Friday, December 21, 2018

Chicago's Holiday Season Charm!

On the eve of Christmas and New Year's, Chicago was a great place to visit for several days!  Alesia was sent there on a business trip and I was able to join her after completing finals and final grading. Our younger son lives and works there now too, so this trip was much anticipated, to say the least!

This may be my favorite photograph (from among the hundreds taken) during my Chicago December visit. The sax playing, Santa hat wearing musician provided a pop of sound and color on this one day that was very foggy from dawn to dusk.
This picture is a favorite too. I took it from the stairs going to the "L" train station near our hotel.

We stayed at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel (above) on Wacker Drive. It is 27 stories high. I know that because our room was on the 27th floor, We enjoyed majestic window views of Lake Michigan (when it wasn't foggy), the Chicago River, and the forest of tall central downtown skyscrapers.
This is among my favorites too. One night was rainy as we walked several blocks to The Gage restaurant on Michigan Avenue. To me, the light rain only added to the fun and festive atmosphere of the Windy City holiday season.  Speaking of The Gage, I would definitely go back for the chicken drumsticks appetizer. My main meal was a venison burger. That may have been my first venison experience. The place was packed, despite the rain, with a very boisterous after-work crowd.
And speaking of Michigan Avenue, the shopping district lived up to its reputation.  It was all decked out for the holidays and very busy with shoppers.  Alesia received an early gift with the winter hat I bought her at Overland Sheepskin Company.  So cute- her and the hat!

We walked a good ways along Michigan Avenue, all the way to the historic water tower, which dates to the 1860s. The fog adds to this photo's quality, I feel.  
Nordstrum's, Macy's....Alesia was in shopping heaven!  
I avoided the temptation to park myself at the bar (below) within Nordstrum's. I can't say I've seen a full bar in a department store before, but I like the idea! And I had to laugh at the hair similarity between Alesia and this fellow shopper. Ha!  
Earlier, as we were walking to Michigan Avenue along the Chicago Riverwalk, we encountered this fisherman who said we brought him luck as he caught two fish at the same time.  

Next, some more photography around the downtown area where we stayed. For a shutterbug like me, I was in heaven. A took a mix of photos with my iPhone 7 and my Canon SX 50.  Some I processed through the Snapseed photo processing app.  
Across from the iconic Chicago Theater neon sign are studios for ESPN Chicago and WLS-TV. Passersby can see the on-air folks doing thier thing. I received friendly waves. Also spotted on the streets was this TV crew from Telemundo. 

The next few shots are of Chicago's famous Merchandise Mart. When it was completed in 1930 the four million square foot building was the largest in the world.  It first served as warehouse space for the Marshall Field's department stores. After World War II it would be purchased by Joseph Kennedy, the father of future president John F. Kennedy and his famous siblings.  

A neat feature in front of the massive mart are these statues of eight important Chicago marketers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. This merchandiser hall of flame includes Marshall Field, Montgomery Ward and the founders of Sears. When we visited, there was work going on that blocked the inscribed names so I'm not sure who's who in my images. 

While we were there, the temperatures ranged in the mid-to-upper 30s, so cold but not too cold for us Southerners! 

To follow, a few collages I assembled from my abundant photo count.  

Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater was a highlight. Justin brought his girlfriend Angela. We had balcony seats, which were so-so.  This was my second time seeing BMG at this venue and the third time overall. I definitely recommend seeing this unusual and entertaining show! 

A short train ride brought us to Twin Anchors restaurant where we enjoyed a fine lunch of "fall of the bone" ribs. Then we walked around the neighborhood for a bit, and hit a coffee shop too.  
Another great meal was had at Bartoli's Pizzeria on Addison Street. If it's good enough for the Blue Brothers it's good enough for me!  And it was delicious. 

Bartoli's seems to be favorite of Angela and Justin.  They say it's the best deep dish pizza they've had in Chicago.  
One morning I jumped on the train heading north to Evanston.  It was later in the morning so the L was not crowded.
I could move around on the train and take photos more easily. I really like this one that I snapped through the window as we headed out of the downtown area. 
My destination was the campus of Northwestern University where I went to graduate school in journalism.  
It was a chilly but clear morning. I found my way to the school's student center where I purchased a new hat. I had to chuckle when the store clerk called this style of winter hat a scruff beanie.  
I spent some time walking around campus, finding the Medill School of Journalism building where I took several classes during my first quarter. 
The huge library at Northwestern. I logged some hours there as I recall.
The school, founded in 1851, has a distinctive Gothic architectural style. 
Glistening newer buildings give a nice contrast to the campus' look.  
This athletic center across a large pond was not there when I was a student here many (many) moons ago.  
 I stopped to photograph some of the birds in the pond. This is a Hooded Merganser (male).
I was excited to see some male and female Red-breasted Mergansers. I have seen the red-headed female type but the green-headed male was a first. I thought at first it might be a Mallard. 
Northwestern sits near Lake Michigan. I could faintly see downtown Chicago in the distance.  
One late afternoon/evening Justin drove us around some Chicago neighborhoods, including Logan Square. The community is named for John A. Logan who was a Civil War general, politician and founder of Memorial Day.  
This is the Illinois Centennial Monument. It was erected about 100 years ago to commemorate the state's contributions to agriculture, commerce and transportation. More on Logan's Square's history can be found here. 
Of special interest to me in Logan Square is this old church founded by Norwegians.  The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church is called Minnekirken for short. 
While at Northwestern I produced an in-depth television news report about the church's history, people and how most Logan Square Norwegians, over time, moved to Chicago's suburbs. Still, every Sunday many come back to Logan Square for the service delivered at Minniekirken in the Norwegian language. I was and am very proud of the story I did. It is on VHS tape somewhere. I'd like to get it online someday/someway. 
I owe special thanks to Alesia for making this Chicago trip happen for me and to Justin and Angela for their hospitality and fun time together.  I had a blast and look forward to a return in 2019!  
Boeufhaus Restaurant where we enjoyed an excellent dinner.  
Finally, a few whimsical creations thanks to the Photofunia phone app.

Happy Holidays everyone!  

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