4 Hours in…Chicago

I had to stay in Chicago an extra night since my exam ended after the last flight to Tokyo.  I was really excited to see a little bit of Chicago so the next morning, I headed into the city.

I had grand ambitions of stopping in multiple shops, museums and parks but I only had four hours, so here’s what I did.  I took the subway (El?) into the city from Rosemont and stopped in the Sephora for some make-up.  It was fun to try on the samples and pay American prices, although they were still high.  I left the shop and saw an old man wearing a Korea War Veteran hat.  I walked past him but decided to go back and thank him for his service.  He was sitting by himself and looked a little lonely.  He was super happy I thanked him and we talked about him, his deceased wife and Chicago.  He had a picture of his wife in his pocket.  She was “beautiful inside and out.”  He also mentioned that the Chicago Cultural Center was gorgeous and had the largest Tiffany stained-glass dome in the world on the third floor.  I begged off a handwriting analysis by him, saying that I had to go and then I was off to see more of Chicago.
In three blocks, I came across the Cultural Center.  Awesome serendipity!  It was a gorgeous Beaux Art-style building with two famous domes inside.  One was the Tiffany dome, with its 38 feet diameter and 30,000 pieces of glass.  It was restored in 2008 and is in the former public library.  The other was the Healy-Millet Renaissance pattern stained-glass dome in the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall.  For those keeping track of stats at home, it is 40 feet in diameter with 50,000 pieces of glass.
An usher in the Tiffany window hall encouraged me to stay for a concert, part of the First Monday Concert Series put on by the Chicago Chamber Musicians.  Joseph Genualdi (violin) and Robert Weirich (piano) played two pieces: Violin Sonata in G Major, Op. 30 No. 3 (Beethoven) and Sonata for Violin and Piano (J. Corigliano).  I preferred the classical piece over the modern but it was pretty cool to hear a more modern composition.  After the concert, I only had one more hour in Chicago!  Time to hustle over to Millennium Park for the de rigueur photo in front of the Cloud Gate sculpture!
After admiring the Cloud Gate, Pritzker Pavillion and the Crown Fountain, I went over to the Art Institute of Chicago.  There was complimentary admission for active duty personnel, which I was happy about since I only had a short time to peek around.  
I went to the Thorne Miniature Rooms first.  They are 1 inch:1foot models of various styled interiors, mainly European and American from the 1300s-early 1900s.  The detail is exquisite.  They’re the best dioramas I’ve ever seen!  Ok, maybe that’s a little too low-brow of an impression but it was a mix of dollhouse and diorama.  The craftsmanship was very impressive.
Then, I went on a whirlwind trip through the Impressionist galleries.  They have quite a few Renoirs, including Two Sisters, which is a painting that I’ve often seen  a replica of in Mom and Dad’s house.  Everything was beautiful and laid out in natural light galleries.  I also loved Eternal Springtime by Rodin.  It reminded me of the time I was lucky enough to see an entire gallery devoted to Rodin sculptures in Philadelphia.  Apparently once Rodin was rich enough, he hired a bunch of models to walk around in his studio and when they were in a pose he liked, that’s what he would sculpt- very spontaneous, very fluid.  It is funny to think of being surrounded by a bunch of naked people walking around- like a Japanese onsen!
I wish I had more time but I felt I made pretty good use of what I had.  Then it was a rush back to the hotel after a slight subway mishap- the Loop not being connected to the main lines is very confusing…to me, at least. I got to the airport, made it through security and had a few minutes before traveling back to Japan.  The flight was EMPTY and I had a whole row to myself.  I could have had several rows to myself.  Seriously, it was amazing.  Maybe I’ll try to travel on off-peak days more often.  
Landing at Narita is always a bit of a letdown since there’s still about three more hours to the trip but it was so nice to be home.  After clearing customs, I headed to the Narita Express, which is only Y1500 for foreigners this year although I had to ask for the discount.  I took the NEx to Yokohama then transferred to the Keikyu line.   It was so packed, even at 10 o’clock at night!   I got off at my stop and walked in.  The apartment looked great and fortunately, no smells of forgotten garbage were in the air.  Yay, for the win!

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