Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with Chicago

From San Diego I took my first flight for a while, going from bottom left to the top right corner of America into Chicago.


For some bizarre reason my airline had overbooked its flight and was offering two tickets on a different plane, one that went to the same airport but two hours later. In return for taking one of these tickets, you were offered a $300 flight voucher. I’m now $600 richer and a bit further through my book.

When I finally got into Chicago, it was starting to get dark. It was also 3 July, which is the day before some festival or something in America. Because of this loads of people were setting off fireworks and stuff in the streets, and we weren’t staying in the richest neighbourhood, which made things a bit intimidating. Especially as we knocked on the wrong door for half an hour — apparently some town planner thought it would be a good idea not to put streets in numerical order but instead to add an 18th Place in between 18th Street and 19th Street.

When I finally worked out what was happening, thanks to a very confused resident on 18th Place, I went into my first airbnb room. I’d never heard of it before, but it’s basically a site where people rent out spare rooms to make a bit of extra cash. Whoever was doing it here had seemingly bought a whole block of flats and was doing it with them all.

I was staying in Pilsen, which was originally an area for Czech and Ukrainian immigrants but is now mostly inhabited by Mexican immigrants. This gave a unique flavour to the area (for me, not for most American cities probably) and it was nice to stay in an area that wasn’t full of tourist attractions. So nice I didn’t bother taking any photos, not even of the pub on the corner that was basically someone’s house where we got strange looks from everyone because we weren’t Latino.

The day after we arrived they had their 4 July celebrations, something that made me feel victimised and unwanted. I went to the city centre to watch a pathetic fireworks display (maybe I’m spoiled by Sydney’s ridiculous new year offering) and then struggled to get through the throng to the station.


After that disappointment I was left a little bit disappointed by Chicago itself. It did have a few nice touches — a bar full of old arcade machines, a beach right in the city (the water was a beautiful blue, but also absolutely freezing), a free zoo* and amazing pizzas. Remember those microwavable Chicago Town pizzas? Probably better than most other options from the freezer section, but not anything like what I had here. Probably the second best pizza I can remember (the first was in Zadar).


*The free zoo, although it turned out to be pretty good, was almost another disappointment. The first four or five enclosures I came across were all empty and the first animals I saw? Kangaroos. I also saw some of my old pets, which reminded me of the time I saw enclosures of rabbits and guinea pigs in a Tunisian zoo. Amazing.



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One Response

  1. Dave says:

    Some zoos I went to in Thailand tried to pass off regular pets as attractions too, and not even in a petting zoo way. Then again, I used to consider things like cockatoos, ibises and pelicans impressive and zoo-worthy until I spent time in Sydney where they are just pigeons (the last two are still impressive though).

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