Friday, December 16, 2016

We didn't have an Urban Hike...

...this week and probably won't have one next Wednesday so I'm glad we already had two "Christmas"-themed Hikes this month.

The first was two weeks ago, on November 30, the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The guys (Alan, Jack and John) and I set out from 1212 W. Flournoy at five o'clock in the afternoon and walked east on Harrison Street.

We crossed the bridge over the Chicago River (which has an incredible view of the skyline, by the way -- I wish my iPhone's camera would do it justice!) just beyond the new post office, turned left at State Street and right on Congress and ate dinner at Cafecito, a "coffeehouse specializing in pressed Cuban sandwiches plus salads, platters and more in modern digs." The chain is both affordable (I try real hard to keep the dinner tab under ten bucks) and a nod to Fidel Castro, who died just five days before. (Despite what some people might think, I am not a Communist; the Cuban restaurant was just on the way to Michigan Avenue.)

After dinner we then "saddled 'em up" again and walked north on Michigan Avenue to see the Christmas lights. (Not "Holiday" lights, "Christmas" lights -- Trump won, remember?)

It's hard to take pictures of everything (my battery only lasts so long) and the guys get a little impatient when I stop to admire the sights, but among other things we passed the beautiful Christmas tree at the top of this post near the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (I didn't even know it had a name) in Millennium Park. I'm pretty sure we were there last year for its lighting.

Farther up Michigan Avenue, at Randolph, I looked to my right and saw the Prudential Plaza, which was bathed in a gorgeous blue light that I assumed was in honor of the Cubs. (Remember them?) I think my brother-in-law once told me that when he was in high school in the mid-1960s the 41-story building was the tallest in town. Now it's just another skyscraper.

When we approached the river (again) I looked up to see that practically everyone was getting into the Christmas spirit, but especially the Wrigley Building.

Inspired by the Giralda tower of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See in Seville, Spain, the beautiful terra cotta structure rises 425 feet and was completed in 1924. When ground was broken in 1920, there were no major office buildings north of the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue Bridge we were crossing was still under construction.

I wish I could have gotten a better shot of the top.

But I did get a decent one of the guys in front of a Christmas tree between the two towers.

We continued our Hike up Michigan Avenue, past the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, completed in 1925; 430 N. Michigan (Bob Newhart's office building from his eponymous 1970s sitcom); the eclectic (I would say Art Deco) Hotel InterContinental (1929); past all the fancy "Magnificent Mile" shops; the Allerton Hotel (with its Tip Top Tap; don't bother dropping in for a cocktail, I tried once -- it closed in 1961); all the way to the historic Water Tower, built in 1869 and one of the very few structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. (Did you know it inspired the design of the White Castle hamburger chain?)

Finally, after a quick bathroom break at Water Tower Place across the street, the guys and I turned west on Oak Street, ogling all the high-end boutiques there before heading north on Rush toward the Red Line stop at Clark and Division. All in all, it was about a four-mile Hike; I'd say par for the course. (Couldn't resist snapping that one last shot at the corner of Dearborn and Elm.)

Last week we (left to right: Jack, Alan, Bradon, Ryan and John) braved colder temperatures and zigzagged the two miles or so to the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Under the watchful eyes of the massive 50-foot Picasso sculpture, we dined (Alan always insists on using the verb "dine") on bratwurst and leberkaese (Germany's answer to Spam) with sauerkraut, stuffed gourmet pretzels and snowballs (fresh, hot donut holes sprinkled with powdered sugar -- yum!) washed down with hot chocolate or hot apple cider. (As you can see, food is a big part of these Hikes.)

But it wasn't all about eating; I was careful to point out my "houses of worship trifecta": the Chicago Loop Synagogue on Clark, St. Peter's in the Loop on Madison and, of course, the Chicago Temple across the street from Daley Plaza on Washington. I could give you a run-down of these landmarks but couldn't really come close to this post on one of my favorite blogs, A Chicago Sojourn.

After dinner Alan and Bradon hopped on the Red Line at State, Jack and Ryan on the Blue Line at Dearborn, while John and I marched the two miles back into a driving wind from the west (no wonder it was so easy walking east). It was moderately painful, to be sure, but at least we got our four miles in.

So what does the New Year have in store for our intrepid little band of Hikers? Even I don't know, but the possibilities are limitless. Won't you join us sometime? We leave 1212 W. Flournoy at 5:00 pm sharp, weather permitting. Bring your Ventra card and some money for dinner.

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