Normal

What is Normal?

The trip started from the legendary Union Station in Chicago. The Amtrak train took us to places like Pontiac and Normal. Although in Normal things weren’t really normal: the trained stopped normally at the station, people got on board. So far so good, all normal.  Then the train reversed in the direction we had just come from before changing direction again, going back to the Normal station (to another platform though) where no one boarded this time.

A declination of flat

What is flatter than the Netherlands? Nothing, I thought. Today, however, I wasn’t so sure anymore as the train advanced across the prairie.

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And the sky is grey – not

Rain or shine

As I sat in the taxi from the airport to downtown Chicago, my first visit to this city, it started to rain. The taxi driver, who was from Hyderabad, told me that the day before the weather had been fine, but he didn’t know about the coming days. However, when we got stuck in traffic, he very kindly found out, on his own initiative, that the following day would be grey and dreary. It would be cold too. Very cold,

As the hours went by, the showers turned into a violent thunderstorm. I had no umbrella.

But the forecast was wrong, the sun broke through just after breakfast on my second day, and the weather has been fabulous since. And not cold either.

Culture clash

Conversation overheard at dinner in an upmarket restaurant:

Guest (probably a European tourist): I’d like a beer, please.

Waiter: You want a glass with that?

The guest seemed utterly surprised, but replied in the affirmative after a few seconds.

On the eatery topic, I have been positively surprised at the availability of soy milk for my morning coffee. No problem at all.

Impressed by impressions

I have been walking around in awe most of the time here (not when I took an architecture boat trip, though, then I wisely sat down most of the time, but still in awe). It is beautiful, clean, full of character. By the way, where do cities’ character stem from? If I was to describe Chicago, I would say that it is like a mix of New York and Stockholm.

Most frequently seen dog: pug.

Most frequently heard language apart from English: Spanish.

Most unexpected joke (maybe it wasn’t a joke?): the architecture boat tour guide told us about the Chicago Trump Tower, which we passed. He said apartments there had been very expensive, meaning very very expensive, but regardless of this they had been easily sold. Now some people want to sell their condos, but no buyers can be found.

LadyClementine’s Chicago photo gallery

Vineyards

My most visited vineyards are to be found around Mirabel-aux-Baronnies, in southern France. I love all seasons best – every time I’m there I’m fully convinced that that particular time is the most beautiful.