American adventures on Amtrak- Part 5 Chicago

We arrived slightly later than scheduled (2 hours- apparently normal!) at Union Station, Chicago, where we were greeted by a very lively local tour guide who was to take us on a coach tour around Chicago. On it, he shared amusing stories and fed us local recommendations on where to eat, as well as showing us some places linked to Al Capone, The Blues Brothers, and much much more. His enthusiasm was wonderful, he really brought the stories to life- although our whole group, us included, were all shattered and hungry so probably didn’t appreciate it as much as we could have.

After our tour we were dropped at the hotel, conveniently located on the Magnificent Mile, a stretch of posh shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. We had chance for a wander so headed off towards Portillos, recommended by our guide as the best place to eat Italian beef sandwiches, a Chicago delacasy. The sandwich was great, but sadly we were unable to wash it down with a cold beer as we’d left our passports in the hotel safe and we got id’d!

Later that afternoon we were booked onto an architectural river tour, which was brilliant. We learnt about the 4 different types of architecture in the area and all commentary was delivered by an excellent young lad, presumably an architectural student.

After our cruise we headed to the John Hancock centre for a drink in the 96th floor bar. We’d been recommended this by our guide as an alternative to going up the very popular Willis tower, saving lots of time, money but most importantly the view was as good if not better. Having watched the sunset fro the 96th floor with a cocktail in our hand, I’d be hard stretched to imagine a better view. It certainly rivalled the One Freedom tower in NY.

Dinner time came and we headed to the home of Deep Pan Pizza- PizzeriaUno. To us Brits, the pizza more resembled a quiche using shortcrust pastry rather than dough, but still it made a tasty and local dinner. We wasted it down with a nightcap on our hotel roof. Don’t panic mum, it was in the hotel bar on the 29th floor. Not as high as nearby “Big John” but still very cool. 

After a good nights kip, we were up early and into town for a quick ride on the El loop- an overheard metro system unique to Chicago. We got off at Millenium Park for a visit to “The Bean” a large glass sculpture designed to show off the cities skyline via reflections in the bean before heading back to the hotel in time for our coach to take us to the station for our Amtrak train to Denver.    

 We may have only had 24 hours in Chicago but it’s been a fab place to explore, we’ve loved it here. 

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 4 Our first Amtrak overnight train experience – Washington DC- Chicago

The excitement began when our tour manager, John, announced that after checking in at Washington DC Union Station we would be taken into the “first class boarding lounge” where complimentary soft drinks and light refreshments would be available and sofas etc. Here we would wait for an hour or so before boarding onto our first sleeper train of the trip- The Capitol Limited, a sleeper service that runs daily between Washington DC and Chicago covering over 700 miles. We had been given our car and room numbers previously, and pre warned that the rooms “are small, very small“. He wasn’t kidding, but where the rooms are on the small side, the trains themselves more than make up for- walking alongside before boarding it felt like we were standing next to a jumbo jet! They are HUGE. Double deckered, silver and intimadating. Fantastic! 

 We were greeted by our car steward, shown our room, and asked to wait until the restaurant steward came to take our restaurant booking. Included in the price, we got a dinner and breakfast at the on board restaurant. The mood was good as everyone was discovering their rooms for the first time- as motorhomers, Keith and I found the rooms to be more than big enough. Two nice sized chairs with a big window, that converted into bunk beds, a closet, table, bin, temperature controls, plug socket and complimentary coffee/water. Perfect. Just down for us was the shower and 3 toilets. 

 Keith got his shower in early and I made our dinner reservation for 7pm when the steward came round. We went to check out the observation car, which was a fantastic glass roof/sided car with chairs positioned to get maximum viewing enjoyment. Next to this was a bar so we set up stall here for a few hours, enjoying watching the American countryside whizz by. It was very relaxing. 

Dinner time came and we enjoyed a top quality meal- a lovely huge slab of juicy steak with jacket potato and sour cream, followed by strawberry cheesecake. Yum.

 By now the sun was going down, so we watched the sunset with a glass of scotch before asking our steward to arrange our beds for us. I took the top bunk, and found the security strap hilarious – it reminded me of something from 50 shades.

 I wouldn’t say we had the most peaceful nights sleep in the world, however we managed to get some sleep. The rocking of the train was quite gentle although every now and again it would jolt so hard you thought you would fall out! At about 06:00 we decided to get up and have our breakfast- we opted for the Breakfast special which was sausage, eggs, French toast, croissant, strawberries and maple syrup. An interesting mix but it was delicious! Whilst having breakfast we met an interesting American couple who we enjoyed sharing stories with. 

After breakfast we went back to our room and snoozed for an hour or so before arriving at Chicago at a slightly later than scheduled time (2 hours late!) it didn’t matter though, we had survived our first overnight sleeper journey and absolutely loved it!