My 24 hours in Chicago, visiting the historic Lighthouse in Chicago Harbor, looking down at the city lights from the top of the John Hancock Center, braving the winter cold to take in the impressive skyline at dawn from the shores of Lake Michigan, admiring the architecture highlights of the Chicago Loop and enjoying deep-dish pizza and an Italian beef sandwich on a classic bites culinary tour.

Day 1.

Outside home, saying farewell to Rianda and Hannelie before heading off to the airport with the Emirates chaffeur.


Shortly after driving off a warning flashed on the central console: 'key is not inside vehicle'. After a bit of a fumble to try and find the key both inside and outside of the car, the chaffeur suddenly realised that he had left the key at his last pickup at a hotel, and had had to leave it with the valet while he went inside (in case the car had to be moved).

Luckily he hadn't turned the car off however and with the engine still running he could still take me to the airport and return to pick up the car key later.

Looking out to all the A380's parked at Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. Like most other travellers, I had no inkling that in less than a months time the airport would be almost totally shut down due to the coronavirus.


Turning left for the US flight check in desks. I was flying to San Diego for a work conference and hence was flying business class for my trip to the USA.


Just before the check in desk I was asked if I had an ESTA (no, I have a B1/B2 visa instead) or had been to China recently (no, last visit was in 2018).

For my trip I would first fly non-stop to Chicago on Emirates before catching an onward flight on to San Diego on United.


The route via Chicago was the most inexpensive way on Emirates to get to San Diego. I had never been to Chicago before and it seemed like an opportunity I couldn't miss so asked the company travel agent to book me a 24 hour layover to give me a day in the Windy City.

Airside and about to enter the Emirates Business Class lounge in Concourse B.


The last time I had been here was in 2018 when I flew to Karachi for the start of my my trip to Pakistan.


A new addition in the lounge was the Health Hub with supposedly healthier dining options.


Queueing up for a cappuccino from the lounge Costa Café.


And sitting down for breakfast.


A close up of the 'SSSS' (Secondary Security Screening Selection) stamped on my boarding pass, possibly due to my more exotic travel history. The last time I had gotten one of these I was quite paranoid about being interrogated on arrival but this time I was quite relaxed.


About to board the EK 777-300ER, A6-EQC, relatively new and delivered in June 2017.


Turning left for the First and Business class jetway.


My window seat 9A.


It was my first time flying the refreshed Emirates 777 Business class configuration which now included a personal drinks cabinet like those on the A380.


The obligatory glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne to start today's flight with.


The complimentary amenity kit.


A flight attendant then came around and handed out today's wine list and menu:












Looking out at another EK 777-300ER as we push back for departure.


Cheesy pre-takeoff selfie.


Turning left onto Runway 30R.


Looking out to a smoggy Dubai as we depart to the north.


And the Burj Khalifa and the World Islands as we fly out over the Arabian Gulf.


After closing the window shades I quickly settled on watching the film Parasite. A South Korean black comedy thriller, I had wanted to see it ever since it won the Oscar for Best Picture.


Breakfast served with the mushroom omelette, pan-fired veal sausages, hash browns and grilled aparagus.


The grim and bloody climax of Parasite. Quite a quirky but macabre film which I really enjoyed.


Flying over eastern Turkey after transiting Iraq.


And looking down the snow covered mountains.


A snack basket beside the gallery. I couldn't resist grabbing a Toblerone along with a bottle of Evian.


Joaquin Phoenix in his Oscar winning performance in the Joker. Another movie I had been wanting to watch for a while.


Somewhere over Western Europe a flight attendant asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink. After having a quick look at the menu I asked for the Vanilla dome dessert along with a glass of the Hennessy and then pointed to the cognac on the menu.

A few minutes later I not only was served the dessert and cognac but also a bonus gin & tonic! I quickly realised she must have confused Hennessy with G&T. I certainly wasn't complaining though.


At ~$200 a bottle it was nice to indulge in a little luxury with a glass of the very tasty Hennessy X.O.


The Joker breaking out into a 'smile' in the penultimate scene of the movie. I had heard mixed reviews and while it certainly wasn't the most innocent of movies I really enjoyed it.


Looking out to the southern coastline of Norway.


And flying over the south of the country before making our way out over the Norwegian Sea.


The traditional Arabic mezze with mujaddara, muhammara, stuffed vine leaf and houmous at the start of lunch.


The surpisingly good grilled veal steak with mushroom sauce, potato gratin and green beans with veal rashers.


The cheese board for the final course:

Cropwell Bishop Stilton PDO: Rich and velvety Nottinghamshire blue.
Pavé d'Affinois: Young French double cream cheese.
Old White: Premium and bold flavoured aged Dutch gouda.




And an espresso to finish.


High above Iceland as we head towards North America.


Most of the cabin fast asleep beneath the starry sky interior.


After waking from a bit of a sleep myself I was asked if I wanted anything to eat. Even though I had eaten far too much already I figured I had just enough room for the New Zealand lamb pie.


Flying over the eastern coast of Lake Michigan.


Looking across to downtown Chicago as we descend into O'Hare International Airport.


And with my passport stamped after only a short wait at immigration.


After collecting my suitcase I headed outside to meet with my chaffeur and his Lincoln Navigator for a ride into the city.


The chaffeur was an immigrant from Pakistan and was genuinely friendly and gregarious. He was really proud of his home city and we chatted about the history of the city and some of it's famous skyscarpers.


Inside my room at the W Chicago Lakeshore hotel after checking in.


At $189 per night it was quite reasonble.


Davines MOMO tolietries.


It was my first time staying at a W hotel.


W Hotels is a luxury hotel chain owned by Marriott and marketed towards younger people.


Looking out my window to the partially frozen over Lake Michigan.


The W Chicago Lakeshore to the right with the busy traffic on Lake Shore Drive below.


After wrapping up in some warmer clothing I went for a walk to the nearby Milton Lee Olive Park, named after the first African American to receive the Medal Of Honor.


Milton Lee Olive Park just below with the 100 story tall John Hancock Center peaking out from the city skyline beyond.


Lake Shore Drive skirting along the edge of Lake Michigan. Part of U.S. Highway 41, several movies based in Chicago feature scenes on Lake Shore Drive including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Blues Brothers and Risky Business.


The Navy Pier extending out into Lake Michigan with the fading light of dusk now falling over the city.


The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse at the south end of the northern breakwater protecting Chicago Harbor.


The lighthouse was built in 1893 for the Chicago World Fair and moved to it's current location in 1919.


I then went for an evening stroll through the city streets. At the intersection of East Ontario Street and North McClurg Court.


680 N Lake Shore Drive. 29 storys tall and completed in 1926, it was the largest building in the world when it was completed.


Outside the Museum Of Contemporary Art.


The view from East Chestnut Street of the soaring John Hancock Center.


While the Willis Tower on the other side of the city center had a much higher observatory (412m vs. 310m), I had read that the queues were considerably longer so instead opted for the 360° Chicago Observation Deck.


Looking down on the city all lit up. After New York, Chicago has the second greatest number of skyscrapers in the United States.


Looking west with the city's grid extending out to the horizon.


Chicago's streets were laid out in a grid that grew from the city's original townsite plot.


Lake Shore Drive extending to the north along the edge of Lake Michigan.


Back down on street level again and walking past the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Michigan Avenue and the worlds largest Starbucks café.


After all the indulgence on the flight I grabbed a sandwich from Jimmy John's for an evening meal.


Back at the W after the jet lag was starting to catch up with me.


And a nice surprise gift of macarons and chocolate back in my room.


I then crashed out at 9pm after the very long day.


Day 2.

Looking out my window at the Navy Pier just after 6am.


Even though the outside temperature was a chilly -11°C (12°F), after wrapping myself up I headed outside for a walk. The underpass to the Lakefront.


The MV Abegweit. Originally an icebreaking ferry in Canada it is now the clubhouse of the Columbia Yacht Club.


The light of dawn illuminating the city in a brilliant blue glow.


And a panorama of the beautiful Chicago skyline stretching out to the south and north.


The glowing lights along East Monroe Street stretching into the city center.


Adler Planetarium surrounded by the icy water of Lake Michigan on the northeast tip of Northerly Island.


Opened in 1930, it was the first planetarium in the United States.


The Shedd Aquarium, also opened in 1930.


Looking across to the Chicago skyline with the Willis Tower far-left and the monolithic Aon Center middle-right. The Aon Center was built using the same construction style as the former World Trade Center and hence its similar appearance.


Back at the MV Abegweit with the golden glow of daybreak beginning to reflect off the skyscraper windows.


No Swimming.


I then headed to the nearby Millennium Park to see the famous Cloud Gate sculpture.


I had only seen photos of the sculpture with it surrounded by masses of people so I was quite delighted to find only a couple of other photographers here in this cold early hour.

Nicknamed The Bean due to its shape, it was built between 2004 and 2006 after a design competition that was won by British artist Sir Anish Kapoor.

Kapoor's design was inspired by liquid mercury and it was really mesmerising to see the sculpture's stainless steel surface reflect and distort the city's surrounding skyline.


The rising sun bursting through the middle of the striking sculpture.


A train of the Chicago "L" (short for elevated) roaring past overhead as I ventured further into the city.


The 98-story Trump International Hotel and Tower at 401 North Wabash Avenue beside the Chicago River.


I then headed down Michigan Avenue to the Chicago Starbucks Reserve Roastery.


An array of coffee packets on the wall that spelt out the name of the city.


The massive store, the biggest Starbucks in the world, was spread over five stories with 3,300 m2 (35,000 square feet) of floorspace.


Opened in November 2019, the building was previously the flagship store for houseware and furniture retailer Crate & Barrel.

Eight bronze-colored 17 meter tall copper tubes that transported coffee beans from floor to floor.


The Starbucks Reserve Roastery stores have been suggested to be more of tourist-oriented theme parks or experience centers rather than cafés and it was easy to see why.

The snappily dressed bartender behind the well-stocked bar on the fourth floor.


I had figured a Starbucks Reserve Roastery would be perfect in Dubai, but alas the company has announced their Chicago store is the last and they will not be building any more.

Looking out to Michigan Avenue with an Andy Warhol-esque portrait of Marilyn Monroe by muralist Jeff Zimmerman on a building across the street.


I figured it was too early for alcohol so went down to the third floor for some fancy (and expensive) coffee.


And my first time visiting Starbucks where I was handed a menu before ordering. I decided to opt for a dose of chocolate with my morning caffeine fix and chose the dark chocolate mocha.


And enjoying it with a brioche con prosciutto for breakfast.


After heading back to the hotel to have a shower, I went for a walk back through the city to follow my guidebook's Chicago Loop architectural walking tour. The Loop is the main section of Downtown Chicago.

Outside the first stop, Billy Goat Tavern on Lower Michigan Avenue. The "Cheezborger" sign is in reference to a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Chicagoan John Belushi that was inspired by the tavern.


The tavern is also known for its involvement in the Curse of the Billy Goat. Tavern owner Billy Sianis placed a curse on the Chicago Cubs baseball team in 1945 after being ejected from Wrigley Field for bringing along his pet goat.


The nearby Wrigley Building, originally built in 1924 to house the headquarters of the chewing gum company of the same name.


The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial inside the Chicago Cultural Center.


Monument with Standing Beast, a bizarre fiberglass sculpture by French artist Jean Dubuffet in front of the James R. Thompson Center.


Another head scratching piece of art nearby on Daley Plaza. The Cubist sculpture by Pablo Picasso was unveiled in 1967.


The Reliance Building on 1 West Washington Street. Completed in 1895, it was the first skyscraper to have large plate glass windows that make up the majority of its surface area, a design feature that would become dominant later in the 20th century.


The Lion statues outside the Art Institute of Chicago. Established in 1879 it is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States.


The beautiful lobby inside the Rookery Building on 209 South LaSalle Street. Built in 1886, it is considered the oldest standing high-rise in Chicago. The very grand lobby was remodelled by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905.


The Art deco Chicago Board of Trade Building on 141 West Jackson Boulevard. It was Chicago's tallest building from 1930 until 1965.


And looking up at Willis Tower, the tallest building in the world from 1973 to 1998. Originally built for Sears, it is still commonly called the Sears Tower by Chicagoans 11 years after it was officially renamed.


I then started the long walk back to the hotel. Crossing the Dearborn Street Bridge over the Chicago River.


Although I had a Chicago food tour in an hour, I needed something to fill the gap so grabbed a maple bacon donut along with a double espresso at Stan's Donuts & Coffee. It was my first time having a donut topped with meat and it was very delicous!


Just before 1pm I arrived at the meeting point for my Classic Chicago Bites food tour.

Our guide for today was Kelly, a native Chicagoan who would take us on a 2 hour tour to sample some authentic and classic Chicago cuisine.

Also on the tour were two guys from Boston who had flown in this morning and were in the city to see tonight's Chicago Bulls game.

After a short walk we arrived at Downtown Dogs on North Rush Street.


A colourful fiberglas dog statue outside, part of a public art installation featuring 100 German shepherd sculptures standing guard downtown to pay tribute to the Chicago K9 Police unit.


Kelly ordering our Chicago-style hot dogs to sample.


Chicago-style hot dogs are topped with seven different toppings; yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, dill pickle, tomato, pickled sport pepper and a dash of celery salt.

Kelly emphasised that the locals never added ketchup and to do so would be sacrilege!


Enroute to our next tasting we stopped at the Chicago Water Tower. Built in 1869, it is the second-oldest water tower in the United States. No longer in service, it is now houses a small city art gallery.


Walking south along the Magnificent Mile, an upscale section of Michigan Avenue that is home to numerous high-end shops.


At Pizzeria Due, ready to try some deep-dish pizza.


Deep-dish pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943. A second restaurant, Pizzeria Due (due is two in Italian) was opened one block over in 1956.

While Pizzeria Uno was the original restaurant, Kelly said that Pizzeria Due offered a more authentic and less touristy Chicago dining experience.


A signed photograph on the wall of Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi in the film The Blues Brothers.


Our classic Numero Uno, made with sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, vine-ripened tomato sauce, mozzarella and romano.


Very tasty and definitely was closer to a pie than a traditional pizza. It was incredibly filling and I had to politely and reluctantly decline having a second piece.


After a bit of a walk to work off the deep dish pizza we arrived at Al's Italian Beef on West Ontario Street.


An Italian beef is a sandwich originating in Chicago and is composed of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, simmered and served au jus on a Italian-style roll.

There was framed photographs on the wall of some of their famous customers including Anthony Bourdain and Adam Richman.


Incredibly juicy and tender after being so thinly sliced and slow roasted, it was unlike any other sandwich I had had before.


At the final stop of our Chicago culinary tour, Portillo's.


And enjoying a piece of their famous chocolate cake for dessert. Very moist and sweet due to it's secret ingredient of mayonnaise.


After thanking Kelly for the very enjoyable and delicious afternoon, I headed back to the hotel to pickup my suitcase and made the walk to Washington station to catch the "L" to O'Hare International Airport.


My original plan was to just catch an Uber but Kelly assured me with rush hour traffic the train would probably be quicker. It seemed like a much more interesting option and for only $2.50 quite abit cheaper too.


About to check in for my flight on United to San Diego after arriving at the airport 45 minutes later.


Enjoying a very colourful and psychedelic trip on a travelator on my way to the gate.


Airside with my boarding pass.


And about to board the United 737 after a great 24 hours in Chicago!

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