Everything started with a post on Serge Kaganski’s blog, on August 22nd, 2013. Next to the word United States, I read sophisticated, cultivated, open-minded, gastronomy, architecture… Gastronomy, really? American gastronomy? Is that a joke? He ends his article with the words of Sweet Home Chicago chorus. What next? Instagram: #Chicago and I realise through @snopes account that Mr. Kaganski may be right.
I’ll confess: for a foreigner like myself, Chicago only represents B&B as in Blues and Bulls. Could also be the beginning of road 66 but that’s about it. But because of Serge Kaganski, I decided to leave Geneva’s eternal November fog to fly to the windy city and make my own opinion.
First stop after I landed was at the Thompson Boutique Hotel which has just been renovated and offers a Big discount. It is only the day after that I realise I couldn’t have picked better: the hotel is located at the beginning of what will become my favourite district: Old Town. Michigan lake (as Big as Switzerland) on my right, the architecture is indeed amazing. Victorian town houses, art deco style vs skyscrapers. Unlike New York, you can actually see the sun when you’re in town. But God it’s windy. Hence the nickname. One tip: wear sneakers just like a true american because the only way to discover the city is by walking. 4 hours of daily walks during a week: I’ve seen it all and I loved it. I’ve enjoyed gastronomy breaks: yeah, read that again, gastronomy. Chicago has 45 Michelin Star restaurants and even the very first gluten-free Michelin Star restaurant. If the cuisine is as refined as the French one, the prices are nothing in comparison. Meet Giuseppe Tentori, head cook of Boka restaurant, one Michelin Star. Contemporary cuisine, surprising even the most demanding clients: starter, main course and desert with a bottle of wine: 140 USD for 2 people. But even burgers are gourmet in Chicago. Meet Weber Grill, yes the same brand as your barbecue, only in Chicago it’s a burger restaurant with exquisite meat obviously grilled on Weber. 9 USD for a Big one.
I did wake up super early because of the time difference. But Chicago also never sleeps. At 6am, I could smell my breakfast @ Elly’s Pancake House. Located near Lincoln Park, right next to the History Museum, the menu fits in 3 pages: there, you have it all. All types of omelettes, French toast with or without maple sirup, pancakes. It’s the full sugar monty. If cocktail bars are fashionable in Geneva, in Chicago, the place to go is a Nutella bar. Yes, a gigantic Nutella bar.
Before Chicago, I used to say that in life, you have the MoMA and then the rest of the museums. After Chicago, I say there is the Chicago Art Institute and then the rest of the museums. A new building designed by Renzo Piano (who also designed Paul Klee’s centrum in Bern) exhibits contemporary art in a unique way and offers a panoramic view of American Art. Inside the Institute, the old Chicago Stock Exchange was kept in it’s original design: a must for all financiers. I will stop here because if I start explaining what it felt to actually see Chagall’s windows, I may never end this article.
Take the metro which is half underground and half overground with some fantastic views and go to Wigley Field because even if you don’t like baseball, this is part of the culture. Walk in Lincoln Park, visit the Zoo (for free), feel like you’re by the sea with such a Big lake.
In terms of shopping, let me tell you this: New York is totally overrated! Two unmissable stops: Marc Jacobs‘ boutique in West Town (count at least one afternoon in this district as it is full of new designers, unseen and unheard in Geneva) and Urban Outfitters for a bit of vintage look.
At dawn, the city enlightens: all the locals go to hotels in order to have a drink. Avoid Waldorf’s bar (but do stop by just to have a look at the architecture and interior design) rather enjoy a drink at the Peninsula’s bar or if you want to feel like you’re on top of the world, go to Roof On The Wit.
Big apple lovers, let me say this: Chicago is sophisticated, open-minded, cultivated and gastronomic. Whenever I travel to New York, I always feel frustrated by the time I leave: not enough time to visit an exhibition, too many people, too many tourists, too many awful food experiences, suffocating service, too expensive vs Chicago which to me seems like a Gold nugget. And I must admit, seeing Rose playing for real in front of me vs Cleveland may interfere with my judgement. I lived the American dream, a real one for once. So thank you Serge Kaganski, I knew I could trust you.
Photographical guided tour on our Pinterest gallery (click on the below W icon).
Photography © @swopes