In Lincoln land

In Jacksonville, IL

The strange customer, part I

I had to ask three times before I understood what the girl behind the counter in the coffee shop asked me (she must have thought that I was either completely deaf or exceptionally daft, maybe I’m both): she just wanted to know if I wanted a flavour added to my coffee, like vanilla, hazelnut or liquorice. This was quite early in the morning, and a coffee with a flavour is something I rarely yearn for, and especially not at that hour. So I rather fervently, but kindly and politely, turned this offer down.  I asked though to have a blueberry muffin since I was a little hungry and lunch was quite far away. The girl looked at me in amazement: “You sure? The blueberry muffin has a blueberry flavour“.

The strange customer, part II

Since I was in Jacksonville for a festive occasion, I wanted to offer my friends some wine at dinner. We were in the local Applebee’s, a well-frequented place it seemed, the big restaurant was full. I couldn’t spot any wines on the menu, so I asked the waitress, who kindly pointed them out. But there were no prices, all other items had prices, only the wines didn’t. I called the waitress again, and she informed me that a glass would be “around seven dollars“. I was a little surprised at this somewhat vague indication, and did they really all have the same price? Never mind. We were a party of five, so I wasn’t really considering getting glasses of wine but rather a bottle, so I asked for this information. For the second time that day I had a surprised waitress in front of me: “I never sold a bottle before!

Most commonly seen dog in Jacksonville: Pomeranian.

In Springfield, IL

The bewildered passenger

It was a warm and sunny morning, and I was to take the 9:55 am train back to Chicago. I arrived early at the station and sat down on a bench in the shade, looking at the one and only track and observing the few people who were moving about. At 9:55 there was no train in sight, but I waited patiently (unusual behaviour on my part). However, half an hour later I did start to become a bit impatient, so I went inside and asked the man at the counter if he had any news about the 9:55 train. “Yes, ma’am, it’s expected around noon“.

Back to another bench, since the first one was now in the sun. The most exciting thing that happened before the train actually materialised was that the longest goods train I ever saw passed the station, whistling almost constantly, giving me a sudden flash of the Wild West.  It must have had at least 100 wagons.

Two sights that I somehow got a bit too much of during my long wait:

Most commonly seen car in Springfield: Volvo. This may have something to do with the fact that there was a Volvo car dealer on the other side of the tracks.

In the end I arrived safe and sound in Chicago, with a three-hour delay. My planned sightseeing couldn’t happen (I wanted to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright home and neighbourhood), but that will have to wait for another visit.

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