A Staycation in Makati

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As I typed the word “staycation” in the title of this blog, the auto-correct notification popped up. I’m being recommended to change the word to satiation. But I was really meaning to talk about my recent staycation. I started thinking maybe it wasn’t an acceptable word after all? So I had to ask around and look it up in the net. And so, before my thoughts get me carried away:

 Wikipedia defines staycation as “a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad.”

Now, going back to my story for today: We really didn’t have any plans of spending on hotels within the city, but because the cooling system of our condo needed to be fixed, we had no choice but to relocate for the meantime. When looking for a hotel, I opted to stay at Makati’s Salcedo Village – this is within 1 kilometer radius from our place. You see, I lived in Salcedo Village way back 2005 through 2008 – and though it’s walking distance to where we are staying now, I seldom have the chance to go back to take a stroll at the Salcedo Park. More than a decade ago, I frequented this place for my daily walks, and was a regular shopper during the Saturday market. I remember befriending a lot of adorable dogs being walked around the Salcedo Park at that time – like this cute little Frenchie named Frankenstein, and this English bulldog couple – I forget the name of the male, but Elvira was one I couldn’t forget because of one funny encounter with the princess.

We stayed at a condotel called Infinity Tower Suites along H.V Dela Costa corner Leviste St. I thought they offered the best value for money because the price per night included free parking, WIFI, and daily breakfast for 2 at The Wholesome Table – known for serving healthy, organic food.Staycation

What I liked about this hotel are: the big, spacious room equipped with cookware, stove and fridge; the room’s view of the city; the friendly and responsive staff; close proximity to restaurants and cafes; sufficient cooling system; and fast, reliable internet connection.

What could be improved: the bathroom needed an upgrade (the faucet on the sink only had hot water); the TV in the room was small; and there was an instance I called out the hotel’s housekeeping because the environment protection card was not being followed. I noticed that the linens were being changed even when we didn’t leave the card on the bed; and the towels were being replaced even when we hung them and we didn’t put them on the floor. There was also an instance my brown bag for compost was thrown away – when I noted on the bag that it was not for discarding because I intended to bring it home for composting. It only contained paper (not produce). It’s good that the hotel was responsive to this feedback and they were able to return my brown bag and addressed the points I raised.

The breakfast options at The Wholesome Table were diverse: D’s favorite was the Meat and Eggs Plate. My favorite dishes were the PB&J Teddy Toast, the Overnight Oats and the Ratatouille and Toast.

There were new restaurants and shops that we were able to try out. We had lunch or dinner at the nearby restos like the Kite Bar; 8 Cuts Burger; Tai Koo Hong Kong Roast; Toby’s Estate; Salad Stop; Warung Indo; Y Café; and The Old Spaghetti House. I was also able to buy some sustainable gifts at The Echo Store which was a few buildings away.

During the ten days that we stayed at Infinity Suites, I was able to visit the Salcedo Park once again and shopped for lunch there one Saturday. More importantly, I met a newfound friend in little Bogart – a happy cuddly dog who I bumped into one night walking back from Greenbelt mall.

Now, we are home sweet home and settled back into our condo. Looking back at the last ten days, I’m glad we were able to spend some time in the old neighborhood. While a lot has changed, the good stuff (watching dogs walking around the park) remains. I’d like to go back more often, even just for a long walk.

We paid for everything during our staycation. Just wanted to share what and where I was up to over the last few days. 

Day Trip to Turkey Run State Park, IN

woodlands

During my recent trip to Chicago, I grabbed the opportunity to meet up with a good friend from way back, Roselle. Two decades ago, when we were still at the University,  we became close when we joined an academic organization, and since them she and I shared an apartment until we graduated. A few years after we started working, she and her husband moved to the US, and we kept in touch through social media. We met up every several years thereafter when she would visit the Philippines. I was so excited I get to be the one to visit her this time.

Before we met, Roselle asked me what I would like to do for the weekend. I asked if we could do something that involved exploring the outdoors. She said she’d bring me to the Turkey Run State Park in Indiana – it’s where her family goes to regularly to trek. It sounded enticing, so I said let’s do it!

So on a Friday night, she picked me up after my paint party at Park Ridge, IL. We drove to her home in St. John, IN. We had an early start the next Saturday morning, where we drove a couple of hours (108 miles) from St. John to Marshall, IN. We arrived at the Turkey State Park at 11 o’clock in the morning – Marshall had a one hour difference from our point of origin.

It was a beautiful day – the weather was perfect for walking – even though it was late spring/early summer, it was not yet too hot, and the shades of the trees was enough to keep us cool.

As per the park’s map, there were 11 trails – each having different levels of ruggedness. We planned to take Trails 3 and 5. The map said that Trail 3 was very rugged, and was 1.7 miles long. Trail 5 was moderate, and was 0.7 miles long.

So off we went, and crossed the footbridge over Sugar Creek. I watched people canoeing and swimming in the water.

I had to be careful of my steps as we passed through the ravines of Trail 3. There were steep and rough rocks at the trail, with some parts having water passing through. There were small pretty falls because it was still late spring. I was told in a few weeks they would dry up in time for summer. I met some furry friends along the way – one of them had to be carried by the fur-parent as they climbed up a rock.

We passed through lush woodlands for Trail 5. I love how the sun would peak through the canopy of the trees. There was hardly any people in that trail – the place was peaceful and quiet, and left me to my imagination. Several times while walking I would imagine I was an actor in a scene in movies that crossed my mind – mainly involving forests.

trail
trail through the woods

It took us about 3 hours to finish the trails – because along the way we got lost and ended up doing some parts of Trail 9. At the campsite we rested under the trees, munching on light snacks and refreshments. We headed off shortly after and had barbecue with Roselle’s friends at a small park halfway through St. John.

It was a fun, tiring day – and what better way exploring the beautiful outdoors than to spend it with a good old friend! We had some giggles reminiscing college days, and I’m happy Roselle and I got to spend time together during this trip. It’s the simple things like this that I cherish the most. Rosel6

 

 

 

Two Weeks in Chicago

Cloud Gate

I usually write about my Top 5 favorites in places that I go to, and I’ve always wanted to write about my fun-filled two weeks in Chicago when I kicked off blogging. The reason I’ve procrastinated is because I struggle to choose just 5 favorites about The Windy City.

To give a bit of a background: the first time I got see Chicago was 13 years ago, when I went to Illinois for a short business trip. Back then, I squeezed in what I could for only about 3 days, on weekends. Despite the short trip, I was already mesmerized by the vibrant city. It was also my first visit to the United States, and at the time it was autumn. Coming from a tropical country with only 2 seasons (dry and wet) and mostly hot and humid all year round, I quickly fell in love with autumn – the cool temperature, and the beautiful colors of the changing leaves. Subsequently, almost all holidays I had with D fell around the autumn months.

Except for the second time I went to Chicago, this time a sort of longer trip. It was winter of 2008 and we spent time with relatives. Winter is an interesting season for D and me – but we decided we’d stick to our autumn holidays.

So this year, first time after 10 years, I visited Chicago once again. It was almost summer when I went, so I had a share of the changing temperatures from cool to warm. I went to Chicago after my solo travel to Montreal. I stayed with my aunts for two weeks and was able to spend more time with relatives during this trip. I’m very thankful to my aunts Jane, Salud, Bel and Zeny; uncle Oscar; cousins May, Juvy and Mike: they warmly welcomed me to their homes, showed me the beauty of their city and allowed me to get to know Chicago more up close and personal.img_9659

Chicago’s Art Scene

I first visited the Art Institute of Chicago when my cousin Juvy and I did the Big Bus Hop-On and Hop-off tour. Prior to going, I read that this museum was rated one of the best museums by TripAdvisor for some years now so it definitely was a must to visit. The grand entrance was beautiful, with its lion statues. There were friendly staff and maps located everywhere in the museum which really helped as the museum was big and one could easily get lost. My favorite exhibits were the Impressionist, New Contemporary, Medieval and Renaissance art galleries. We only spent a couple of hours in the museum and I would love to go back. I think I’d need at least a full day to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorites works of art were The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, and the portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol.

I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) which my niece recommended. She said I wouldn’t miss the steps to the entrance of the building. She was right – and I just had to take a photo. I got to visit the MCA during their free museum day. I find contemporary art interesting and this was a good place to start exploring.

MCA
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

The next museum where I had free entrance to was the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). I had to do a bit of research before finding this museum and including it in my To Go To – I understand it was not as well known as the first 2 museums I went to. It’s in the Loyola University at N Michigan Ave, near the Old Water Tower. This is my second favorite museum, next to the Art Institute of Chicago. Their gallery was small, but I really liked their exhibits. At the time, there was an exhibit by Gregory Beals called They Arrived Last Night; and a photography exhibit by Tonika Lewis Johnson called Everyday Englewood. I was looking at the photos by Gregory Beals and there were moments I teared up. The photos were very captivating, and they incited a lot of emotions from me as a viewer. The permanent displays at the third floor had a lot of religious relics. Photos were not allowed inside the museum.

Another way that I appreciated art in Chicago was whenever I stumbled upon street art. Here are some of the delightful street art finds while walking the streets near Wicker Park:

Walking in the parks

Top of mind when it comes to Chicago parks is the Millennium Park. Been here four times (I went twice during this last visit, bringing my friend Paolo with me) – and I never get tired of it. It’s a nice place to stroll, or take in the surrounding buildings’ architecture. In every visit, I watch the water being squirted by the different faces displayed at the Crowd Fountain; and take selfies at the Cloud Gate (also known as The Bean).

Walking distance to the Millennium Park is the Grant Park where Paolo and I gazed at the Buckingham Fountain.

The Lincoln Park is somewhere I had to commute to from my aunts’ place at Wicker Park. I took the bus with a ventra card to get there and it was worth the trip. The park was big, and I did have a good long lovely walk. I got to the Lincoln Zoo – I try to avoid zoos as much as I can but this was the last stop of the walk along Lincoln Park. In this zoo, I saw the lions sleeping and I wondered if they could really have a peaceful sleep as the kids around me were shouting at them – this was the part that broke my heart.

Wicker Park was walking distance from my aunts’. It’s a small park close to a lot of good restaurants (like Stan’s Donuts where I got my bagels from; Goddess and Grocer where I got a healthy salad snack; and cafes). I’ve been curious about this because I remember a movie starring Josh Hartnett entitled Wicker Park. I liked that movie.

A few minutes’ walk from the wicker park is the 606 trail. It is an elevated trail for bikers and runners and I also saw an art sculpture along the way.

Last on my list is – and I’m not sure if this falls under the parks category – the Garfield Observatory. It showcased different plants and flowers – I was quite overwhelmed by the pretty blooms from different seasons!

observatory
a view of the interiors of Garfield Observatory

Diverse Architecture and the Chicago Skyline

A good way to see the most of Chicago’s architecture is through the hop on and hop off bus tour, and the Chicago Architectural River Cruise. The river cruise gives a good vantage point and the guides gave detailed information about the buildings’ histories.  One of my favorites is the historic Old Water Tower.riverriver

For the Chicago skyline views, the best place in my opinion is to view it from the museum campus, next to the Adler Planetarium. I go here every single time I am in Chicago and like the Millennium Park, it never gets old. Other places for the skyline view are the Navy Pier and Lincoln Park.skyline

Lincoln Park

Paolo and I also did the Riverwalk. We stopped several times to appreciate the buildings along the river, and also to enjoy the sunset next to the City Winery. I also met a cute dog being walked along the City Winery – he’s sooo adorable!

U2 Concert!

This was a super awesome surprise welcome gift to me by Mike and Juvy – I was ecstatic!! I’ve always wanted to watch a U2 concert so I was pumped when Juvy showed me the tickets. I literally cried tears of joy. We watched it at the United Center. The concert’s production was high tech and spectacular. Left me humming to Beautiful Day every morning during the rest of my trip. I’m actually listening to a U2 playlist in Spotify as I am typing this blog now.

Chicago Cubs

First baseball game I’ve ever watched live. I remember how I used to like playing baseball in high school. It was fun (and surreal) going to the Cubs vs Giants game – there were stores selling shirts, caps and other items around the area; beer and hot dogs were overflowing; and the fans were dressed up to their teams. Some of the fans were seated on the rooftops of the nearby buildings – hats off to them because it was so hot that day yet there they all throughout . There’s a park outside with a huge screen playing the game.

Two weeks isn’t enough as there are just too many things to do and explore in Chicago. Still, I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to visit this city once again and spend time with relatives and friends. Next time I would love to watch some theater plays or shows and spend more time in the museums (visit more of them too).

Hancock
This is a magnificent view from the John Hancock Tower where my aunts’ family friend lives

I’m sure next time I go to Chicago, I’d come across more spectacular finds (just like the giant pretzel from a bar I went to with my cousin – I was just speechless in awe!)

pretzel
a gigantic pretzel!