The Intercontinental is a fantastic 35-story hotel located in its own little corner, on its own dead-end street, overlooking the water. The exterior is non-descript but classy. Pulling into front area in your rental car you ask the valet how much parking is. A calmly delivered $35 takes you back for a moment. You consider parking at the public meters just feet from where you are since it is a weekend but this clever valet reads your thoughts and puts the axe to them. The meters are per hour sir and run on the weekends. Well, so much for that. You give a sigh and hand him your keys. Leaving your luggage for another valet you walk up some steps, through a glass door in a glass wall, and into a large foyer.
The foyer is a beautiful place. Open-air restaurants, statues, nice seating areas, and of course neon lights everywhere(This is Miami after all). You have a little trouble finding the front desk but you hit upon following the valet with your luggage and head to the left. The front desk staff impress you as you follow their directions for the short walk to the elevators. Now these things are wonderful. They have touch screens for the floor buttons. Perhaps these are in other buildings but I have yet to see their equal.
Your room, though not quite as nice as the foyer, is perfect. A couch by the window lets you enjoy the skyline view while the bed is unequaled in comfort. Satisfied with your accomodation you head out to explore. Briefly looking at the restaurant menus before heading out you make your mind up to find a restaurant outside as your pocket already has a hole burned through it from the room and parking. But of course there is always enough in the piggy bank for a quick stop at the Starbucks in the lobby. Carrying your drink out the front door of your base you begin your exploration of Miami.
It turns out that you are located in an office district. Off to your left are office buildings with normal associated shops and restaurants. To your right is the ocean. In front of you is a large park complete with amphitheater. You walk through this park and emerge at an old and ugly mall. Quickly going through here, avoiding all the tourist trap salespeople and some wild chickens you proceed to the other side and into Port Miami. Passing this you arrive at the Miami Heat arena and its blaring advertisements. Deciding that you have walked far enough you head back and plan for going on the bus tour on the next day since it leaves just a short walk from the hotel.
The Second City has given us Second City, an improvisational theater that has left its mark on the world by being the launching pad of many a famous comedians. Those familiar with “Whose Line is it Anyway” will understand what Second City is about, especially since most of those people came up through Second City. I had two goals on my visit to Chicago. Watch a Second City show and try a deep dish pizza. One was good and one was terrible, but which would let me down?
I do not find pizza to be a breakfast food and all shows are in the evening so that left a full day for exploring the city. Only taking three hours to make myself beautiful, the misses and I headed out in search of a Starbucks. Our hometown doesn’t have a Starbucks if you can believe that. We are a bunch of savages, so a sugary coffee on vacation is a special treat. It was not a very involved search. Stepping out of the hotel we found one, and one more on the next block, and the next, and two more after that. I can assuredly say no one will suffer from caffeine withdrawls in this city.
After our sugar rush we roamed the streets towards Magnificent Mile. Braving the cold for all of ten minutes we decided to try some local cuisine for lunch. A cozy little restaurant called Chipotle sounded interesting so we favored them with our business. All was well and good. People must be familiar with this Chicago eatery as we are always asked if we got ill from eating there. It is an odd question and no, we did not get ill.
With heavy bellies we continued to roam the city, admiring the shops and skyskrapers, until we cam upon the Chicago River. We were impressed with this waterway, and not just for the looks. It has interesting traits, such as it flows backwards, which is extremely impressive. The view along the waterway is also impressive. A path along the South side allows a view of the triple decker Wacker Drive and of the waterway. A must visit area of the city.
Finishing our walk we head for one of the famous Chicago pizza restaurants. We were both excited as we love New York pizza and couldn’t wait to compare. The Battle of the Pizzas. The restaurant itself had a fabulous atmosphere. Dark with graffiti everywhere and photos of famous people who visited, though I didn’t recognize more than half of them. Sitting down the first thing we noticed was the price. It seemed outrageously expensive. We discussed leaving but couldn’t do it. We had to give Chicago pizza a fair shake. Ordering our deep dish pizza and a pitcher of local beer we settled in. The beer arrived quickly enough but the hour and a half wait for the pizza seemed a bit ridiculous. Then things got bad. Chicago style pizza is disgusting, plain and simple. It is nothing but tomato soup with a block of melted cheese. It is a gut bomb with no taste. Chicago, you lose this competition badly. Please stop making this pizza(that isn’t even really a pizza) and concentrate on the many things you do well. Let New Yorkers make pizza from now on and have it shipped in.
Only able to eat half of our soup bowl we got the rest for take away and tried to give it away to a begger on Magnificent Mile. Here the misses learned a valuable life lesson. The beggers refused this expensive pizza when we offered, saying they only wanted money. So sad that these people ruin it for those that really need help. Shaking our heads we leave the bread bowl of nastiness on top of a garbage can where it belongs and head back to the hotel to get ready for our night of laughs.
Finishing my toilet in two hours this time and looking and feeling fantastic we head for the Second City theatre. It is not in the city center so we hop on a bus North that takes us along the lake and into a nice area. After a short but freezing walk we arrive at the theatre. Chilled to the bones and quite early, we get our will-call tickets and settle in at the attached Starbucks. Warmed a bit we hop into the theatre, which is much smaller and simpler than I expected. It surely wont be mistaken for a Vegas showroom. Shown our simple chairs we mentally prepare ourselves for a night of laughs. The drink lady stops by but we pass on drinks. She is to become a thorn in our side all night. Annoying and mistaking us for other customers, first giving us someone elses drinks, then someone elses food, and then their bill. Maybe she cannot see well in the dark. I advise the company to purchase her a headlamp.
For a few hours we enjoy the show. They are not as good as Ryan Stiles or others I have seen, but perhaps it takes years of practice. It is more set routines than improv which disappointed me, but my expectations were sky high, so I blame myself. At the end of the show they announce that they will now try new routines and those that wish can stay to see them. This is worth skipping unless you wish to help them and provide feedback. We stayed and missed the last bus because of it. This wasn’t too bad as we got a taxi with an Indian immigrant who was nice and funny, telling us how he had gotten used to the cold. He was a little perturbed at us though as he was heading to Wrigley Field, which offered much better fares, but instead we took him away from the stadium.
Second City, while not perfect, makes for an enjoyable night. You will laugh, cringe, and leave with a smile on your face. If for some reason you really hate the show and get depressed, go get a Chicago pizza and drown yourself in it.