The morning dawned cloudy but dry and it was time to venture into Chicago. This was the first time since we left Houston that we were entering a large city and it was exciting after spending so much nature time in Wisconsin. Of course the first place we went to in Chicago was Chinatown. Chicago has the second oldest Chinatown in the US, after San Francisco and it turned out to be a legit Chinatown, compact and featuring several buildings designed in the Chinese style. Like in San Francisco, the Chinese looking buildings were designed by white architects but they did lend a very authentic feeling to the Chinatown, unlike the ones in Los Angeles or Houston which are basically clusters of restaurants and stores in otherwise non-descript strip malls.
Our first stop was Chinatown Square Plaza, which was a collection of stores and Chinese restaurants. At first we tried to park in a parking lot but they chased us off saying that trucks were not allowed. Instead, we found street parking which was a little pricey at $2.25 an hour but that is the big city. We walked around the plaza and we found the Imperial Restaurant where we enjoyed a Dim Sum lunch. It was nice having Dim Sum again but the food itself was average and a little overpriced costing us almost $60. In the plaza itself were twelve statues denoting the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. We had fun finding our animals and reading our signs.
Nearby Chinatown Square is a large Chinese style gate which leads to a street lined with yet more Chinese stores and restaurants. Chinatown looked a bit like it had fallen on hard times with a number of storefronts closed and boarded up but we still enjoyed our stroll. Holly said visiting Chinatown suddenly made her miss China a lot. This was interesting since she has now spent most of her adult life and almost half her entire life in the US so she is considers America her home more than China. Since I came to the US when I was a small child I don’t miss China at all.
Being in the big city presents us with one big challenge which is where to spend the night. There are no RV parks in the city, the nearest actual RV spot being at least 40 minutes drive from the center. Most of the streets near the center of Chicago are paid hourly or permit only parking. We rarely park on the street, preferring Walmart, Cracker Barrel or some sort of parking lot but that simply was not an option in the middle of the big city. We eventually found a large street which had completely unrestricted parking and as a bonus was quite flat. Many streets are crowned in the middle so are not very flat when parking along the street but this street was not. There were even a couple of large trucks parked along the street. Not wanting to drive 40 minutes into the city each day we decided to give it a try.