Friday, August 31, 2007

City of Big Shoulders

I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, speaking at a conference, and managed to squeeze in a little fun time for myself while there. At the conference, Sesame Workshop was presenting, so I was able to meet surprise guest Elmo.

Once the conference ended, it was off to have some fun. There's a core group of women from my February trip to Costa Rica who all live in the Chicago area, and I managed to see all of them on this trip, which was a blast. Francine...

and I took one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's boat tours on the Chicago River, which was pretty cool. The boats leave from a lovely riverside promenade at Michigan Avenue, just across from the Wrigley Building.

(For those of you sharp-eyed enough to notice the missing hands on the clock face, they're undergoing cleaning and will be returned this fall.)

The mix of architectural styles in downtown Chicago is quite interesting. Although I don't remember the names or architects of most of the buildings we saw, here's a representative mix.

Have you seen the insurance commercial where the car drives off the parking structure and lands in the river? This is the building. I wouldn't want to park there!

And, of course, the Sears Tower, looming darkly in the background, bristly with antennae.

The last part of the tour took us over toward Lake Michigan, where we passed Navy Pier and its famous ferris wheel...

as well as the locks that allow boats out onto the Lake itself...

After the boat tour, it was off to Millenium Park, also on Michigan Avenue, which has some really interesting public art works. The "spitting foundation" is two giant rectangular slabs, cascading with water, with an ever-changing array of human faces. The slabs (and images) face each other ...

and periodically "spit" water into a large open space between the slabs.

Then, when the water spray has subsided, two new faces come up on the screens and it starts all over again.

It was a hot evening, and it was fun to watch the children (and a few adults) playing in the water.

Then Francine and I met up with Connie and Shari for dinner at a lovely little place across from the Park. It had cooled off a bit, so it was nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy the evening together.

After dinner, it was back to the Park to hear a free concert -- Bolero -- and relax on the picnic blanket Connie ...

thoughtfully provided.

After Connie dashed for her train home, Shari, Francine and I wandered over to "The Bean," another interesting sculpture in the Park. It looks like a giant silver coffee bean, and is amazingly reflective.

Civic-minded companies, great architecture, interesting public art, and good restaurants -- Chicago is definitely one of my favorite cities!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bronx Zoo

Two weeks ago, my new employer had an employee summer outing to the Bronx Zoo. In a case of perfect timing, my sister Maria ...

was visiting from Wisconsin and agreed to pick up our niece, Sara...

and bring her up to NYC for a visit. We had a great time eating out at Tournesol, a great French bistro in Long Island City...

going to see "Mary Poppins" on Broadway (I highly recommend it!), and spending a day at the Bronx Zoo.

At the Zoo, we had an entire picnic pavilion reserved for Conference Board employees and their families, and the lunch was great. (Sara and I especially enjoyed the ice cream sandwiches.)

I was also thrilled to see that the picnic pavilion overlooked the pond where the flamingoes live. (As some of you know, flamingoes are my absolute favorite animal -- so graceful, and so outrageously colored, especially when they open their wings.)

To get to the picnic area, we rode a cable car from one side of the zoo to the other -- very cool views of the zoo exhibits below us, as well as the Bronx spread out around us.

The Bronx Zoo is one of the finest in the world and has taken a leading role in wildlife conservation. The animal exhibits were fabulous -- no cages and small pens, instead very realistic and spacious habitats. The Wolf monkeys were among my favorites, especially the little baby scampering about and annoying the adult monkeys.

The Rwanda/gorilla exhibit was also very cool. Luckily, we were there at snack time, and got to watch them grabbing for and chowing down on carrots, yams, and celery.

The baby gorillas were also pretty cute.

In the giraffe exhibit, it was pretty funny when one of the adult giraffes started chasing an ostrich around the compound.

The size difference between the adult and baby giraffes was also quite striking.

Apart from the flamingoes, my favorite part of the day was riding the Bug Carousel!

I can't wait to go back!