Chicago has been experiencing unseasonably warm weather for the past month. When we checked the weather from New Zealand back in mid-December it was 0 Fahrenheit (-18C) but on arrival it was around 40F (8C). The forecast indicated that the cold was to return over the weekend after we arrived though and so it proved. On Saturday it snowed lightly and the temperature outside was a bracing 28F (-2C) before windchill.
Our hotel room was very comfortable, and we were paying only around $65 per night through Hotwire. As is so often the case, the upmarket hotels sting you on virtually every “extra”. A can of Pepsi from the mini-bar comes to $4.23 (well over 2 pounds!). Internet access, which had been free at the Econolodge and Best Western was around $12 per day.
The Hyatt Regency Chicago has 2019 room and over 100 suites, making it one of the largest hotels in the world (outside Las Vegas anyway). The front desk was upstairs from the entrance, above a nightclub area called HardDrive and a bar/restaurant called Network. Check-in was all electronic, swiping my credit card in a machine and being given two room keycards in return. Great view north over the river from the room, so we can see the John Hancock Tower, the NBC Building and lots of other Chicago landmarks.
On Friday we braved the cold and went down to State Street in The Loop to check out the shops and restaurants. The big department store here, Marshall Field’s was having a special 2-day sale so Vic checked out the footware department there. Sadly there wasn’t anything she liked and the prices weren’t as good as the discount shoe shops we’d visited in San Francisco and other stores in Chicago.
Saturday, we walked up the Magnificent Mile as Michigan Avenue is called just north of the river. We popped into the Apple Store and checked our email etc, and I bought a “returned” battery for my Apple Powerbook at almost half the usual price. Lots of other “returned” bargains were to be had including some of the new Intel Core Duo iMacs and some iPod nanos.
We had a nasty shock when someone stole all the cash from Vic’s purse which was in her handbag while she was in H&M. They must have reached in while she was distracted and pulled the cash out as no cards etc were touched. Fortunately she only had $50 or so cash (plus $20 from New Zealand), but it was still an unpleasant experience.
Walking up the Magnificent Mile we passed the huge John Hancock Tower, the Water Tower and lots of other great buildings. Chicago seems to have taken more pride and care with the buildings in the city, with some of the most architecturally interesting and elegant skyscrapers I’ve seen. As darkness set in we walked through the snow to Navy Pier, which was almost as tacky as Pier 39 in San Francisco. We had a pretty disappointing meal at an Italian restaurant there and then walked back to the hotel.
On Sunday we walked through the splendid Millenium Park, past the stunning Cloud Gate sculpture created by Anish Kapoor, and the strange Crown Fountain before heading West and then up the Sears Tower for some fantastic views over the city, followed by an excellent Chicago-style pizza pie.