Chicago – 1

So, I’m back. Like my last post didn’t give you a hint that I was going somewhere. And the title of this post ought to tell you where I went.

Why Chicago?

Well, I’d never been there before (changing planes at O’Hare doesn’t count). They’ve got a great science museum, a great art museum, and they’re home to two baseball teams. So why not? I’ll have plenty of things to see and do.

It should be pretty obvious why Chicago is the “Windy City”. It’s on mostly flat ground, there’s the huge expanse of Lake Michigan to the east, and the major streets are all quite wide – so there’s plenty of nothing to act as a wind break. This makes the city rather cooler than you’d expect.

Mass transit is decent, as one would expect. The rail lines are laid out on a “hub and spoke” model. “The Loop” is the hub, and individual lines radiate out from it. The lines are designated with colors, which can get confusing at the bigger stations. “Transfer to the Pink, Orange, Green, and Brown Lines….” The Red and Blue lines are subways in the downtown area, and actually don’t travel on The Loop.

One thing you’ll see a lot downtown is the city flag. Chicago actually has a pretty decent flag; it’s four red stars between two light blue horizontal stripes. The stripes are supposed to represent Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, and the stars are the “Four F’s” of Chicago history: Fort Dearborn, The Great Fire, the 1893 World’s Fair (the ‘Columbian Exposition’), and the 1933 World’s Fair (which gave us Baseball’s All Star Game). No clue why the stars have six points.

I stayed at the Fairmont Chicago at Millennium Park, to use it’s full name. From now on, I’ll just call it the Fairmont. My room was great, with a huge bathroom. But the amenities of the place as a whole, well… The restaurant was average. I didn’t see anyone at the lobby bar, except one afternoon when they seemed to be serving snacks. There’s another thing that seems

to have changed since I last traveled. You know how hotels would have room service menus and general tourist magazines? Not this time. Instead, I got a sheet of paper with QR codes to scan….

One final thing about the Fairmont. There are no elevator buttons labeled “13”. Now, I didn’t notice any “missing” floors from the outside. Nor did I stop to count the stories. As long as the rooms are where they are supposed to be, I suppose it doesn’t matter what you label the floors. Maybe the elevators just skip that floor because it’s given over to offices or maintenance, and you need a special code to get there. I didn’t think of taking the stairs to check for a missing floor, so if anyone’s going to Chicago and is feeling adventurous…..

By the way, you know how hotels have non-standard coffee makers in their rooms? I suppose it’s so guests can’t take them home as if they were a towel or bathrobe. But this means that there’s a completely different set of operating instructions:

1. Plug it in. Hope the cord is long enough to reach the nearest outlet.

2. Look for the instructions. These are usually on the underside of the water reservoir lid.

3. Squint, move your head, or turn the coffee maker until you can read the tiny instructions that just might be embossed / raised on the inside of the lid. Try to figure out just what the illustrations are asking you to do.

4. Pour water into the reservoir.

5. Mop up all the spilled water. Ponder adding more water to make up for what you spilled, but realize it will just be an endless cycle of spilling and adding. And you don’t want to break the coffee maker by adding too much water, because then the hotel will bill you five times the thing’s actual cost in order to replace it.

6. Open the packet with the coffee “module” inside.

7. Bite the packet in an attempt to open it. Wonder if you packed a small pair of scissors with you, because it seems the “foil” making up the packet is actually something like Tyvek that Will. Not. Tear.

8. Put the coffee module in the coffee maker.

9. Turn on the power.

10. Realize that you were supposed to put the cup in there before you turned it on. Pray you can get the cup in there before coffee starts coming out.

11. Drink your disappointingly small amount of average coffee.

12. Look around for a place to throw out the used coffee module. Decide to leave it in and let the cleaning staff deal with it, because you’ve had enough of the darned thing for now.

More soon, when I get to the primary reason for my trip.

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