Sunday, May 10, 2009

Visiting Family and Orienting to Chicago

On Saturday morning we had plans to meet with Thomas' cousin and her daughter. So after getting up and showering we had breakfast downstairs in the hotel and then got things ready for the day. Ruth and her daughter Marie picked us up at about 10:30am. We chatted and then headed out. Ruth thought Thomas might enjoy seeing where his grandmother had lived. So we drove to the area - it was at 38th and Kedzie. We stopped long enough to get a picture of the house and then we were on our way. Ruth explained a little about the area and showed us the trolley barns that were used to park the trolleys back when they were in use. We also got to see the fire station that they used to film Backdraft. Marie's husband is a firefighter and she knew that the station was near Thomas' grandmother's house so me made a stop there for pictures. From here we were heading to Lockport to have lunch with Ruth's family. Ruth, Marie, Thomas and I met up with Ruth's son - his name is Ray and he brought his family (his wife Dawn and his children - Amber, Madison and Eva). We ate at the Public Landing Restaurant located in the historic Gaylord Building. They also have a musuem here about the I & M Canal. After lunch we walked around the area and saw a new art installation. It is called Lincoln Landing and is a series of large blocks of limestone set up like a mini aphitheatre with a statue of Lincoln at the front and center. It was a very enjoyable visit and we got to learn a lot about Thomas' family and even got a few stories straightened out - it seems that Thomas' Mom like to embellish the stories of the family. After lunch we drove to Joliet. We passed by the prisons (Thomas' Mom had told him that his Grandfather played a part in the building of these) - Statesville and Joliet Prison. Statesville is still in use but the Joliet Prison closed in 2002. The Joliet Prison has been used for a few movies (Blues Brothers, Natural Born Killers and Prison Break). We then stopped in downtown Joliet to see the Rialto Square Theatre. We weren't able to go in because it was closed but the outside of the building was spectacular. I took a few pictures then we headed over to Ruth's house. We spent a couple of hours visiting and looking at pictures. Around 5:00pm Marie drove us back to Chicago. Instead of bringing us back to the hotel I asked if she wouldn't mind dropping us at the entrance to the Art Institute. So that is what she did. I took a few pictures of the lions in front of the museum and then we walked around to the back side to go by Buckingham Fountain. After walking around the fountain and taking pictures we walked up Columbus to Millennium Park. We walked through the Lurie Garden and then by the Pavillion and then to Cloud Gate. I took a lot of pictures including Thomas and I reflected in Cloud Gate. Then we walked over to Crown Fountain. This is a cool fountain - two tall rectangular walls facing each other in a very shallow (<1") The Magnificent Mile. We window shopped and enjoyed a few pieces of public art. When we got to the street that our hotel is on we were unable to get to it because Michigan Ave. sits up higher than Illinois St. - so we continued another block further. It turned out to be a good thing. We were hungry and were looking for a good place to eat. As we strolled down Ohio St. I noticed a sign for Heaven on Seven and realized that it was a cajun restaurant. The menu was posted in the window so Thomas and I took a look at it and decided to eat there. We had fried crawfish tails for an appetizer, Thomas had chicken fried steak and I had red beans and rice with andouille sausage. We both had a cup of gumbo as well. It was all very good, but we especially enjoyed the gumbo - maybe we will go back for more. It was getting late so after dinner we headed back to the hotel. I did a little planning for Sunday and then we went to sleep. I was pretty tired and feel asleep immediately and slept through the night.

This morning I was up around 7:00am and took a shower and got things ready for the day. Thomas slept until around 8:30am and once he was ready we headed downstairs for breakfast. After eating we decided to walk a few blocks away to the Palmer House Hilton to inquire about Gray Line Tours Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley. We got our tickets and caught the next bus. The trolley stops at different places around the city. You can get on and off the trolley at whatever stops you choose. We rode the trolley for a while to get our bearings of the city and thought about what we wanted to do. Our first stop off was at the Water Tower. We took a little time to look at the photo exhibit of the Great Chicago Fire. It was very interesting! Then we decided to grab some lunch before reboarding the trolley. All morning the skies had been overcast and it was a bit chilly. Now it was cold and started to rain. We first thought that maybe we should head to a museum but then the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was still a little cold but at least it was dry. So we hopped off the trolley at the Sears Tower. We didn't go into that building - instead we walked a little ways to the HI-Chicago Hostel. We were taking a break from sightseeing to do a little letterboxing. You can read about that at Letterboxing in the Windy City. After we finished the letterboxing we jumped onto the trolley again and this time headed for Navy Pier. Since the sun was out and it wasn't as cold we decided to take the Shoreline Architecture River Cruise. It was great. The guy who conducted the tour gave a wonderful talk. We learned about all the styles of architecture, the architects and the buildings. The tour took about an hour and it was an enjoyable and relaxing experience. Once the boat docked and we stepped off we headed onto the pier. We walked for a little bit but we it started to get cold again and since we were right on the water it was a little uncomfortable. So we went to Bubba Gumps for some food and warmth. We had a leisurely meal and then walked through the arcade to the Stained Glass Museum. They have some wonderful pieces of art and quite a few different styles of stained glass. Thomas and I especially enjoyed seeing pieces by Tiffany. By this time it was dark and a little colder so we headed back to the hotel.

The weekend has been busy but we still have a lot to see. I am going to take some time now to figure out what we want to do tomorrow and get things ready. I'll be back in a couple of days to let you know what we have been up to.

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