It was a real treat to get see a special exhibit entitled “The Medieval World at Our Fingertips: Manuscript Illuminations from the Collection of Sandra Hindman” when we visited the Art Institute in Chicago last month. We managed to visit just a few days before the exhibit closed, and it was another great addition to our summer school studies. There were about 30 illuminations on display, ranging from tiny to quite large (as far as illuminations go). Bunny, in particular, is fascinated by this art form, and we’re looking forward to creating our own later this summer!
When we visited the Art Institute in Chicago two years ago, Turkey was very excited to see the arms and armor exhibit, as was I…it was always one of my favorite things to see when I was a child. You can imagine our disappointment, then, when we discovered that it was closed for renovations. Well, this year, we made it right, and I have to say, it was worth the wait…the new exhibit is fantastic! We especially liked how the horse armor was displayed, and were interested to see child-sized armor, which the docent told us would be given to medieval children of the nobility in the same spirit we give children sports jerseys today!
This was a great introduction to our medieval-themed summer school!
I think this was our busiest day of vacation…and Combo Breaker hadn’t even started yet!
Last year when we were in St. Charles, we never made it to downtown Chicago, because to my great surprise, there were no ticket agents on duty at the Metra stations on the weekend. I planned accordingly this year, checked the hours, and was sure we wouldn’t run into any problems. Until we arrived at the Geneva Metra station, and the ticket agent basically shut the door in our face, because she had a “meeting.”
This forced me outside of my comfort zone…A LOT. I had already paid for Wendella boat tickets and Art Institute tickets, so I had to find a way downtown. Even though I faced possible problems, including the fact that my students don’t have school IDs, we used the Ventra app to ride the train, and in the end, it worked out fine.
We took a slightly different walk during our travels in Chicago, so we saw some things that were the same, and some that were new:
The highlight of the day was the Wendella Chicago River and Lake Michigan Tour. It has been close to 30 years since I last did the boat trip, so it was a very different experience for all of us, and a lot of fun!
After disembarking, we began our walk toward the Art Institute, stopping to see the “Bean” and other sites at Millennium Park (including the Crown Fountain) along the way.
At the Art Institute, we focused specifically on the Arms and Armor galleries, as well as a special exhibit on Medieval illuminations, in keeping with this year’s summer school theme, but we also saw a few other things, including the Chagall windows.
My children are obsessed with pigeons (no, I don’t know why), and they certainly got to see a lot of them!
Before heading back to the train, we stopped at Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory (now a Macy’s) to buy Frango mints.
We even got to ride on the upper deck of the train on the way back!
We enjoyed some more pool time back at Pheasant Run, which was the perfect way to end a hot day. We also indulged in some Food Network shows on cable TV, which is one of our favorite things about vacation!
Up next: Combo Breaker finally begins!
When I was planning our day in downtown Chicago, the Art Institute wasn’t even on my list. I assumed that with five children, it would be cost prohibitive, as most museums are. I’m not even sure why I looked at their ticket prices, but you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that children under 14 are always free! For the cost of only my admission, we were able to spend a few hours looking at some amazing art…well worth the (very minimal) cost of admission!
Honestly, I wish we could have spent more time at the Art Institute. But we managed to see the Impressionists, as well as a good deal of religious art. We even saw a bit of modern art, even though that’s not our favorite. Turkey and I were very disappointed that we got to see almost none of the arms and armor, however…that exhibit is currently under construction, so we only got to see a bit here and there.
After a very cursory walk through some of the Indian and ancient Greek art, we also saw one of the top items on my list…the Chagall America windows:
I hope we’ll go back someday, but for now, this was a great introduction to one of the greatest collections of art in the world!
Day two of our weekend getaway was probably the most intense. The children and I hopped on a Metra train bright and early in the morning and headed to downtown Chicago. We walked for miles, and saw everything I wanted them to see…the Chicago River, the Tribune Tower, the Marshall Field’s building on State Street, The Bean sculpture, Buckingham fountain, the “corn on the cob” buildings, and Lake Shore Drive. The children couldn’t stop looking up! They were also interested in seeing the double-decker buses, the “el” trains, the articulated buses, and all the different boats on the river. We crossed the river four times in several different places, but sadly, we never saw any of the bridges open. We even spent some time in the Art Institute…not enough for Bunny, but enough to see the Impressionists, some of the religious art, and the Chagall windows. The weather looked like it was going to be a big problem, but the only rain we encountered while we were out was during our walk from the Art Institute to the Marshall Field’s building, and fortunately, it wasn’t too heavy!
Once we got back to St. Charles, we headed to Giordano’s for dinner (we had to have Chicago-style pizza!), then visited the floor at Combo Breaker. Unfortunately, the storms had picked up, so there was no swimming for us that night, but we did enjoy watching some Food Network in our hotel room!