CHICAGO - This was my home in 1969 and 1970, two important years: my first job after college and the place I met my wife. Inexplicably, I hadn't been back since.
Libby and I came back for a four-day weekend last summer. We wanted to see the city again, with Libby especially interested in seeing the public art, and both of us eager to see the architecture. Friends said that no one loves their buildings like the people in Chicago.
The second reason to come here was Minna, our daughter who lives in Kentucky with Ben, her boyfriend in medical school. They were going to California for a few weeks and suggested we meet them here on their way home. Seeing Minna, Ben and Chicago sounded like a winner.
My job was picking a hotel, and the profusion of well-located places made that difficult. So I threw a virtual dart at some travel sites and hit the Amalfi, a boutique hotel with about 200 rooms. Lucky choice. Nice room, cocktails and munchies each night. Pastries, croissants, muffins, coffee and juice in profusion each morning set out by the elevators on every floor.
We walked around the Loop, the heart of the downtown business district, using the public art tour in Frommer's
as a guide. But finding art from the book's tiny map was a mystery tour, with some pieces inside buildings, others outside, and a few nearby. The tour covers 21 pieces in a 7-by-12-block area.
We saw wonderful work, including Alexander Calder's
in the Sears Tower and Jean Dubuffet's
Monument With Standing Beast
in the James R. Thompson Center. Underwhelming work was offered as well, including two ho-hum Frank Stellas and an awful but campy
The Fountain of the Great Lakes,
done by Lorado Taft in 1913.
We crossed the Chicago River continually, and it made us feel as though the water was a part of the city. It wasn't the way Philadelphians feel about the Schuylkill, because we generally cross that in a car. Crossing on foot was better.
Minna and Ben arrived the next day. Highlights of our sightseeing included:
This green Michigan Avenue expanse is a must-see stop. In addition to the Frank Gehry-designed music pavilion and the "bean" that is Anish Kapoor's 110-ton elliptical sculpture
there is the Crown Fountain. Imagine two 50-foot, glass-block towers at either end of a shallow reflecting pool. Add technology, because the towers are also video screens, projecting the changing faces of city residents. Then, Spanish artist Jaume Plensa made his towers into fountains, with water flowing out of the mouths of the video faces in varying cascades at alternating times. Add laughing children getting wet, and this is a fountain found only in Chicago.
Chicago Architecture Foundation.
The CAF offers 85 architecture tours; we chose the "Historic Skyscrapers" walking tour and made reservations by phone after we arrived. We fell in love with the architectural intertwining of 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century buildings.
But the best moment of the trip was a Saturday night dinner, which Minna asked to be at a "nice place." We went to a French restaurant and ordered wine. Minna said she wanted to make the toast. She announced that she and Ben were getting married. They had decided on the West Coast but had kept it a secret until that moment.
We laughed, we cried, we hugged.
Chicago, wonderful town.