Sunday Strolls

Car-free Sunday mornings, Filinvest Alabang

We were planning to spend Sunday morning walking, a much needed break from our pretty much sedentary lifestyle during the week. I had a bit of a hard time thinking of a good place to do so, really. First thing to consider, and perhaps the most important of all: is to go walk where it won’t be too hot and humid. Summer’s supposed to be over but the humidity and the heat have not gone away despite the scattered rain showers everyday. Secondly: our city has no park big enough to make our walk worthwhile. The places that I could think of are a bit far from where were are, and so probably with Metro Manila traffic (yes, even on Sundays), we would get there when the sun is already high and it would be a pain to even make it to a hundred steps.

Filinvest, Alabang
Filinvest, Alabang

Luckily, thanks to Google, I found that the Car-less Sundays that Filinvest in Muntinlupa, the next door city, is still in effect. It’s when most parts of the area is blocked off from cars, allowing for just walkers, runners, and cyclists to be able to use one or a couple of lanes. I’ve read about this a couple of years ago but didn’t really have the time to go check it out until yesterday.

Car-free Sunday mornings, Filinvest Alabang
Car-free Sunday mornings, Filinvest Alabang

And because it was my first time to actually walk the streets of Filinvest, I discovered these round seats that they call Community – because the shapes represent social interactions.

We walked under the canopy of the trees, listened to birds chirping. There was a bike trail nearby, and further down the road the sound of lively music beckoned us to come join in on the free zumba. I tried to do a couple of steps until I saw D attempting to take a photo of me. That was my queue to go (I’d continue my zumba at home, in the confines of my room).

Zumba morning, Sunday at Filinvest Alabang
Zumba morning, Sunday at Filinvest Alabang

I was impressed (and relieved) that Filinvest and the city of Muntinlupa continues to do the Car-less Sundays.  I read that some cities in Europe also hold their Car Free Sundays promoting walking cycling. I hope all cities in the Philippines would do the same. It would truly be good for the body and the mind, and most especially for the environment.

Do you know of any good well-shaded parks or paths near the Metro Manila south area that I could check out next?

 

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Walks, Trails, Sidewalks

Doggie

“These boots are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.” — Nancy Sinatra

I had an instant smile when I saw Cee’s photo challenge this week, with the theme of Walks, Trails, Sidewalks.

You see, restlessness is my weakness, and walking is my remedy for this. I used to be conscious of the number of steps and relied to the dot on stepcounters, but I have since let go and just walked on and on and on.

Walking allows me to bask in the earth’s beauty – feel the sunshine or raindrops on my face; listen to the simple symphony of the waves, wind, birds, or crickets; let my imagination run as I gaze at the clouds, mountains, trees, streams, or stars.

These are some of the recently taken photos that came to mind with this week’s challenge. And I’m humming to some upbeat tunes in my walking playlist as I am writing this blog.

Nasugbu, BatangasA walk through the rainforestMt Batulao, BatangasWalkway

Taal Travels: The Marino-Agoncillo Home

Flag

A day tour in the town of Taal, Batangas, always feel like traveling back in time. Gazing up the vintage houses, I realize these are ancestral homes of families whose roots date back to the Spanish colonization era.

Batangas is one of the eight provinces condemned and oppressed by the Spanish government. The other provinces were Manila, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Pampanga. Together, these eight provinces would take the lead in fighting for the Philippine independence. As I walk along the streets lined with vintage homes, I cannot help but feel a sense of Filipino patriotism and pride.

Last week I wrote about Galleria Taal, a vintage camera and photograph museum located along Taal’s main road. A few meters away from Galleria Taal is another beautifully preserved heritage house: The Marino-Agoncillo Home.

Dona Marcela Marino-Agoncillo is known as the Mother of the Philippine Flag. She and her husband Felipe Agoncillo, were both born in Taal and studied in Manila. When they returned to Taal, Felipe became known for his legal services to the poor. In 1896, Felipe escaped to Hong Kong after he was accused of being a filibusteroan opponent to the Spanish regime. His family followed suit and lived with him in exile in Hong Kong. To help earn a bit of income, Marcela made sweets and delicacies that they sold in Hong Kong. When General Emilio Aguinaldo was also exiled to Hong Kong, he asked the help of Marcela to make the Philippine flag. Marcela, together with her daughter, Lorenza, and Delfina Herbosa Natividad, carefully sewed the first Philippine flag on silk, and completed it within five days. This flag was shown in Cavite City on 28 May 1898 during the celebration of the revolutionary army’s victory over the Spanish forces.

img_0292

As we entered the house, we ascended its wooden staircase which led to the receiving area, living room and dining hall. The walls and the furniture were mostly made of wood. Rooms were interconnected, and it was amazing to see old trinkets like the sungka (today’s version of a gameboard). There was also an old sewing machine that caught my eye – as I remember we had something similar back home when I was a little girl.

Sungka
Sungka

What I like about old houses in the Philippines is the airy feeling from the spacious rooms whose ceilings were also high. They had little to no electricity back then but the houses were well ventilated because the wind could freely blow through the windows, and the trees in their gardens provide shade. A walk in heritage houses also brings me to imagine how it must have felt like living in the olden days. I imagine several decades from now, when the future generations walk through our homes now, they would likewise bring themselves to imagine how simple our lives now must have been.

What comes to your mind when you see or enter vintage houses?

 

Street Art Hunting: Unsung Heroes

Magsasaka

Magsasaka

Years ago I left the corporate world to practice what I learned in the University. I took a project with the government and conducted market studies for three farmer group proponents, finding out what sustainable crops they could focus on. I was able to spend time with farmer groups of Real, Quezon; Negros Occidental, and Misamis Oriental. It was a truly enriching experience as I got immersed in community of farmers. In Real, at the time, there was no electricity in the farming village and we used gaseras at night. I sat with the farmers as they talked around a bonfire sharing stories of their lives. There was no radio, and I was lulled to sleep later on by the sound of the seawaves. That was why a few years later when the province of Real was hit by a typhoon my heart ached for the farmers who were mourning the loss of their crops – they worked half the year toiling the earth and in an instant the hardwork was literally washed away by the fury of mother nature.

The mural above, Magsasaka is made by Archie Oclos and Aleili Ariola. It’s found next to Burgos Eats along Rizal Drive in Bonifacio Global City. A tribute to the unsung heroes, the magsasaka (in English, farmers), who tirelessly work the fields, rain or shine, to provide rice – the Filipino staple food.

Thus this artwork resonates to me so much and whenever I see it I am reminded to honor the Filipino farmers who work with passion and perseverance, everyday.

Street Art Hunting: Pangako

“I’m not going to swear an oath I can’t uphold. When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.” – Jon Snow, Game of Thrones

I just had to put that quote out there. Because, Game of Thrones. It’s just around the corner. And I. Can. Hardly. Wait.

And then in May comes the Philippines Elections. I’m not even gonna delve on that topic. All I can say is We deserve who we elect.

But back to Jon Snow’s quoteand putting it into context: Have you ever made any promises that you had no intention to keep to begin with?

I know it’s just words, but for every promise I have made there had always been a pure intention to see through it. And when things don’t always turn out as planned, for example, ending a relationship that just won’t work, there are several emotions that occur afterwards: sadness, anger, guilt, regret.

img_3798

Pangako is a mural by Anjo Bolarda. In English, it translates to promise. It can be found at the side parking of Bonifacio High Street’s B3.

Street Art Hunting: Where the Heart Is

The Way Home

The Way HomeThe Way Home is a composed of 3 murals, depicting its creator Solana L. Perez’s homesickness. They can be found at the One Parkade at BGC.

What comes to mind when you think of home?

I could take it literally and choose which dormitory, house, or apartment made an impact to my memory from the time I moved out of my folks’ to go to college, until I married and settled into a house of my own, with D and the boys. Or I could take this question metaphorically and think of what, where, and when I find peace and happiness most. I’d go for the latter – when I am true to myself and accept the people around me.

Right here, and now, as I write this: I am home.

 

 

Street Art Hunting: Courtship

Tagpuan

Tagpuan

This beautiful mural by John Paul Antido is called Dating Tagpuan. In English it translates to the old meeting place. Very artistically done, where the painting was done on two joint walls. It’s located near the side street of BGC Central. I like passing through this street when I take the long route home just so I can see this art work.

Oh, the age of innocence! Sometimes I’d bring my thoughts back to the days of my youth, when the world seemed bigger and everything was simpler.

But way back in the olden days, the concept of ‘courtship’ was observed. Men would formally visit a woman’s home and bring gifts, usually for both the women they are courting and the women’s parents. They would make their intentions of courtship known, and they would patiently wait until they get the woman’s “matamis na oo” (in English: sweet yes). I believe this practice originated from the time the Philippines was colonized by Spain.

I had my fair share of this back when I was in the university – I also experienced my own harana (serenade) though it was more of a thing the guys did for for fun really. They jammed and sang Eraserheads songs outside the dorm window.

For me, personally, I cringed at the thought of courtship. I mean, it’s so formal and one way, I’d  just say no outright to save the guy his time and effort. More than a couple of times I found ways to dodge guys who would ask if they can go to the house to court.

Anyway, I digress.

Whenever I see this mural I would hum to Kanlunganan old song that my friends  and I strummed the guitar to back in the university. Its lyrics go like this:

Natatandaan mo pa ba nung tayong dalawa ay unang nagkita,

 Panahon ng kamusmusan sa piling ng mga bulaklak at halaman

Doon tayo nagsimulang mangarap at tumula.

In English: Do you still remember when first we met, we were young.

Amidst flowers and trees, that’s where we started to dream and write poetry.

Have you ever courted anyone, or been the one at the receiving end? How was it and how did it turn out? Would you prefer for this Filipino tradition to be revived?

Street Art Hunting: Bear With Me

Art
Art
Artwork by Nate Frizzell

Welcome to the first part of my Hunt for Street Art in the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City, Philippines.

Many would consider BGC as the new Makati. It’s a fast developing CBD, with new high rise buildings popping up before I could even familiarize myself with my surroundings. Last December I moved into my new office here, hence I had more time after hours to explore what the place has to offer. As an appreciator of art, BGC proved to be a feast to my eyes. One of the first art works that captured my eye is this painting by Nate Frizzell. It’s called We Are What We Pretend To Be, and here are the thoughts that came into my mind as I looked at it.

No Dramas, they say, but just you wait…

Nonchalance, when deep inside bubbles of anxiety are brewing…

Fearless, because there’s really nothing left to lose…

Stoic, after hardening one’s heart from all the hurt and pain…

Boisterous laughter, and if you look closer there’s no joy in the eyes…

I’m ok, LOL, why do you ask, it was not about me, don’t you worry. Life’s a blast.

 

 

 

 

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Pathways

I just discovered Something To Ponder About‘s page and was immediately thrilled with this Friday’s challenge on the theme of Pathways.

I love looking back at these photos. I can still vividly remember how they were, in real life, a feast to the senses, to my mind and to my heart. If I were to have a holiday right this instant and I am asked to choose where I would go to, I’d say anywhere where there’s a nature trail. When I’m stuck in the city traffic, or walking among crowds of city folk during rush hours on weekdays, I’d imagine I’m walking along these paths and zone out from my busy and noisy surroundings.

trailtraildrivewayWilsons Promstream

Weekend Market: Street Meet, Makati

Sunday market

Have always been curious about Makati’s Street Meet, a weekend night market at Paseo De Roxas. I kept seeing the teasers posted around Ayala Triangle whenever I walked from and to the hotel during an long staycation a month ago. For some reason the plan on dropping by kept being put on the back burner.

Finally last Sunday D and I were able to check it out. Street Meet Makati was set up right beside the Ayala Triangle park, in front of Paseo Center. A part of the street was closed off to traffic to allow for the different stalls. The mood was quite festive: Christmas songs were being played and the Christmas lights show was happening at the same time at the Ayala Triangle which added to the fun. Luckily most of the crowd was at the lights show. It was just us foodies hopping from one stall to another at the Street Meet.

Sunday market

There were various stalls to choose from, most of them offering free taste or samples. The first food that we bought was the Korean fish cake with soup – reminded me of the street food in Seoul. D got isaw, a local barbecue delicacy made of fish intestines. We also had takoyaki and coconut juice. For takeaway we bought frozen vegetarian gyoza and dimsums, and chili sauce. I wanted to buy bibingka, a local baked rice and coconut milk cake that is abundantly sold during the month of December. I ended up dropping the idea when the seller gave me a tired look and asked me to fall in line (when there was no one else). Oh well, that means I have to be on the hunt for a good platter of bibingka from elsewhere. Will let you know when I find em!

Street Meet items

Random Thoughts: Whenever I Walk

walking

This is my response to Ragtag Daily Prompt’s RDP Tuesday: WALK.

When I walk I try to focus on the present, breathe in the air and listen. I thank God for another day, for my feet that could take me anywhere. For the blessings, the challenges, the courage, the faith. The messages He tells me through the things I encounter, the words of enlightenment that I read or hear, the nudges to remind me that I must believe. I must be humble, not entitled. I must be patient and kind and spread the love.

Bomod-Ok Falls, Sagada

Bomod-Ok

This is my second trip to Sagada – I like it so much that I hope to do it a regular trip. Thing is, it’s just so far away. I was so happy when D finally agreed to drive with me during the Thanksgiving weekend. We booked 2 nights to make the most of our time in Sagada.

During my first trip to Sagada with my brother, we were so pressed for time and we didn’t have the energy anymore to trek to the waterfalls. It was an overnighter anyway, and we covered a lot of things in 24 hours: the market, the highly rated restaurants by TripAdvisor, Echo Valley Hanging Coffins, Sagada Underground river entrance. We skipped the Sumaging Cave (short course caving) and swapped it with the market and the restos.

I’d skip Day 1 and will write about it more in detail in a separate blog. In this trip, Day 2 was the highlight.

After breakfast, D and I went to the Municipal Information Center to register and book a tour to the Bomod-Ok waterfalls. I was told it was the highest falls in Sagada, and it would be a 3-hour hike (back and forth) from Banga-an, which was 5 kilometers away from the Information Center.Wayfarers

We hopped on rented van and our driver, Jong, drove us from Aguid to Banga-an where we paid the guide fee. We were welcomed by Fritz who would be our guide for the trek. Fritz provided D and me each a wooden walking stick. She advised us to wear our caps as it might be hot. D and I left our caps at the hotel, and luckily it was a cloudy day so it was not scorching hot. Plus the air was cool and it was windy – I had my hoodie ready. Fritz gave reminders on bringing our trash with us (I assured her we won’t have any) and to have our water bottles ready. Guide

Off we went begin our downward trek. We were to walk downhill for 2 kilometers until we reach the falls.

The view from the top was breathtaking. We feasted our eyes on a lush of green. There were mountains, rice terraces, and some clusters of homes to see. We had to stop every once in a while to take photos. Topscene

Fritz was very engaging and she shared a lot of information about the lifestyle, culture and traditions in Sagada. She said that the main livelihood of the people (herself included) is agriculture. Some days she would be planting vegetables like chayote in the fields. While tourism is also a source of income, planting crops is still what she enjoys doing. The terraces used to be filled with rice, but now they have diverse plantations of vegetable crops. Arabica was also widely grown by the locals, and alongside the coffee shrubs they plant a certain type of tree (I failed to note it down, but it had small pines as non-edible fruit), which grows faster and provides the shade for the coffee trees, and the leaves that fall on the ground provide the nitrogen that will benefit the coffee trees. Fruit-bearing trees that are widely planted are the persimons, oranges, mulberries, and blueberries. Coffee

I asked Fritz why it was so quiet even as we passed through the Barangay Fidelisan where we paid the barangay fee. She said the children were at school, and most of the people were tending to the fields. Come lunch time the community will be livelier when the folks from the fields go home for a meal.

At the community, Fritz showed us a hut where the elders hold their meetings. This is called ‘dap-ay’. Adjacent to it is a house where teenage men reside in as they are trained to become future elders. In their community, the elders facilitate wedding ceremonies first before the newly-weds hold the church weddings.Dap-ay

As we passed through the rice terraces I was amazed by the irrigation system that the people built. The water comes from a natural spring (it does not dry out) and flows down to the bottom of the valley. From that spring people could also get water to drink. Near the terraces are rice granaries (wooden houses used to store grains) called ‘agamang’ by the locals. But these are now seldomly filled. That’s because rice is not as widely grown anymore and there are also field mice to look out for. Rice terraces

At last we were able to reach the Bomod-Ok falls. It was a spectacular sight to behold! D went close to it and took a lot of pictures. I dipped my feet in the cold water (and envied a couple of visitors swimming in the shallow pool). Fritz showed me where she replenished her water bottle with mineral water. We spent about 30 minutes walking through the rocks. Falls

Bridge

Going back we took a different route going to Pide where Jong would be waiting for us. I felt exhaustion kicking in halfway through and begged for several rest stops. D and I finished our big water bottle. Needless to say, going back was quieter as I opted to stay mum and catch my breath. Thoughts of where we would have our big lunch occupied my mind. I was so happy to see Jong’s van (Jong fell asleep waiting for us LOL).

I’m so glad I trekked to the falls with D. It was a good long walk (and climb) and we were fortunate to have a good guide. If you are in Sagada and up for a cardio adventure, the Bomod-Ok falls is highly recommended.

In total, we paid P1,170 (about US$23) plus tip for our trip to Bomod-Ok falls. Here’s a breakdown of the cost:

Guide Fee: P500 (approx. US$10) for 1-7 visitors

Barangay Fee: P10 (approx. US$2) per visitor

Transportation Fee: P650 (approx. US$13) two way vehicle hire from the Information Center

Two Days in San Diego

sunset

My first week during my 1-month visit to the United States was spent with my mom at my Aunt Noellie’s home in San Fernando Valley, California. I got to explore Los Angeles and Malibu, and we drove for about 3 hours to visit San Diego.

Because we were pressed for time, we booked somewhere near the Marina and the Balboa Park so we could be near these two destinations. We checked in at the Hyatt beside the Seaport Village and I was fascinated by the view from our hotel room – we just had to stop for a cup of tea, while taking in the beautiful midday view. viewview

After checking in our stuff at the hotel, off we drove to the Balboa Park. It was a big interactive park with lots of things to do and to discover. It was a busy Saturday too, and there were lots of people having a picnic, playing at the park, or walking around exploring like us.

From where we parked we walked past the San Diego Air and Space Museum (couldn’t miss the jet displayed at the museum’s front); had a peek at the Starlight Bowl theatre; and walked into some countries’ houses in the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. Here I read through the different countries’ information and browsed the items on exhibit. Germany

Germany Cottage

Afterwards, we had lunch at The Prado. We waited to be seated for about 5 minutes which wasn’t so bad given how busy that afternoon was. I was immediately impressed by the restaurant’s interiors. I liked my sandwich and greek salad. Lunch wouldnt’t be complete without a glass of their sangria which was a bit strong (but good!) for me. The Prado was located in The House of Hospitality – one of the most honored structures in Balboa Park which was built in 1915, using Spanish Baroque style. A few meters away from the resto is the lovely Japanese Friendship Garden. Balboa

The House of Hospitality

Sangria

Sangria and lunch at The Prado
Japanese Garden

When we headed back to the hotel after lunch, my mom, aunt and uncle opted to rest and have their afternoon nap. I, on the other hand, needed to complete my ten thousand steps for that day so I walked to the Seaport Village. I liked the quaint little shops, cafes and restaurants in the Seaport Village. I kept walking and eventually reached the U.S.S. San Diego Memorial sculpture by Eugene Daub and Louis Quaintance. It was an artwork in commemoration of the U.S.S. San Diego and her crew who played a big role using courage and selflessness during the World War II. Seaport VillageSeaport Village

A few hundred meters more, I reached the bronze monument dedicated to Clifton A.F. Sprague; and then the kissing statue called Unconditional Surrender. When I was a child I saw a photo of a this in my dad’s coffee table book. Clifton A.F Sprague memorialkissing statue

Close by is the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military – a cluster of sculptures with a recording of Bob Hope’s speech being continiously played. It was almost dusk when I got to this place and the view of the sunset was spectacular.Navy Pier

The next day I woke up early and had a bit of a walk to go to Little Italy. I went to attend service at a nice little church called Our Lady of the Rosary. It had beautifully painted ceilings.church

When we checked out of the hotel I brought the folks to the Unconditional Surrender, and we drove off to have lunch at National City where there were several Filipino restaurants clustered together.

If you liked what I’ve written on this post, check my other trips in North America: Montreal, Chicago, and Turkey Run State Park.

A Staycation in Makati

View

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. 

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!