Well didn’t I think you would always love me?
And didn’t I want you to take care of me, baby?
Well that ain’t happening, no
And wouldn’t I love just to rise above this?
You’ve gotta believe I’ve suffered enough to be free
So I’m officially leaving
Just kiss on the cheek and I’m gone
I’ll be on the seven o’clock
Oh, oh, the seven o’clock to Chicago
– Kate Voegele
Wednesday 1 June
Hard to believe it’s only been a week since we arrived. It feels much longer than that, and I mean that in the best possible way. I guess it’s the insane travel schedule we had early on. Since arriving in Chicago, it’s been great to take it easy and catch up on sleep. I had nine hours overnight, and would’ve slept more if it didn’t mean missing breakfast. I’m rested and feeling great. This holiday – or vacation, as it’s called over here – is something I could easily get used to on a regular basis. Unfortunately, my bank balance doesn’t agree!
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great this morning. In fact, it was downright miserable, cloudy and raining when we woke up, which meant that Debbie’s golf day was cancelled – so Nathan and I spent the day with her and Brian.
We went out to Cantigny, a place that I’d passed before and assumed by the looks of the entrance was a nice housing estate…but it is in fact a public park that was once the home of Colonel Robert McCormick, who served in the United States Army’s First Division – The Big Red One – in World War One, and later gained substantial fame as the owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
McCormick was with the Big Red One at the at the Battle of Cantigny in France in May 1918, the first action by United States troops in the First World War. It was such a momentous occasion in McCormick’s life that he renamed his property after the battlefield when he returned home, and after his death, decreed through his will that the estate be opened up to the public.
The entire property is 500 acres. Of course, the centrepiece is the amazing mansion where McCormick lived. We did the ‘highlights’ tour, which took us to rooms on the first floor, but, unfortunately, they don’t allow photography inside – a major shame, because that is exactly the sort of house that should have a thousand and one pictures taken of it. The restoration of the property was brilliantly done, and everything looks pristine. The 200-foot ceilings and hand-carved oak panelling in what McCormick called the ‘Freedom Hall’ will take your breath away.
Also, there’s a very comprehensive and very impressive museum detailing the achievements of the Big Red One in the First and Second World Wars, Vietnam and the First Gulf War. It’s a very impressive monument to one of this country’s most famous and impactful divisions. As you can see from the pictures, the detail is exquisite – particularly in the exhibits on the First World War and the Second World War – and absolutely nothing is forgotten. Right down to the way the floor is made so it looks like you’re stepping through muddy water. It’s one of the most thorough displays I’ve ever seen.
Outside the museum are a collection of old battle tanks, spanning generations from World War One through Operation Desert Storm, which seem completely at odds with the peaceful and relaxed gardens where they’re located. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating – to someone like me, who absolutely loves military history – to be able to look at these machines close up.