Sunday, March 20, 2011

Windy City windup

What are we to make of Chicago - a city comparable in size to Toronto (although Chicagoland dwarfs the GTA).
They connected the airports to the rail network in 1963, something yet to be achieved in Toronto. You can ride downtown from Midway Airport for $2.25, on an uncrowded train. They have good budget hotels - we stayed at the Essex Inn at 800 South Michigan Ave for $443.75 for five nights. Well under half the cost of staying in Manhattan. This includes over $10 per night of State and Local Taxes which takes the shine off the subsidised fares. You are paying for transit whether you use it or not. The city is easy to get around - we used the loop, underground and took a bus ride.
Present day Chicago scores low on the crane index - there is little evidence of construction. The downtown has many empty lots and car parks - evidence that the economy is sluggish. You don't have to stray far off the beaten track to find poverty and dereliction, although many visitors would simply avoid these areas, which are all too visible from the train. The decline of manufacturing has cost Chicago dearly. While they were squabbling Asia stole their lunch.
The lakeshore knocks Toronto out of the ball park with green spaces and a top class art museum. There is also a pleasant lack of commercialism, billboards etc. The magnificent mile shopping street stands comparison with anything anywhere (if shopping in expensive stores is your thing).
The Chicago History Museum, in the north end, at $14 dollars was well worth a visit. Many of the displays have succumbed to political correctness and I was disappointed to find no mention of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency or the Checker taxi, both of which played an interesting part in the history of Chicago. I bought a six-inch ruler, made in USA, for $1.09 cents including tax, in the souvenir store.
Would I recommend a trip? Yes. We avoided Pearson Airport in Toronto, always a bind at holiday times, by travelling on Porter Airlines from the Billy Bishop City Centre Airport. Our landing fees landed in Toronto, and delays were minimal, unlike at Pearson which was in chaos with delays of up to three hours on arrival.

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