Chicago


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Before our return to South Africa we spent 3 freezing days in Chicago, visiting a high school friend of Alexander’s in Chicago. We spent the days leading up to our visit mentally preparing ourselves for the freezing weather she warned us about. I thought Albuquerque was cold, but Chicago was supposed to be way worse.

Her boyfriend picked us up from the airport on the icy evening of our arrival and took us to their lovely apartment building near Lincon Square in the former German neighborhood of the city. I was amazed at the mountains of snow everywhere and the way my condensated breath turned icy on the car windows.

Chicago is one of the coldest places I’ve ever visited, but it was not as bad as I expected and besides my feet going numb every time I stepped outside I thought I was doing quite fine. The snow that fell ever so often, giving everything a fresh coat, and the lovely houses and fascinating architecture certainly helped distracting my mind from the sub zero temperatures.

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Our first day was spent riding the El into the city, wandering around the downtown area and visiting the Art Institute, admiring the original artworks and displays. The warning signs beside all the skyscrapers had me rather nervous about my own safety.

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We stopped for late-late lunch at Clark’s Hot Dogs, a decidedly seedy joint near Boy’s Town. I would not have it any other way. The disinterested lady serving us kept on peering over our shoulders as we placed orders and shouted at someone that may not have been there. I ordered a hot dog with chili and a root beer. It was incredibly satisfying.

For dinner that night our hosts ordered stuffed pizza from a popular local chain who’s name I now forget. The pizza resembled something between a pizza and a pie with a thick crust coming up to about an inch from the base. This was filled with loads of mozzarella, sauce and peppers. I had a hard time eating two slices, the pizza was super filling and really delicious.

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On our last day we strolled around the trendy Division Street Corridor, browsing through all the hip stores and enjoying a long lunch at Milk & Honey, which included sandwiches and tasty desserts. Too soon we had to hurry on to O’Hare International to catch two very long flights and a dull Frankfurt layover to the warmth of the South African summer.

I would have loved to stay longer, exploring more of the neighborhoods and the architecture. I have not had nearly enough hot dogs or pizza or locally brewed beer and would have enjoyed being shown around more by Meghann and Tom. There were also lots of suggestions from Erin and Jeanne we did not get to. Next time we will go when the weather is a little warmer and make more time for Chicago.

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I finally get to see what the winters of my childhood fantasies really look like, and it did not disappoint. Chicago is a beautiful city, with lots of lovely old brownstown apartments, period-piece houses and snow everywhere. I think I’ll be staying!