Chicago: Museum of Science and Industry

There are some sights that will take just an hour and there are some that takes a few hours to cover properly. It is the big museums that is more time consuming. So I normally would put in one such long visits for each day. For the second day, I decided to take the long journey from downtown Chicago to the outskirts of Chicago.

I remember taking a train ride heading south and then I had to stop at a station to hop onto a bus eastward to the Museum of Science and Industry. Along the train ride, I came across Chinatown. I wanted to get off and check it out but decided otherwise as I did not have much time. A lot of people got off the train at the Chinatown stop. And then the train was empty.

I was outside the safe confines of Chicago downtown. Sorry to say this but I was really worried about my safety on the bus. I recall reading a hotel review around this area that the guests were mugged outside the hotel and that the hotel advises their guests to take a cab. And so when I got on the packed bus and as it traveled to its destination, I can see the not-so-pretty side of Chicago. I double checked to see if I got on the right bus, lest I end up in a place I don’t want to be in. [Chicagoans, please don’t hate me for saying these things but I really felt I was sticking out like a sore thumb on the bus].

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And then an oasis of calm. The Museum of Science and Industry is located in a much nicer neighborhood. It is an impressive facility. I always wished that Vancouver has a museum like this. You know, Vancouver cannot claim to be a world class city without a museum like this.

The building is actually a legacy from the 1893 World’s Columbian Expo.

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There was quite a crowd already. After all, it was a Sunday and people are bringing their families out for a day in the museum.

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The one thing I wanted to visit is the German Submarine exhibition. The exhibit is centered around a real German submarine captured by the Americans during the World War II.

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The exhibit chronicles the hunt and capture of the U-505 submarine.

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And then lo and behold. Walking into the pit made especially for the submarine, it came across to me as one of the most menacing sights I have ever seen. It felt like walking into a James Bond movie.

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The long ramp runs downwards to the floor level with a lot of information about submarine. The high point is to get into the submarine. However … Continue reading

Chicago: Giordano’s World Famous Stuffed Pizza

After the visit to the John Hancock Center, it was time to get a bite. A real bite. Enough of popcorns no matter how good they are.

So I walked a few short blocks south to Giordano’s Pizzeria.

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Giordano’s Pizzeria is famous for their Stuffed Pizza. For a while I was confused over Deep Dish Pizza and Stuffed Pizza — just the same thing with a different name. My friends insisted they are different and I gotta try both.

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Ordering was an intimidating affair. I was not familiar with the menu and the folks who took the order were taking orders very fast. They did not seem like the type who will spend time explaining the menu to me. This is Chicago, this is not Vancouver.

Whether you are eating in or having it to go, you order from the same counter. There were just a lot of people milling around the area either waiting for their to go order or for a table.

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So the timid Ben stood back in a safe distance and take his own sweet time to try to decide what he wanted.

The first item on the menu is usually their best selling item but it’s only cheese. It was cheese, cheese, cheese, and cheese options on top.

Then it was the “Special”. Hmmm … OK maybe the special. I was thinking the Spinach would be nice because it does take away the sourness in the tomato sauce. Shrimp would be great too as it will be sweeter. Tropic Delight … oh, it was hard to decide. Vegi — out of the question for a sworn meatatarian like me.

I finally decided to go with the “Special” simply because it is the priciest … and hence fully loaded.

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It was a nice casual dining area. The pizza took a while to come to the table. It was OK as I … Continue reading

Chicago: John Hancock Center and The Magnificent Mile

I had planned to spend the rest of the morning walking the Magnificent Mile.

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It turned out to be not a a great idea because it was quite deserted on a weekend morning. All the shops were closed. At least it gave me the chance to casually stroll the street and taking the rare pictures of a deserted street.

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The Magnificent Mile is the name given to the section of the Michigan Avenue. This is Chicago’s elite shopping street, very much like our very own Robson Street except much bigger. You can get almost any luxury brands here.

In the later part of the day when the shops opened, I went to the Apple store. He he he … let me tell you a trick. If you want to make a long distance call for free, go to the Apple Store and use one of the demo iPhones. I was surprised that it worked when I called home to Vancouver.

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At the south end of the Magnificent Mile is the Wrigley Building. This is the HQ of the Wrigley Company who not only makes chewing gums but also carries brands like Altoids, Lifesavers, and Skittles. They own a lot of chewing gum brands, not just Wrigley. Next time you buy a pack a gum, read it carefully and you will probably find that it’s made by the Wrigley Company.

The Wrigley is an iconic building in Chicago having one of the best site for a corporate building. Fronting the busy intersection of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue, this building is built in the likeness of the Giralda Tower in Seville’s Cathedral. Suanne and I was in Seville just last summer (see the post of the Seville cathedral here, the tomb of Christopher Columbus).

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The Water Tower is dwarfed amidst all the tall buildings around. However, this tower is the only building that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, it symbolizes the old Chicago while the rest of the city around it is newly built. If not for the Great Chicago Fire which sparked a massive rebuilding of the city, perhaps Chicago would not be as well known for its skyscrapers and architecture that we know of today.

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See that white building with the words Water Tower Place? Behind it is a skyscraper. Oprah Winfrey stays there. This ugly boxy looking building shouts luxury — luxury hotel, luxury apartments, luxury shops, luxury everything.

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The highlight of the morning is to visit the John Hancock Center. I wanted to visit one skyscraper and had been debating with myself between the Sears Tower (one of world’s tallest) or the John Hancock Center (better views). Almost everyone I asked tells me that while Sears Tower is cooler to visit, it is the John Hancock Center that will be more interesting.

From the outside the building does not seem like it is that tall. Not especially when compared to the imposing Sears Tower. But the John Hancock Center is 100 stories high.

From the design aspect, you might think this is a corporate office building. It is, but half of the building is actually … Continue reading