Chicago – day one

Willis Tower – aka Sears Tower

No trip back to Illinois would be complete without a trip into the “city”.  Fortunately my dad lives within walking distance to the train station.  We catch a morning train and join the thousands of commuters heading to work in downtown Chicago.

Once we arrive at Union Station we need to decide; do we walk, take a cab, or take the water taxi to Navy Pier?  It’s a lovely sunny morning with light breezes and in the 70’s.  Walk we shall.  After 2 days of rain, I’m loving this nice weather.  Our destination is Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue.  Instead of heading straight there, we’ll take a short detour past the Civic Center for a photo-op at the Picasso.

daughter in front of The Picasso

There are more folks running around the Picasso than I anticipated. After some patient waiting, hoping the people would somehow miraculously disappear, I relent and quickly snap some shots.  Not the kind of shots I was hoping for.  I guess this is reason enough for a return visit to photograph the Picasso, hopefully on it’s own without a crowd crawling around.  We head to Millennium Park and after meandering around, we’re off to the Art Institute.  The Art Institute of Chicago is one of my favorite places to visit.  It brings back childhood memories of school field trips.  Since daughter took a course at College; Intro to Visual Arts, she has a new-found interest in the art community.  We spend most of our time viewing Monet.  Daughter is well versed in his works and proceeds to brief me on some background and history of Monet’s Water Lilies painting.  Um, perhaps she did learn more at college than the latest brew at New Belgium 🙂  Although I love Monet’s works, I am partial to Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  As a child, I was fascinated by a painting composed of dots.   No brush strokes here.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After almost three hours of admiring these works of art, we need to catch the train back to the burbs.  We enjoy a brisk walk back to the train station with plans to return to the city tomorrow.  The Field Museum is on tomorrows list….top priority.

Millennium Park

New Belgium Brewery

plenty of samples – our guide, Marie

Time for a brewery tour.  Thursday afternoon, daughter scheduled a tour at the New Belgium Brewery Company.  The tour is free and provides plenty of samples along the way.  Colorado is home to lots of breweries and micro-breweries.  Even Governor John Hickenlooper is an entrepreneur in the brewery industry.

New Belgium Brewery started in a basement in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the early 90’s.  They remain headquartered in Fort Collins and are now building a second facility in Ashville, NC, allowing for expanded distribution.

We arrive a bit early for the tour and start the sampling in the “tasting room”.  This is their retail center and samples are $2 with the proceeds going to a local charitable cause.  The proceeds that day were going to help a local elderly gentleman whom had fallen on hard times.  The staff seems very knowledgable and passionate about this cause.

The tour takes about an hour with plenty of samples offered along the way.  Although I’m not much of a beer drinker, I prefer wine, I find myself sampling along with everyone else.  One of my favorites is in the Lips of Faith category…Tart Lychee.  It’s actually barrel-aged in old wine barrels collected

daughter and Al enjoy a sample of Tart Lychee

from around the world.  It’s on the citrus side….bit sweet, bit sour.  Our guide, Marie, is very knowledgeable about the company and about all the beer.

As a matter of fact, ALL the employees are extremely friendly, helpful, knowledgable and happy.  You get the feeling they want to be there and love what they do.  New Belgium Brewery has a corporate philosophy to have FUN and it shows.  They are environmentally conscious and community oriented.  I wish more corporations shared their values.

The tour ends in the retail “tasting room” and although I said the tour was free, we did not leave without dropping a ‘Ben Franklin’.  I’m a sucker for cute T-shirts.  We also purchase a couple of pints of beer sampled on the tour, as well as some old-fashioned bicycle bells for our bikes.

All in all, the tour was fun and worth doing.  It was low-keyed, informative, and enjoyable.  Oh, and it didn’t smell, which surprised me.