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by Richard C. Ross
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Shadow Divers and the U505 German Submarine

Dinner at Topolo and a Birthday Fiesta

Boston's Freedom Trail

After what has admittedly been an incredibly long winter filled with more-than-abundant snow, ice and cold... the weather promised to cooperate this past weekend -- to some extent -- and my wife and I decided that a trip to Chicago was on the radar.  She had recently finished a masterfully-written and meticulously-researched true tale (and soon-to-be-released movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio) titled The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America (Vintage) , by Erik Larson. A brief description from Amazon Books says: "...intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death."

I can almost say that I read the book by proxy, as my wife shared with me many of the details of the madman main character, 1893 Chicago and the architects of the Columbian Exposition that took place in the City a mere twenty-two years after Chicago was decimated by the Great Fire.  But it was not the book itself � fascinating as it was -- that actually caught my wife's attention, it was the architecture of the event that interested her most, along with the details of what may be one of the most fantastic World's Fairs ever assembled.  We had already undertaken a Chicago River Tour of some of Chicago's architectural highlights, ventured into the financial district to view the works of great architects such as Daniel H. Burnham, and traveled to destinations like Hyde Park to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Robie House.

I mention Daniel Burnham in specific because, as an integral part of the firm Chicago architectural firm Burnham and Root, not only was he instrumental in rebuilding the city of Chicago after the Great Fire, Burnham himself chose the site for the Fair, the architects to design and build the exhibition halls, the sculptors hired to decorate the grounds and even the color scheme to be employed.

Chicago has myriad attractions to offer any visitor, so when the opportunity arose to visit one of the world�s greatest museums, it was the kind of op that had our names written all over it.  Thousands of objects exhibited at the Fair in 1893 were donated or sold to the new Field Museum, built after the conclusion of the Fair, and they have been cared for by the Anthropology Department since then; many of those objects have not been viewed by the public since 1893.  Hearing that, we were understandably eager to see what kinds of treasures had been preserved and what else was to be offered for viewing.

In any case, the weather was going to cooperate and we were certainly eager to see what was going to be delivered up from the archives; the plan was made!  We hopped aboard the 7:49am express version of Metra's inbound commuter train from Geneva and were soon walking the half-mile or so distance to State Street in Chicago -- where we would hop the CTA Museum Campus bus to the Field -- by about 9:10.  There was a brisk and chilly breeze coming off Lake Michigan that quickened our pace, but the walk felt good and at least the snow was now absent from the streets.

We arrived at the Field Museum shortly after 9:30, climbed the ancient marble steps and entered the building.  I was happy to see that the place was almost empty; perhaps this was an omen that a great and quiet day was just ahead.  The maze of roped-off entry was reminiscent of the line to see Santa... or perhaps the line to visit the friendly TSA agents at the airport.  The zig-zag path led to the ticket agent who was smiling and friendly and tried for the up-sell to ride a bus through Jackson Park to visit the original Fair grounds.  I determined that the $25 per person cost to see the museum was sufficient for today...

Perhaps I�ll save the review of the Field Museum and its exhibits for another article, or perhaps for someone else to write�  Suffice it to say that the museum provided plenty of excellent exhibits (unfortunately, the World�s Fair portion fell decidedly shy of expectations), and the vast majority of the day was filled with wonder, sunshine (clouds did not fill the sky until we were headed home on the afternoon train) and fun.  The lakeshore was beautiful; the lake itself a deep azure color and seemingly calm.  Public transportation was easy and convenient; walking outdoors without twelve layers of clothing was, to say the least, a welcome change!  By the way, the Museum Campus bus � #146 � costs only $2.25, picks you up at the corner of State and Washington (right across from Macy�s) and drops you on the front steps of the museum; the return trip will drop you right at State and Madison!

Arriving back at the train station, we had just enough time to stop at the French Market beneath Ogilvie Transportation Center for a bite to eat before heading home.  If you haven�t yet sampled the faire at that venue, you really are missing out on a great opportunity: lots of excellent food, desserts, pastries, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, chocolate, wine and beer.  We shared a tasty sandwich and some homemade fries, washing it down with a beer before heading upstairs to board our train home.

Our jam-packed return train arrived in Geneva at about 4:00pm Exiting, we realized that the day had flown by quickly.  We had done a lot of walking and we were tired but content and smiling.  Our journey to Chicago had been a success and we were looking forward to a quiet evening, a roaring fire and a glass of wine before a welcome night�s sleep.






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