The guide on the bus tour in San Francisco kept telling us how big/old/wonderful this or that feature of the city is by comparing it to something similar but less big/old/wonderful in other cities. I was tempted to tell him his inferiority complex was showing. It got particularly tiresome when he started to boast about how windy it gets: "They call Chicago the Windy City, but it's windier here!"
Perhaps he'd be disappointed to learn that the sobriquet does not necessarily refer to the meteorological conditions in Chicago. There are several theories, but my favourite is that the politicians are so full of hot air, and the businessmen such braggarts, that the nickname is more metaphorical in origin than literal.
On my arrival by train from San Francisco, I was met at Union Station by my friend, Mary Beth, and driven in her convertible to her lake-facing apartment. There, she installed me in fine style in a private "wing" of what she calls Mrs. Dietrick's B-sans-B. In other words, the bed is provided, but breakfast is do-it-yourself. That's similar to the conditions under which I receive guests in my own place, though the standard of the accommodation chez moi is several stars lower.
|Crown Fountain, Chicago|
The next day we took a bus downtown and walked through Millennium Park. There we saw Crown Fountain, where two giant electronically projected faces periodically purse their lips and spit jets of water, to the delight of the many children playing in the reflecting pool between them. Near it is The Bean, as everyone calls it rather than by its official name, which I've forgotton.
The music pavilion in the park was designed by Frank Gehry in his very distinctive curved metallic style. He also designed the adjoining foot bridge, which also serves as a buffer against the noise of traffic.
The highlight of the day was the Art Institute of Chicago. There are so many fabulous works of art – mostly paintings, but also prints, sculptures and pieces of furniture – from all parts of the world and all periods, that I couldn't begin to describe them, so I won't even try. If you visit Chicago and have time to see just one thing, let the Art Institute be it!