Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)

Chicago: Day Two


Day two (Thurs. Nov. 10) in Chicago saw A. and I walking all over the city (with the help of the subway, of course).

Our first stop was the historic Water Tower, the second oldest water tower in the United States.

The tower was one of only a few structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, in which hundreds of people died and much of the city was destroyed.

The Water Tower sits in the shadow of many high-rise buildings (including John Hancock Center) and Loyola University.

I find the near seamless mixture of the old and new in Chicago very interesting. It was common to see an historic hotel/church/etc. standing strong amidst soaring skyscrapers and bustling crowds.

I am a history nerd at heart, so I appreciated seeing a city that values and protects its historical landmarks and important sites.

After taking a few (ok, 50) photos of the Water Tower, we walked right next door to the John Hancock Center.

The Hancock Observatory is accessed via the fastest elevators in the U.S. We rocketed up 1,000 feet in under 40 seconds; it was intense!

The views from the Observatory were breathtaking. Looking south, you could most of downtown, including the Magnificent Mile and Willis Tower. Looking east, towards Lake Michigan, Navy Pier was visible in all its glory.

View fron Hancock looking south

Magnificent Mile

Navy Pier

Cool rooftop gardens

Pistachio and chocolate gelato. Yum!

We peeled our faces away from the windows long enough to enjoy a coffee and {delicious} gelato at the observatory’s Lavazza café before zipping back down the elevators in an attempt to reach the Bulgarian Consulate before they closed.

We had a little trouble finding the address, but luckily we found it in time (the consulate is only open to the public a few hours each day).

The consulate is located in a high-rise office building with a reception desk in the lobby. It all felt very official, which always makes me nervous and puts me on edge.

All in all it was an uneventful and, unfortunately, not very helpful visit. The woman whom I spoke with (from behind a think pane of glass) did not speak English very well and when I asked her a few questions about the type-d visa, she disappeared for a few minutes. While she was away, a young Bulgarian man about our age came in and waited for someone to come help him. He asked if I was Bulgarian (it made me smile that someone would think, even a little bit, that I might be Bulgarian) and I told him no, that my husband was. I was hoping we could chat some more but the woman came back out and handed me some paper–the visa application (which is available online) and a list that someone had obviously just typed up of what I would need to bring back with me to apply for the visa. It basically served to reinforce what I already knew, but I am glad I have something physical I can bring back with me in the event they suddenly need something else. If anything, I was glad we went to the consulate so that now I know how to find the office when I do apply for the visa.

All that official business left us hungry! So, we walked a few blocks to another well-known Chicago pizzeria, Gino’s East.

I found Gino’s to be a much better atmosphere than Pizzeria Uno. Not only was the space bigger (yet still cozy), the service was better and… you can write on the walls!!

We have a pizza place in Salt Lake where the encourage customers to leave their mark, but Gino’s takes it to an entirely new level. Every square inch of the walls, benches, and even ceiling are covered in initials, sayings, and “so-and-so was here” markings.

Not wanting to feel left out, we added our own names!

For the record, the deep dish pizza at Gino’s East is much tastier than at Pizzeria Uno, although I still prefer thin crust!

After lunch we walked/trained back to the hotel for a little sit-down before walking over to the Art Institute of Chicago (located just a block from the Palmer House).

One huge thing I loved about Chicago was the close proximity of everything. For such a big city, it sure is easy to either walk or take the subway to pretty much every popular, touristy attraction, which for a first time visitor such as myself, was awesome.

I know I mentioned I am a history nerd, but did I fail to mention I am an art nerd as well? Well, more specifically, a museum nerd/fiend.

A., while great company, isn’t into it so much (flash back to dragging her through the British Museum for hours), but she was a trooper and we trekked all over the Art Institute in search of the few pieces I had to see. I think I am rubbing off on her as she didn’t complain or want to leave even once!

Now, I will stop myself here. I could go into a long tirade about how the museum had taken down (FOR ONE DAY!) the ONE painting I was dying to see. The MAIN REASON I wanted to go to the museum at all (I’m exaggerating here for dramatic effect). But… I won’t.

Instead, I will post a picture of the blank wall and frame where the painting is supposed to be (where it would be placed again the next day) which is all I saw that night. Ugh.

Ladies and gentlemen… George Seurat’s pointillism masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte:

Eventually, I settled down and we continued on through the museum and saw some pretty amazing stuff, much of which I studied in college. It’s cool to see the real deal as opposed to slides on a white board!

After leaving the Art Institute, we walked a few blocks to Millennium Park and its famous Cloud Gate sculpture, aka “The Bean,” and the Crown Fountain, both beautiful at night.

Cloud Gate (The Bean)

Crown Fountain (during the day, water comes out of the mouths)

Crown Fountain from behind

Back at the hotel, A. treated me to a yummy early birthday treat, Palmer House’s famous Bertha Brownie.

The brownie was actually invented in the Palmer House kitchen during the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Pretty cool!

In a chocolate coma, we fell into our beds.

Another great day in the Windy City!

Day three coming up soon!


*P.S. Sorry this post is so picture heavy! I just couldn’t help myself!


3 thoughts on “Chicago: Day Two

  1. Pingback: Raffaello Hotel Chicago Overview |

  2. Pingback: ‘Casually Pepper Spraying Cop’ Meme « Girl Meets Bulgaria

  3. Chicago is a wonderful town to visit. No matter how many times I go back there is still something new to discover.

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