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Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Chicago

 

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The Drake HotelIt’s not very often that I go to downtown Chicago anymore. Just seems like a hassle to deal with all the traffic and noise and distractions. I think that I have probably gotten spoiled by all of the quiet time that I have spent in Northern Minnesota. But we had obtained a very reasonable rate from The Drake Hotel (pictured) – too good, in fact, to pass up – and we decided to take a little side trip to The City. I was glad we did.

We are fortunate to live in a town where we are only 10 blocks from the train station. Even carrying an overnight bag, it was an easy hike to the train; we then let Metra do the driving the rest of the way to Chicago. A $5.30 cab ride landed us at the Drake Hotel just after 3:30 pm. It was a warm July day and we decided to walk the short distance to Navy Pier where we took in the sights of children playing in the fountain and the hundreds – no, thousands – of people of every nationality wandering all over the Pier, taking in the sights, sounds and happenings at the Great Lakefront in Chicago on a gorgeous summer day.

The Sea DogActually it was the very last day of the “Taste” and Navy Pier was probably not as busy as it may have normally been. We bought tickets on a sort of super-large speedboat called the Sea Dog for an architectural tour along the Chicago River. The next tour was not for another 45 minutes so we stopped and had a beer at Charlie’s Ale House.

The Sea Dog holds over 100 people but there were only about 30 on our tour. Our first stop was the Lake itself and we took about a 15-minute ride along the lakeshore. The lake was calm compared to what I have occasionally seen; today the chop came from the myriad of other boats plying the waters on what was a picture-perfect day. We weren’t going all that fast but the heavy boat made for some great splash-up and spray!

Near the bend in the Chicago River
Our next stop was the lock system that keeps water from flowing into the river (the river level is actually lower than the lake). The process takes about 15 minutes after entering the lock. Once the gates are opened, about a million gallons of water flow from the lake into the river. By my calculations the locks are opened and closed about 2 – 3 times per hour during busy days. That’s a lot of water! The boat could actually be seen to be lower by about 18 to 24 inches.

Once in the Chicago River, the tall buildings blocked much of the sunlight, and the air temperature was markedly reduced. Buildings towered overhead and suddenly the variety of architectural styles was overwhelming. The noise and hustle of the streets above were no longer noticeable and we seemed to be in another world. I don’t think it is possible to really notice the beauty of the buildings from anywhere else in the city. We snapped picture after picture while in the background our tour guide continued his soliloquy about the three-dozen or so buildings he pointed out. Looking at the all the buildings and cruising from the lake, down the South Branch of the Chicago River and back again, I began to feel a whole new appreciation for the City of Chicago and its rich heritage of architecture and engineering.

A view of the Gold Coast from the Drake HotelWe walked back to the hotel, showered, changed clothes and strolled to a nearby café for a late evening snack, after which we returned to the hotel and collapsed onto the bed for a welcome night’s rest. We had crammed a lot into that short day but as I drifted off to sleep, I could not help but feel glad that I had agreed to the excursion.

The following morning, we enjoyed a complementary breakfast that came with the upgrade to our room. We took a quick tour to view some of the hotel areas we had not seen yesterday, checked out and headed back to the train station. It was going to be another 900 day in Chicago; we still chose to walk. The ride home was relaxing and gave us plenty of time to let our senses and thoughts review the 36-hour respite.

A Chicago skyline sunsetWe had been gone just about a day and a half and the total cost was around $220. This included a night’s stay at a top Chicago hotel, an architectural tour for two, breakfast for two, dinner for two including tip and a taxi ride from the train station to the Drake Hotel. Show me somewhere you can go for less than $100 a day per person any more and I’ll guarantee that it won’t include much! I believe we got a lot for our money. And although we did a lot of walking – which obviously helped to keep the cost down – I didn’t really mind. It was a great way to see what we wanted to see and the exercise was something we probably needed. It was a truly fun time and an easy “getaway”. Thanks for reading; enjoy an excursion for yourself whenever you get the chance!

R. Karl

 

 

 

 

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