‘Ladies and gentleman - welcome to Chicago’ the pilot spoke into the intercom. ‘The weather here in Chicago is 4 degrees Celsius, and local time is 6.30pm. Please be sure to take all your belongings with you, and we thank you once again for flying American Airlines. Enjoy your stay’.
I was well excited. I had been looking forward to this trip for so long, and I was pretty impressed that I managed to get to the big old US of A in one piece seeing it was the first time I had ever traveled such distances alone. Welcome to America! Woo hoo! This was going to be a lovely week, a short stay of 7 days but I anticipated it would be memorable.
My good friend was getting married and she had asked me to be a bridesmaid and sing at her wedding. What a pleasure and pure delight. I knew it was going to be a hectic week getting things organised, making sure the nuptials to be had everything ready as well as trying on the bridesmaid dresses and hoping there wouldn't be a need for much alterations.
After meeting a friend I knew who lived in Chicago who had kindly offered to pick me up and drive me down to the Radisson O'Hare Hotel, my stop for the night, the streets reminded me of Africa. It had the same hue, a colour about it – and the wide roads were a replica of the Accra roads just as you came out of Kotoko Airport. After checking into the Radisson, spending some time jumping up and down on the Queensize bed that graced my room, I felt like a kid again. It was a little chilly, but I was prepared, my friend had warned me that the Chicago weather was as cold as I had heard about and it wasn’t called the windy city for nothing.
My chaperone for the week was such a great woman, all props to her willingness to drive miles upon miles here and there trying to get everything arranged for the wedding. The English accent drew some attention from the drawls as some Americans asked if I lived next to the Queen. I was tempted to say we were best friends and I lived in the floor above hers in Buckingham Palace.
Driving down into downtown at night to meet with the rest of the crew – my breath was taken away as I saw all the lights and sights of the famous American skyscrapers almost looming down on me. What I had seen in the movies and on postcards was actually a reality to me as I looked at the breathtaking sight of downtown Chicago. It was awesome. No words to describe the picturesque scene. I knew instantly that America had captured my heart, and I would certainly be stepping foot there again.
After checking into the very plush Allerton Hotel right on the Magnificent Mile I bid farewell to my newly made friend of the week ahead and proceeded to my room on the 22nd floor. I decided to venture out for a short walk before turning in for the night. I didn't know whether I'd be jaywalking if I crossed the road at red lights. After 3 minutes of stepping in and out of the road with caution because of cars turning in from the 'wrong side of the road'... I lopsidely walked, half hopped, half ran, fully stumbled un-glamourously across and hoped I wasn't breaking the law and wasn't quite so obviously giving my foreign status away. The 7-Eleven sported Kool Aid and Corn Dogs and friendly assistants taken by my accent which definitely exposed me as foreign. I could have stood there all night and just talked!
The next few days were a gem. After speaking to my good friend, the agenda for the next few days was getting our bridesmaids dresses altered and getting shoes for the day and getting nails and hair done if needed. My friends wedding dress wasn't even a joke, she went all out, it was fitting to call her princess - for the day at least. She was happy and beaming on her special day after getting ready in the presidential suite of the Fairmont Hotel - it was a truly spectacular day. We bridesmaids felt equally special in the beautifully beautiful bridesmaids dresses tailor made to fit.
The day after was a free day to take taxi rides and visit the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower and venture onto the glass ledge that brought out the vertigo in you that you never thought you had as you stared across at 3 different states in view. Walking along the sands of Lake Michigan, window shopping at Macy's on the Magnificent Mile, Saks 5th Avenue, a Starbucks double mocha chocolate with whipped cream and fudge stick, McDonald's Chicken Nuggets, more shopping at Forever 21, TJ Max on Michigan Avenue, I didn't want to leave. I had only got settled in after jet lag and now it was time to go again. Spending time with my friend and her new husband and family at the Fairmont on the night before departure was a lovely send off, and I felt saddened to have to go.
I felt a little down in spirits as I sat in the airport waiting for a delayed flight and the thought of my return to London after such a whirlwind experience - but this only gives me a better incentive to have to return!
God bless America!