Last Monday, my sister and I did a little traveling to downtown Chicago to see the King Tut exhibit and the Sears Tower. We did things a little differently, rather than drive to the downtown, we took the train. From my house, which is just 5 miles north of Illinois, we drove about 20 minutes and picked up Metra, Chicago's regional rail, at the end of one of its lines in Fox Lake. It wasn't bad; just a 90 minute ride gets you downtown. Altogether, driving to the train and the train takes about the same amount of time as driving. It was $9 for both of us one way. I would say that European trains are better primarily because Metra's seats are more like benches. Other than that it's the same thing: people get on, people get off, conductors come around, and annoying people talk loud.
Once in the city, about 5 minutes away from Union Station, the safety message came on the speakers about how to use the emergency windows and whatnot. We then pulled in to the station. It was packed with business people going to work. You get off the train and the crowd moves up around the corner, up the escalator, and out to the street. We were then two blocks west of the Sears Tower. We were planning to do that later in the day so after taking a picture, we kept on walking.
The first available time for the King Tut exhibit was in the afternoon so we took it since that's what we had come for. Full price is $25 and you can leave and come back with your tickets. We went through some of the exhibits in the museum. I thought it was quite ironic that the museum had a big Senegal exhibit. Toulouse has a big music festival every summer and this year it was Senegal. The exhibit and the promotional materials for the festival had nearly the same artwork, especially the style. I could even understand the French! So we went through some stuff and then left. Chicago does have a free trolley system that runs different routes to different tourist sites. We found the location at the Field Museum and picked it up and rode it back to the train station to go to the Sears Tower. It took us another 45 minutes to get there.
Once there it was about $12 per person. You go through security then they show you a short movie, made by the History Channel, about the tower and then you board the elevator. It's a large elevator and it goes up to floor 103 (or it might have been 104) in about a minute. The Sears Tower is 1450 feet tall and it's now the 3rd tallest in the world. It's much taller than the Eiffel Tower, but the Sears Tower has windows, so it doesn't feel as high. There wasn't much of a line at all when we went and it took us about an hour to do it.
looking NE, the John Hancock Center is the black tower on the left and the Aon Center is the tall white building on the right
Looking NW, you can see O'Hare on the horizon to the left
Is that a smog cloud?
A good place for reflection
The John Hancock center, again
We then went to King Tut exhibit. After getting through the line, which wasn't that bad, we went up the stairs, where they try to sell you an over priced audio tour. I don't like audio tours, I'd rather read. You then enter the exhibit where they show you a quick movie. Then you go through the rooms. They have stuff, and about half of it is his uncle's brother's sister's mother's cousin's family's stuff. It's hard to tell, even for museum people. You try to read their hieroglyphs. I'm just kidding, although I would say a lot of it was his relative's.
All in all it was neat. I got to see the kind of stuff that they have on Egypt shows, not the little fragments of random things that a lot of museums have. But I was disappointed in that they did not have any famous stuff or big stuff. I wasn't expecting the actually mummy, but they didn't have any of his golden masks either. Probably the coolist thing there was a large model of a boat from his tomb. Other than the fact that the stuff came out of his tomb, it was pretty unremarkable and could have been out of any Egyptian tomb. I will say that it was the B-tour and I don't think I'd pay $25, or even the $22.50 (we had coupons), to see it, knowing what I know now. Perhaps Egypt needs some money so they put some stuff on tour just like Bill Murray needing money is why they keep on making those terrible Garfield movies. By the way, I read everything and looked at everything and it took me an hour and a half to get through it.
After that, we were pretty much done. We contemplated taking a taxi back to the station, but we wanted to stop by a store and get a slushy. Therefore, we walked back through the big park downtown.
It's Old Abe, nearly looking the same as on Bascom Hill