Our first impressions of Chicago were not amazing, given that the airport staff appear to have been briefed to purposefully slow down progress through the airport of anyone non-American, presumably to break our will before the immigration questioning. Thankfully it picked up from there.
The journey to our hotel was fraught with potential pitfalls, from not having a clue which ticket we needed or how to pay for it to having to deal with an unexpected diversion that meant the CTA trains weren’t running through the station we were trying to use to get to our hotel. At every stage of this, however, a friendly Chicagoan transit guy or gal was there to help. Sorting out the ticket machines, giving detailed instructions of how to deal with the train diversion, and all with the smiles that had so far been absent from our USA experience (damn you, O’Hare airport!). Much more like it!
It was quite the trek to our hotel. The temperature was high, our bags heavy and our shoulders weary. The view from the train was great though, lots of houses with verandas and fire escapes backing on to the CTA line one or two feet away from passing trains. I’d love to live that close to a Metro line (I know, that’s weird). The hotel reception guy was, again, very friendly and lovely, and finally we made it to our room where we crashed and refused to move for about an hour.
Showered, changed and generally relaxed for a bit, we finally had time to investigate the immediate area. Our hotel is on a street with lots of food places, but somehow we ended up in a noodle place opposite a sex shop (which I got to stare at from my window-facing seat for the entire duration). Maybe it would be weird to find a sex shop sandwiched between a pizza place and a Mexican grill on a normal busy street at home, but apparently not here. Here was my first big American milestone, my first ever root beer! Dave had discovered that Sierra Nevada beer was on the menu, so we were pretty content.
Pad Thai and some sort of weird pork noodle soup wouldn’t be what I’d expected us to be eating on our first night in Chicago, but it was pretty awesome anyway. Second milestone: ate my first “cilantro”. Didn’t like it, at all. We ended up leaving probably about half of the food, it was just way too much (especially while drinking fizzy root beer), but it was nice anyway and yes, we remembered to leave a tip. We didn’t remember to take a photo, but you probably know what noodles look like.
Feeling full, happy and pretty much ready for bed we headed back to the hotel, except it was somehow only 7pm. The plan was to make it ’til 9pm, but let’s just say that didn’t quite work out. First night in Chicago, complete.