"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

April 24-27 Chicago, IL (Part II)

At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding. –Arthur Frommer
We did a lot of walking while we were in Chicago...over 15 miles in three days. We wandered the beautiful streets taking in the sights and doing a little shopping. We also walked along the riverwalk and the lake. Here's a little of the history we learned.

Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. It was opened to the public in 1916, originally known as Municipal Pier. The purpose of the pier was to be a shipping and recreation facility. It was renamed Navy Pier in 1927 as a tribute to the Navy personnel who were housed there during World War I. I don't remember hearing anything about it when we visited family in Chicago as a kid. I'm not sure if anything was there, but in 1995 the pier reopened to the public offering all kinds of experiences. The pier celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016 with new attractions like the Centennial Wheel and a new welcome center. We walked over to the pier, but it seems mostly to cater to young families. I'm sure it's a busy place in the summer, but there wasn't much going on the morning we were there, but it gave us great views of the city and the lake. 

The water in Lake Michigan is an unbelievable color. As beautiful as any water we've seen, even in the Bahamas. Here are pictures of the Centennial Wheel, the Captain at the Helm and the Crack the Whip statues. All are at the Navy Pier.
The Navy Pier Auditorium...as seen from our tour boat.
Ohio Street Beach with views of the Hancock building.
We chose the Wendella Tour Company to get a better look at the Chicago River and the Chicago Harbor. They've been doing architecture tours since 1935. We had a wonderful trip, the sky and water were beautiful...although it was very cold. The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals that runs through the city of Chicago. Although the river isn't long it's one of the reasons for Chicago's geographic importance: the related Chicago Portage is a link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

The Chicago River was another place that people didn't visit in the 70's & 80's. All it was at that time was an artery for industrial shipping, a handy place to dump sewage, and an ever-present barrier to transportation and development, but heavy industry has given way to a glistening new downtown. Efforts to clean the river began more than a century ago with the reversal of flow away from the lake, but when the construction of the Riverwalk started in 2001 it has become one of the most beautiful and unique features of the city.

Waiting for the tour to start.
Our tour began at the base of the Wrigley Building at Michigan Ave.
The Chicago Harbor Lock was built in the mid 1930's. It was built primarily as a means of limiting diversion of water from Lake Michigan, but also as a component of the project to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to improve the water quality of the lake.
Views of the city from the harbor. Looking south of the Navy Pier towards the Sears Tower, now known as the Willis Tower.
Looking towards the Navy Pier with the Hancock Building in the background.
The Chicago skyline north of the Navy Pier.
The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse
Looking west from the harbor at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge.
The Trump Tower to the right and the bridges on Wabash and State Street in the middle.
Looking west at the La Salle Street Bridge.
Looking back at the La Salle Street bridge with our hotel (The Pendry) in the middle of the picture.
Looking towards Lake Street with a L crossing the river.
Along the river between Dearborn Street and the lake is the Chicago Riverwalk. It's a public path that offers a variety of dining, entertainment and recreation options. It's a hub for summertime entertainment in the Loop, and is divided into six distinctive “rooms”. Each room has a different design and purpose, accommodating diverse activities, from dining and performances to kayaking and fishing. 
Art on the Mart is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5 acre river-façade of the Mart.
View of the Art at the Mart and the river.

April 24-27 Chicago, IL (Part I)

“If your absence doesn't affect them, your presence never mattered.” - Suyog Potdar 
My parents both grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and I spent a lot of time here as a child. My grandma would take us down to the Loop...making sure we got to ride on a bus, a train and the L (elevated train). We visited all the museums and the large department stores. It was a true experience for a young child from the country and I have wonderful memories of the time I've spent there. But it's been over forty years since I've visited the area and things have changed a lot. 

We're staying at the Pendry Hotel on Michigan Avenue. It's in The Carbide & Carbon Building that was built in 1929 as the regional office of Union Carbide and Carbon Co. The Art Deco building was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1996 and converted into a hotel in 2004. Stan worked for Union Carbide for over 30 years, so it's kind of neat staying in this beautiful building. It's located within the Loop in the heart of the city. This area comprises some of Chicago's most iconic attractions, including historic architecture, river cruises, Millennium Park and the Chicago Riverwalk, which includes incredible dining and shopping.  
Walking the streets in Chicago is like walking through a museum...the buildings are beautiful and the architecture is internationally renowned. We truly enjoyed taking in the sights.

Looking north on Michigan Ave. The Wrigley Building on the left and the Tribune building on the right.
Looking south on Michigan Ave. 
View from Lower Wacker Dr.
Plaza outside the Wrigley Building looking south to the London House Building on the corner of Lower Wacker Dr. and Michigan Ave.
Views from the London House rooftop bar. Looking north at the Wrigley and Tribune Buildings.
Looking west up the Chicago River.
Looking east on the Chicago River toward Lake Michigan.
The Chicago Water Tower was built in 1869 and is one of the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The castle-like building houses a gallery that showcases the work of local artists and photographers.
We had some rain and a lot of cold weather while we were in Chicago, but we also had a lot of clear blue skies that let us explore and take beautiful pictures of the area. One morning we enjoyed walking through Millennium Park. Cloud Gate affectionately known as The Bean is an elliptical sculpture forged of highly polished stainless steel plates that reflect Chicago’s skyline. A 12-foot-high arch provides a "gate" to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives. Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world. It has become one of Chicago's most iconic sights since opening in 2004. 

Millennium Park
The Bean looking south.
The Bean looking east.
Reflections on the Bean.
The Bean looking west.
Along with beautiful architecture Chicago has wonderful places to eat and you can find any type of cuisine you're looking for. Making a choice of where to eat was difficult. Here are some of the places we enjoyed.

Our first night we had a very flavorful meal at Fisk & Co. Stan had the Roasted Faroe Island salmon with crispy potato gnocchi, oyster mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, smoked tomato broth and arugula pesto. I had the Brick Amish chicken with roasted herb potatoes, grilled corn relish, feta cheese and a chicken reduction. 
Lunch one day we decided we better have a Chicago deep dish pizza, so we went to Giordano's. We each had a Caesar salad and a personal sized pizza. Both were delicious, but even their thin pizza was a little thick for us.
The second night we chose The Purple Pig and we were not disappointed. Each of our meals were the best of the trip. Stan had the salmon served with potato gnocchi, green vegetables and pesto. Sounds a lot like what he had the first night, but the flavors were completely different and he enjoyed it. I had the Agnolotti with a mushroom ragu, black truffles and fried goat cheese. I have to say it was the best pasta dish I've ever had.
On our last night we decided to visit a place that was a little different. We went to an Indian Gastropub called Bar Goa. We enjoyed a couple of Gimlets and shared some small plates. We ordered the Avocado Pakoda (chickpea batter, smashed avocado chutney), Samosa Bomb (activated charcoal pastry, sweet corn, cheddar cheese) and the mushroom fried rice made with portobello and shiitake mushrooms, fried egg and madras curry aioli. All the dishes were very good.

Spring Migration 2023

"Wherever the journey takes you, as long as the earth is round, may your path lead home one day." –The Downstairs Girl

It's that time of year again. It's beginning to warm up in South Texas, spring is over and summer is quickly arriving. The last few years we've been taking our time getting back to New York. It's fun seeing new places and catching up with old friends. This year our first stop will be in Lockhart to visit Stan's sister and family. From there we'll drive straight north, first to see a friend in Iowa and then to Chicago to spend a few days exploring a place I used to visit as a child. From Chicago we'll head east to our son's home in Pennsylvania. We're not in a hurry to get back to The Pearl since our marina doesn't open till May 1 and spring is only beginning in upstate New York. Our migration lets us enjoy two springs. This blog is about our first two stops.

We had a wonderful time catching up with family we haven't seen since 2020...lots of talking, laughter and food.
Iowa welcomed us with a little snow...luckily it didn't last too long.
My friend Karen calls her beautiful property near Albia, IA Cabinland...it's a little piece of heaven. We really loved the parts of Iowa we saw. It's a beautiful part of our country.
Looking towards Karen's home from her pond.
We visited Pella, Iowa, it was a little visit to the Netherlands. It's a cute little Dutch town full of Dutch heritage, architecture and food. It also has the tallest working grain windmill in the United States and tulips...lots of tulips.
Just a few of the beautiful tulips in Pella...there are 180 flower beds of tulips throughout the town. In May they celebrate the tulip with an annual Tulip Festival.
Central Park in Pella.
We went to Jaarsma Bakery, which was founded in 1898 with family recipes brought from Holland. One of the most popular items they sell are Dutch letters cooked in a brick oven. They feature almond paste inside puff pastry. The sugar-coated treats usually come shaped like the letter “S” for Sinterklaasavond, the Dutch name for the night of gift-giving from Saint Nicolas. In the Netherlands, the holiday is much like Christmas, but celebrated with gifts on Dec. 5 or 6. Dutch immigrants who landed in Pella in 1845 brought the tradition to Iowa. Visitors to Pella's Annual Tulip Time Festival stand in long lines to get a taste of their famous Dutch Letters.
The Sunken Gardens Park in Pella.
Karen and I had fun painting a few rocks and then hiding over 30 in the area. We love to spread a little kindness wherever we go. We even got to see white pelicans on the Miami Lake, which is behind her property. They are migrating north too.
What a treat it was to see these white pelicans...I wonder if they are the same ones that winter in Rockport.
Monroe County courthouse in Albia, IA.
This Monroe County's Freedom Rock there is one in each of the 99 counties in Iowa. They are painted to honor America's Veterans and to promote Iowa tourism.
The Welcome Home Soldier Monument is a public monument in Albia of national magnitude to honor all the United States Veterans, living or deceased, in the nation's heartland. It was very impressive...I haven't seen anything like it except in Washington DC.