Chicago in few hours – express guide
Experiencing Chicago in less than 1 day
My day in Chicago started a bit late due to jet lag I’m still fighting with. This is something you need to bear in mind when travelling from a different continent. If you plan only one week in your final destination you need to count down 2 days for flights and 1 or 2 days living like a zombie which impacts your perception.
This time I’m staying with my family at their house which is in the suburbs of Chicago, 30-40 minutes away from the downtown. To get there I had to take the train. On Sunday, the train departs every 2 hours. I rushed to the station get into the train in last minute. There was no counter to buy the ticket, I was told I could buy it on the train. Eventually I got there, but there was no one to ask for it. In the end, I got a free ride, I guess this is how America is saying “Welcome” to me.
After a 40 minute ride, I finally arrived in Chicago downtown. I was met by a jungle of skyscrapers. It reminded me a bit of New York and Tokyo. Some parts are similar to Tel Aviv as well. But it’s Sunday afternoon. It’s cold, it’s windy and the roads are deserted. I have this uncanny feeling of living a futuristic movie of an abandoned civilisation.
Ok, so I arrived. What’s next?
Where to eat when you are in a new city/country/continent? My plan for Chicago.
That’s the tip. Always use knowledge of locals or tourists that have visited before you. Sure you’re not gonna do your own poll to randomly meet people on the street. Use technology. Almost every traveller today has the smartphone and the internet. Wifi access is enough to get you organised. My favourite app is foursquare. You can download it here. Foursquare gives you real reviews by locals and tourists. You get recommendations on the best food. You even get photos of food enjoyed by users. Therefore it makes it 100% reliable. I was never disappointed by this app. With the help Foursquare I manage to find the most unique places. There is no way you would find these places as a virgin tourist!
Authentic Japanese in Downtown Chicago
I found this highly ranked ramen restaurant called “Ramen Takeya”. Since it was less than 1km I decided to walk there. The place wasn’t easy to find even with google maps navigation. If I had not known about it, I would just passed it by without realising that such a wonderful place that would amply fill up my stomach was right across my path.
Ramen is a Japanese soup of Chinese origin. It is a steaming soup, served in a bowl with wheat noodles. It’s healthy, it’s delicious and it’s enough for a dinner.I was first exposed to Ramen, when I was travelling in Japan. This became the signature dish of the country for me. The equivalent of chicken soup for the soul. Wherever I travel and come across a Japanese restaurant, I ask for Ramen. It has become a game for me to compare the best ramens outside Japan. And restaurant Ramen Takeya was just like the ones I visited in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Even the interior design reminded me of the feeling I had back there. A truly authentic experience.
If you haven’t tried ramen, take a look at this picture and believe me, you would love it. This is how Japanese ramen looks like. Try it with chicken/pork/vegetable broth and add ingredients as you like: egg, nori, fried garlic, fired onion, chilli sauce or more.
Now that I’m full and warm up I think…
Where to go in a new city – Chicago?
That’s the easiest part of the search. It is enough to google the name of the city and change search results to images. Voila! This is how you know where to go! And this is how you plan what to see if you’ve just arrived in new city/country. Out of all highlights, I decided to head right to the centre: Millenium Park. Millenium Park hosts the most famous bean sculpture! A bean of XXXXL proportions. It’s America baby! In true American style, the bigger the better and for this bean XXL size is the minimum.
The original name for the Mega Bean is: “Cloud Gate Sculpture” It was sculpted between the 2004-2006 year. It is one of the most popular places for vacation snapshots in Chicago. It’s made of stainless steel smaller blocks. Put together it looks like liquid mercury. Simply an amazing structure.
Most people snap photographs during daytime. However, I arrived there at night and I think night shots are even more interesting. Have a look for yourselves. I share with you my night experience of downtown Chicago. Naturally, I plan to go back during daytime in this trip, and do some day photos as well, which I will love to share.
Insider TIP: it gets incredibly busy at the weekends and around midday so you may want to opt to go in the evening or on a weekday to capture that perfect shot!
Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Mc Donalds… all these became an American symbols worldwide. I couldn’t call it a day in America if I wouldn’t visit Starbucks for a coffee. But watch out: if you know Starbucks in Asia or Europe… and know your favourite flavour of coffee, you have to be warned that here in America they add sugar (sweet syrups) without being asked to do that. But you can always request them to do another one without sweeteners. Even though I got coffee without hazelnut syrup it was still sweet!
Stay tuned for more posts from my travels around the world. Add me on Snapchat for daily reviews and live highlights and motivational quotes: libra8