Chicago, Chicago!



Chicago in early November is bound to be cold because you expect the wind off Lake Michigan but you don’t expect 24 degrees and snow. Two good friends and I were in town for a girl’s weekend.  Thankfully, we three Southern gals were somewhat prepared with heavy jackets and gloves. The light snow on Friday morning was pretty as it covered the sidewalks and rooftops.  A quick run to the corner Starbucks gave us our first taste of the cold weather and it was a bit slippery but the rest of the city took it in stride on the Veterans Day weekend.

Chicago at Work

The Blake Hotel was our home base for the weekend. It is an older, comfortable hotel located on Dearborn Ave.  It has good access to both the Blue and Red lines of the L for public transit.  With a 1 bedroom suite and a double room, we were had well looked after.

Hotel Blake

We headed out toward our Hop On/Hop Off City Tour and after a longer than expected delay including getting lost we eventually made it to the Hilton on Michigan Avenue to board the bus. I would recommend these types of tours when in an unfamiliar city because they will give you a good overview of what and where you want to explore. The double-decker bus was covered on the top and it was still cold inside but at least we were out of the wind.  The tour guides provided us with excellent information on the city as well as recommendations for restaurants and fun things to do.  Friday traffic did pose a bit of a problem but that was to be expected on a holiday weekend.

Big Bus

The skyline of Chicago is striking and its architecture impressive especially when you remember the city was decimated by Great Chicago fire in October, 1871 which left more than one hundred thousand people homeless. The city rebuilt quickly and by 1890 was a major transportation hub.  Ironically, the Chicago fire training academy is located on the site where the Great Chicago fire began.

360 Chicago

Our first stop was the 94 story John Hancock building and the Chicago 360 where you can view the city and the four surrounding states.  Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy on our visit but the city views were spectacular. The observatory opened in 1969 and has thrilled millions of visitors over the years.  The newest addition to the 360 is “the Tilt”, which tilts you out away from the building some 30 degrees over Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” or otherwise known as Michigan Avenue.  This is the place for some stunning photographs.

Lake Michigan

After we descended from the heights, we hopped back on our bus (they leave the designated spots every 30 minutes) to head towards the Chicago River.  We made it just in time to board the First Lady of Chicago Architectural River Tour.  It was a freezing cold night but many braved the temperature and wind of the upper deck where a docent from the historical society provided a 90 minute overview of the Chicago skyline which was resplendent on the November evening.   This is the way to really see Chicago.

Chicago Skyline

Cold and tired, we hailed a cab for a short ride to The Italian Village for dinner. Family owned since 1927 and the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago, the three restaurants, Italian Village, Vivere  and La Cantina will provide you with whatever style of dining your prefer. From family dining to fine dining, you can find fine Italian fare here. We opted for Vivere and it was an excellent decision.  The service, wine and food were excellent. We enjoyed a mid-priced wine from their ample cellar.  The meal and conversation was a satisfying end to a busy day of touring.


Saturday would prove to be a less busy day. We began with brunch at the Cheesecake Factory in the Hancock Tower. Beginning your day with an omelet and a mimosa is starting the day off right.  We each took a piece of decadent cheesecake to go.   Next we walked to “the Bean” in Millennium Park.

The Bean

This unique, impressive sculpture draws you in to its mirror like surface.  At 66 feet wide and 33 feet high and has a 12 foot arch in the center.  Standing beneath the arch, you get a whole new perspective of your surroundings.   This is not to be missed in Grant Park!

Beneath the Bean

The afternoon was spent watching football as we are all SEC gals.  We then began our evening with genuine Chicago style pizza delivered by Lou Malnatis’ which gave us the strength for our evening journey on a slow boat to Margaritaville.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza







Escape to Margaritaville

Escape to Margaritaville is a musical comprised of the island styled songs of singer and songwriter, Jimmy Buffett. It is a fun island romp and well worth your time and money.  This was a pre-Broadway run for the show which will start its run in New York in February.

Cast of Margaritaville
Jimmy Buffett and Lyn Manual Miranda

After the show, it had warmed up a bit and we walked back to the hotel down State Street enjoying Macy’s picture windows that were already decorated for Christmas. It was a nice ending to our brief weekend in Chi town. Chicago has much to offer a visitor and you need time to enjoy it.

Titanic Honour and Glory 

Titanic Honour and Glory

Titanic Honour and Glory Exhibit

The Mobile History Museum is hosting the US premiere showing of “Titanic: Honour and Glory” Exhibit. The exhibit that describes the building and sinking of the Titanic has toured Europe since 2002 and contains the largest collection of White Star Line and Titanic artifacts in Ireland.

Incorporating  photographs and artifacts from the Titanic and Titanic’s White Star Line sister ships, Britannic and Olympic, Titanic’s story unfolds from the laying of her keel in Belfast, Ireland to her demise on April 14, 1912. The White Star Line under the direction of Bruce Ismay, led the company to build three luxury liners in the early 1900’s, the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.  The ships were built to compete with the Cunard Line’s ships the Mauritania and the Lusitania.   

The exhibit incorporates items from the three White Star Line ships, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.

Olympic was completed in Belfast and began service on June 11, 1911 and set the tone for the White Star Lines luxury class of ships. Titanic’s keel was laid in Belfast on March 31, 1909 at the Harland and Wolff shipyards. Britannic was redesigned after the Titanic disaster and was completed in 1914.

Designed by Thomas Andrews, Titanic was comprised of over three million rivets that were used on the plates and side of the ship and a million man hours to install the fixtures on the Titanic. The ship had four funnels but only three worked, the fourth was added for aesthetics only.  The ship had twenty-four double end and five single ended boilers weighing one hundred tons each which burned six hundred tons of coal per day during a crossing. Her anchor weighed fifteen and half tons. Ismay declared Titanic “unsinkable” because of her automatic water tight doors.

Titanic received her first passengers on April 10, 1914 and set sail from Southampton then stopped in Cherbourg France and Cobh, Ireland to take on more passengers and mail. Two thousand, two hundred twenty-eight passengers and crew would begin the maiden voyage on the then largest ship in the world.


After four days at sea, Titanic had been alerted to the presence of icebergs in the area by other ships, the last coming at 11:00 pm. The ship Californian tried warning the Titanic of ice ahead. The warning fell on a busy wireless operator. Captain Smith altered the ships course due to the reports of ice yet still traveled at 22 knots.  At 11:39 p.m., lookouts, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Robinson called ice right ahead and rang the warning bell.  The officer on duty, Murdoch swung the ship hard starboard and a minute later, the ship shuddered as it rubbed alongside of the iceberg, ripping through the ships one inch thick hull and breaching it. Captain Smith who has been asleep in his cabin, hurried to the bridge to sound the ship as the ship continued her forward movement. He then had all forward motion stopped and engines stopped which allowed sea water to flood the ship.

Within 10 minutes, the bow had risen 14 feet above the keel. Thomas Andrews, the ships designer conducted his own inspection and concluded the ship might survive for 2 hours. It was then that Captain Smith issued the order to abandon ship.

The first lifeboats were launched at 12:25am with women and children to be loaded first. Of the twenty lifeboats that were lowered many were filled only to half capacity. Fifteen hundred people perished in the freezing water of the Atlantic. Titanic succumbed at 2:20 am.  Carpathia, the first ship to arrive on the scene picked up 705 survivors some two hours later.

The Carpathia reached New York on April 18, 1912 with the survivors including the 214 surviving members of the Titanic crew, including Bruce Ismay. White Star realized there would still be bodies needing to be recovered from icy waters.  The line commissioned cable ships from Halifax, Nova Scotia to lead the recovery on the bodies. The crew of the Mackay Bennett found bodies still tied in their white life jackets.

Nova Scotia

Care was taken to preserve any effects from the bodies to be used for later identification. Each body was numbered as it was recovered and those numbers would later identify the body.  If the body could not be identified, the corresponding number was placed on the headstone when the body was interred in a cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Four ships returned with 209 bodies, 119 having being buried at sea. With recent DNA testing, some of the numbered graves have been able to be identified.

One survivor of the Titanic disaster is Violet Jessop, a shipboard stewardess.  She was lowered in a lifeboat and rescued by the Carpathia.  Jessop returned to work for the White Star Line in 1916 as a Red Cross nurse on board the Britannic, which was serving as a hospital ship in the Aegean Sea. On November 21, 1916, she would survive the explosion and sinking of the RMS Britannic.  The Britannic went down quickly in only 57 minutes.

Violet Jessops

There is a Mobile Alabama connection to the Titanic, Colonel Archibald Gracie IV.  Gracie was born in Mobile to a former confederate officer. While raised in New York he was a real estate investor, writer and amateur historian.  He was rescued by the Carpathia and would be the first to write an account of the disaster.  Before he could correct any errors in the account, he would become the first adult survivor to die after rescue in December, 1912

The wreck of the Titanic was discovered by Robert Ballard in 1985.

In 1997, James Cameron’s film, Titanic received the Academy Award for Best Picture. Included in the exhibit are several props from film, including two costumes worn by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Costumes from Titanic movie
Costumes from Titanic movie

106 years since the disaster, the story still resonates with people. This exhibit is unique to other Titanic exhibits as it incorporates much more of the history of the White Star Line.

Titanic lifeboat sign and coal from Titanic



Keys from victim of Titanic


Tickets for the Titanic exhibit are $10.00 which includes admission to the history museum.  The history museum has several events planned for to highlight the exhibit, a showing of the 1997 Titanic film, Third Class: A Titanic Irish Party and “The Last Dinner”, an eight course formal dinner, the Titanic menu recreated, to be held at the Battle House on April 14. The Honour and Glory will be on display through April.