Known as the second city, Chicago is second to none. Chicago is a fascinating city with a history documented in its architecture. The best way for a visitor to extract the most information and enjoyment in the least amount of time is by taking one of the many tours offered by the Chicago
Architecture Foundation. The plethora of tours are listed on their web site and should be consulted before your visit, and if possible reserved before your arrival.
One of their many walking tours is a personal and up close tour of the city, as well as one of the best ways for interaction with the locals and getting an inside glimpse of buildings you’d normally pass by. The CAF supplies amplified personal ear phone attachments, so that you can usually clearly hear the qualified and experience laden docent. If a 2 hour walking tour is not in your comfort zone, there are a couple of bus tours that can give you an over view of the city and specific architecture styles. Also the boat tour through the north and south sections of the Chicago River is a treat, as you glide beneath the architectural treasures and hear historic narratives personified in terra cotta, brick, iron, steel and glass. The boat tours are offered several times a day, and on fair weather days may sell out.
Every visitor should take a leisurely walk through and around the recent Millennium Park, where not too long ago was an unpleasant railway yard. Located between the downtown skyscrapers and Grant park with its Buckingham fountain, the new park is home to the appealing “bean” stainless steel concave/convex sculpture (photo) along with a wading pool fountain, book ended by LED encrusted monoliths and traveling sculpture exhibits, along with a modern outdoor amphitheater.
The newly opened Elysian Hotel, by architect Lucien Lagrange, offers elegance in a combination
of old world ambiance and luxury with Chicago helpfulness. The white minimalist marble lobby atmosphere continues through the 28 stories of hotel rooms and most likely to the upper levels of
residences, in this high rise accommodation. The complimentary Lexus courtesy car is a boon to guests needing a ride to their appointment, although taxis are readily available not only at
Elysian’s circle drive,(photo) but throughout Chicago. I never had a problem hailing a taxi for my hotel return, especially on Michigan Avenue.
At the Elysian 2 Star Michelin RIA restaurant I enjoyed a multi course chef’s tasting which could include a variety of wine parings. I opted for their unique and delightful bubbly wine from Hungary: Brut Pezsgo, Henry Vineyard of Tokay. The parade of small courses, just the right size, followed with, scallops, a rabbit mouse (photo), turbot with asparagus, a salty lamb in sauce, and concluded with three kinds of chocolate. What’s not to enjoy? The efficient service was friendly, as were the other dining patrons. The service personnel at the Elysian Bar, Barnard’s, features a charming and knowledgeable, Erin. (photo) She prepared a number of martinis for me over my stay, including their award wining Brown Derby of bourbon, grapefruit and honey. I preferred the Aviator of Gin, Luxardo, Creme de violette and lemon, or an infusion cocktail with an amarena cherry. All served in Stolzle Crystal. The servers congeniality along with the other patrons made Barnard’s a favorite with travelers like me and locals. The Elysian’s Balsan Grill, should be enjoyed and savored, as well as their extensive SPA, complete with a men’s atelier.
For other dining delights, try the views of Signature 95, on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower, where I had impeccable city views and a lunch that included their signature Pear Martini of Grey Goose, Triple sec, Marquis de la tour sparkling wine and raspberry liqueur with orange garnish. I partook of their traditional luncheon buffet, and as if the Chicago downtown skyscraper view was not intoxicating enough, I sampled their Ice Blue Martini of UV Blue Raspberry Vodka. I was tempted but resisted a dessert drink of a Key Lime Martini.
Deca restaurant located in the open lobby of the Ritz Carlton in the complex of Water Tower Place, is where the Broadway Playhouse Theatre is also located. This makes your dining and evening entertainment an easy match. I saw their musical production of “Working,” and while the material may not be outstanding to some, the talent of the cast was indisputable as was the service at the Deca restaurant. After my order was taken, at Deca, I was loaned an IPad for my amusement and information, while awaiting my dinner of a flavorful amuse bouche of roasted goat cheese, a potato and watercress soup, ribeye steak with bernaise and frites, a Stoli Martini, and finished with an unusual purple macaroon and lemon sorbet. Deca opened in 2010 thus the name.
For my farewell salute to Chicago I dined at Cite on the 70th floor of Lake Point Towers. Jutting out near Lake Michigan the evening views of skyscraper heaven, (photo) over powered the meal and mediocre service. Undaunted I toasted this tottling town with a Ginger Cosmo of Kettle One, Canton Ginger Liqueur, cranberry juice and lime. I have a nostalgic connection with this 1969 altered cruciform skyscraper as in the 1970s I stayed one night in an apartment there, overlooking Lake Michigan. Needless to say it was a ground breaking experience inside a groundbreaking architecture then, as it is a splendid dining venue today.
Chicago is rich in gourmet and visual stimulation, which can inspire the soul, and if not careful tire the soles of your feet. Chicago is best experienced in small doses, encouraging you to return again and again, making this city, second to none!