#RoadFromRyerson

SYED MOHAMMAD MAHMOOD | Exploring Chicago and Myself

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Last week I went to Oshkosh with my sister. There I met her husband and therefore was able to see all my family members in this trip to Canada’s shorts. It was nice to catch up and have one last view of my sister’s place before she relocates to the west coast. This is a transitionary period for most of my family and I am blessed to spend this time with all of them now. On my way back from Oshkosh to Grand Rapids I chose to sightsee in Chicago. My road from Ryerson experience has so far has involved a lot of time in the states. Technically speaking this whole trip can be classified as a longgrad trip since I am here between graduating and working full time. So far this trip doesn’t feel like a grad trip since it is mostly to see family, rather than the exploratory trips to new places my friendsare on. My stay in Chicago was therefore more along the traditional Grad trip experience.

I stayed in Chicago for about four days. This little time didn’t seem enough to experience this giant city, but I made it work. I was on my feet all day trying to see everything, and I mean everything. The only rest I got was when I slept for a few hours each night. I would wake up early enough to be the first person through the door of a venue, then return home to sleep around midnight. Having done my research for days in advance I knew exactly where I wanted to go. This led to an amazing experience packaged into a small period of time. If you plan on visiting the city feel free to ask me about places to see and continue reading to find out.

As soon as I got to the city I headed for some customary deep dish pizza at Pequod’s Pizza; which was the most amazing pizza I ever had. The picture doesn’t do it justice. There was a crust of cheese melted on the raised walls of the pizza. Chicago delivered on its deep dish fame! (Insert picture 1 “Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Pequod’s”).

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Pequod’s
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Pequod’s

After that I went to a place called Hot Chocolate. Here I had the, you guessed it, best hot chocolate ever. They served a milk and dark chocolate blend with a hint of caramel.

Hot Chocolate Dessert Venue
Hot Chocolate Dessert Venue

After eating it was fairly late in the evening and I went to my AirBnB rental apartment. There I met my landlord’s adorable pet cat Javier. He was the embodiment of the “curious as a cat” statement. He would peer into bags, and tap closed doors wanting to know what was inside. When approached he would flip onto its back and ask to be petted. I wasn’t a cat person before but now I see how cool they can be as pets. That night I planned my locations to visit onto an old school paper map. My digital version can be found here. Unfortunately my phone had been acting up so I couldn’t rely solely on google maps.

Old School Tourist
Old School Tourist

Day two was museum day. I started the day by going to the aquarium. Throughout my trip I had been comparing America to Toronto, but it was a poor reference point for places like Oshkosh and Grand Rapids. Chicago on the other hand was ideal to compare to Toronto. This big city like ours has similar features with its own ups and downs. For example I prefer the Ripley’s aquarium since it has the underwater tunnel, but Chicago has a cool 4D theatre and a dolphin show.

Penguins!
Penguins!

Next the Field museum was interesting since they had the most complete T-Rex skeleton named Sue.

Sue the largest most complete T-rex discovered so far
Sue the largest most complete T-rex discovered so far

Their art museum was amazing with iconic pieces that I recognized from fan fiction. They had a Van Gogh self-portrait; Grant Wood’s American gothic, the one with the guy holding a pitch fork; and even an engraving by Charles Guerard after whistler’s mother from the Mr. Bean movie. I loved the art museum and stayed there till it closed. After the museums, visiting the Chicago Bean, the Buckingham fountain I ended this packed day at the Adler Planetarium.

The planetarium was hosting an after dark series with a theme of an 80’s Space themed prom. This and the art museum were a nice reprieve from the children and field trips at the other locations. The planetarium hosted Renee Hlozek a Princeton university professor and TED senior fellow, who gave a speech on dark energy. It was nice to not hear about third grade math and science topics. They also had live viewing of the planets using telescopes; and a planetarium projection. The night ended with great music, dancing and a breath-taking view of the city.

Friday was a day covering large distances. I started by checking out the free Lincoln Park zoo at the north end of Chicago. Here I saw an eerie resemblance to the Harry Potter scene in the first movie with him talking to a snake. The cages were arranged in a similar fashion. The zoo is fairly large with several animals from all over. Nearby the conservatory was not too shabby; But for some reason I prefer the Toronto Allan Gardens one better, even if it is smaller.

Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park

Then I headed to the south end to the museum of science and industry followed by a trip to the University of Chicago campus. Here I took a free tour to the top of the Rockefeller memorial chapel’s bell tower. This was by far the best moment of my trip.

Staircase to bell tower
Staircase to bell tower

About 300 narrow steps and a history lesson later I saw a beautiful view of the city, and then got to see the Carillion being played. I highly recommend anyone in Chicago to check this out

Me at the top of the tower
Me at the top of the tower

The university too used Aramark for their campus food like Ryerson used to. They also have a nifty library space that doesn’t come close to our SLC but is cool nonetheless. Fans of the Divergent movie might recognize it as the Erudite Headquarters.

Mansueto Library
Mansueto Library

Fans of industrial engineering will appreciate the book storage and retrieval system underneath, watch this. After sightseeing I went into the sketchy part of the city to find some tasty soul food. This night ended with me visiting the 103rd floor of the Willis tower and being too exhausted to go to the blues bar I wanted to check out. Well there might be a next time to experience that.

View from Willis Tower
View from Willis Tower

I ended my trip by seeing the magnificent mile and navy pier. Besides the tribune tower and locations where transformers was shot this was arguably the least interesting part of the trip. Way too many tourists and the only main attraction was shopping. It was too boring and crowded to enjoy. I did like the Hershey store though and had to resist the temptation to buy a giant Hershey Kiss.


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