Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Chicago, Chicago, let me show you around... Chicago, IL, Wednesday, 21 September 2011 8:00pm

I had an amazing couple of days in Chicago. On Tuesday, I took the L downtown and got a ticket for the Chicago Architecture Foundation's river boat tour. You can see a lot of the highlights of Chicago's architecture from the river, and the tour covers many of the major historical events, so you get a sense for how the city has changed through the years.

After the tour, I walked through Millennium Park and visited the Art Institute, focusing mostly on American paintings and Impressionists. There are a number of very famous paintings there, but for some of them (American Gothic and Nighthawks, in particular) I've seen them so many time in print form that the effect was blunted. It was neat to see the famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (probably the most famous pointillist painting in the world), because it's so large (about 7ft x 10ft) and there's a great deal of detail in the brushwork that isn't apparent in smaller reproductions.

I made a quick stop at the Sears Tower (since renamed) for some great views of the city and the chance to stand in a little glass box with 100 stories of air underneath me.

I had dinner with Moof's family at Lou Malnati's, a deep dish pizza place. Yum.

On Wednesday, Moof's brother-in-law Knut showed me around some more of the sights. We drove down Lakeshore Drive and he pointed out various locations. We spent most of the afternoon in the Field Museum of Natural History and the Shedd Aquarium.

The Field has a huge collection of taxidermy dating back to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, so there are stuffed examples of a lot of species that are endangered or extinct today (their dodo is only a model, though). One of the things that's missing from seeing wildlife on television is a sense of scale. It really makes an impression to stand next to a preserved antelope or cheetah. Of course, it doesn't really compare to being a few yards away from bighorn sheep or mountain goats in the wild. There's also a great collection of fossils, including lots of dinosaurs, and a well-organized collection of gems and minerals.

The Shedd is an impressive aquarium. Their "Wild Reef" exhibit has curved tank walls, so you can get some unusual viewing angles. They're doing some great things with touchscreen identification plaques next to the tanks, so you can learn more about the fish you see swimming by. The contrast with the older tanks (with traditional posted tags) is really noticeable. It's much easier to find a particular fish by paging through pictures in one place while looking at it than by roaming around a tank trying to find the posted image that matches.

I didn't have time to make it to the Adler Planetarium before it closed, so I'll have to come back some time to check out their collection of astrolabes.

Knut and I met up with Moof's mom and sister at a Polish buffet restaurant. Everything there was so delicious that I may not have to eat for several days while I digest it all.