Witty architecture, limitless activities, the Hilton experience and a stunning skyline await the media personalities and tour operators arriving on Cathay Pacific’s newly added flights from Cebu to Chicago.
We arrived at O’Hare airport, second busiest airport in the world, on a damp, cold and gloomy tuesday afternoon. Not the first impression of Chicago I was aiming for. But in the days to come, my travel companions and I, did in five days what most people would do in a month and I was swept off my feet. For those with us visiting their second, third or fourth time they fell in love with the Windy City all over again. A success story is what it is. A phoenix rising above several tragedies: The Great Fire of 1871, the gang wars of Capone on the South Side and Moran on the North Side in the early 1920’s, political and labor upheavals and an en masse migration post World War ii. Drawing strength from its strategic location, rich diversity and proud citizens, Chicago emerges a formidable “Second City”.
Here is an unmistakable whiff of progress, culture and history in the 52°F air. I, along with lifestyle editors Nelia Neri of Sun Star and Mayen tan of the Freeman and tour operators, Margette villarica of Destination Specialists Inc., Sheila Colmenares of Leisure travel and tours, Aida Uy of Cebu Fortune Travel International, Inc., Victor Carvajal of Travelways Intl. Inc., Andrew Teh of Global Link Travel and Tours received a Passport to Chicago offering free passes and discounts to tours, restaurants, museums and shows from Benjamin Kelner of the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. With so much to do and so little time, each ticked off items from the many inviting possibilities we could do as a group or on our own.
To ease our eagerness, our ‘travel link’ Eugene Cheng of Unilink, Inc. was there to help us prioritize and provide a van for where the day may take us. Filipinos as we are, the highlights of our trip always involved good food, and lots of it. Our first meal after our long flight was in Chinatown where we enjoyed Lobster atop Chinese egg noodles. The lovely Connie Cimafranca and Port Manager Maggie Wong of Cathay Pacific along with Anthony Legaspi the Director of Sales for Hilton International treated the whole group to try Chicago’s world famous steak house, Morton’s. It was love at first bite as the rib-eye melted its way to our stomachs. Chicago is also home of the original deep dish pizza and for our fill, Eugene brought us to Lou Malnati’s. the warm and cozy restaurant in the idyllic Gold Coast neighborhood was perfect for our lunch date on one of the coldest days of our visit. as with keeping up with touristy traditions, we also enjoyed fresh seafood over at the Navy Pier.
Eugene, a fellow Filipino who is a travel agent in the US, offered up his services to help us maximize our brief stay. He took us everywhere, around the Loop, the Magnificent Mile, Lincoln Park and the Millennium Park. All 24 acres of the Millennium Park multi-tasks as a landmark, central hub, ice skating rink during winter, and a concert venue in Spring. A trip must include trying to find the right reflection on Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate and admiring the twirling steel ribbons of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. In the neighboring Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago houses the nations second largest collection of the world’s most beloved pieces of art like the iconic Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. After gawking at art you can take photos of the many sculptures scattered around the park like the Spearman and the Bowman, the eagle fountains, Agora and Daphne. We walked the distance between the institute to the Shedd Museum, Field Museum (where you can meet Sue the dinosaur) and the Adler Planetarium. It satisfied all my curiosities but you can also thrown in a side trip to the massive Museum of Science and industry, for good measure.
From the bird- eye view of towers, John Hancock and Willis, it’s easy to see why Chicago provides a fantastical backdrop for a whole range of Hollywood films. Chicago even saw the dawn of the silent screen with Charlie Chapman and Gloria Swanson as home to essanay Studios (now part of St. augustine College) and the Selig Polyscope Company at the turn of the 19th century. eighty movies and counting, from rom-com “My Best Friend’s Wedding” to period flick “road to Perdition” to name a few. Its alter-ego of Gotham City (Batman Begins, 2005, and the dark Knight, 2007) is one of the many worlds it doubles as.
The juxtaposition between the modern and the classic gives Chicago its look but it still remains very much a Great american City. Declared in 1991 as the “greatest american architect of all time” by the american institute of architects,Frank Lloyd Wright was a Wisconsin native but a Chicagoan at heart. His signature “Prairie” house with triangular gables, over-scaled roofs, bay windows, wide doorways, cross- axial lay out made of shingle, brick and stone characterizes many
- by Katsy Borromeo