How did a student girl from a small town in Slovenia manage to go to the United States of America before turning 23 completely for free? Welcome to my adventure across Chicago, Illinois!
I went to Chicago in the fall of 2017 with my friend, let’s call him M. This was supposed to be a business trip with four days of sightseeing after the event for him and his wife, but she fell ill just a week before going there. Everything was already paid and organised and since they knew I was going through some tough times he invited me along to cheer me up a bit.
Trump International Hotel and Tower
The only reason for choosing this hotel was its perfect location, near M.’s business event and its splendid view of the Lake Michigan. We asked for a room with separated beds and the best view. I just could not get enough of it.
The hotel has literally everything you could ever need. Hair rubber bands, nail files, razors, lady pads and tampons, shampoos, you can even choose between endless types of skin peelings and creams. I started thinking of buying myself another suitcase to fill it up with everything that is free and has Trump’s name on it … just kidding! Every day you get a new pair of slippers, the weather forecast and a motivational note. There is a shower and a bath in every hotel room’s bathroom. The cleaning lady comes twice per day. There is a big fitness room, gender separated sauna and a swimming pool with warm water. The hotel staff is extremely kind, always opening doors for you and wishing you a nice day.
The price for a room per night ranges from 400 to 600$. Staying there was definitely different than anywhere else I have ever stayed in my life before. But I am still just a simple small town girl and I do not need such luxury. Honestly, I did not even know what the remote in the bathroom is for until I accidentally turned on the TV in the mirror on my third day staying there. Silly me, right?
American football – freezing at the football stadium for 6 hours but totally worth it
How did that happen you wonder? The game was about to start at noon, the entrance opens two hours earlier. First 15.000 people get free gloves with the Chicago Bears team logo and because I really wanted to get them we went there at 9 a.m. Little did I know that nobody cared about those gloves as I did, haha. They let us inside among first people and yes, I got my gloves. We asked two locals to explain us the game rules (we were such obvious tourists) and before it even started I was already in love with it. The next three hours I was cheering and trying to warm myself up as much as I could. An American fact: in the entire stadium, there is only one place where you can get yourself a coffee but that hot chocolate with caramel in it is just heavenly delicious. Even if I was completely frozen by the time the game finished, it was one of the best days in my life.
Hop On – Hop Off Bus
It is nothing like those tour buses we are used to in Europe, it is more similar to those in movies. In USA you get a tour guide who rides on the bus with you around the city and entertains you on the microphone. We spent a whole day just driving around, hopping off and on again. I love this way of exploring cities but our guide made it even better than ever experienced beforehand.
It is a famous restaurant franchise but I realised STK stands for “steak” when we have already ordered something to drink. I am not a vegetarian but I usually do not eat meat anywhere else but at home. Luckily, they were so kind and made me fish. If I ever go to STK’s again, it will be because of their most delicious bread I have ever had (I am sorry grandma). But it is not going to happen anytime so soon – the price of our one course dinner was more than 170$.
Locals say it is a sin not to take at least one selfie in front of Cloud Gate (nicknamed also The Bean) in Millennium Park. There is nothing special about it. It was a gift from Chicago mayor to locals in 2006 but it became the most photographed spot on the entire planet Earth! Can you imagine my face when I found it out? I felt like the happiest child in the world. The same day almost a hundred selfies in front of the statue appeared in my phone, oops.
In Slovenia we have a nice phrase – Sparks & Misery
Although I enjoyed every minute spent in Chicago, I just cannot forget so many homeless people I saw every day. We paid for a warm dish in a restaurant to one, I saw another lady bringing some food in the bag to another. But I was still feeling kind of sad and helpless all the time because not a minute went by without someone asking us for money on the streets. I realised America is not such a dreamy country as they want us to think. There are millions of poor and millions more of homeless people living in tents under bridges just next to such luxury hotels, famous companies and overpopulated skyscrapers.
I know this is not a typical travel blog, I do not even intend to write them. This is a story about my trip, where have I been, what did I see and how it changed my view of life. I only stayed in Chicago for few days, which is honestly way too little time to properly see the whole city and learn about everything. If you are planning to visit the city soon, let me know. I would be happy to give you more useful tips about some famous sights and good places to eat.
You can find more photos and stories from Chicago in my Instagram profile.
Oh, M. – thank you very much, again.