Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicago - Parks & Museums

18-5-2010(Tuesday) Chicago

When Chicago was incorporated in 1837, it chose the motto Urbs in Horto, a Latin phrase which translates into English as "City in a Garden". Today, the Chicago Park District consists of 552 parks with over 7,300 acres (3,000 ha) of municipal parkland. There are 33 sand Chicago beaches, a plethora of museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, and 10 bird and wildlife gardens. Lincoln Park, the largest of the city's parks, covers 1,200 acres (490 ha) and has over 20 million visitors each year, making it second only to Central Park in New York City in number of visitors. With berths for more than 5,000 boats, the Chicago Park District operates the nation's largest municipal harbor system; even larger than systems in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami. In addition to ongoing beautification and renewal projects for the existing parks, a number of new parks have been added in recent years, such as the Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown, DuSable Park on the Near North Side, and most notably, Millennium Park in the Chicago Loop(source: wikipedia). Lincoln Park, Chicago's largest park, visited by over 20 million visitors each year, it is second only to Central Park in New York City. Lincoln Park covered area of 1200 acres, Chicago's largest city park. Located north of The Loop, this is one of the more distinctive parks in terms of geography, because while it is centrally located in the Lincoln Park community area it spans many different neighborhoods throughout the north side as it is nestled between Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. Wah, very big park...

Indeed Chicago is the city of parks, we have no leisure time to visit all the parks, be it small or big. Millennium Park is our choice, because of many interesting attractions and being top tourist attraction in Chicago after Navy Pier. It is also because it is part of greater Grant Park. Grant Park is 319 acres,located in The Loop; Home to Buckingham Fountain, this downtown park is also a favorite site of major festivals including the Taste of Chicago, Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Lollapolooza and others. Millennium Park is north of Grant Park, 24.5 acres, also north of the Art Institute of Chicago. We can visit the two parks at one go, but a lot of walking is needed.

Chicago has many cultural institutions and museums, large and small. Most of them required entrance fee. Many of them are of international standard. It is impossible to visit all the museums and cultural institutions within the short span of time. There is always the question of time constraint, and a smart traveler need to be selective in their choice,according to their interest. The tip is visit one big museum and one small museum. We decided to visit The Field Museum of Natural History at Museum Campus.

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Millennium Park
Millennium Park is a public park located in the Chicago Loop community area of Chicago within Cook County, Illinois, United States.It is a prominent civic center of the city's Lake Michigan lakefront. Completed in 2004, it covers a 24.5-acre (99,000 m2) section of northern Grant Park, previously occupied by Illinois Central railyards and parking lots. The park, which is bounded by Michigan Avenue, Randolph Street, Columbus Drive and East Monroe Drive, features a variety of public art. Today, Millennium Park trails only Navy Pier as a Chicago tourist attraction.

Millennium Park is a portion of the larger Grant Park, the "front lawn" of downtown Chicago. One of the larger public parks in metropolitan Chicago, it is a showcase for postmodern architecture. It features the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink, Peristyle at Wrigley Square, Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, AT&T Plaza, Chase Promenade and Trees in Millennium Park. The park is successful as a public art venue in part due to the grand scale of each piece and the open spaces for display. There are four major artistic highlights: Cloud Gate(The Bean), Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Millennium Park is often considered the largest roof garden in the world, having been constructed on top of a railroad yard and large parking garages. Of its 24.5 acres (99,000 m2) of land, Millennium Park contains 12.04 acres (48,700 m2) of permeable area. The park has a very rigorous cleaning schedule with many areas being swept, wiped down or cleaned multiple times a day.

Grant Park and the Buckingham Fountain

Grant Park (originally named Lake Park) is a large park (319 acres or 1.29 km²) in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois, United States. The park's most notable features are Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago. Grant Park is frequently referred to as the city's front yard. It is bordered on the north by Randolph Street, on the south by Roosevelt Road, on the west by Michigan Avenue and on the east by Lake Shore Drive.

The Buckingham Fountain is considered to be Chicago's front door, since it resides in Grant Park, the city's front yard. The fountain, located at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway, was designed with sculptures by Jacques Lambert. It was donated to the city by Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham. The fountain itself represents Lake Michigan, while each sea horse symbolizes a state bordering the lake. The statues were created by the French sculptor Marcel F. Loyau. The design of the fountain was based on the Bassin de Latome and modeled after Latona Fountain at Versailles. The fountain used to be known as the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain. Kate Buckingham also established the Buckingham Fountain Endowment Fund with an initial investment of $300,000 to pay for maintenance on the fountain. Buckingham Fountain was dedicated on August 26, 1927.

The fountain runs from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day from mid-April to mid-October. During a water display that runs for 20 minutes every hour on the hour, the center jet shoots up to 150 feet (46 m). in the air. At dusk, a light and music show coincides with the water display. The last show of the night begins at 10:00 p.m. Each display last for 20 mintues.

The fountain contains 1,500,000 U.S. gallons (5,700,000 L) of water. During a display, more than 14,000 U.S. gallons per minute (0.88 m3/s) are pushed through its 193 jets.

The fountain's pumps are controlled by a Honeywell computer, which was previously located in Atlanta, Georgia until the 1994 renovation

Note: Buckingham Fountain was the official starting point of U.S. Route 66.

Museum Campus
In 1998, the city officially opened the Museum Campus, a 10-acre (4.0 ha) lakefront park, surrounding three of the city's main museums, each of which is of national importance: the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium. The Museum Campus joins the southern section of Grant Park, which includes the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Buckingham Fountain anchors the downtown park along the lakefront. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeological artifacts.

We need not enter all the attraction in Museum Campus, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, and Shedd Aquarium were bypassed by us. We only selected The Field Museum of Natural History. We spend few hours inside the museum, and nearly complete the exhibition. That is the reason to be selective, the museum is great and there is no regret on the selection. All the institutions in Campus Museum are with entrance fee charged, to save cost it is better to buy Chicago Pass, if you have the time and wish to visit all three in one go. By the way, a walk around Museum Campus is also interesting, as it is beside Lake Michigan.

The Field Museum of Natural History

Leaving Museum Campus, our next agenda is go to Chinatown, a desire to eat rice as dinner today, as we have missed the Chinese food after nearly a week in USA. We are exploring the route to the place, either by bus or train. But the bus is either going north or south. Walking from the Grant Park, crossing the bridge with railway track down below, there is a bus stop, but the special sculptures at the southwest corner of the park attracted our attention. It is called the Agora sculptures. Agora is an installation of over 100 headless, armless sculptures designed by the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. The art pieces were brought to Grant Park in 2006.

"Agora" 106 iron cast figures, each about 9 feet tall, shell like, frozen in walking movement. They are permanently displayed in Chicago Grant Park along the Michigan Av. and Roosevelt Rd. The figures are similar in general shape, but different in details. Models for each figure were made by hand, by myself and my three assistants. The surfaces of figures are like a tree bark or wrinkled face expressing a different individuality of each sculpture. The figures were cast during two years 2004-2006 in the huge industrial foundry in Srem near city of Poznan (Poland). Then transported to USA. The installation took place in October /November 2006.

The artist,Magdalena Abakanowicz lives and works in Warsaw. She has been Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Poznan, Poland (1965 - 1990) and Visiting Professor at the U.C.L.A. (1984).

Magdalena Abakanowicz for many years has dealt with the issue of "the countless". She says: "I feel overwhelmed by quantity where counting no longer makes sense. By unrepeatability within such quantity. A crowd of people or birds, insect or leaves, is a mysterious assemblage of variants of a certain prototype, a riddle of nature abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture".

Each of her figures is an individuality, with its own expression, with specific details of skin. Organic, with the imprint of the artist's fingers. Their surface is natural like tree bark or animal fur or wrinkled skin. Like all her sculptures also these works are unique objects.

(source: from the website of the artist Magdalena Abakanowicz

Note: The meaning of Agora, is ancient Greek meeting place. But as you walk across the park, please beware of the landmine, the dog shit. The west loop of Grant Park is the park for dog lovers. The Agora here may be the meeting place for the dog lovers.

We decided to go Chinatown by train, as the train station is now nearby. It is also because we have yet to try the train in Chicago city. This is another popular transportation in Chicago city. It is called "L" in Chicago. Being in the train station is another excitement, the station as well as the train, and the surrounding reminded you of old Chicago...please figure why?...

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Chinatown, Chicago
"Chinatown" on the near South Side. Chicago's Chinatown is among the most active Chinatowns in the world. It even has its own stop on the CTA Red Line. It's on the South Side near Bridgeport, birthplace of the Irish political power-brokers who have run Chicago government for most of the last century. The Chinatown neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, is on the near South Side (located in the Armour Square community area), centered on Cermak and Wentworth Avenues, and is an example of an American Chinatown, or ethnic-Chinese neighborhood. By the 2000 Census, Chicago Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas has 68,021 Chinese.,_Chicago

Note: Some new areas sometimes called "New Chinatown", on the North Side around Argyle Street, which attracts a larger number of people of Southeast Asian heritage.

When you walking down from the elevated train station in Chinatown, turning right you can see a familiar Nine Dragon Wall, you know you are in Chinatown.

Dinner at Chinatown at Wentworth Ave, Chinatown's main street. The restaurant serving is big based on Asian standard. Despite ordering for 2 people, the food is more than enough for 3 people. Luckily the restaurant allow take away for the remaining, which is the norm for the restaurant in USA now. It is food wastage if allow to be thrown away. Despite of the fact there are many street people and hungry people in the street of USA, there are many leftover in the restaurant that were throw away each day. The reason is they need to maintain the quality of the food and compliance with high food hygiene standard of the law.

Another ugly side is the bill, a minimum fixed tips need to be paid, instead of variable rate, depending on the type and satisfaction of service given. The consumer should have the right to tip based on the service given. The bill is in addition to the tax paid. The reason for tipping is that the wages of restaurant worker is low. Tipping is not only in restaurant, you need to tip taxi driver, tour guide etc. Food in restaurant is expensive in USA. No wonder cost of living is expensive in USA. Many ordinary American survived with fast food, processed food or frozen food.

The quality of the Chinese food is average, but Chinese food here seems to be popular among the American. The bill may be high(to tourist perception), food not to our Asian standard, but it met our objective. We have some time to stroll at the street in Chinatown, and talk with the old residents and the shop owners. There used to be a Malaysian restaurant(Penang) in Chinatown, a popular one; but had moved elsewhere after it was burnt down. Finally we need to leave Chinatown, as the time is late, and really dark now, it may not be safe to travel by train to the loop later than 10p.m.

But the business for restaurants in Chinatown has just begin. Sad to say, we have not much time for Chinatown, should have come on the day time.

How to get there

The Chicago Transit Authority operates both an elevated train and four bus routes that service the area. The north–south-running Red Line, the CTA's busiest transit route, stops regularly at the Cermak–Chinatown station located in the heart of Chinatown near the corner of Cermak Road and S Wentworth Avenue. Running north–south, the #24 bus route runs on Wentworth Avenue on the eastside of Chinatown, while the #44 route runs on Canal Street on the westside. The #21 runs east–west on Cermak Road, and the #62 runs diagonally southwest–northeast on Archer Avenue.
There is a taxicab stand on Wentworth Avenue, and a water taxi service also runs along the Chicago River from Michigan Avenue to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown during the summer months.

We arrived at hotel safely, encounter some street people at the Union Station and along the street. Tired feet, and a lot of walking; but will be having a good sleep tonight.

Chicago is beautiful city, it has its soul which is unique. It is the city of culture; parks and museum.....tomorrow we are going to know her further and deeper...

(still need to be updated/improved on, a draft copy)

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