Illinois

New Year + Skydeck Chicago

It was a last minute decision. My husband have some days off before the year ends and because we were invited to celebrate the New Year with the family in Chicago… I said “WHY NOT?” Vamos, let’s go!

I also know there is a Jollibee branch somewhere in Chicago. It has already been 6 months and I am kinda missing my go-to food in the Philippines, the very nostalgic “Chicken Joy”. There’s only a few branches of Jollibee in the whole of US (our city doesn’t have one). So might as well take this opportunity to visit the place.

I also want to experience how the New Year is celebrated here in the US and the more family members the better. This time it’s my husband’s mother side and I am looking forward to knowing them better (the last time I saw them was at the wedding). We have to drive 8 hours to our destination. This means it will be longer of course because of the stops we will be making along the way like for lunch and toilet breaks. That doesn’t bother me because one of the best things in living in the US is: it gives you a full road trip experience. That and I’m not the one who’s going to drive. Haha. Although, I would love to drive in one of our road trips someday after I get my driver’s license of course.

We ate in Fiddlestiks Restaurant in Hannibal, Missouri… the last town before we reach the State of Illinois. The hometown of Mark Twain, the author of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” which made Mississippi River so famous especially in spelling bees. If you are wondering if I have seen the Mississippi River… YES and it’s so beautiful and I can understand why it inspired Mark Twain to write stories.

I wasn’t able to take pictures because we were in a hurry to reach our destination. Maybe next time… 🙂

Finally, we reached my husband’s uncle house where we will be staying. We were tired but I can’t mask the excitement I have for the next day. Why? Well, you will know soon.

Chicago is a really big city. 3rd biggest city in the whole country, next to Los Angeles and the biggest of course is New York. I have been to Los Angeles already and yay… Chicago.

Chicago is known as the “Windy City” because it’s facing the Lake Michigan which gives out strong winds in the whole downtown Chicago area. I even heard one of the uncles of my husband say that… it’s not uncommon to hear stories from people working in offices at the top floors that their windows are popping out from very strong winds. Scary huh… wait until you know about Skydeck. 

I have first stumbled about Skydeck online. It’s famous for it’s clear glass boxes that just scares the hell out of you. When I have seen this, I’m like hell no… until our very own Pia, Miss Universe 2016 tried it out and I’m like… why not? Time for me to try being adventurous… or spontaneous. I do love heights and beautiful views as long as the process of getting there is not life-threatening. So this sure sounds fun… scary but I can do it. We have to ride the train for 2 hours before we can reach the downtown Chicago. From the train station, it’s just a walking distance going to the Willis Tower, the twelfth tallest building in the world and second tallest building in the North America. Skydeck Chicago however is the highest observation deck in the US. So your eyes will surely feast with beautiful views from any directions.

We were hungry so we unceremoniously looking for a place to eat. There were a lot of restaurants in the area but mostly foreign like Chinese for example and we were kinda hoping for a heavy brunch to give us loads of energy before we go to Willis Tower. So we finally spotted an American restaurant named “Billy Goat Tavern”. I have my coffee, bread and ham and bacon omelette. We didn’t know that this local Chicago restaurant is actually very famous for it holds a legend or a curse to the Cubs.

The owner brought his pet goat, a tavern mascot to the Cubs game in a 1945 World Series but due to the goat’s odor the Cubs owner wants them out. So the Tavern’s owner placed a curse to the team that they will never win but finally only this year 2016, they won against the Cleveland Indians and the curse has finally broken after so many decades.

Alright, it’s time to tell the highlight of our trip in Chicago.

There were a lot of tourists at that time. I even heard a family speaking Tag-lish. People from different countries were there and we all want to see one thing. The Skydeck.We didn’t know it can take us a lot longer. The line was moving fast but still due to the traffic and the limitations of the number of people in the Skydeck. You have to wait for like 2 hours before you can reach the final top. Final because there’s like a lot of levels or floors. I can’t say it in details but as long as you just stay in your line… you will have no problems reaching the top and just be sure to bring a lot of patience with you. This is a world famous tourist spot so the traffic of tourists are understandable and the best thing is that it lives up to the expectations.

Of course, you have to pay either you will take the express lane which costs about a hundred dollars for two or the regular lane which will take you hours before you can reach the top. My husband bought the express ticket so we were able to save time going up. When I say time… hours. 

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation and the only explanation I can find is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around… your love’s put me at the top of the world. 

You can’t blame me for singing that song hahaha.

The elevator is like a magic capsule bringing you to the very top of the building. It’s amazing to see how fast it goes up until you reach the 103rd floor. Your ears will pop so be sure to cover them. It’s not a joke being on a 103rd floor but it promises you a beautiful view that never disappoints.

If you are claustrophobic there might be an issue. The staff will try to put as many people as they can in the elevator to save time so be sure to address this.

I’m sure you are dying to see the glass boxes or called as the “ledge”. It’s like a balcony that extends out 4.3 feet from the deck and at 1,353 feet high. The best thing with this is it’s all made of clear glass.

It’s not for the faint of heart.. I tell you. I’ve been there, done that!Okay, I have to admit… I wasn’t able to do it the first time. I was there yes but I was standing like a statue and I crawled back to the solid floor (not that the glass floor wasn’t solid enough but you get what I mean). My heart was beating like crazy the first time I stepped into the glass floor. So my tip if you have a love of heights but has a fear of falling just like me: be sure not to look down. Anyways, I told my husband to line up again to one of the ledges so I can have a decent picture and to finally really overcome the fear of being out there.

So I did it the second time. I figured, the first time is always the most difficult so if you just keep trying… I’m sure the fear will be less and you can finally do it. It’s mind conditioning perhaps but it helped me. Yay… this is it.

I proudly present my latest achievement:

Glass Box, 103rd Floor, Willis Tower, Chicago

The second time: I feel at home… hahaha. Not really!! I just didn’t look down that is all.

We also went to Millenial Park to see the famous bean in all of Chicago. I know, I can’t reach it haha. So I stopped trying…If New York has Central Park… I guess, Chicago has Millennial Park. 🙂 It’s like a 30 minutes walk from the Willis Tower to Millennial Park. You can see the bean just around the corner. A little crowded with tourists but its worth it.
Cloud Gate is the official name of the bean or the sculpture by the Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. If you have visited the Skydeck, your trip to Chicago will not be complete without seeing and appreciating this extraordinary piece of art. Art doesn’t have to make sense and the bean is just one heck of an art. Never miss the opportunity to look at the inside and to touch it… haha. 

So this is what art looks like. 🙂

The most famous bean in the world is made of 168 highly polished stainless steel plates. It’s so clear and circular that its hypnotizing to look at. Literally- it’s like saying: you will lose yourself to your vanity. Lol… I hope not.From the bean, it’s another 20 minutes walk going to the shore. Lol, I’m not sure if you can call it that because its a lake. It’s a natural lake and one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Anyways, this is why Chicago is breezy or windy and cooler. Lake Michigan is known for its size, from what I heard from my husband’s uncle who loves to sail there. It kinda behaves like a sea or an ocean. In old times, shipwrecks are common here. It has strong waves that can be very tricky and destructive. It is also the fifth largest lake in the world.  We are done for the day and I’m dead tired from all the walking. Thirsty and no stalls around. Of course because its winter so they don’t sell anything outside lol. Water in bottles freezes… lol. Winter problems people. Also the downtown Chicago is known for being so windy that the cold can just freeze you to death. Of course not really but if ever you go, be sure to have your warm stuff with you. Just keep warm.

So finally we are back to the train station after the long walking again. We re-hydrate in a coffee shop and I have my warm coffee to keep me company for the rest of the journey.

I also posed for a picture because the train is in the background. 🙂

If you’re wondering if we have visited the Jollibee? Here he is. Finally, I met Jollibee in the US and I had my dose of Chicken joy. I’ve found him in Skokieland in Chicago. Lol

The rest of the weekend was spent with the family and on the New Year’s eve: we celebrate it joyfully. A lot quieter than what I used to in the Philippines. Fireworks are apparently not allowed and because it’s winter, no one really has the mood to go out and do fireworks because of the cold. So we enjoyed a yummy feast inside and my favorites are present like prime rib steak, asparagus and finally at midnight when the countdown started… we all get our glasses, the wine was poured and we clinked our glasses to each other and greeting everyone a “Happy New Year!” We didn’t have the 13 round fruits on the table or none of us really wore a red or polka dots clothes to bring us luck. It was really quite different… this is when it dawned on me how I miss the noise of the Philippines. In my heart, someday soon… I will be enjoying the sights of the fireworks again in a black pitch sky and the clanging of metals we hear on the road, of course the war of sound systems in the street and the other crazy things we do so we can make noises on New Year’s because we believe it can drive the bad spirits away. It’s funny how I miss these simple things…

The celebration here is simple yet intimate. It’s like how newly married couple will celebrate the New Year. You can feel the love and it’s everywhere. Maybe its why they have this tradition to kiss after the countdown even they’re with a stranger. I mean, you can see it in the TV shows like in Friends. We Filipinos might find it weird… for Americans embraces the New Year differently. They just show their love. They wear their heart on their sleeve and I think its beautiful. Its so beautiful…. 🙂

Let us show our love, comrade!

Happy New Year!!!

-Anna

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