After an entertaining evening watching high school American Football, we were back on the road travelling to Chicago, Illinois! After relentless inter-state travel over the previous days I was relieved to have two nights sleep in a hotel in Chicago. Known as the ‘windy city’ which was originally based on the boastful attitude of the local residents and partly due to the velocity of the wind off Lake Michigan, I was excited to be in Chicago. Chicagoans really have an exciting city to brag about. On the shoreline of Lake Michigan, which is one of the five Great Lakes, Chicago’s growth and prosperity are rooted in its massive transportation options including a vast rail network, shipping and air routes make it the hub of the Midwest. During the roaring 1920’s Chicago was home to gangland murders, bootleg booze and corrupt policemen and public officials but the days when Al Capone referred to Chicago as ‘his town’ are confined to the history books and now Chicago is a city of skyscrapers, superb shopping, friendly people and of course – pizza!
Formerly known as Sears Tower it was renamed Willis Tower in 2009 and at 110-storeys tall is the second tallest building in North America and the twelfth tallest building in the world. Of course, this was one of the main highlights of our stay in Chicago and like millions before us we headed to the summit for the superb panoramic views of the shoreline drive and the city as well as some of the other buildings designed by architecture’s greats including Frank Lloyd Wright. With the renovation of the Skydeck came The Ledge which is a series of windows that extend from the building offering views straight down over the city of Chicago and is therefore not for the faint-hearted! Skydeck is the highest observation deck in the United States and it is possible to view Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan on a clear day. There are also interactive and educational attractions that highlight the history of the Willis Tower and celebrate Chicago’s history, sport, and architecture. Much of Chicago is new which is a running joke in association with Mrs O’Grady’s cow! The story goes that Mrs O’Grady’s cow kicked over a lantern and began the Great Chicago fire of 1871 which left thousands homeless in Chicago. We were happy with the views from the top of the Willis Tower and spent quite a lot of time observing the city and trying to spot its numerous landmarks and attractions.
In the evening everyone was very enthusiastic about sampling some traditional Chicago-style pizza! The most famous of the different styles of pizza developed in Chicago is the deep-dish pizza which gives the crust of the pizza a high edge and room for lots of delicious fillings. Although the pizza is thick a traditional Chicago-style pizza has a medium to thin crust. The pizza was good, and the group thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though the camp cooking was usually to an exceedingly high standard it takes a lot to beat the tastiness of a Chicago-style pizza! We were more than happy to eat as much pizza as possible and the group of 14 of us probably spent a couple of hundred dollars easily eating as much pizza as possible!
Although we were full of pizza and feeling a little lethargic, we were also looking forward to an evening of Jazz music at a Chicago Blues bar. Shawn had been to Chicago a number of times and he was happy to point out the bars and nightclubs but we all agreed we would like a traditional Chicago evening of Blues music and so Shawn guided us to Kingston Mines which is located in the heart of Chicago’s renowned ‘Blues Alley.’ Kingston Mines is the largest and oldest Blues club in Chicago and was founded in 1968 and has hosted several stars including Magic Slim and Koko Taylor and has been awarded numerous awards including the Chicago Reader’s Best Blues Club in 2016. After the pizza we were happy to sit down and enjoy some deeply passionate live Blues music and the atmosphere was electric. We sang along and danced and some of the musicians serenaded members of the group who were happy to sing and long and enjoy the fun and passion of the performers. It was probably one of my best nights out during my time in America and worth the airfare alone! It was a night of good pizza, good music, and good fun! Never to be forgotten!