My rendezvous with Chicago happened in the year 2016. We had a meager budget, three-days to visit Chicago, hunt for apartments, sign a rental agreement and be back to Cincinnati! It didn’t matter how strained we were for time or money because the excitement of moving to a new city in my own apartment superseded anything.
The back story:
For those of you who don’t know, I had moved to Cincinnati (from India) for a year with my husband who had enrolled in a Master’s program at the University of Cincinnati then. The romanticism of moving to a new land is often exaggerated, especially by those who are in the “Eat, pray and love” zone! Very rarely people focus on the struggles of starting out at a new place devoid of anything you have known always. Let’s just say, I didn’t have an easy year in Cincinnati, though I have nothing against the place. At times, you just don’t connect with some places or people.
Thankfully, my husband received an opportunity to work in Chicago after the completion of his coursework. I was relieved to know that we were moving to a cosmopolitan city like Chicago, mainly because I had heard some great things about the place.
I would say, Chicago was love at first sight, even at the risk of sounding cliched. We drove from Cincinnati and entered Chicago through the Lake Shore Drive. I still vividly remember that mystical view of the mighty Lake Michigan to our right and the famous Chicago skyline to our left. There’s a strange green hue across the Lake Michigan on a warm summer day and that captivates me to this day.
My neighborhood and days ahead:
One month after that first glance, we moved to the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Although I did explore Chicago a lot by foot and public transport, walking around the quaint neighborhoods made me the happiest. Lincoln Park itself was a treat to walk around, and there was an actual park adjacent to the neighborhood where you could lounge around all day.
When I kept walking the length of Lincoln Park for a mile or so, I could reach the Lincoln Park Zoo where the entry was free year-round. Many a time I would just take a stroll to see the colorful flamingos and tiny penguins at the zoo.
And, if I wanted to go a little far, there was always a bus or subway to my destination. Chicago is extremely well-connected by public transport, one just needs to buy a CTA pass known as Ventra card that can be used for both buses and trains.
Wherever I went in the city, there never was a dull moment or a sight that wasn’t pleasing to the eyes. Every other neighborhood was bustling with energy, accompanied by boutique stores, chic restaurants, smartly-dressed people and stunning buildings.
Though the city isn’t as diverse as NYC or California, the food scene is plenty diverse. I had the pleasure of trying my first tapas, hot dog with chilly and deep-dish pizza in Chicago only. If you want a variety of cuisines, the city also hosts many food festivals. After Cincinnati, I had lost any hope of finding something delectable in America, but then Chicago happened!
Other than walking around, I loved riding on the lakeshore path, which was quite obviously right alongside the lake. Another walking path I adored was the Chicago Riverwalk. It’s just hard to believe that the river flows right in the middle of downtown!
You can also take a boat tour of this river and lake on a warm summer day. Cruises leave from Navy Pier which is another one of Chicago’s famous landmarks. You may check for rates and the kind of tour you want in advance on their website as there are many options depending on your interest. I took the River and Lake architectural tour that enlightened me about the history of Chicago, famous buildings & bridges, the mob era, among many other things.
Navy Pier in itself is a fun place to be with multiple attractions such as, Ferris wheel, Children’s Museum, Theater, Multi-cuisine Restaurants and a view of the lake to die for. Also, you can enjoy fireworks at the Pier every week free of cost beginning Memorial Day weekend and ending on Labor Day weekend.
Chicago also has another architectural stunner that was built recently i.e the Bean (it’s shaped like a kidney bean), a structure made of steel, which has somehow become an iconic landmark for millions of tourists who love getting photographed here in queer postures.
I wish I could stay longer in Chicago, but life had different plans for me.
Playing Frank Sinatra’s “My kind of town” just takes me back there, as it perfectly defines my emotions for the city.