Days spent enjoying the downtown Chicago skyscrapers and the South Side. The funny thing about Chicago is that it has the Loop and Gold Coast with its skyscrapers, while tucked away miles from the big show is another mini city with historic apartment buildings and towers called Hyde Park. It even has Jackson Park, which arguably has more character than the carefully delineated Grant and Millenium Parks downtown. Millenium Park has Lurie Garden which is cut off from the city somewhat, but that doesn’t match the physical isolation of the Wooded Island.
The Chicago River is a nice way to get pictures of the skyscrapers downtown, with plenty of room for wide shots that would be nigh impossible in some parts of Manhattan where the canyons predominate. The rapid development of downtown residential is a promising direction, but the question of how much this will contribute to the nightlife in the area remains to be seen. Of course, a city doesn’t have to be open 24 hours a day to be vibrant. Even Manhattan reaches a low point during the night when nothing much happens.
In a way Toronto and Chicago are very similar: they are both comparable in size, similar in layout with a dense core and sprawling outskirts, and they are both located on a Great Lake. They are also obsessed with lakefront condo development, although Toronto does not treat its lakefront with as much respect as Chicago. Chicago has the 18 mile lakefront trail, and Lake Shore Drive is much more attractive than the Gardiner Expressway. The quality of life, however, is drastically different. People choose not to live in Toronto because they just want to get out of the city, not because they are fleeing a broken system. Unlike Chicago, Toronto has found a way to live with a lakefront airport that places people at the foot of downtown. Going from Midtown Manhattan to Downtown Toronto is a piece of cake. Toronto is viewed as the New York of Canada, but this is entirely fair considering it is the largest city.
The Toronto Subway may be old, but that does not mean it is unpleasant. The cars are bright and roomy, the subway runs every five minutes even late at night, and now they are introducing modern rail cars with (gasp!) articulated joints allowing access to the entire length of the train. Compared to the Chicago L or the New York City Subway the TTC does have some advantages, although New York is doing a pretty good job keeping up with technology with their rail cars. The Chicago L continues to play catchup, stubbornly sticking to their faux wood grain paneling and two doors per rail car. The Toronto Subway also seems to take safety a lot more seriously, with bright yellow panic devices everywhere. Every station has a brightly lit designated waiting area where the conductor’s car stops. And Toronto has introduced a smart fare system that is compatible with subway and commuter rail while Chicago clings to its punch tickets. Onward!
Visiting DC for the first time in five years I took the opportunity to visit several landmarks that I had neglected while I lived there, including the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. The Greco-Roman architecture of DC constantly reminds visitors of the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded, feeling genuine rather than kitsch or gaudy. There’s something to be said for tradition as opposed to tacky modernism in some new seats of government around the world, Edinburgh being a striking example.
Pennsylvania Avenue, the road of government that connects two of the three branches, now hosts the Newseum which moved from Virginia. It seems quite fitting that a museum dedicated to free speech and free press is located between the President and Congress. The Parisian character of the city is very apparent when taking in the city from atop the neighborhood buildings, with low rise development keeping everything grounded; a suitable posture for leadership.