Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beginning the Trip-Alton to Chicago.

It has been a week since we returned home from our trip to San Antonio, TX. It was a great trip. On Monday July 9th, we took the train from Alton, IL to Chicago, IL. It was a half hour late arriving at Alton which made us wonder how the entire trip would be. As the axiom goes, "Late trains only get later." We were to arrive in Chicago at 12:30 but we didn't make it till 2:30. There were people on the train who were making close connections to other trains. They talked about trying to hold those trains for them (ones like the Empire Builder which was to leave out at 2 or 2:15. I don't know if they actually made their connections or not.). For us it didn't matter because we were connecting with the City of New Orleans which didn't leave out until 8:00 p.m. on that Monday.

This gave us the chance to see a little of Chicago. Being that we had a sleeper (a compartment of our own!), we were able to use the Metropolitan lounge in Union Station. This meant that we could check in and leave our luggage and carry on bags in a safe place. When we entered the lounge, there almost no one in it. That was probably because the main trains had just left - Texas Eagle, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, and Southwest Chief. Once those are gone, there aren't many left for a while. We checked in, were told to be back by 7:15 p.m. and off we went.

We decided to go for a walk to see the sights and find something to eat. We really wanted someplace where we could sit down and enjoy a meal. The gal in the lounge car on the train had told us of an Italian beef place but it turned out to be a a grab and go place so we didn't go there. We continued our sightseeing and ended up in Grant Park. We went over to Buckingham Fountain. We see it when we drive by but realized it had been quite a while since we actually had gone up to it and looked at it. Took a few pictures (one of which is now my wallpaper on the computer - Penny in front of the fountain). The Taste of Chicago was going to be starting a few days after we left so they were setting up for that.

We wandered on. We walked over to Buddy Guys'.

Buddy is a blues guitarist with a restaurant in Chicago. I had just read his autobiography so I thought it would be fun to go there, get a bite to eat and take in the atmosphere. But they weren't open yet. Didn't open till 5 and it was only a little after 4 (and we still hadn't eaten anything!). Frustrated with striking out twice, we moved on. Maybe we will go back to Buddy Guys some other time. Stomachs rumbling, thirst building, we wandered on. Looking at the sights and hearing the sounds, we enjoyed the ambiance of Chicago. It was good to be there.

We came across Tutto Italiano. As you can imagine, it was an Italian place. But it also had an old rail car (no wheels) sitting next to it. It is right on Congress in downtown. We were surprised when we walked in. It was an old town type of bar, one where you could imagine men like Capone could have come, or at least Old Blue Eyes himself when he came to Chicago. And wonder of all wonders, the place where you sat to eat was in the train car itself! Hurrah!

The meal was very good. The waiter was different but in a good way. We were told that there was a scene in the the movie "The Lake House" that was shot in that very car. That was neat to know. Now we have to watch the movie again to see if we can see the 15 second scene that took 8 hours to shoot.

After supper we wandered back to Union Station. We had taken our leftovers with us, not wanting to waste them> But we wondered how we would ever eat them. So as we walked on, we found a man looking for hand outs from the commuters scurrying to their trains to head home after a day in the office and we gave him the meal. He seemed to appreciate it. I said it was Italian, he asked if it was pizza, when I told him no it was pasta, he really got excited. Must get plenty of pizza. We watched the people rushing in, and soon joined them as we flowed down the escalators into the depths of Union Station. Leaving the rush behind, we headed for the Lounge. After getting all our bags out of storage (and remembering that now we were going to have to tip just about everyone we came in contact with), we found a quite corner and settled in. The Lounge had filled up as the evening trains would be filling soon. The Capital Limited was just loading. Sitting back, we enjoyed the relaxing time in the Lounge waiting for them to call out train for loading.

Soon it was 7:15 and they called out that those passengers with sleeper accommodations on the City of New Orleans could join them at the back gate. The gal from the desk opened the doors and we were off on our grand adventure. The sights, the sounds and the smells of Union train travel came wafting into the Lounge and with excitement (and a smile like that of a kid having the time of his life), we started out for our train.

More to come...

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