Steven and I were in the mood to do something touristy, but also something a little different, so we signed up for a Free Walking Tour. The tour that we signed up for was the Haunted Chicago History one. Because it was a "free" walking tour, you pay what you want. It makes it more affordable than other tours that charge a base price and suggest tips for your guide afterward.
The tour included visiting historic buildings and there were stories about the ghosts that are said to still inhabit some of the hotels downtown. We discussed H.H. Holmes, America's first serial killer that was alive during the World's Fair of 1893 in Chicago. We also walked through the alley behind the Iroquis Theatre ("Death Alley"). Back in 1903, a lamp inside the theatre short-circuited and the spark caught a curtain on fire. The theatre was sold out that evening, and more than 600 people died, unable to escape the auditorium. Many people jumped out of the back of the theatre windows, falling to their death in the alley, in attempt to escape. That lamp can be seen today in the Chicago History Museum.
To cheer you up a bit after that awful fact, after the tour, we were headed back to our neighborhood on the train. Two tourists asked the tour guide how to get to the train stop, and we said we were headed that way. They accompanied us to the train, and while we walked, we made small talk. The two of them had met at the hostel in our neighborhood earlier that day. One of them was from Germany, in town for work, and the other was from Australia, but had just finished up working at Disney World in Orlando, and was exploring the rest of the states. We talked a lot about Orlando, having lived there so long, and we talked about foreign country's impression of the United States.
We all got off at the same stop, and they asked for a recommendation on where to get some pizza and beer. We suggested Piece, one of our favorites, and decided to get some pizza with them! The night turned into a dinner with strangers. It made me think of when I'm visiting foreign countries how my favorite stories are the ones about meeting and talking to the locals. In Buenos Aires, we signed up for a bicycle tour and we were the only ones that showed up, so it turned into an afternoon bike ride with our own private guide, full of yerba mate and Argentinian pastries. In Paris, Steven and I got roped into a street performance, and we stayed to talk to the performer afterward. When I went to Paris with my friend Abby, we were having drinks at a bar in Oberkampf, a young neighborhood, when a local and his friends sat and talked with us for hours. It made me excited to think that we were the locals that got to show these visitors our city that we love. And hopefully, it's a story that they'll like to tell.