With a few big trips coming up this summer, I am compelled more than ever to clear or at least reduce my backlog of unpublished travel reports that presently includes eight states and three small countries (yes, we have traveled internationally as well). This post is first in a series of publications on a journey over the American Midwest, which, besides Illinois, included Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.
As a quick prologue, here is a rough outline of our movements over the four-state area: We flew into O’Hare and promptly went on to survey a few small towns in the vicinity of Lake Michigan. After a sally to Wisconsin, we hit a few more places in Illinois before heading west and crossing over to Indiana. Having navigated to the north-east of Indiana, we ventured into Michigan and returned to Chicago a few days later, thus exploring it last.
That route laid out, let’s get things started.
Niles was a one-stop village just minutes away from the airport. Its only attraction is the half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Apart from the scaffolding for the ongoing repairs, the tower looked more than presentable.
A bit closer to the shores of the Great Lake rises the only American Bahá’í Temple of Worship (of less than a dozen worldwide). A beautiful structure for a largely unknown religion.
Having traveled but a few minutes up the coastline of Lake Michigan we found ourselves in the confines of the affluent village of Winnetka. A few random samples of the local real estate are enough to paint an accurate picture.
The true reason of visiting Winnetka was to hunt up the house where the famed comedy Home Alone takes place. The property is big but rather bleak when compared to many of its neighbors, if you ask me.
Moving farther away from Chicago, we wound up in Woodstock. A cozy little city some ten miles south of the Wisconsin border, it was the actual shoot place of Harold Ramis’s classic Groundhog Day, despite the film trying to convince us that the story’s unfolding in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
This, for instance, is allegedly the Cherry Street Inn, where Bill Murray’s character stays in the movie. Ironically, years after the production, the new owners of the house did, in fact, turn it into a Bed & Breakfast.
The Opera House posed as the Pennsylvania Hotel.
The legacy of the film is alive in Woodstock, as attested by this Bill Murray portrait (where he looks a bit like Billy Bob Thornton) in one of the shopfronts.
After Woodstock we set out for Wisconsin and, having dealt with its three boring cities, returned to Illinois, craving something more scenic. We hoped that the night skyline of Peoria overlooking the Murray Baker Bridge would be a good match for that.
The following morning we took a quick ride on the Grandview Drive to admire the gorgeous mansions lined up on one side of the road, overlooking a park with a lake on the other.
Our business in Springfield was also rather brief. It being the capital, however, provided for a few more sights than in every Illinois town up to that point.
Firstly, we visited the Lincoln Tomb at the Oak Ridge Cemetery. I preferred the design of this memorial to the one in Washington, D.C.
Conversely, the original Lincoln’s sculpture in marble has a more aesthetic finish than this bronze replica.
The cemetery surrounding the memorial has quite a number of cozy nooks.
The cemetery was followed by the Old Capitol. Illinois is the only state we encountered where the old capitol building is in such a great shape that it could easily pass for the new one.
Even inside everything seems operational: all furniture is in place
and the future U.S. president is hard at work at the House of Representatives.
Yet a quick glance at the new Capitol is enough to see why the switchover was made.
(To be continued.)