We could see a large fountain in the park, Buckingham Fountain, from our hotel room. On our last night we stopped by as we headed back in for the night and got to enjoy one of their hourly water and light show.
As music played in the background the water of the giant fountain soared higher and higher. Lights from hidden bulbs shown through the water, illuminating the entire fountain in reds, yellows, and purples. It was a beautiful sight and a nice way to end the night.
You can see Sears Tower (now officially Willis Tower) from all across Chicago. And, apparently, you can see all of Chicago from the top of the tower. Plus parts of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
The tower was our first attraction on our first night in Chicago. After going through security and the ticketing area we hopped in an elevator that shot us up 103 stories in seconds, our ears popping the whole time.
We got out on the crowded Skydeck, the entire floor of the tower transformed into a viewing area with windows everywhere. The views were great, but with the huge masses of people milling about it was sometimes hard to actually enjoy them.
We walked around, admiring the lights of the city as they twinkled beneath our feet. Around the one side of the building, facing away from the lake, they had these windows that stuck out over the street, where you could actually stand on glass and see the city under you. We wanted to look, but the static lines of people made us change our minds. Next time I’m in Chicago hopefully it won’t be so crowded and I can give the tower another chance and enjoy the (probably scary) special windows.
I’d heard that DC had a fish market, but in my two year’s there had no idea where it was or how to get there. Then, just before my lease was up, some friends invited me to lunch, and that’s where we wound up. It was only a short walk from L’Enfant Plaza the whole time!
The market isn’t like the places I’ve been in Asia, with tanks filled with every sort of fish imaginable and old grannies skinning eels. There were stalls set up that would remind you of the seafood counter at a grocery store almost, chock full or crabs (alive and dead), as well as cooked shrimp, raw oysters, fresh fish, and prepared soups, crab cakes, and so many other things.
We ordered spicy shrimp and some crabs, which they cooked up for us while we waited. I’m not that big into seafood, but it was a truly interesting experience learning how to get into a crab shell and eating big juicy shrimp with some good friends looking out over the water at the Potomac River.
Both Morocco and Turkey are well known travel destinations. Both are known for their markets. And you don’t have markets without vendors, sellers, merchants, etc. And, unfortunately, merchants can seem aggressive and even scary to those who didn’t grow up with that sort of culture.
In Ankara, we barely saw any merchants, and those that we did see were mostly selling food, i.e. we weren’t their targets and they left us alone.
In Istanbul, I saw quite a few merchants use “tricks” to attract customers. Some of them would try to strike up a conversation and make small talk about this or that. They always know where you are from, have been there, or know someone there. Sometimes they use a trick, like one guy who tried to tell me I had dropped something so I would turn around, talk to him, and buy his guide books. Maybe because a lot of them speak pretty good English, they try to befriend tourists before trying to get them to buy something. And then you’re already friends, after all.
In Morocco I noticed a lot fewer vendors calling people out and trying to get their attention. There seemed to be more waiting until people approached, a more relaxed style, waiting until the buyer has expressed interest, which is great if you don’t like being accosted by salespeople. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t also skilled in convincing you to part with your money. One guy gave us a free pastry sample before paying for it. Same with a woman and some henna. Another woman with henna tried to forcefully decorate my friend’s hand. I’ve been told of other instances of things being thrust into hands followed by demands for money.
So, in Morocco people were more direct while in Turkey there were some wiles being employed in the markets. In Turkey it seemed every merchant saw me and tried to get my attention, unlike in Morocco. That would have made Morocco better, except for the odd merchant who tried to force us to buy from them.
I’m still getting used to merchants and markets, but the more I go there, the more comfortable and fun it is! Never let nerves scare you away from such an interesting new experience!
Antique Hostel in Istanbul is a little red building, tucked away on a quiet little street only a few blocks away from the biggest tourist attractions in all of Turkey. For only a few dollars I got a room in a small four bed hostel room and a free breakfast of Turkish-style vegetables, eggs, cheeses, fruits, and breads. From the cafe area you can look out over the rooftops toward the Bosphorus. Out the front door and half a block over, then a block up, sits Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, surrounded by tourists and vendors. So much difference only a few minutes makes, from a quiet historic street to a busy tourist area. Definitely a great location!