Saturday 18 October 2014

Chicago! So good I've come here twice!

So, au revoir à Montréal ce matin, thanks to Mike, a very chatty taxi driver who took us to the airport, playing blues on his harmonica (“but not when the police can see me”). Two hours later we were in Chicago where, the last time I was here – in April, that’s how I roll, people – the trees were bare. Well, some of them are again, but most still have their leaves and the colours are making a very decent show, especially when seen from the twelfth floor of the Hotel Lincoln with the lake behind.

Yes, Lincoln again: he’s become a bit of a recurrent theme this trip. We’re in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood for a couple of nights, which is meant to be a funky, villagey sort of place. That remains to be seen: this afternoon we got sidetracked by the actual Park across the road, with its barn and farm animals – excellent idea, in a big city – and its zoo. It’s all free, which means we can’t complain that the polar bear was MIA, as were most of the other large mammals including, especially hurtfully, the 3 eastern black rhino with their new calf, which were skulking inside their stable out of the cold wind.

It was a novelty, though, and fun, to watch a young red kangaroo chase a grey squirrel around in circles before it finally shot up a tree trunk to escape; and even though the aardvark insisted on napping, it was good to see him.
The last time I was here, I photographed a man fishing near the McCormick Place Convention Centre, who proudly showed off a fine big trout (that, it turned out, his friend had caught) and I was impressed. Today I was even more astonished that the several dozen fishermen ranged along the edge of the lagoon in the park were looking forward to catching salmon. In the middle of a big city, with cars roaring past continuously just metres from their backs!

There was a red sunset with silhouetted skyscrapers, a drink at a rooftop bar, and then a short, though cold, walk to R J Grunt’s, a fine local eatery with a splendid mastery of chips and home-made crisps and a friendly, warm ambience. The burger was masterly; but the ribs were hopelessly OTT. I could have done with 2/3 fewer, and though they were tender and delicious, I left feeling sorry that the poor pig had died in vain. But thanks to the hotel’s front man Isaiah for the recommendation: good choice.

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