My last stop on my way home was Chicago, Illinois. Now this was not a particularly long, important, or well planned stop, so my stay in Chicago was somewhat chaotic. When I first booked my flights for the year abroad in summer 2014 (yeah I probably am the world’s slowest blogger but hey grad school as to count as a valid excuse right?), I could only book the transatlantic and inner european flights, but not any domestic flights within the US. So as probably mentioned before my plan was to somehow weasel my way from Albuquerque to Chicago, which I did with exciting stops in Mexico City, Pittsburgh, Niagara Falls, and Cleveland, and I finally arrived in Chicago for a brief stop. After my time with family friends in Cleveland, Iris who had been traveling with me for the Pittsburgh and Niagara Falls stops rejoined me.
There is a lot to see and to do in Chicago, but we both soon realized that we were 1) drained from hours of long traveling and 2) not really in the mood for an actual agenda. So our first stop was a lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. I know, not the most creative choice and certainly not what my dear friend and Chicago native Joe would have recommended (second time in Chicago and still haven’t had deep dish pizza… what is wrong with me?). It was a great sunny day and we spend a good while catching up about the past few days and enjoying the buzz of the city. After a short and disappointing attempt at retail therapy, as I managed to find probably the only Sephora in the United States that does not stock DevaCurl, which has left me with less great curls for the past year now…, we headed to the Navy Pier.
What makes or breaks a city for me is the amount of water you can find. Growing up in Cologne, the Rhine river in the center of the city has always been one of my favorite places to be. Rivers add a new dimension to it, give space and provide a breeze of fresh air in stuffed areas. Over the past years I got to visit and live in a number of different cities. While the people in a city are what make me love a place, rivers certainly change the atmosphere of a place. Pittsburgh, Cologne, and Rotterdam are places that have major rivers in their downtown area, Aachen, Albuquerque, and Manhattan are places that have no rivers in the heart of the city but rather outside of the city. The first three ate among my all time favorite places to be, though I do cherish Aachen and Albuquerque for their people and overall vibe, and Manhattan/ New York is just a fascinating place to be. So no wonder I was absolutely drawn to the Navy Pier. The sheer size of Lake Michigan that spreads out in front of you is absolutely breathtaking.
I honestly can’t tell you how long we were sitting at the end of the pier looking out on the water and watching the sail boats go by. The trip advisor list of the top 20 things to do in Chicago sounded great but somehow we could not be bothered to move. Yeah probably not the smartest thing to do in a city that has so much to offer with our limited timeframe but after all it was our vacation and our time to relax so observing Chicagoan sea gulls was higher on the to do list than waiting minutes on a crowded plaza to take a picture with The Bean.
No really. All we did in Chicago was ride around in the bus to get an impression of the city, have lunch, do some minor retail therapy and then lounge around on the Pier for hours. And it truly was a last day in the US well spent.
The next morning we got up fairly early to gather our belongings and head to Chicago O’Hare airport. While I was sad to see a great year come to an end, I was very excited to board a plane to Berlin and head home to Cologne to see my family and hometown friends again.
Traveling the world and living abroad is a great experience that teaches you a lot about other people, their cultures, but mostly, about yourself.