CHICAGO

THE SUN’S SHIN­ING AND THE FUN AND FRIENDLY LO­CALS ARE OUT TO PLAY IN GRACE PERRY’S LIVELY HOME­TOWN

The Simple Things - - ESCAPE -

* There’s no bet­ter way to get to the heart of a city than through the peo­ple who live there. Ev­ery is­sue, we ask some­one, clearly in love with their city, to take us on a per­sonal tour and tell us what makes it so spe­cial. You may feel in­spired to visit one day or to re­dis­cover the charms of a city closer to you, but for now just sit back, re­lax and en­joy some vi­car­i­ous travel.

How long have you lived in the city?

Since 1989! I was born and raised in Lin­coln Park, about a mile from the lake on the city’s north side. I’ve also lived in Bos­ton and New York, but have been back in my home­town for the past four years.

Tell us what makes your city unique.

‘Mid­west­ern nice’ is a com­plete cliché, but one with ab­so­lute truth to it. Chicagoans are to­tally will­ing to strike up con­ver­sa­tion with strangers – baris­tas, other beach­go­ers or other bar pa­trons. We hold doors and spit out our ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ as our Mid­west­ern moth­ers have drilled into us since birth.

What’s it like in July?

One word: alive. It’s no se­cret that Chicago is a frigid place to be in the win­ter (and the fall... OK, and maybe the spring, too). When summer rolls around, the city ex­plodes with ex­cite­ment. With mu­sic fes­ti­vals nearly ev­ery week­end and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, in-city beaches, and pale­tas (Mex­i­can pop­si­cles), the buzz is ir­re­sistible.

Favourite time of day and why?

Dusk. I live on the west side of the city, so when the sun sets, the whole sky­line is lit up and fac­ing me. Plus, it’s happy hour – Chicagoans are big drinkers, so bars are al­ready pop­ping in the early evenings.

What’s the na­ture like?

We are sadly lack­ing in the ‘in city’ na­ture and hikes many other US ci­ties en­joy. That said, we’re sit­u­ated right on a gi­gan­tic lake. The lake­front trail has 18 miles of un­in­ter­rupted bik­ing and run­ning paths.

Where’s your favourite out­door space?

I love Hol­ly­wood Beach (aka Kathy Oster­man Beach), the un­of­fi­cial gay beach of Chicago. On a hot summer day in the city, there’s noth­ing bet­ter than cool­ing your heels in Lake Michigan at this rel­a­tively quiet spot.

Tell us about the peo­ple who live in your city.

Few ci­ties ex­ude the civic pride that Chicago does. Our city dwellers, na­tives and trans­plants alike, carry a bit of a chip on their shoul­der when it comes to be­ing a »

Chicagoan. Be­yond that, we’re in­cred­i­bly friendly. We’re un­afraid to in­dulge in food (our tacos are off the charts) and drink ( beer, beer and more beer, all brewed right here). Come to Chicago in July and you’ll see Chicagoans at their most Chicago.

Where are your favourite places to go with friends?

I’ll never get tired of the Athe­nian Room. It’s a (very) ca­sual Greek-Amer­i­can diner right in the heart of Lin­coln Park. My friends and I have been gath­er­ing there for catch-ups and gos­sip since we were kids. It’s also, no­tably, one of Tina Fey’s fa­vorite spots, but I was to­tally there be­fore it was cool.

Tell us about eat­ing in your city.

Chicago has be­come a big foodie des­ti­na­tion. We’re home to Alinea, per­haps the best restau­rant in the coun­try, and in­no­va­tive, up­scale eater­ies are a dime a dozen in neigh­bour­hoods like West Loop and Lo­gan Square. Those aren’t to be out­done by our craft beer scene, ei­ther – lo­cal brew­eries like Half Acre, Rev­o­lu­tion Brew­ery and Be­gyle Brew­ery mean you’ll find fresh draft suds at any bar or restau­rant. That said, it’s easy to eat well here with­out emp­ty­ing your wal­let.

What’s your favourite way to get about the city?

I al­ways say that Chicago is in be­tween LA and New York in its trans­porta­tion cul­ture: you can have a car here and it’s not a pain in the ass ( like it is in New York), but it’s not an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity to get around ( like it is in Los An­ge­les). That said, I don’t have a car, and rely mostly on pub­lic trans­port and Lyft or Uber. The “L” – that’s what we call our above-ground train sys­tem – will do just fine for vis­i­tors.

What types of shop do you most like to visit?

Chicago is stacked with cool vin­tage and record stores. You can find a lot of that along Mil­wau­kee Av­enue in Wicker Park.

Where do you like to es­cape to?

Chicago’s so mas­sive that go­ing to an­other neigh­bour­hood can feel like you’re in a to­tally dif­fer­ent world. Hol­ly­wood Beach is an awe­some es­cape spot dur­ing the summer, and beer em­po­rium The Ho­pleaf Bar and brunch des­ti­na­tion Sauce and Bread Kitchen are al­ways worth the trek north.

What has been your best discovery?

Par­son’s Chicken & Fish is one of the city’s most pop­u­lar sum­mer­time spots, sling­ing tasty fried chicken sand­wiches, hush pup­pies (savoury dough­nuts) and

“Chicago is like if New York just took a big breath and re­alised noth­ing is that big of a deal”

their sig­na­ture Ne­groni slushy. Un­sur­pris­ingly, it gets slammed on nights and week­ends in the summer. The se­cret? Go for brunch on a week­day. It opens ev­ery week­day at 11am and it’s to­tally re­laxed. Grab a table and post up with your friends all day long.

When you’re away what do you miss most?

It’s tough to put a fin­ger on it, but when I’m away, I re­ally miss the pulse of the city. Chicago is like if New York just took a big breath and re­alised noth­ing is that big of a deal. The pace is slower, the peo­ple are friend­lier and there’s an al­most un­spo­ken agree­ment to just stay in the mo­ment.

What would sur­prise a new­comer to your city?

This seems silly, but it’s al­ways the same one: new­com­ers can’t be­lieve how big Lake Michigan is. They can’t get over the end­less hori­zon, how it looks like an ocean. Per­haps when peo­ple hear “lake” they think of lit­tle in­land lakes for mo­tor­boat­ing and fish­ing. But they don’t call them the Great Lakes for noth­ing.

If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be?

I wish we had more ac­cess to out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. I’m so jeal­ous of my friends in Seat­tle and San Fran­cisco, who can hop in a car and be hik­ing in the moun­tains in just an hour. Some folks have sec­ond homes in Michigan, Wis­con­sin or In­di­ana – so if you have ac­cess to one of those, that’s lucky. The hikes and state parks and sand dunes are def­i­nitely out there, In­di­ana Sand Dunes Na­tional Lakeshore is just an hour out­side the city in North­west In­di­ana. You can eas­ily get there by train. And Midewin Na­tional Tall­grass Prairie is an hour’s drive from Chicago, com­plete with buf­falo and all the Mid­west­ern feels. But you’ve got to re­ally plan and work to get your na­ture time in if you live in Chicago.

Where would you rec­om­mend some­body to stay?

For vis­i­tors, I’d rec­om­mend find­ing a place in Wicker Park or Lin­coln Park. The Loop, while home to big land­marks like Mil­len­nium Park and the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, re­ally shuts down on the week­ends. Wicker Park and Lin­coln Park are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to down­town, while main­tain­ing their own pulse with fan­tas­tic shops, bars and restau­rants. If you’re look­ing for a hip­per get­away, go for Wicker Park; if you want to be near the lake­front, stay in Lin­coln Park.

What keeps you in your city and where would you like to live if you could not live here?

Chicago has a par­tic­u­lar pulse and aes­thetic and sen­si­bil­ity that I love, but those feel­ings are all wrapped up in hav­ing grown up here. I’ve pre­vi­ously lived in New York and Bos­ton, which I love. Maybe it’s time I ex­per­i­ment with some West Coast ci­ties. »

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5The windy city is 1 cer­tainly mighty pretty – the view from the South La­goon in Lin­coln Park.The glit­ter­ing water­front, and be­hind, Chicago’s sky­scrapers (and all that jazz).A sketcher in Lin­coln park.An old news­pa­per box is now a ‘share box’ where peo­ple can leave and take books and DVDs.Bel­mont har­bour, a favourite with fam­i­lies, boaters and yacht clubs 2 3 4 5 »

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6Cy­clists tak­ing in the 1 view along Lake Michigan shore.2 Art out­side: colour­ful steet art in Pilsen, be­neath the Pink Line L tracks. 3 A light­house on Hol­ly­wood Beach, Chicago’s most pop­u­lar gay beach, with plenty of ‘raz­zle daz­zle’.4 The city’s tow­er­ing sky­line. 5 My Big Fat Greek lunch – a bite at The Athe­nian Room. 6 Jog­gers let­ting off steam on a for­mer train route turned run­ning and cy­cling track

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