|Chicago Water Tower|
I caught a cab in from Midway, and, because I'm chatty, I discussed all kinds of things with my cabbie on the way in. As we zipped towards the Magnificent Mile, he said, "It's so hot here right now," in an apologetic tone. I almost laughed out loud. "I'm from the Deep South, sugar," I said. "This feels like spring!"
About a half hour (and $40 or so) later, he pulled up at the entrance to my hotel - the Hotel Intercontinental Magnificent Mile. What a place! Originally built in 1929 as a men's athletic club, the hotel is ideally located - to the north is Lincoln Park, the Willis Tower, and the Chicago History Museum, and to the south is Millennium Park, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Field Museum. Plus, you're situated in the midst of Chicago's main shopping corridor, convenient to the river. Check in was swift, and though my room on the 8th floor had no view to speak of, it was clean and comfortable. (And $200 per night. FYI.)
After freshening up a bit, I did some exploring in my immediate surroundings, buying a few souvenirs (There's an Accent Chicago store, which sells all types of mementos, in the Water Tower Place shopping complex, along with a Macy's and tons of other stores.) and a cute pair of sandals.
|Wildberry Cafe crepes|
By this time, I was getting hungry. I stepped into Bar Toma, right near the Water Tower, for a bite. The restaurant is lauded for its pizza, but not being quite hungry enough to polish one off by myself, I chose two small plates: the fried calamari and the treviso and goat cheese crostini. (Treviso is some kind of cooked cabbage. In Bar Toma's preparation, this really reminded me of balsamic roasted onions. It had a sweet, caramelized flavor to it.) Both appetizers were really delicious, and I didn't come close to finishing the crostini. I washed everything down with a glass of pinot noir for good measure, shopped a bit more, and turned in for the evening.
I had set up a free Chicago Greeter tour for 10 a.m. on day 2, but I awoke early with a rumbling stomach. I headed for Wildberry Cafe, tucked into the first floor of what appears to be an office building
|Cloud Gate (AKA The Bean)|
Still early for my tour, I decided to explore Millennium Park a bit. Wow. I LOVED it. The music pavilion, designed by Gehry, is a wonder and one of the most amazing permanent public performance spaces I've ever seen. It's a marvel of ribboned steel, and the capacity is impressive. Cloud Gate (AKA The Bean) was interactive and so fun! I loved walking underneath it and seeing it reflect the city skyline on its curved surface. I also enjoyed some great people watching at the Crown Fountain, where faces of real Chicagoans spout water while the young (and the young at heart) play in the water. Kids and marathoners joined together to cool their heels. (I may have slipped off my shoes for a little bit. Maybe.)
|Tiffany dome at the Chicago Cultural Center|
By this time, I needed to cool off. I decided to take a dip in my hotel's retro pool. The pool is original to the building, and I totally felt like Esther Williams swimming in it. After lots of laps, I ran through the shower and got a quick snack, then took a well-deserved nap.
The Apollo is a small thrust theatre, and I daresay there isn't a bad seat in the house. I happened to be on the very first row, and I could've reached out and touched the performers many times throughout the production. The show is about the afternoon that four music greats - Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis - spent an afternoon making music together at Sun Studios. (If you've ever toured Sun Studios, in Memphis, you'll learn more about it. The reality is that it was largely a publicity stunt, and that once the still photo was snapped, the men most likely went on their way. But the show is a hugely entertaining idea of what might have happened.)
The cast was energetic and extremely talented. All the performers played instruments (guitar, piano, etc.), sang, and acted. (I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to cast this show.) The end vignettes (especially one where Shaun Whitley, the actor playing Carl Perkins, literally jumped, with his guitar, and STOOD in the curve of the upright bass, playing and singing his heart out) were AMAZING. Jerry Lee Lewis, played by Lance Lipinsky, was astonishing. The whole thing was just wonderful. (And, near the end, Elvis - played by Robby M. Kipferl - shimmied my way and draped his scarf around my neck! What an absolute HOOT!) I had a magical time. Honestly, if your toes don't tap during this show, I can only assume you have no feet.
|Crispy braised goat at Perennial Virant|
After the show, it was a quick, breezy walk to Perennial Virant, a locavore restaurant about a mile from the theatre. I chose the crispy braised goat, washed down with some rose. It was smoky and delicious, served on a bed of creamy grits. Service was lightning-fast and incredibly cheerful. A cab back to the hotel, and to bed!
More to come . . .