Day 4. 24h in Chicago (3) + Chicago to New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA)
Check out: Holiday Inn Express Magnificent Mile
Amtrak 59 <City of New Orleans>, Reserved Coach
Departure 8:05 PM
Arrival 3:47 PM (next day)
11:00 AM Wright (3) Robie House+ Museum of Science and Industry
I kept running into this really fun looking Pixar Exhibition (‘The Science Behind Pixar’, through Jan 6, 2019) posters while I was walking around the streets of Chicago. I love Pixar, so I made up my mind to visit the exhibition held at Museum of Science and Industry near Hyde Park. Of course, the museum itself is also historic. It was the main venue for the World’s Columbian Expo in 1893 which made Chicago world-famous.
Close to the museum was another famous architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House. The 11:15 AM tour was available, so I decided to visit Robie House first and then go to the museum. From my hotel near Magnificent Mile, it took about 40 mins by bus (#3 or #26) and another 10 mins of walk.
Robie House is a house that Wright built for the rich young entrepreneur (bicycle parts manufacturer,) Frederick Robie. It is now under construction and is open to public Thursday-Monday, only by guided tour. Robie House is a symbolic architecture showing Wright’s distinctive, so-very-American organic architecture. The guide explained to us that while ‘organic architecture’ has diverse meanings, the essence of it is that the architecture must integrate with the nature surrounding it. The style was developed as a resistance against fancy European-ish designs that were popular among mainstream Chicago architecture society in early 1900s.
Chicago is very flat city so the Robie House was also spread flat on the ground, looking like it was lying down relaxed. The particular style is called ‘Prairie Style,’ which later was developed into typical American houses: one that I saw all the time when I drove through a typical town, the houses with garages attached to the side. (According to the docent, Wright was perhaps one of the inventors of American style garage!)
After about an hour of guided tour, I had to walk fast toward the Museum of Science and Industry. Pixar exhibition ticket (you can purchase them with mobile phone) has a designated entrance time and it was 12:50 PM for me. It took about 15~20 mins walk from Robie House to the museum. As a lunch, I grabbed a quick sandwich (Italian Sub) from Medici on 57th (established in 1955!) on a way to the museum, which was delightfully delicious (and SPICY!)
Pixar Exhibition was very colorful and interactive. I could render and play around with the characters from Pixar animations and learned a lot about the production procedure. The museum is the second largest science museum in the world, huge and full of interesting scientific stuffs. Kids were excitedly jumping up and down everywhere. I wished I could stay longer, but it was sadly the last day in Chicago and I still had places to visit so left the museum at around 2:00 PM.
2:30 PM Art Institute of Chicago
After leaving the museum, I took another bus (#6) and headed to the Art Institute of Chicago. Since I started to learn drawing last June, I had become a big fan of Georges Seurat. I had been copying his charcoal drawings and became to admire the sensitive (almost paranoid) touch of his hand.
Art Institute is the home of Seurat’s most famous painting ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.’ As soon as I entered the museum, I ran to see the painting on the second floor.
Other than Seurat’s painting, there were so many notable paintings in the museum, Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ and Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Old Guitarist’ to name a couple. One could spend a whole day at the museum but I had to leave at around 5:00 PM because I had a train to catch and… a hotdog to eat!
6:00 PM Hot dog
Before getting the luggage back from the hotel, I headed to the hot dog chain restaurant near the hotel, Portillo’s. Chicago hot dogs are known to be so special and delicious. If I didn’t eat Chicago hot dog, I would be so miserable.
As I was dashing into the restaurant I was shocked by its huge size! It was like ten times bigger than an ordinary McDonalds! I ordered Jumbo Hot Dog ($3.55) with EVERYTHING on it. According to its website, ‘everything’ includes “mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle, and sport peppers piled onto a steamed poppy seed bun.”
We celebrated our last meal in Chicago with ice cold beer. The hot dog was so good and I had an urge to eat one more but decided not to because I had been eating too much. Oh, how stupid I was!
8:05 PM Chicago–>New Orleans
At around 7:30 PM, I hopped into the train to New Orleans. The name of the train is (really) ‘The City of New Orleans’ and it runs all the way from Chicago to New Orleans (19 hours of ride.) Before people were boarding, the staff handed out the papers with seating numbers. Not like the train from Boston to Chicago, we could not select seats of our preference.
There were other differences too, which seemed interesting to me such as… 1) There’s no free WiFi for Reserved Coach 2) There is separate observation room where the seats are facing outside 3) The train is double deck and reserved coach is on the second deck. (First deck seemed to be for luggage, bathroom, A/C room etc.) 4) The train’s older and shakier than Lake Shore Express (Boston to Chicago) 5) So many people looked like they were going to a party, very excited! However, within about one hour from the departure, most of the people on the train fell asleep.
***The things I learned today***
- Not every Amtrak train is alike but there’s no place to check what the differences are
- The staff kindly covered the lights in the corridor so people could sleep better
- Computer programmers play humongous role in Pixar animation
- I had learned that many of American innovations come from a garage (like Steve Jobs+Wozniak.) Perhaps many garage innovators owe it to Frank Lloyd Wright?