Saturday, June 21, 2008

Illinois, USA: Puerto Rico and Mexico in Chicago

Today, we visited more neighborhoods of Chicago. Aside from Little Village which I visited weeks ago, another Mexican community of Chicago is Pilsen. The group did a lot of walking to check out the Mexican street art which is all over Pilsen. The murals are wonderfully-done and very symbolic, filled with a lot of elements from Mexican culture and history. Some are expressions of the situation of Mexicans in the United States.

There are a lot of fresh fruit stands around and we tried their local mangoes which taste like our Indian mangoes in the Philippines. It was raining at times so we weren't able to maximize our tour around Pilsen. But I sure did enjoy the street art.

We went next to the Puerto Rican community along Paseo Boricua. The funny thing about Chicago weather is that it is so unpredictable since the sun was out by the time we got there.

Just like in Pilsen, we walked around and explored the street. I made sure to try the local food. I had been tipped about a fried banana and meat snack called alcapurrias unique to the Puerto Rican community and was happy to find it in one of the shops. I also had some morcillas (blood sausages) which are different from the ones I had in Spain since the ones here are made mostly out of rice. After a late Puerto Rican lunch, we proceeded to Oakbrook Terrace, IL since we were going to watch the Buddy Holly Story at the Drury Lane Theatre later in the evening.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Illinois, USA: Chicago-style hot dogs

They say it's taboo to put ketchup on a genuine Chicago dog. A Chicago dog is a steamed or boiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun. Toppings include mustard, sweet pickle relish, onion, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers, and celery salt, but never ketchup! So since I was in Chicago, I made sure to try one.

I found a hot dog stand in Navy Pier which serves different types of hot dog sandwiches from across America. On the menu of America's Dog are the following:
  • Chicago dog - mustard, relish, onion, sport peppers, tomato, pickle and celery salt
  • Buffalo dog - Buffalo sauce, bleu cheese and celery salt
  • Dallas dog - chili, onion and shredded cheddar cheese
  • New York dog - sauerkraut and brown mustard
  • Baltimore dog - deep-fried dog, melted cheddar cheese and grilled onions
  • Kansas City dog - melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and yellow mustard
  • Louisiana dog - BBQ sauce, grilled onions and tomato
  • Green Bay dog - melted cheddar cheese
  • Atlanta dog - coleslaw, chili, mustard, ketchup and onion
  • Pittsburgh dog - chili and yellow mustard

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Illinois, USA: Chicago architecture overload in the Chicago Architecture Cruise

One of the best ways to see Chicago is by getting on board the Chicago Architecture Cruise. The architecture of Chicago is said to have influenced and reflected the history of American architecture. You'll find a lot of prominent buildings in various architectural styles, designed by eminent architects of each period.

Many of these buildings, over 200, have been designated as Chicago Landmarks, an honor bestowed by the City Mayor and the Chicago City Council for historic buildings and sites in the city. Landmarks are chosen based on various criteria which include historical, economic, architectural, artistic, cultural, and social values. There are also 38 historic districts designated as landmarks. I wonder when Manila will do that.

The good thing about Chicago is that they protect their heritage since one a historic building is designated as a Chicago Landmark, it is subject to the Chicago Landmarks Ordinance. This requires owners who want to have any alterations beyond routine maintenance, up to and including demolition, to have their permit reviewed by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Among these are the Michigan Avenue Bridge (1920), London Guarantee Building (360 North Michigan - 1923), Tribune Tower (1925), North American Life Insurance Building (35 East Wacker - 1927), 333 North Michigan (1928), and the Carbide & Carbon Building (1929).

But Chicago is also a showcase of contemporary architecture where structures designed by some of the world's best architects can be found. Some of the interesting buildings include Marina City (the two towers which look like corn cobs - 1964), Lake Point Tower (1968), Sears Tower (once the tallest building in the world - 1974), and NBC Tower (1982). Under construction is the Trump Tower and the supertall skyscraper known as the Chicago Spire designed by Santiago Calatrava which will be taller than Sears Tower when completed in 2012.

Architecture lovers will have a blast on the Chicago Architecture Cruise. In great cities, the best architecture is built by the river! This 60-minute cruise costs US$24 per person and departs from Navy Pier every 45 minutes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Illinois, USA: Springfield, Illinois and Abraham Lincoln

Springfield, Illinois is the hometown of President Abraham Lincoln. All over this state capital are images, symbols and historical landmarks that remind us of Lincoln, his life and his times.

I found out that the Lincoln Tomb was in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in front of our hotel. So I made sure to wake up early to visit before we left for our tour of Springfield. The burial room was closed when I got there since it opened later in the morning.

After breakfast at the hotel, we proceeded to the grand and elegant Illinois State Capitol for a guided tour. The Illinois State Congress was in recess so there was not much activity when we got there. We got to see the assembly halls of both the Senate (where Barack Obama once sat as a state senator) and the House. We were also shown the governor's office as well as the hall which used to house the Illinois Supreme Court before it transferred to another building next door.

Our next stop was the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library where we got to enjoy the interactive exhibits, film showings and presentations on Lincoln. In the main hall are life-size wax figures of President Lincoln and his family as they were about to move to Washington, D.C. Don't miss the "Ghosts of the Library" and "The Union Theater" presentations.

We had a lot of time to go around the museum so I decided to sneak out and explore Springfield. On top of my list of things to see was the Lincoln Home which was five blocks from the museum. The neighborhood around the home of the Lincoln Family was preserved and recreated giving you a feel of how life was during Lincoln's time.

From the home, I walked back to the museum. But I made sure to pass by the Lincoln Law Office which is right beside the Old State Capitol. It was the seat of government from 1839 to 1876 where Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas and Ulysses S. Grant used to work. Right in front of the museum is the Union Station but it is no longer in use since the railroad tracks have been transferred elsewhere.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Missouri, USA: St. Louis Gateway Arch in Missouri

After two weeks in Illinois, we were finally crossing state borders to neighboring Missouri to visit an iconic landmark of St. Louis, the Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. At 630 feet (192 meters), it is the tallest monument in the U.S.

We had some obstacles getting there since the usual riverfront roads to the arch were flooded as a result of the heavy rains that hit the region during the week. Flooding was all over the news the past week with towns along the Mississippi working to save their homes by building temporary levies with sandbags. Anyway, we finally got there and went around the museum under the arch.

From the base of the monument, you can take a tram to the observation deck at the top of the arch where, on a clear day, you can see as far as 48 kilometers. The tram ride costs US$10 per person. From the top, we could see the old courthouse and the baseball stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals were currently playing. I was toying around with the zoom of my camera and was able to take a shot of the batter on base and the pitcher!

You can also opt to take a riverboat ride for US$12 or a dinner cruise for US$40. But since the Gateway Arch Riverfront was flooded, that was out of the question.

After dinner at Union Station, a heritage structure adaptively-reused as a tourist mall (with restaurants, bars, shops and even a hotel), we drove back to Springfield, Illinois where we were to stay for the night.
Related Posts with Thumbnails