Aug 11, 2016


Chicago was the first stopping point of my two week trip to the US, and the city where I spent the longest. While there was plenty I would have loved to see but couldn’t fit in (like, say, the Newberry Library), I feel that I used my time there very well. I managed to fit in most of my priorities, and divide my time between a range of activities which gave me a good feel for the city. Chicago was absolutely beautiful, in a way that was completely different from but no less impressive than my favourite European cities. I’m sure it also helps that I had the amazing Aarti to show me around on one of the days — not only for her insider knowledge, but because getting to spend time with lovely people I’ve known online for ages made this trip infinitely better.

Although I didn’t visit any bookshops until I reached my third destination (I know; I’m as shocked as you are), there were still plenty of bookish connections in my Chicago adventures, which hopefully some of you will enjoy reading about and looking at. Here goes:

Read More

Amazing street art on the South Side. The first one reads, Not here to be pretty for you.

The DuSable Museum of African American History. I really enjoyed visiting, and I’m grateful to the knowledgeable and passionate staff who went out of their way to approach us and give us additional context for and information about the various displays.

Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman!

This reminded me of all the breakfast scenes in Rita Williams-Garcia’s amazing One Crazy Summer.

Ida B. Wells’ writing desk!

The Harold Washington Library, which is Chicago’s central library. I wandered through its many floors in a daze, to be honest: they have specialist departments! Hard-copy journals! So many periodicals! Tables with board games! Stacks and stacks of books! A book-length events programme! All the things that are being destroyed in the UK! Amazing what (presumably) proper funding and professional expertise can do. (That sounds bitter, probably, but I genuinely loved visiting, and was glad to be reminded that there are places in the world where these things still exist.)

Loved the d├ęcor of the children’s section.

The rooftop winter garden was absolutely amazing. were all the galleries throughout the building.

Books are meat and medicine
and flame and flight and flower
Steel, stitch, cloud and clout
And drumbeats on the air.

—Gwendolyn Brooks

I read Brooks’ Maud Martha on the flight to Chicago, by the way, and I absolutely loved it. It reminded me a bit of Mrs Dalloway, though it is of course very much its own thing. I must get my hands on her collected poems soon.

The Architecture Foundation river tour was also incredible.

Lake Michigan. ♥

Pesto deep dish pizza at Uno.

I spent the morning at the Art Institute on my second day, and the timing of my visit couldn’t have been better: I hadn’t done a lot of research into the special exhibitions I would catch, but the ones I saw were amazing, and so relevant to so much of what has been on my mind or I have been reading about. I loved “Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem”, and also “America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s”. And the Art Institute’s permanent collections, of which I only saw a small portion, were of course also incredible in their own right.

Ralph Ellison’s notes for Invisible Man.

Stumbling upon this made me incredibly happy, too.

Chagall stained glass, which I have entirely too many feelings about.

One of the Art Institute’s libraries. ♥

The starting point of Route 66 on Michigan Avenue.

Pretty lobby is pretty.

The James R. Thompson Center, aka the State of Illinois Center, which according to our Architecture Foundation guide may or may not be sold in the near future because it’s too expensive to maintain. It does look amazing, though.

Millennium Park.

The Bean! It’s as great as everyone says.

Dome at The Chicago Cultural Center, formerly the Central Library building.

The famous Palmer House Peacock door.

...and a peek inside the hotel. I felt like I was inside The Girls at the Kingfisher Club.

Back to Millennium Park.

Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park.

The incredible National Museum of Mexican Art, which was full of history and political art that was once again very relevant to my interests.

Next up: Denver and the Rockies, or why Colorado has my heart forever. As a teaser, here’s a list of all the fauna I encountered in my adventures across the pond: a Rocky Mountain elk (maybe), a raccoon, prairie dogs, cardinals, monarch butterflies, fireflies, chipmunks, groundhogs, salamanders, bats (we have bats too, but you know, AMERICAN BATS), American robins, chickadees, and sadly no bison except a stuffed one at a wildlife refugee’s visitor centre, which I realise doesn’t quite count.

If you read this far, thank you for bearing with me.


  1. Oh how I want to go to the Art Institute! I'm hoping to get to Chicago sometime in 2017. I am secretly very envious that you got to spend time with Aarti and she got to spend time with you and I WAS NOT THERE TO SHARE THE JOY. :p

    1. Aww, we so would have loved it if you had been there! (Same with me and Clare in NY). #AnaandJennymeetup2k17?? We'll make it happen one day ♥

    2. I can't believe I didn't see this for over a WEEK after you posted it. A week!

      I had so much fun with you, and I'm so glad the weather was mostly glorious, and all your photos are lovely, and I am TRULY thrilled that you loved the city, too. That makes me so happy.

      And Jenny! COME ANY TIME.

  2. I definitely need another trip to Chicago. There's far too much I didn't see when my friend Ellen lived there.

    1. Yes, there is so much to see! I really hope I get to go back.

  3. That Chagall stained glass is gorgeous! So glad you had such a wonderful time in Chicago. If you ever make it a little further northwest to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, let me know!

    1. I know! I saw some of his work in France last year and it was amazing to have the opportunity to see more. And I promise I will!

  4. Oh my goodness. How the hell did you not just explode from all this wonderfulness in such a short time?!! I have never wanted to go to Chicago so badly in my life as I do now!

  5. Chicago is such a wonderful city. I've been there several times and wish I could visit again soon. So much to see and do! So glad you had a great time and now can't wait to hear about your Colorado adventure!

    1. Thank you, Iliana! It definitely felt like one of those cities where you never exhaust the possibilities.

  6. Aw I didn't know you were coming to Colorado. But I'm glad you enjoyed it and am looking forward to your post!

    1. Argh - you're the second blogging friend I failed to remember was in Colorado, even though of course I've known this for years. I feel terrible about it - it would have been awesome to get together for dinner. But the good news is that I loved it so much that I really hope to be back one day.

  7. I am glad you enjoyed Chicago. It was a city I visited many times when I was in college. And you saw Lake Michigan. A big part of my life. I think you are the only one I know who has read Maud Martha!

  8. Chicago is a city that I know very little about. My mind tends to skip over the center of the US and I need to stop doing that. It looks like there is a lot of amazing stuff to see there!

  9. I loooove Chicago, too. It was about six hours away from the city I grew up in so it was my first big city experience with friends at a young age and I loved it. Huge sports rival of ours, though. Seems like you had an amazing trip!

  10. I was just in Chicago a few weeks ago and had a lovely time. Most of places on your list I haven't been to though! So much to explore. I love the juxtaposition of your second Bean photo and the dome of the Chicago Cultural Center. They go well next to each other.

  11. I've never been to Chicago, but, gosh, The Harold Washington Library looks AMAZING. The fact that they have a winter garden blows my mind!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.