condition, there are several of the original counters above the ticket counter which counted the passengers' nickel to ensure no sharp practice.  From there we went off the Loop to Clinton, where the continual movements of METRA noisy locomotives made communication difficult.  The next stop was Madison which is in very bad condition and we finished at Adams.

We took this tour on special train on a Sunday morning when we were last here in 2002 but this time we used service trains which gave us much more flexibility.  The docent spoke to us by radio which was very helpful.

Chicago is famous for its deep dish stuffed pizza and we had to have one while we were here.  We went to Giordanos on Jackson (there are many locations throughout the city and suburbs).  While we waited foa a table Mary put in our order so it came quite quickly once we had been seated.  The starter salad was excellent as was the beer.  The stuffed pizza is about 3 cms deep and is filled with the ingredients, mostly in layers - onion, peppers and sausage on the bottom, then a thick layer of cheese and finally the tomato sauce.  We were not sure whether "stuffed" referred to the pizza or the eaters.  It was very good.

The Chicago river tour started at the other side of the loop and we didn't feel inclined to walk over there after a heavy meal and in the hot sun.  We took the elevated to have a look at the library.  This is reputed to be the largest public library in the USA.  The interior is not particularly impressive and the concourse seemed small and a little restricting compared to Boston or New York.

The Brown line brought us to the landing for the river cruise.  The CAF only sell tickets for the seats on the open top deck so there is plenty of room down below in the air conditioning.  To view the buildings one has to be outside and mercifully it was cloudy for most of the time.  The tour was good and the docent knew his subject but after a while the detail blurs.  The river has recently been upgraded from "highly toxic" to "highly polluted" but there is still a long way to go before people will be able to swim in the river.

About ten minutes before disembarking the sky went dark and there was rain for about two minutes.  Everyone tried to get down below.

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