Amtrak to San Francisco, Part 4: The Windy City

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Amtrak to San Francisco

After a very unsatisfying sleep on the train from Washington D.C. I groggily awoke to find myself surrounded by majestic skyscrapers which reminded me visually of New York, but atmospherically of Philadelphia, where the pace of life was less hectic. I had arrived in Chicago.

The curse of carrying round my heavy duffel bag meant that I had to lug it up to my first stop: the 103rd floor of the Skydeck (luckily there was a lift but it was still an unnecessary faff). While the Skydeck at Willis Tower was impressive, the glass ledge — the main selling point where you could look down at the street beneath your feet — had a 10 minute line to just take a photo and by the time I reached the front I felt self-conscious by myself so only took a few selfies for about 20 seconds.

The Sky Deck © theskydeck.com

The list of other Chicago must-sees, according to a friend who compiled me a list of things to do and places to eat, extended to visiting Millennium Park to get the obligatory photo with the Bean — the famous silver and aptly named bean-shaped sculpture. Apparently one of the other must-do things is to try the famous Chicago deep pan pizza, and if you wish to do this I would recommend avoiding the place I went to: Lou Mainati’s Pizzeria. While the place itself was pleasant and the food was actually very tasty, I ordered an individual pizza and for $10 got a pathetically small six-inch, if that, which lasted about five minutes. Obviously having not learnt my lesson — and due mostly to a still empty stomach — I then ordered the chocolate lava cake which, surprise surprise, was about as big as a pool ball smothered with ice cream to disguise its pathetic size. Considering America is known for its large portions, this was a shock but seemingly just an example of Chicago taking advantage of tourists wanting to try its famous deep pan pizza.

Also on my tourist-heavy list was a walk through what was referred to as the Magnificent Mile which was the maze of skyscrapers in the heart of Chicago. While it was interesting, I feel to get the full experience I should have gone on the architecture tour which explains the history in depth as you glide down the river.

Staying in a hostel right next to Wrigley Stadium, where the Chicago Cubs baseball team play, it would have been hard not to go to the Monday night game particularly as a few from the hostel were also going, even if the tickets were a pricey $40. The game itself was full of hundreds of cheering fans, the atmosphere was electric as the Cubs scored a home run and the stadium went into meltdown as the Cubs eventually won the game. After the game, having a few drinks with the friendly people at the hostel in light of the victory was a very memorable night. This was also a welcome break from travelling alone during the day and then spending the evening in solitude. Not that I don’t enjoy some time to relax alone in the evening after a long day, but when you spend 15 days travelling it’s always nice to talk to similar-minded people. Unfortunately it was only really in the hostels at Philadelphia and Chicago that I felt comfortable enough to talk to others. In the other hostels I was typically surrounded by people twice my age who kept themselves to themselves. However, the one place I didn’t have a hostel was my next location where I was relying on the Couchsurfing app to stay on someone’s couch for the night….

RATE CITY –

Sites: 4/5

Food: 4/5

History: 3.5/5

Accommodation: 4/5

People: 4/5

Overall Experience: 4/5

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