Thanksgiving is the time when you are grateful for all the good things in life.I am very thankful for the week-long break that I got in the hectic life. Being in Ames, which is a small town makes you want to go out and explore. So for the break we 9 friends decided to do a ‘road trip’ spanning 5 cities over 6 days. After a rigorous discussion and planning for the whole night, it dawned upon us that the plan was infeasible and instead came to the conclusion that a 3 day trip to a big city was the better option.
So the big city I’m talking here about is Chicago. My first visit here was when I had a 6-hour layover at the O’Hare International Airport and I couldn’t get out of the airport, But this time I was going to visit the city. Now Chicago is a 6 hours drive from Ames, but none of us was confident enough to drive the left-handed vehicles so we booked tickets on a bus and also rented an apartment on Airbnb. I’ve traveled by buses a lot in India so this was nothing new for me, but I had read bad reviews about the bus service and went without any expectations. To be honest, these buses are better than those in India and I couldn’t find anything to complain about them.
The journey by bus was boring because we had flat farmlands spread over acres on both sides of the highway and the weather was gloomy, so the excitement of sitting in the window seat was not the same. Seven hours later we reached Chicago,welcomed by the traffic. Ames has NO traffic but Chicago traffic reminded me of home because I hadn’t seen tall buildings and so many vehicles on the road at the same time for 4 months now. We reached the greyhound stop and split into groups to reach our apartment. The uber driver was an entertaining person, we had a short conversation of 10 min with him, but the topics just escalated too quickly and he sensed our naivety and questioned the locality we were heading to. Initially, we thought this was just one of the guys everyone had warned us about. When we actually reached our destination, it was an old building in a shady neighbourhood and looked empty. We had to find the directions in the email, going through back alleys found the apartment as if after a treasure hunt. The apartment was small and cozy but had some really weird painting and artifacts hanging on the walls. Throwing our bags we headed out to explore the city. We were fascinated by the tall buildings that disappeared half way up into the fog, walked the downtown, the citylights realizing the America we had seen on TV.
We all were now hungry after walking so much and went to a restaurant which was on our wishlist and was called ‘Giordano’s’. This restaurant is famous for it’s STUFFED DEEP DISH PIZZA which is basically a normal pizza with delicious 2-inch stuffing.We underestimated the pizza size and ordered two large ones among 4 of us. Having just two slices of the pizza was enough to fill your tummy. So the second pizza was by default our breakfast for the next day.
On day 2, we witnessed the Thanksgiving Parade and also went to the two touristy places in Chicago, the Cloud Gate and Shedd aquarium. The Cloud Gate is a bean shaped seamless shiny structure in which you can see the reflection of the Chicago skyline. We were lucky enough that the weather was good when we visited the bean as it got gloomy later. Now gloomy in Chicago is just COLD, the temperature dropped and the wind was making things worse. To top it off, we had to wait in the queue for almost an hour in the chilling cold to get into the Shedd aquarium. The Shedd aquarium was impressive with well-kept exhibits from all over the world. We left Shedd aquarium and headed to the Devon street. Devon street is known for its Indian restaurants and sweet shops. The 3 hours that we spent there we gorged on chicken curry biryani, dosa, thali and a variety of sweets and chats. Coming to this street was like a home away from home. Tears welled up seeing good Indian food after months of self made recipes. We returned to our apartment all content and happy.
The third day we went to the beach, technically it was the shore of Lake Michigan but hey there was sand so we were on a beach. It was empty and was just 4 of us trying to click pictures with the Chicago skyline in the background. We then visited the Lincoln Zoo, this was a long time after my childhood that I went to the zoo. The next thing on our mind was shopping but we had to eat something as all of us were starving. I had known about the Cheese Cake Factory from Big Bang Theory where Penny works. But today I was actually at the place having the best cheesecakes. It was a bit heavy on the pocket but good food makes my heart lighter.
We were on Michigan Avenue, the place which has a lot of malls and that day being Black Friday we had to make the most of it. We went mall hopping, jumping floors to find the things we needed, making our way through the crowd, lost our way(the malls are just huge),sometimes entering the stores just to get warm. Ate free chocolate samples, picked random coupons and had a great time. We were in “AMERICA”, the one we always saw in the movies.
It was winter time and it gets dark as early as 5 pm, so our plan next was to go to the top of John Hancock Tower. There is an observation deck located on the 94th floor of the tower, a superfast elevator takes you from the ground floor to the top in like 30seconds. As you go higher, you feel the pressure in your ears. Once we reach the top floor, the view from the glass windows is just stunning. The whole city is lit in patterns that run through the width, a dark blanket is seen over the Lake Michigan. We also did the TILT, wherein you lean against the window which is tilted to an angle of 45degrees on the outer side and you can see the street at the bottom 500m below you. It was a thrilling experience.
After I enjoyed my time on the 94th floor I returned to the apartment to catch my departing bus to Ames.These 3 days that I spent in Chicago were truly amazing. I learned new things, our friendships strengthened and it was a fruitful thanksgiving break. I have a few more interesting stories to tell from this trip which I will write in my next post.