Chicago in 36 Hours
A quick visit to Chicago brought me to some unexpected places - no, this is not a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; it is actually a replica built in a suburb of Chicago, about half the size of the actual tower, erected in 1934 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the original tower's completion (and in honor of all Italian- Americans in the area that contributed scientifically, architecturally, and artistically to the local community). You literally can't miss it as you're driving along a strip of fast food joints, local Chicago hot dog staples, and a YMCA! Though the replica tower is smaller than the original, it is still an impressive sight! Next stop was The Aragon Ballroom - built in 1926, this ballroom housed famous big bands and thousands of young people throughout the 1920's, 30's and 40's as a place for dancing and live music broadcasted on the radio. Styled after a Spanish outdoor courtyard, the impressive indoor design is unique to any other space I have seen, and the acoustics is old-school surround sound. This space was originally designed for acoustic instruments - amplification in this space feels a bit overwhelming, and with an empty room, void of the dancing bodies that should be on the floor, sound bounces around the room and fills the space like a thunderous cloud.
I could just imagine the starry-eyed girls and boys of the time, entering into the grand ballroom, a swing band playing on the stage, the stars on the ceiling of the ballroom twinkling like a night sky (as they still do today!), the boys timidly asking the girls for a dance. It was all so romantic and fantastical at the same time - this place was where the youth went to escape their everyday worries, and they wanted to be transported to this mystical place with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman statues painted to the walls, scenes of fountains and palm trees, with seashells molded into each brick upon entering through the ticket office. Today, the space still holds that mystery, and that evening, all of us were transported:
I also had enough time to catch a true Americana experience; the Long Grove Apple Festival was a perfect start to the fall season. I immediately got a piping hot apple cider to try and warm myself up (the temperature had dropped rather quickly since I had arrived in Chicago). Deliciously sweet and a bit tart, the apple cider did the job. Grilled corn was next on the list - it was the most perfect corn I had ever eaten, picked straight from the field across the road that I had driven passed on my way in to the festival.
I then came across a little village within the festival, and a line that went back about 500 feet leading to an old barn. I found out that this was the line for the Long Grove Apple Haus, famous for their brown bag apple pies and apple cider donuts. I HAD to try a donut, figuring I made it all the way out to the festival. It turns out, that was the line to enter the bakery, so I headed out back to where the line was twice as long but three times a fast with outdoor service (the bakery had setup an express service tent outside). I eagerly waited for 30 minutes for my one, delicious apple cider donut. Only $1, and well worth every penny (and every minute of the wait), I was completely satisfied. Thank you, Apple Haus!
The festival continues through today, so if you are in the Northern Chicago area, do stop by - only $2 admission fee, great food and fun for the family. Go to www.longgroveonline.com for more information.