Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sunday Strollin' in Chicago

This is my third visit to the Windy City, but it's really my first chance to explore the place. I'm enjoying it a lot.

We got here on Saturday, collapsed in our hotel for a two-hour nap, and took a train ride to Wheaton to visit friends that evening. I failed to take any pictures, but I'm kicking myself now. Their girls are adorable, and we had a great time hanging out with them. It was also my first time on a "real" train, as opposed to a subway. It took two subways and a commuter train to get us there.

On Sunday, we took the advice of my friend Heather, a Chicago native, and went for some real Chicago stuffed pizza.

This location was only one stop away on the El. Unfortunately, our El stop isn't exactly conveniently located. You get used to the cold and the long walk though. I bet I wouldn't have a gym membership if I lived here. Not a lot of really overweight people here, I'm finding. Even though they eat this.

This is quite possibly the best garlic cheese toast I've ever put in my mouth. Flaky bread, melted cheese, perfect marinara... my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

And that was just the prelude to this.

Yeah. They have to cut around the edge of your plate to separate the cheese from the rest of the pizza. This is my kind of meal.

This was when I started to understand what my Chicago friends mean when they tell me the Austin-located "Chicago style pizza" places aren't the real thing, that they're pale imitations. I din't want to believe them, but I have to say they're right. The flaky crust, the sauce... Giordano's is the place. Yum.

After we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, we headed to the Belmont subway station to find this funky little tile mural. I had to capture it since it was so fun.

We headed to the State Street shopping district. Macy's here, like in NYC, takes up an entire city block. Also like in NYC, they take their window decorations seriously. I won't bore you with all of them, but there were several places where the scene was reminiscent of "A Christmas Story" with the kids pressed against the glass.

There was also a group of several guys playing percussion on five-gallon drums that were very talented. My new camera takes video and I captured it, but I am having technical difficulties getting it onto youtube. I'll leave that on the to-do list and hope I can manage it soon.

We headed inside Macy's -- the biggest department store I've ever seen. If you're an escalator fan, this is the place for you! I really just liked the lines of this shot.

Once we got near the top, we looked out a window and saw this. The architecture was really beautiful throughout the store.

On the 7th and 8th floors was the Great Tree. You can tell how tiny the people are in this shot; the tree is just enormous.

Once outside, the city was dressed in its Christmas best, breathtaking in the twilight.

This was taken near where we ate dinner. I don't know the name of the building, but I loved looking up through the Christmas-lit branches.

We passed a plaza where there were dozens of trees lit up in front of a Christmas tree.

This is the same plaza, shot from the side.

We walked down Michigan Avenue across the Chicago River, to get to a reputed John Cusack hangout. Sadly, there was no Cusack joy to be found. On the bright side, we met a fascinating lawyer from Houston, a fellow who played football for Texas in the Earl Campbell days. I think I may have had a better time talking to him than I would have to Johnny himself!


Anyway, on the way to the hangout we passed the Wrigley building, which is beautiful at night.

These are their Christmas trees, above the main entrance.

And back at our hotel that night, these are the decorations there. Home sweet home-away-from-home!

I've loved exploring a new place this December. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? What is your favorite new thing this year?

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