Cool Water and Hot Air in the Windy City
Everywhere I turn there is water. Friday before boarding the plane for Chicago, I couldn’t leave Paris without seeing La Seine at its peak height.
Don’t believe the U.S. media which exaggerates the situation to the point of thinking that the city of Paris is beyond the levels of the 1910 flood…it’s not. In fact, while the water is the highest I’ve even seen it — at the 6.3 meter mark — it still hadn’t reached the streets of the city and Le Louvre didn’t have the flooding for which it was preparing.
Everyone was there at the edge of the water taking photos as was I, but old friend Tom Regan was able to capture the befores and afters to put it all into perspective. Roads and walkways that are taken as part of everyday life were obliterated by the rising waters. Friday was supposedly the peak and we look forward to it going back to normalcy after stabilizing this past weekend.
The last time it got anywhere close to the 1910 flood with 8.68 meters, was in 1982, when it rose 6.15 meters above normal. Of course everyone has been worried with many businesses along the river, particularly of flooding the cellars. Boats weren’t able to pass under the bridges and those living on barges need boats to enter their homes. It’s been quite an exciting time and major media event!
I left 15 minutes earlier than normal to taxi to Charles de Gaulle early on Saturday morning concerned about the traffic and closed roads, but arrived there in 30 minutes without a hitch and plenty of time to spare for the flight to Chicago. Security is tight at Charles de Gaulle, but that’s to be expected with the events of the past year, but check-in was smooth as silk and the flight relatively uneventful. One United Airlines steward was a big fan of House Hunters International and treated me like a first-class passenger, to which I was very flattered, of course. The lovely woman sitting next to me confessed to getting jealous!
Here in Chicago, my friend, Barb Westfield, who has a beautiful village house in Ansouis, Provence, lives most of the year directly on Lake Michigan with drop-dead beautiful views of what is the second largest lake by volume and third largest by surface area, which might as well be an ocean. Her bedroom is on a corner lined by solid windows with views that change with the weather and tides of the lake.
With expected jet lag, I awoke at dawn on Sunday morning to a beautiful sunrise on the water at 5 a.m. and Barb standing on her paddle board smoothly working her way up and down along the shoreline as if it were ‘nothing’ — just another day in the “Windy City.” The sun rises here about 30 minutes earlier than in Paris and does a wake-up call beaming into the windows that is as natural as it gets.
The New York Times that arrived on the doorstep that morning featured Chicago on it’s front page with the headline “Weekend in Chicago” with photos and a subhead that read: “Three Days, 64 People Shot, Six of Them Dead.” Did they know we were coming and was this intended to put us off the city? To all of you who are frightened of traveling to Europe for fear of terrorist attacks, think again. You need only to go to Chicago instead! (Or other major U.S. city with increasing levels of violence.)
One thing I learned about the “Windy City” is that the nickname has nothing to do with the city being windy, because it’s not any windier than any other U.S. city, but because of all the ‘hot air’ pumped out by Chicago politician braggarts…however, it’s not the only explanation. (The average wind speed of Chicago is 10.3 mph, while Boston is 12.4 mph!) It is true that the lake is well known for its cool breezes which makes it a great summer resort (one reason we came in June and not January!)
A driving tour on Sunday afternoon before my daughter, Erica Simone landed at O’Hare, was an introduction to the city center and the skyline of towers for which Chicago is so famous. It is impressive…as anyone who has ever spent time in the city already knows. Our dear and mutual friend, Tom Marquardt, a Chicago architect, and his long-time friend and colleague, Vince Gammino, will take us later this morning on one of the city’s architectural river cruises — that every single person who heard we were visiting the midwest town has recommended we do. I vowed not to leave without taking the tour…and with these two experts, we are sure to learn a whole lot more.
Tom and his partner, Don Kimpling, who does landscape design and horticulture on top of his position with United Airlines, hosted one of those perfect summer picnics Sunday evening in the backyard at their new/old and beautiful Andersonville home. With a dozen or so of their closest Francophile friends, we partied and pigged out on Barb’s “sous-vide” barbecued ribs. Made crisp on the grill, they were ‘to die for.’ Don opened a bottle of my favorite French wine — a Morgon, and with all the fixin’s of an American picnic, my diet ‘went to hell in a handbasket.’ (I can see I’ll be paying for this come my return to Paris next week.)
Our Chicago discovery continues today and through Thursday with a long list of ‘must-do’s’ including a group party tonight of Paris friends at a Lincoln Park restaurant…so stay tuned for more about our Windy City adventures…
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(by Tom Marquardt)
P.S. Don’t Miss the Next Après Midi, Tuesday June 14, when author Kathy Borrus, will talk about her book, Five Hundred Buildings of Paris and show slides of Parisian buildings with anecdotes on each, including many unknown to Paris insiders. Come and tell some of your own stories! Details on our Après Midi page