Chicago (Bull)Horns

We have been to Chicago several times before, perhaps ten times or more, yet we were there again last Valentine’s weekend. It’s not that Chicago is a particularly romantic place, but we were there for a different reason.

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was in Chicago during that time, but we were not there for that reason as well. Though I wish I could have watched the NBA All-Star games. (This post has nothing to do with the NBA team Chicago Bulls.)

We went to Chicago to see a concert. Whose concert? It’s a group that our daughter introduced us to, and she’s a big fan of them. She is a music major and a classical pianist if you have not known that already, and I would say that she has a good taste for music. But we did not watch an opera, for I don’t think I could really appreciate that kind of music genre. The concert that we watched was of a group of three young tenors that are classic-pop crossover who fondly call their music “popera.”

The concert we watched

Many of the songs they sang were in Italian, like “O Sole Mio” and “Grande Amore,” though they have some cover of old polular songs like Frank Senatra’s “My Way” and Barbara Streisand’s “People.” I told my daughter that at least I could understand 1 out of 2 songs that they sang.

We also have relatives from the Philippines that are visiting us here in Iowa so we brought them along for the drive to see Chicago. Even though it was too cold to roam around yet we were still able to show them some of the famous spots of the city. Is the Jollibee restaurant a part of that famous location for a Filipino tour? Of course!

We also took our guests up the viewing deck at the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower). It took us almost 3 hours to get to the top, not that we have to climb the stairs, for that would be much faster. It was the line of people waiting to go up that was really long. Definitely a painfully long time to wait for an elevator ride.

View from the skydeck of Willis Tower

We booked rooms in a hotel in downtown Chicago at the heart of the city’s bustling traffic. Nearby our hotel was a fire station. So you could imagine the street noise that we could hear even if we were already on the 12th floor of the building. Sure enough it was hard to sleep at night due to the sounds of wailing sirens and cars honking. No wonder they provided ear plugs as part of their amenities.

I am not used to hearing car horns already let alone hearing them almost continuously through the night. I thought the beeping would only last during rush hours, but no it did not stop. People were honking their car horns even at the unholy time of 3 o’clock in the morning. Unless they consider that rush hour still, or perhaps these people were drunk or just plain rude. Well, it’s Chicago’s bullhorns!

Don’t get me wrong, I like the city of Chicago and I have been exposed to noisy environment in my life as I grew up in Manila and I also lived for a few years in New York City. But I have been in Iowa now for 16 years and have adapted to peaceful rural living.

But we’re back in Iowa now. I’m back to the quiet nights where the only noise I could hear when it gets dark is the rare hooting of the illusive owl and the deafening sounds of my thoughts.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Me atop of the world.


Standing at 1450 feet tall, the Willis Tower, or previously known as Sears Tower, is the highest building and the most prominent structure in the Chicago skyline.


It was the tallest building in the world from 1973 – 1998, until it was surpassed by Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia. (The reigning tallest building in the world since 2008 is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.)

The view from Willis Tower Skydeck is breathtaking. Though it is an expensive elevator ride ($23) to get to the viewing area. I wonder if you get a bargain price if you climb the stairs to the Skydeck, which is a mere 103 floors.


(*Photos taken during our recent trip to Chicago.)

Running in the Wind(y City)

Chicago. Also known as the Windy City. I have visited this city at least 6 or 7 times. Many of the times I went there were for business trips. The first time I visited it was for an interview in one of the hospital there, when I was applying for my subspecialty training program about 15 years ago now. But I ended up training in New York. The other times I was there was to attend a conference or a course. This last time was a trip to the Philippine Consulate office.

Chicago though is not only for business trips. It is a beautiful city to tour, to shop (though maybe a little pricey) and unwind.

Here’s a beautiful aerial view from our hotel, with Lake Michigan in the distance. But the best way to view Chicago, I believe is by foot. So I set off and went for my morning run in the Windy City. Off course I brought along  my camera phone.

hotel where we stayed

Starting from our hotel, I headed to the nearby Millennium Park. The morning was cool and comfortable for running. And true to its name, it was a little bit windy. I had to tighten my running cap so it will not be blown away.

It was a mix of city skylines and open park lined with trees.

Here is the BP Bridge. Its structure is interesting, to say the least. Seeing it though is not enough, you have to cross it. And so I did.

BP bridge

crossing the BP bridge

The centerpiece of the Millennium Park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which was designed by Frank Gehry. This pavilion is an open-air venue for classical concerts, operas, and even rock concerts.

I then continued on to Lake Shore Drive to be near the waters of Lake Michigan.

the marina

morning sun over Lake Michigan

in the distance (see the Ferris Wheel?) is Navy Pier

beyond the marina is the Shedd Aquarium and Fields Museum

After running near the water, I headed back towards the main streets.

Buckingham Fountain without the water. Not sure why there’s no water. Drought maybe?

Can you spot the homeless guy sleeping in the park? It’s sad to think that in the middle of opulence, there are destitute people that need help, just like anywhere else in the world.

beautiful flowers and sculpted shrubs

vegetable patch in the heart of the city

I also ran in the Michigan Avenue, which is also known as the Magnificent Mile. This is Chicago’s version of the Champs-Elysées, a boulevard studded with exclusive shops, museums, restaurants and ritzy hotels.

The Bowman. A bronze sculpture in Congress Plaza

The Art Institute of Chicago

While I was running in the Magnificent Mile, I passed the Philippine Consulate building. Note that the flag is at half-staff. This is in honor of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo, who died in a plane crash August 19th. Later on during the day, when we were inside the Consulate office, there was even a small gathering of friends and former classmates of Robredo. They shared fond memories of him and offered a prayer.

Philippine Consulate Office

Wrigley Square and Millennium Monument

Then I went to the one of the iconic art sculpture in Chicago, the Cloud Gate. This is a 110-ton elliptical sculpture that is built of a seamless line of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline. The locals also referred to it as “The Bean.”

Cloud Gate

Looks like a weird kind of UFO to me.

I then headed to the Chicago River.

Do you notice that the river is green? Actually this river is noted for the local custom of dyeing it green on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know why it is still green now.

Chicago Riverwalk

The river is connected to Lake Michigan

Back to the hotel after a good scenic morning run.

Maybe it is your turn to visit Chicago next time. Have a nice day!

reflection of the skyline and me

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)