Chicago

IMG_20151024_144313-1024x768Chicago ! The first cliche I had from Chicago was a very dynamic but dark city where the mafia and the different gangs had a huge negative impact in the past as we can watch in several movies or documentaries. The second one was a very weird and rude accent that many of my american friends from minnesota tried to immitate for fun.

Although my thoughs about Chicago were probably biased, I also heard a lot of good things about the city too. So, I  was very excited to visit my first big city in the US (Chicago being the 3rd biggest city in the US after NY and LA).

When I was in Minnesota, I met a lot of American students who were studying at the U of M who were originally from Illinois but came to Minnesota. I could see that way more often than from the other neighbor states such as Wisconsin or Iowa. The major concern behind that was due to the schools not getting subsidized anymore unlike Minnesota who maintained it.

Before going to Chicago, every people recommended me to try the Chicago Pizza, it sounded as important as a museum to visit. Basically, the Chicago Pizza is a sort of pie with the layers of a typical pizza reversed: cheese and topping inside the pie (yeah it’s thick and heavy compared to a pizza!) and the tomato sauce on the top. When I’ve searched for the best Chicago Pizza through internet or by asking the locals, some of them stand out by being named everytime. Giordano’s pizza was one among them. However the funny part about that is Giordano’s pizza is actually a chain, which is pretty hard to understand with an european mindset. Indeed, in Europe, you would never name a chain as a place to go when it’s about a local speciality, but that was the case in the US and it worked which is probably the reason why Americans know how to do business. However when we went to Giordano’s Pizza and ordered a pizza to share, the woman on the counter told us it would take at least 45 minutes ! What!? Yeah, that actually makes sense if you want the pizza to be totally cooked after seeing how thick is the Chicago Pizza. We decided to wait like if we were making the line for a museum and it was worth to try ! The pizza was very different from the one I knew and it wasn’t bad at all !

received_1116777005014223We then went to the Chicago Institute of Art, ranked as the first place to visit in Chicago according to Tripadvisor. We took an Uber from the suburb to Downtown and as always I was really curious to know who was the driver in his real life since most of them in the US were only working as an Uber driver as a part-time job. He was actually an immigrant from Somalia, working in a hospital and told us like most of the Uber drivers that I met that he was indeed doing that as a part-time job. By working on week-end only, he could earn about 400-600 USD a week which is quite shocking considering the fact it represents the average income in France if you work 4 week-ends in a month (2015 data: 1474 EUR/month for an average single and 2410 EUR/month for the average) and taking account that they earn more than this with their real job on the side. That confirmed me again why the US is a meritocratic country and why the the cost of living is more expensive: Earn more to spend more unlike France where it’s more likely to be “Earn less to spend less (or save more)”

When we finally arrived to the museum and heard the price of a student’s entry, that actually surprised most of us. It was very expensive compared to Europe. After hesitating a little bit we decided to get in… Although we can see a lot of famous painting in European musems (especially in France !), we really enjoyed to see face to face many paintings we used to study during high-school. We then spent the night in clubs & bars and came back pretty wasted from the party.

The second and final day, we visited most of the outdoor attractions for free such as the famous Cloud gate (or the Chicago Bean) created by Anish Kapoor, the Millenium Park, the Navy Pier, and walking through downtown among all those huge skyscrapers such as the Willis tower (the line was too long :/) or the  Trump tower. Despite how busy was the city, I was amazingly surprised by how peaceful the city was due to the vast and convenient infrastructures, the presence of a lot of green spaces and a beautiful landscape thanks to the huge Michigan lake and the beautiful Chicago river it had.

Overall, Chicago was one of my favorite city in the US and probably the busiest city after NY (I was pretty disappointed by LA Downtown later on because LA is huge but very spread-out unlike NY and Chicago). The cost of living however was very painful whether it was for attractions, foods, partying or the housing. That’s the first time I understood how expensive were the biggest cities in the US. (A crazy example would be when I also bought a pack of cigarettes for 15 dollars… :/ ).