We always want to make the best use of every moment of our time in a distant place, especially one we love. So, with flights not leaving until late afternoon/evening, we had a morning to play with. What should we do? Go to the beach? hardly the weather for that. Go for a jog? Ha!
The challenge was to find somewhere close-ish to the airport, where we could relax and not worry about traffic conditions later in the day. The thing is, having been here on several previous occasions, there wasn’t that much we felt we hadn’t seen before. We wanted a simple, neatly packaged, worthwhile “experience” to keep us occupied for half a day or so.
But internet searches proved fruitless. My Hero identified a couple of small towns which might be interesting, but we didn’t want to shop and in our experience, aimless walks at this stage of our trip prove frustrating and not that enjoyable. More by luck than skill (though I’m going to claim the credit anyway) I hit upon the Chicago Botanic Garden which met all our criteria and fitted the bill perfectly.
Just 45 minutes from O’Hare airport, I can’t understand why it doesn’t show up in any lists of suggestions about what to do on a long layover there. The lists are full of casinos, bowling alleys, shopping centres…and yet an hour or two in a gorgeous, year-round garden seems to me to be the perfect pre- post- or inter-flight activity.
We began with an orientation tour of the whole site on board a trolley, which made stops by the highlighted areas. We had no time to see everything. Really, I doubt that anyone could on a single visit. Suffice to say that it whetted our appetite.
The garden is huge and features a couple of large lakes and several distinct areas, including this Japanese garden. Our guide emphasized how different it looks as the seasons change, especially when the snow falls.
A large area of the park is a natural prairie through which there are pathways cut and guides to follow.
Non-native plants have been removed and what remains is the natural landscape as the settlers would have seen when they travelled through this region.
It wasn’t at all how I expected. I think of “prairie” as grassland, but this was so much more. Gorgeous!
The next stop was near the bridge to Evening Island.
There’s a bell tower over there and occasionally, there are evening concerts when people are invited to come, bring a blanket and sit on the grassy slopes opposite to listen. Nice idea.
Our tour returned us to the visitors centre, from where we set out on foot to explore the gardens closer to hand. It was warming up, the earlier rain shower had passed through and we were enjoying our morning.
The water gardens were just lovely. We are having ongoing problems with our pond at home and were so envious of the immaculate presentation and gorgeous flowers in this one. Mind you, we don’t have a chap in waders to maintain it by removing individual leaves…
I loved these peculiarly textured leaves!
All around the garden, there are sculptures. I’d have walked right past this one had there not been a couple of people taking a photograph. It conveys movement really well, don’t you agree?
I’m not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew immediately that this was not an English garden! Isn’t it lovely, though?
The waterfall area was a popular (and cool) place to be. Interesting to note that this garden is affected by blanketweed too.
My Hero was rather envious of the means of dealing with it!
There was time for a closer look at the Japanese garden, then, so we crossed the Zigzag bridge and followed the pathway.
Occasionally, it’s reassuring to discover that we don’t have the exclusive rights to hooligans on this side of the Atlantic. I always think of American people as being more “up front” than we British, so it was interesting to see that although there was a distinct air of disapproval, just like us, no-one said anything. We tutted and moved on!
There remained one distinct area of the garden which we had not seen.
Sitting by the entrance was a chap wearing a fun T shirt. I think my Hero needs something similar, don’t you agree?
The landmarks of America in the Model Railway garden were all created from natural resources and I was especially impressed by the accuracy of the lettering on the Seattle market sign.
We enjoyed spotting a variety of features from previous road trips!
One of us might just have felt a little homesick
It was getting near to the time we ought to leave. The planes flying overheard were a reminder of the rest of our schedule and with the “just one more photograph” thought, we made our way to the car. We’ll certainly be back here, possibly in similar circumstances, for it was an ideal place to spend our last few hours of our time in Chicago.
Mary’s flight was leaving a few hours before ours, so we said our farewells at the Departures drop off and waved goodbye.
On our way out of the airport area, look what we passed. No, we did not stop!
My hero and I mooched around a local mall for an hour or two, people watching and trying hard not to buy anything. OK, so the $10 Gap T shirt was simply too much of a bargain to leave behind, especially as I’d looked at it at full price ($29.99) just a day or so ago!
But it was soon time for us to leave as well. We returned the car to the AVIS lot, marvelling as always how people arrive there with a car still stuffed full of all kinds of things (bedding, groceries, clothes) and proceed to empty what looks like their life out onto the car park. Those who know my hero will not be surprised that we simply take out our suitcases and walk away, leaving an empty car
So ended our tenth road trip. 1743 miles through four US states (no new ones this time!). What fun we’ve had. What stories we have to tell!
How lucky we are.