Chicago was never meant to be part of the plan, to me it wasn’t a huge draw card, but as I discovered to get to Memphis you have to go through Chicago.
America being my first trip overseas by myself I was pretty green. I had bought a plane ticket, a 6 week Amtrak pass and packed not nearly enough practical (warm) clothes. Back in the planning stages in Melbourne I just assumed I could jump on a train or a bus to my next chosen destination from New York (which was Memphis) and I would be there in a few hours. Well trains don’t go from New York to Memphis, you either have to go via Washington or Chicago. Great! Chicago? deep dish pizza right? That will be a couple of hours right? Try 18 hours on a coach train with only crappy junk food to eat, uncomfortable chairs to attempt to sleep in, and flickering lights.
So it was that I jumped on what would be the first of many long train rides. I chatted to a few locals who were heading on past Chicago who poked fun at my accent before we all settled in to try and sleep.
One of the best things about travelling by train overnight is that you get to wake up in a new city, unfortunately for me I arrived at six am, in the snow, with only a light autumn jacket on, and I was fucking freezing.
I made my way down to my hostel the HI Chicago (which I would highly recommend) and tried to thaw out (not possible). I am going to stop complaining about the cold in a minute, but first I will say it got to below zero during the day and lower overnight, my hands got so cold I got mild frostbite on them, and I thought my feet were going to fall off. All of this could have been avoided of course if I had packed some sensible clothes OR been practical and bought a jacket while I was there, but of course I did neither.
The cold being such a factor it was important to try and stay inside as often, I did however do a walking tour around the city that felt like the longest hour of my life, but it was in retrospect worth it. The city overlooking Lake Michigan is incredibly beautiful, in spite (or because) of the immense cold.
I went to the Shedd aquarium which at the time was amazing, but after watching blackfish I wouldn’t give my money to another aquarium who holds whales. But at the time ignorance is bliss and I did thoroughly enjoy my visit. I hung out in Wicker Park, I ate cinnamon scrolls, I ate eat deep dish pizza, I went to buddy guy’s bar.
I had a fantastic time in Chicago, and it certainly felt too short. I would love to visit again but definitely over summer, and now that I have seen Ferris Bueller I would have to go back and see all the sites.