When you are going to a new place, and only have a short time to explore, how do you decide what to do and where to go? My first response has always been to pull out a book or search the web. My daughter and I spent a quick weekend in Chicago last fall. I looked up the city on the web, and found lots of pictures of modern art on the lawn downtown. For our first day we flew in, rented a car and went in search of this interesting art display.
The weather was perfect with cool breezes off the lake and fluffy clouds in the sky. We parked in a huge parking deck and walked out to discover a very pedestrian friendly city. We followed a sidewalk away from the lake, towards the downtown. The fall colors were in full bloom, and trees were everywhere. We passed by the art museum to enjoy the beautiful day, and found ourselves in a park full of modern art. I had seen references to the giant bean, and even saw a few pictures, but my daughter and I were swept away by the coolness of this reflective art. The giant bean’s actual name is Cloud Gate, with the idea that the city skyline and the clouds are reflected in the stainless steel art. At the same time the bean reflects the images of the viewers. For thirty minutes or more we forgot all plans as we walked around, under and stood beside the sculpture, admiring our reflections as they changed shape and size. We enjoyed watching the children as they discovered this art. Finally we moved on, explored the entire park, took photos of different pieces and moved on to the actual goal; the art museum.
We could have enjoyed the museum for days, but we tried to see the pieces that most interested us. Finally we had to give up and search for food and our hotel, where we fell into bed, exhausted.
The second day I was on my own. I drove from the hotel to a nearby train station, and took the train to the Botanical Gardens. This turned out to be the highlight of my quick visit, and I returned the next day with my daughter. Every season has something beautiful to see, as nature is always changing. I spent hours in the living garden section, admiring rows of kale, pumpkin, herbs and various examples of how to garden with beauty. I ate my snack under a full apple tree, then moved on to a Japanese garden. I saw everything, from practical edible plants to the simple yet elegant Japanese garden style.
I am sure Chicago offers much more to see and do. We never ate hot dogs or famous pizza, and we missed lots of attractions. What we did see we enjoyed, we were not frazzled and we are eager to return someday. Some people like to rush from attraction to attraction, trying to see everything. I prefer to wander with a little direction, and yet with the freedom to change direction as the mood strikes. I have yet to be disappointed with this way of exploration. What is your style of travel?