Architectural Open House @Chicago 2017

Every October since 2011, Chicago Architecture Foundation have been hosting a two day Open House in Chicago for the public to tour the inside of the architectural buildings throughout the city for free. This year, there were over 200 participating buildings spread across the city with expansion to Evanston and Oak Park, Illinois. Because it is only a two day event with some buildings having limited operating time and day, it is not possible to view all the sites in one year.

This year, I finally able to give it a tour. Living in Chicago for so many years, I wasn’t interested in this tour before until some friends of mine posted interesting pictures. At that moment did I realized that there are so many interested places hidden within Chicago. Although some of the places can be accessed on a regular day, some are only open to the public through this Open House. Because the architectural buildings are spread out throughout the city, we decided to start in the south loop first and work our way north. We printed the maps and coordinated our tour accordingly to the hours of the operations of each building of interest. Our tour plan started off at financial districts which surprisingly each building does have a vault (I thought there was just one vault on the list). Then we headed different decks of the high rise buildings to view the river from above and finished it off with a 360 degree view of the entire city on the 77th floor of the Aon Building. Overall, We were able to tackled 12 sites within one day with long lines for most of the popular sites despite it was cold and raining. At this rate, it might take us 20 plus years to complete all the sites on the map. Below is the link to some of the photos taken on that day.


Total Solar Eclipse 2017 All Across America

On August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse can be seen across America, from coast to coast. This is the first time, as far I can remember, to witness a total solar eclipse.  For those of us that lives in Chicago, the closest and best place to view totality is in Carbondale, Illinois which is roughly 5 hours from Chicago.

On the eve of the solar eclipse, my friend and I began our mini journey. We packed up our cameras, solar glasses and snacks for our long way drive. We first make a stop at St. Louis to see the famous Arch Gateway; there were so interesting things happened there. First and foremost, we were lucky enough to find a parking spot near the iconic Arch and best of all, the parking was completely free on Sunday! And things starts to get quite interesting from there on. First, the south entrance of the Arch was closed for remodeling, then with conflicting decision to go up the Arch, we were told that ALL tickets were sold out for the day. Thirdly, there was plenty of soap but no water nor papers to wash/ wipe hands after bathroom breaks, we have to grab some paper from the only food vendor on shore and washed the soap off in the Mississippi River. And Lastly, on our way back to get our car, we were shocked to see the shattered glasses on the ground surrounded our car. Lucky enough, after carefully examined the car, the glasses were in one piece attached to the car, unharmed. The mystery of how and where the scattered glasses came from was unknown. I was pretty sure it wasn’t there from when we parked. But overall, it was quite a view of the iconic Arch and the famous Mississippi river. The busy helicopter ride was only $37, although the ride did not last long.

The next morning, we start heading out to Carbondale, Illinois before traffic hit. Roughly half way through, we were struck in traffic. The way the traffic was moving, we thought we will be there after the Eclipse. There was indeed a lot of cars but the traffic is not as bad as we thought as we exit each town. I believe we arrived approximately 2 hours before totality so my friend gave me a tour of Southern Illinois University campus and her history as a student there. It was amazing how vivid she remember the events and the places she ever stayed and experienced. Initially, we planned to view the eclipse at the campus lake, however, we decided to find a spot at any ground since the moon is starting to cross over. Around 10-15 mins (maybe a little bit more)  from Totality, a huge cloud (enough to last over 30 mins or more) happen to pass over the eclipse. There’s boos from the crowd.  Around 1 minute or so, announcement was made to stay positive all over the campus. Miraculously at totality, the sun just pierced through the hole of the huge cloud where we can all witness that special moment. The whole place suddenly turn dark for 2 minutes and 42 seconds and everyone was cheering. It was very touching, I was shaking especially when taking those special photos at that moment; I really call it a miracle.  Life lesson: do not give up, there’s always hope.

On our way back to the city, which I failed to realized was the heavy traffic. EVERYONE is going home at the same time and imagine the population that came to Carbondale. We were struck in traffic for almost 11 hours which normally takes 5 hours.  After seeing the non moving traffic at I-57, we took reroute back to take the local, which is also bad but not AS bad as I-57. On our way back, we were both sleepy and tried our best to keep each other awake. Worst of all, midway through the drive, we were hit by a heavy storm where it was almost impossible to view the road and my cell phone was completely out of battery. Kudos to my friend who drove the entire trip and bring us back in one piece.

The Next Total Solar Eclipse in 2024 at Carbondale, Illinois. See you there!




Anderson Japanese Garden

Anderson Japanese Garden located in Rockford, Illinois roughly about 1 1/2 hour from the heart of Chicago. Walking down the trails of the garden on a sunny day, one can explore the beautiful scenery and its landscape.  There are many ponds, waterfalls,  tea house and a guest house of Japanese style architectures. This garden provides a very peaceful and relaxing environment, which is ideal for a Sunday walk. It is also a great place to practice photography as well especially on a sunny day. I saw a newly wed having their wedding photos taken on the day that I visited. There is admission fee to help keep the garden running. For those that are interesting in buying souvenirs, there’s a gift shop located at the entrance of the garden. They carry lots of cute Japanese items to bring back to love ones.


gardenlatternanderson garden

Chicago Restaurant Week Jan27-feb9,2017

Chicago Restaurant Week has become a tradition for Chicagoan food lovers. The number of restaurants participating in this event has increased, food varies from European to Asian fusion style dishes served from brunch to dinner. During restaurant week, restaurants that are participating will offer a special menu at a fixed price in addition to their regular menu option.

This is our( at least my) 2 or 3 anniversary in partaking the restaurant week to try out different types of food and crossing out some of the bucket list. First stop was Mago Grill, a Mexican type restaurant right next to Roosevelt icon theater, for brunch. When the waitress offer me a restaurant week menu as we sat down, I was taken by surprised that they were one of them. Overall the food was descent, size portion was abit smaller than I expected. However, their drinks was superb! It was juice mixed with champagne as what we were told, but we couldn’t pronounce nor remember the drink name.

Last stop was Catch 35 on upper Wacker Dr for dinner. This place serves seafood and premium steak. The decor was modern with displayed seafood freezer near the front of the restaurant. It was almost a full house on that super bowl night, we were seated all the way to the back of the restaurant and their washroom was all the way in the front next to the coat service. I felt unease giving a catwalk just to use the bathroom. Before our food arrived, we were told that one of our acquaintance tried this place last year said the portions were small and weren’t enough to satisfied her appetite. So we held unto this type of expectation.  Once the main entrees arrived to the table, we thought to ourselves either our acquaintance had a super big stomach, went to the wrong place or we are super special that they served us more as we were super full half way through our entrees. We were unable to completely finished emptying out the plates. We finished the night with some delicious desserts, you know what they say: there’s always room for dessert no matter how full you are. Again, we don’t understand how someone of our figure wasn’t full with so much food 😉