Category Archives: TRAVEL STORIES
Last week when the NATO summit was in town, our city played host to thousands of international visitors, and a couple dozen world leaders. Where do these presidents, prime ministers and brutal dictators stay when they are here in Chicago? Surely not at the Days Inn or the Holiday Inn Express. More than likely, they occupied the many uber-elegant Presidential Suites that are downtown. I had the wonderful privilege to photograph several of them for Elite Traveler magazine. After shooting this assignment, I know that I will never be satisfied with any hotel room again…but then I rarely pay $4000 to 5000 per night for a room. No, that isn’t a misprint. Politicians, rock stars, Wall Street bankers, and world leaders are about the only people who can afford this luxury. Here is a glimpse into that rarefied world that most of us will never be privy to.
One of the most incredible interior spaces in Chicago is rarely seen, unless you are a commuter or Amtrak loyalist. And even then, most people rushing to or from their train have little time to stop and admire the breathtaking architecture surrounding them. Union Station was completed in 1925 by the architectural firm of Graham, Anderson and Probst, though Daniel Burnham drew up the original plans; he died before his plan could be realized. The 110’ high, block-long Great Hall is a vast space defined by it’s barrel-vaulted ceiling and rows of Corinthian columns (not related to the Corinthian leather in your dad’s Chrysler). As many as 100,000 passed through Union Station back in its heydey in the 1940s, though today it’s a small fraction of that number. Next time you are in the west Loop, grab a sandwich and have lunch sitting on the benches in the Great Hall and just admire how grand architecture can inspire the soul–or at least make for an enjoyable lunch.
PUBS are the lifeblood of Dublin, and a visit to this fair city wouldn’t be complete without an extensive tour of the dozens of colorful and overly-friendly historic pubs. I was there on assignment for Islands magazine and dutifully photographed the pubs and their patrons…and quaffed a few thirst-quenching pints simply for research purposes.
More photographs of Ireland and Dublin Pubs: Ireland Photos
While it’s only a short subway ride from downtown on the Blue Line, Wicker Park is worlds apart from the buttoned-down 9-5 workday of the Loop. The epicenter of this urban melting pot is a large intersection known as Six Corners. The three major avenues that meet here are North, Damen and Milwaukee, but the neighborhood is also a confluence of three cultural byways: hipster, artist and starving student. While there have been no scientific studies, researchers have postulated that there are more tattoos and piercings in Wicker Park than BMW’s in nearby Lincoln Park. Cafes, used bookstores and dive bars abound, and exist gracefully among $300 designer eyewear and Prada bags. Stop by on Gallery Night at the Flatiron Building and everyone comes out to strut their respective stuff while pontificating on modern art and free vodka.
Chicago is often described as a city of neighborhoods. The only problem is, people here can’t agree on too much else in regard to this subject; arguments abound over the actual number (probably over 200), their boundaries, their history, and even the proper name for the neighborhood. What we all can agree on is that neighborhoods are constantly in flux. One such community that is gradually changing its face is Pilsen, just southwest of the Loop. This working-class area was inhabited by Polish and German immigrants in the mid-18th century, but soon Czechs moved in and named the area Pilsen after Plzeň, a large city in Czech Republic (think Pilsner beer). In the mid-20th century, Latinos (mostly of Mexican origin) began populating Pilsen, and today they constitute a large majority of the local population. Though this demographic has also been shifting: in recent years Pilsen has been discovered for its low rents, proximity to downtown, and its colorful life, and other ethnic groups have descended. Numerous art galleries have sprouted and several popular non-Hispanic restaurants can be found. One would not describe Pilsen as succumbing to gentrification, rather a slow evolution to a more diverse population. What has not changed is the dynamic, colorful and energetic life one finds in this historic district. The colorful nature of this neighborhood is reflected in its numerous murals, vibrantly painted buildings, authentic restaurants, diverse population, and even the “L” that runs through Pilsen is called the Pink Line. Come by for a visit, be sure to bring your camera and your appetite.
Mention Victorian architecture and one inevitably imagines the ornate “painted ladies” of San Francisco, or the countless stately homes and inns of Cape May, NJ–visions of multi-colored fantastical homes with grand porches and soaring turrets come to mind. But the term really includes at least a half dozen different architectural styles from the late 19th century: Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, Beaux Arts, etc. After the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago went on a building boom and thousands of houses, apartments and commercial buildings were constructed. In spite of several bouts of urban renewal, a large percentage of these structures remain today and give Chicago a strong connection with its architectural past. One can encounter blocks and blocks of Victorian-era homes in several areas–Lincoln Park, Old Town, Wicker Park, Hyde Park–but they are really scattered throughout the city. These photos represent just a fraction of what an avid Victorian sleuth may find on their search for architectural treasures.
How often do we walk past something on a regular basis but never take a second look? I’m sure we can all think of someplace that falls in this category, and often it’s very close to home. For me it was Goose Island. Chicago’s only island, it is the area between the North Branch of the Chicago River on the west, and the North Branch Canal on the east.
It covers 160 acres and is only a couple miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Being mostly a light industrial area, I came here regularly only to visit my favorite camera store.
The other day a client requested some photos from Goose Island, and I was embarrassed to admit I had never taken a photo of this neighborhood. To rectify this oversight, I returned here, camera in hand, and started exploring. What I discovered was quite a revelation: fascinating historic buildings in various states of disrepair, views of two waterways, several bridges, picnic areas, kayakers, railroad tracks, parks, ComEd substation, and a few paranoid security guards.
But I was rewarded with more than the colorful photos I took, I learned an important lesson: a hidden treasure can be right under one’s nose if one chooses to look.