Away from the Hustle and Bustle (Day 3)

Day 3 in Chicago and today can be summed up in one word. Shopping.

Our hotel, The Westin Lombard Yorktown Hotel, is conveniently located next to Yorktown Center and Lombard Target (Target, my love!!). The hotel also provides a free shuttle bus within a 5-mile radius and to my luck, Oakbrook Center was nearby!

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First stop, The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Mom and I enjoyed a nice meal here when we visited San Francisco last May so it’s become a must for us to share a meal here! They offered Lunch Specials – call me stingy, but that’s obviously what I went for! These specials are considered to be in “smaller portions” – but don’t let this fool you because if they were to say that here in HK, yes, definitely they would be smaller but in the States…!? These “smaller portions” are even larger than regular portions served back home! I went for a lunch favorite, the Famous Factory Meatloaf with a Tropical Iced Tea.

What I loved most about Oakbrook Center is it’s not your conventional shopping mall that I’m normally exposed to back home. It’s what you could call, an outdoor mall. The center is located at Interstate 88 in Oak Brook, Illinois. From upscale stores to mid-scale to a Macy’s and a diverse range of dining choices, it’s complete!

I’d say Yorktown Center was almost as enjoyable (particularly at Charlotte Russe!). To name a few, Aeropostale, Wet Seal and Forever 21 were some of the other shops I visited. Enjoyed a cup of Baskin-Robbins (yuuuum) and even stumbled upon an As Seen on TV Plus shop!

I later had dinner at DMK Burger Bar – was starved, so unfortunately no photos! DMK Burger Bar, is located at 2370 Fountain Square Drive in Lombard. They’re known for their GreatChicagoFries, tried the Sea Salt & Black Pepper with their House Ketchup (super yuuuuum!) and their Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon Tobasco Aioli.

After dinner, I went to my one true love, TARGET! Literally can find anything and everything here. I could spend hours just circling the store!

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and spent our last night in Chicago.

I’ve never really said this about any other place I’ve visited but I could picture myself living in Chicago. Or well…at least in the summers! If I think about it some more, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle their winters, but I really enjoyed the mix between a “city” and a more typical, neighborhood scene.

If you ever check out Chicago, be sure not to miss out Millenium Park. My favourite place out of the whole city.

That concludes my Chicago posts, unfortunately, won’t be travelling for a while because I’m headed back to college tomorrow (wahhhhh!) but really hoping for a good year ahead of me (note to self: stay FOCUSED!).

Taking Downtown Chicago (Day 2)

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First stop, East Solidarity Drive, one of Chicago’s hidden gems by the Adler Planetarium. By this area is also Lakefront Trail, a scenic 18-mile path – perfect for running (it’d be walking for me!) with a view. To name a few, the Willis Tower, Trump Tower and John Hancock Center lay in the backdrop of this skyline. I would’ve loved to see this view in the evening as the city lights up the night!

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The Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain is known to be one of the largest fountains – and might I add, grandest! From what I hear, it’s been inspired by the Latona Fountain in the Palace of Versailles (another place to add on my bucket list!). What makes the Buckingham Fountain unique is its symbolism in representing Lake Michigan in its magnitude and the states that surround it: Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana.

The fountain also boasts a water display by the hour and is accompanied by a light and music display at night. Now that’s something I wished I had seen…imagine how high the water would shoot up!

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View from the top! 103 floors up the Willis Tower – formerly known as the Sears Tower, is an amazing view from the top of America’s second-tallest building.

This tower is one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions so I made it a point to get there early to avoid a long waiting line. Lucky for us, we made it there by around 10AM on a Friday morning and managed to get to the top without any major lines.

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Part of the observation deck of the Willis Tower is what’s called, “The Ledge” or “The Skydeck”. This includes three glass bottom sky boxes that extend out of the building. What I liked most about this is the fact you not only see the top of downtown Chicago’s skyscrapers, but you see the rest of Illinois including plains, low-rise structures and houses. It’s even said that on a clear day, you can see all the way across Lake Michigan to its bordering states!

Now, as a precaution, if you’re scared of heights, this might not be the best for you. I mean, my mom herself was scared! But it really is a unique experience sitting on a glass box 103 floors above Chicago.

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We explored more of Chicago by foot and eventually made it to Millenium Park. I’ve said this on my Instagram and Facebook posts and have got people questioning why, but this park is by far, my favourite park of all. Now now, I didn’t exactly explore Central Park back in New York last year so Millenium Park tops the charts for me!

What I liked most about Millenium Park was the vibe. At one area you have Crown Fountain (pictured above), an interactive art display designed by artist, Jaume Plensa. The faces seen displayed on the grass brick towers are digital images of local Chicagoians. This is so unique as these images become the faces of Chicago. Countless of tourists visit this attraction, children spend their afternoon soaking and frolicking in the fountain’s water, businessmen and women pass by each day on their way home from work and see reflections of who makes Chicago, Chicago.

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Now what’s a Chicago trip without The Bean?! It was only on this trip that I found out that “The Bean” is actually called, Cloud Gate. A large, bean-shaped sculpture reflecting parts of Chicago’s skyline. But because of it’s shape, distorts its reflections – try standing under the bean and finding yourself! (Note how everyone’s crowded under the sculpture? That’s why.)

The sculpture was designed by Anish Kapoor, and uses the themes of light and sky in its reflections. This public display of art is interactive, just like the Crown Fountain – way to go Millenium Park!

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And of course, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Such a chill spot to spend an afternoon with your family, certain someone…heck, I wouldn’t even mind spending an afternoon by myself! Everything is better when the grass is greener and you can never go wrong with a blue sky!

The pavilion is a bandshell that serves a purpose for outdoor music performances and festivals. Designed by Frank Gehry, the Pritzker pavilion possesses features of a number of Gehry’s other designs, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, proving to be a distinctive in his designs.

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We made it across the Chicago River where a range of architectural boat tours were offered but sticking to how I like to take in new cities, I continued to take Chicago by foot!

Across the river and to the start of Michigan Avenue, was the Tribune Tower. In a neo-Gothic design, the tower held a distinctive element of antiquity as a collection of famous building fragments were on display at the lower levels of the building. Part of it was Fort Santiago, built by the Spanish Empire back home in Manila and is known to be one of the most important historical sites to date. Other fragments were from sites such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid and the Notre Dame de Paris.

Also managed to pass by the Trump Tower. Mr Trump, is it true that you had planned for this building to be the tallest building in the world!? But apparently due to the 9/11 incident, the building was scaled back but still holds the title of the 15th tallest building of the world to date.

The Magnificent Mile is a long strip of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue known for its upscale department stores and luxury retailers. Managed to pass by a few stores such as Topshop, Forever 21, The Hershey Company, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. and others while daredevil pilots and jets flying in formation were practicing for the Chicago Air & Water Show which was to take place that weekend.

What a lovely day. Till the next Chicago post! x

The Journey: Arriving in Chicago (Day 1)

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Not going to lie, but I was not expecting to actually get to Chicago. For days leading up to my scheduled trip I was endlessly on SeatAlert and CX’s iJourney checking the loading for CX806 HKG-ORD and it was not looking good. To save my self from major disappointment, I decided it was better to convince myself that I was not going on this trip.

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But thank you God! I was the first one called to get on the flight! The flight was delayed about 2 hours so I was in the airport sipping on a Pacific Coffee Caramel Swirl until I get a text from my mom (who was operating the flight), telling me to board last because I was getting upgraded! Yippeeee because for all of my US based flights, I’ve been upgraded!

To be honest, it was a long flight because I wasn’t able to sleep for most of it as it was a day flight. I think I definitely prefer red eyes! But not going to complain. The flying time was about 14 hours+ if I remember correctly.

When I finally made it to Chicago O’Hare, oh maaaan was the immigration line long! Not only that but the customs! Sadly missed the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel but managed to hitch a ride from one of the crew from my flight with my mom.

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We stayed at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center Hotel which is conveniently located next to Yorktown Center and Target Yorktown and near Oakbrook Center. Which of course is amazing because no US trip is complete without shopping!? The hotel was lovely with very friendly staff. The hotel rooms were pretty much complete with all the necessities and was just the right size for mom and I with two king beds.

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The beautiful view on my first night of Chicago! You definitely don’t see this in Hong Kong! More Chicago posts to follow up! x

Two Days in America’s Greatest City By The Bay, San Francisco

Being a CX kid definitely has its perks. My mom started working for the airline over 20 years ago and with her job, comes discounted – and when I say discount, I mean discount! It was approximately HKD$250 – yes two-hundred and fifty Hong Kong dollars! to fly roundtrip HKG-SFO-HKG. The first trip I went on with mom was to New York last summer – one of the places on my bucket list and we went around pretty much most of the must-see sights within two and a half days. San Francisco on the other hand, wasn’t exactly on the top of my bucket list of travels but why pass up a trip to America!?

 Flight CX872 HKG-SFO: upgraded to FIRST CLASS! There was so much space I didn’t know what to do with myself!

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First Stop! Fisherman’s Wharf: when I was in Los Angeles about four years ago, I missed the chance to have breakfast at the ever so famous, IHOP. I had discussed this with an American friend recently on how IHOP has become very ‘overrated’ and it simply is – like any other – breakfast place slash diner. I tried their Strawberry Banana Cream Pie Pancakes with scrambled eggs, hash and bacon from their Summer Signature Pancake flavors. It was too much of a breakfast for my stomach but a generally good meal to start my trip off! But again, nothing extremely special, it’s your typical breakfast place.

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Next, was Pier 39 with many, many sea lions wak wak wak-ing away!

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Mom and I joined the Golden Gate + Sausalito tour loop with City Sightseeing San Francisco. I had been very hesitant about joining tours because of mixed reviews of the long waiting time between bus intervals but City Sightseeing did not disappoint! At first I had opted for the city tour, but felt that it was just too much and you know with jetlag I didn’t want to get too overwhelmed with places to see in a day! The photo below is in front of our tour bus in Sausalito.

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We visited The Palace of Fine Arts prior to the bridge. Beautiful, beautiful architecture. I had really wanted to see the Palace as I was planning the trip but decided not to ‘hop off’ because our tour guide parked for a bit for us to take photos. We then made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Our oh so lovely tour guide let us off the bus this time for photos for about fifteen minutes which was good because if not, mom and I would’ve been stranded in the wind and cold of the bridge for half an hour more! All I can say is that I have never felt that much wind in my life..!

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Mom and I hadn’t actually planned to visit Sausalito – a city very closeby the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d heard of it before but had no plans of visiting. Thanks to City Sightseeing SF, we were brought to this beautiful place. It was very, very nice in Sausalito. Beautiful weather (as opposed to the windy and very foggy San Francisco), not too busy, just a nice city to relax. I’d say a good place to take some time away from reality…but of course, it is a community for the rich so come out, come out wherever you are future, wealthy husband-to-be!

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After Sausalito, the tour brought us back across the bridge where we visited areas such as The Presidio, a former military post that has become a national park and recreational area. Apparently there was a Walt Disney Museum there? But didn’t get off. We then headed back to  Fisherman’s Wharf – it was generally a pretty quick tour since we didn’t hop off (aside from Sausalito for just half an hour). We then took the Powell-Mason Cable Car (a tourist experience!). I really, really wanted to see Lombard Street but the amount of tourists was insane and knew that we’d have trouble finding a ride up to Union Square if we got off so sadly, only got to catch a glimpse of what is known as SF’s crookedest street (fun fact: Lombard Street is NOT SF’s crookedest street! Vermont Street is I believe, but because Lombard Street is known to be the ‘prettier’ one, it’s become more well-known to date).

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By this time, we had finally gotten to Union Square, the shopping district of San Francisco. Was pretty jetlag by this time – about 3pm – so barely had the energy to shop! But definitely had the appetite to eat! Mom and I had early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory at Macy’s Union Square. I enjoyed a nice Crusted Chicken Romano – delicious chicken, while the pasta was just so-so. Mom on the other hand, had the Cajun Jambalaya Pasta.

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The next day, we headed back to Fisherman’s Wharf to get a taste of the “street food” at the Wharf. Tried the Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl with Calamari and Fish & Chips. Was pretty good coming from a non-seafood lover!

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I wanted to go back to Union Square to do the last of my shopping for the trip. We opted to take the bus from Fisherman’s Wharf since the Cable Car was pretty pricey ($6.00 VS $2.00!). But because of the lack of sense of direction between my Mom and I, we had taken the bus in the wrong direction and had only realized this about 20 minutes into the ride! We got off and decided to get on on the opposite side of the street only to take the bus with the SAME driver! I guess the bus was circular and we had been nearing the last stop on the first stop we were on! The photo below is in front of one of the Hearts in San Francisco, a public art installation inspired by Tony Bennett’s, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

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Headed back to the hotel mid-afternoon for my Mom to get some rest before her flight. Seems like I was the one who needed the sleep more! I was so, so, so tired and napped for about 4 hours. We ordered from Chai-Yo, a Thai restaurant near our hotel (Oops forgot to mention! We stayed at my Mom’s crew hotel, Holiday Inn Golden Gateway located at 1500 Van Ness Ave) and I had Chicken Satay with Rice. We got to the airport pretty early to retain seniority for my standby booking – flight was pretty full but was guaranteed the jumpseat. Thankfully, got “upgraded” to Economy but to go from First Class to Economy was quite a bummer!

Was not the best flight back but am oh so thankful that I was able to get away for 5 days and see a new city with my Mom. Hoping for more trips soon!

Thank you San Francisco!

(Note: This post is delayed a week and have already been back from SFO for a week now)