Saturday, March 22, 2008

St.Patrick’s day at Chicago

I’d say I chose the best time to visit Chicago last weekend. It was St. Patrick’s day and it was worth all the delays and uncertainty that preceded my travel! I was supposed to drive down with a colleague on Friday evening but a late evening meeting at work ensured I was stuck at office till 630 by which time she had reached O’Hare in time to pick up her husband. But Friday evening wasn’t so bad either because I got to play pool at a friend’s house here!

Early Saturday morning I cabbed down to the Park & Ride on Stoughton to board the CoachUSA to Chicago. Four hours later I was at downtown Chicago by the Amtrak station where I was met by Sibha and Pratap. We walked down to MacD because my tummy was protesting big time and then went on to Michigan Ave in time for St Patrick’s day parade. It was awesome! Drunk people all around and colorful floats preceded my the sound of bagpipes played by men in kilts! There was green everywhere! Whacky hats to green beaded chains to green tee shirts… they had it all! Apparently there is a pub here in Madison that even serves green beer on the day! Parade done with and then it was time to see the famous river-turned-green sight that is a trademark of St. Patrick’s day. We walked past Millennium Park to a canal just before it opens out to Lake Michigan. The water had been turned green by motorboats dropping green dye into the water. A whole bunch of photographs later it was time to walk back a few blocks away for lunch at Potbelly.

After a sumptuous lunch and some needed rest for our feet, we were back on the road again! This time we headed to Sears Tower for a bird’s eye view of Chicago from the 103rd floor. Up until the Petronas twin towers came up in Malaysia, the Sears Tower was the world’s tallest building. Now of course, Taipei 101 is the tallest. The view from Skydek of the Sear’s tower was breathtaking to say the least. The Lake Michigan stretched out like a picture perfect canvas far into the horizon while up close were the roof tops of other famous landmarks such as the Federal Reserve and headquarters of various financial heavyweights. Soon it was time to walk to the Metra station to head to Sibha’s place for the night. We had dinner at the station and had a good one hour ride to Arlington Heights where these guys lived. Sibha and I stayed up till the wee hours catching up on all the news we’ve missed since the last time we met nearly a year ago in India.

The next morning, Pratap drove us to Aurora, a beautiful Indian temple an hour’s drive from Arlington Heights. I had not been to a temple since I’d come to the US, so I was really grateful that they could take me. The temple was beautiful and peaceful and it was so nice to so many desis after such a long time, with little kids in pavadai-chattai and American accented ABCD aunties in salwar-kameez and sarees. It was like being in a cleaner, more affluent India. The food at the temple is very famous among the desis there. It is traditional Tamil fare – idli, dosa, sambar, pongal, vadai, lassi, filter coffee, puli saadam, thayir sadam… We ordered everything they had, and even managed to finish all of it! Of course, we were that hungry! A few photographs later we were on the road once more, this time to the Aurora premium outlet to shop! A couple of hours later we headed back into Chicago.

But Pratap had not had enough of the day so we drove along Lakeshore Drive to the Ba’hai temple of peace. The drive was really beautiful. Lakeshore drive is an affluent part of Chicago, replete with mini castles for homes and the address of the rich and famous of Chicago. The area borders the banks of the Lake and makes for scenic driving. The Ba’hai temple itself was a peaceful, architecturally beautiful prayer hall. We rested there for a while, each one lost in our own thoughts. Soon it was time to hit the roads again. We got home in time for dinner and then called it a day. I left for Madison on Monday morning along with my colleague.

My weekend in cihcago was one of the best I’d had since I got to the US. Good place, great company – what more can a person ask for! Sibha and Pratap took good care of me and more than once I found myself wishing I still worked with Walgreens and that I had come to the US on an assignment with them rather than with Kraft.

I fell in love with Cihcago. Downtown Chicago was vibrant and busy, the way I’ve imagined American cities to be. The suburbs were beautiful too, with wide roads and pretty homes, quite unlike Madison with its laidback, small town feel. Chicago really is the windy city, for a warm week in the Midwest where I did not need my overcoat in Madison, I was all bundled up in Chicago for both the days I was there! I hope to go back there someday before I return to India.


cristin said...

nice :)

'Smee! said...

Some good company at last, eh? It could make Majestic feel like Madison!


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