Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The rainy city

On our way from Shipshewana to Chicago we caught the I-80/I-90 tollway again in order to regain some of the extra time spent in Shipshewana. Jan's time schedule gets screwed up easily when we stay longer than he planned. It's just that he never tells me his time schedule... LOL

When entering the tollway there was only one (yes, one!) toll booth open to take a toll ticket. To our surprise the ticket was distributed manually (usually you have to push a button to get the ticket) by a very funny red haired and moustashed guy. The conversation went something like this:

"Hi there,thank you so much for choosing my toll booth. Where are you folks heading?"
"We're going to Chicago"
"Ooh, have a nice trip. Will I see you again tomorrow?"
"We seriously doubt that! We're only for 2 nights in Chicago and will then be heading for Galesburg after that."
"Oh what a pitty ! But have a nice trip anyway. And thanks again for using my tollway!"

Or how you can turn a dull boring job in the pouring rain into something funny!

Some people warned us about heavy and difficult traffic to get to downtown Chicago. What was that supposed to mean???? Even the massive roadworks don't make the rush hour stop. Traffic was slow, but still we advanced. You should see this in Brussels!!! This is regular traffic there, so you can imagine the rush hour!!
So finding the hotel downtown Chicago was just a piece of cake, thanks to Jan's very good roadbook of course :-)

Once settled in in the hotel we had a short nap and then went for a drink at the hotel bar, then we went out for dinner to the Hard Rock Cafe (Jan's favorite, you know, and he's even got a membership card now!! LOL). The Hard Rock Café was right across the hotel so Jan was a happy camper!
Right across on the other side of the HRC there was that all american FOOD chain McDonalds. The biggest one we ever saw. It sure was funny to see several limousines pull up there.... LOL
After dinner we went to the "Blue Chicago", a blues bar just around the corner of the hotel. The live music was fabulous, if you like blues, but we didn't stay till late because we were kind of tired. An extra hour in the day will do that to you I guess. It was kinda neat though to cross the time zone near South Bend and gain an hour that day, so that meant that the time spent in Shipshewana wasn't too much after all (all according to Jan's schedule of course). But I know that even if it had meant we would only have arrived at the hotel at midnight or so, we still wouldn't wanna have missed any of the laughter while meeting Sallyann and her friend!! He told me so. Oh and I wouldn't wanna have missed the local stamp store where I could shop and shop without him complaining!!!! LOLOLOL

The next morning I called Judy to see if she was gonna come and meet us for lunch or dinner somewhere as we had been making undefined plans in that direction way before. We had been looking forward to meeting each other for a long time now! But unfortunately she had a family emergency that day, so she couldn't make it, but at least we talked on the phone!! She sounded like a NICE lady!!
In fact, all those that I've talked to on the phone or met in real life are really NICE people!! :-))

Our plans to visit Chicago that day literally fell into the water. First it was just raining but that turned soon in real showering. :-(((
And strong wind!! We experienced in real life why they call Chicago the "Windy City"!! Another one of my weird pictures: a broken umbrella in a trash can. LOL :-)
After all this picture kinda sums up our big day out in Chicago. hahaha!!!
We walked along the Magnificent Mile for a while, before sheltering in a large mall somewhere near the John Hancock building.
Then we went to see the lobby of the Drake hotel. Wooow! Jan had stayed here for a
whole week for his job some years ago. Wooooow again! By then we needed some warming up and went for a cup of hot coffee at... you guessed it.... a Starbuck's of course!!
Then we walked some more along the Magnificent Mile. Hey, we weren't gonna let the bad weather beat us!!! We were there to visit the city, and by golly, that's what we were gonna do!! We got soaked to the bone, but there was no stopping us!! Oh no!! LOL
We wanted to see the city, not the insides of a museum, or the Shedd Aquarium. Besides, Jan had already been to the Shedd so I wanted to do something that was new to him too, and not bore him with old stuff. Although I bet he would have liked to show me all the things he had seen back then. :-))

Finally we did get tired of walking in the rain and we were freezing (it was only 35 degrees, I don't know what that converts to in Celsius, but it's COLD; let me tell you that!!) so we took a taxi to the city hall, and from there went to have lunch at the famous Giordano's, near Sears Tower. Apparently THE pizza place in Chicago. But it doesn't even come close to Luis' pizza at the Il Fornello pizzeria in our home town. Janet knows how good THAT pizza is from several occasions already. She even invited Luis to come to Texas!

Because you couldn't see even half of Sears Tower, the clouds covered the top completely, and we wouldn't get a nice view of the city in the rain anyway, we decided NOT to go to the top. Instead we took a ride with the "EL" train which we know from films and TV series like ER. Told you we were gonna do something that most tourists wouldn't do, and by the looks of some of the people that used the "EL" I can see why too.... We still had fun though!! (grin)
After that we took the bus to see some sightseeing while staying dry. Boy, that
was a phenomenal mistake! First we waited like FOREVER at three different bus stops as it wasn't very clear to us which bus would stop where. Some were passing by the numbers, others (the one we think we needed) we didn't get to see even once. Finally we did catch a bus that would take us at least close to the hotel. But sightseeing on the bus???? Noooooooo.... We couldn't see anything through the windows because of the humidity, so we returned to the hotel.
Oh yes, btw, I took a picture of a USPS truck as a tribute for all the swaps these guys carry around for us! Guess that's another one of my "weird" pictures!! Jan saw me run out in the rain to take a picture and wondered what I was doing. But he got it fast when I explained it to him. He said "of course you need that picture!" LOL

That evening we went for dinner in a nearby mexican restaurant. Very nearby, coz it was still pouring. When we entered two staff members were chatting and just before us a family of 5 had entered. Neither of them got up to show them or us to our tables. Up til now we've always been treated in a really nice way in any place we went to eat. Not this time.
When we finally were seated and got the menu, we got our waitress for that evening. We jokingly said to each other they must have forgotten to give her laugh muscles in her face at birth. Even the littlest of smiles seemed too much. For someone living of tips, that seemed very strange to us. Usually waiters/waitresses are very conscious of "their" tables and will make sure everything is okay. This time we had to ask for just about everything, usually calling another waiter, coz our waitress seemed to have disappeared. Then I went to the restrooms and passed the last table in the row. There she was!! Chatting with her colleagues and not paying attention to any of her customers anymore. I very well know that when you start chatting time seems to fly, heck, I'll be the first to admit that. But I expect them to do that in their own free time, not on the job, not while customers are waiting on the check to come, which we had to ask for by calling yet another one of the waiters. Well, her non-service attitude showed in the tip of course. We aren't even used to the tipping system, so this was even more strange. We don't have the tipping system in Belgium, the prices on the menu are tax AND service included. Doesn't mean you can't leave a tip, but it's not common practice.
Ohhhh and then something else that got us puzzled in most of the eating places we had gone to already on our trip. When you see the menu you first get the list of the appetizers or starters, right? And then they mention a list of "entrees"??????
Bwahahahaha!!!! "Entree" is the french word for starter, and that is what you'll find on most menus in Belgium for the starters!!! I thought they would call the bigger plates the main course or something like that. Imagine us flipping through the menu several times trying to find these. It sure gives us a giggle each time we see this!! LOLOL


1 comment:

thejanet said...

That 35 degrees F is about ONE degree C, so no wonder you were freezing!!!

We got home this afternoon, it was so excellent to spend the day with you yesterday. Now you know... graduation ceremonies are BORING!! Except for the part with Lisa crossing the stage of course. And us trying to figure out how to put on her hood. I still think she should have worn it like a hoodie (on her head).

My parents loved meeting you, and Lisa was totally thrilled you came all the way from Belgium JUST for her graduation! She had told the dean of the law school (the good SHORT speech guy) that she had guests from Belgium and that he was mighty impressed she was such a draw.

Anyway, always remember and never forget, Miller Lite is NOT!!! a good American beer. :)

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