Medieval Times–The New Show

We were all so excited to go back to Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament when we were in Chicago last month! I’d been planning on a return visit ever since I came up with the idea for this year’s summer school at the end of last summer, but the visit was even more anticipated once we learned that Medieval Times had debuted an entirely new show!

Some things were the same. There was plenty to see and do before the show started, and lots of opportunities for photos:

But it didn’t take long to spot the biggest difference…there is now a queen ruling over the castle!

In honor of her, my girls wanted their picture taken in the castle’s thrones:

The meal was the same…tomato soup and garlic bread, roast chicken, corn on the cob, and roast potatoes, with pound cake for dessert. I tried the castle’s signature drink, the “Royal Knight,” as well.

Just like last year, we cheered for the Yellow Knight from the Kingdom of Navarra.

There were spectacularly trained horses, a falcon, contests, and jousting…all the highlights we enjoyed from the last show.

But the Queen was clearly in control, and demanded mercy in her castle. There was a surprise twist in the story, which I won’t share for fear of spoiling the show, but I was very pleased with how it was handled.

In the end, the black and white won, and while he wasn’t our champion, he was one of our allies, so that was fun.

This is such a fun activity, and the children are already asking if we can go back again someday. I’m tempted to check out the Medieval Times in Orlando when we visit Florida this summer, to see how the castles are different, but I don’t think I’ll be able to make that happen on such short notice. We may find ourselves back at the Chicago castle in the future, though, because it’s such a good time!

The Medieval World at Our Fingertips: Manuscript Illuminations

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!

Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor

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!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Day three of our vacation, and we finally get to the reason we were there in the first place…Combo Breaker!

Ryan had been working long hours the previous two days to help set up for the event, but this was our first chance to take a look, and let me tell you, it looked GREAT! We always have fun checking out the different games being played (Chicago’s “Mystery Tournament” is always a favorite), as well as taking a look at the different vendors who have set up shop.

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing we did on Friday. We went swimming (again), in our favorite of Pheasant Run’s pools…the indoor Garden Atrium pool:

And we went back to Medieval Times for the second year in a row. It was a real treat, because it was an all new show! After seeing art, armor, and illuminations at the Art Institute, this was the perfect lighthearted summer school field trip, and Ryan even had a break in his schedule (sort of) to go with us!

Up next: We had to revise our Saturday plans a bit, but that left us with more time for Combo Breaker, plus a visit to a living history farm.

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

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!

What We’re Reading–Medieval Times

I came up with the idea for this year’s summer school way back at the end of last August, while we were still only in the second week of school. This reading list came together very quickly after I came up with the theme, and we already had many of the books on it. I have to admit that it’s rather heavy on the British history side of things, but I tried to find at least a few things from other countries, too. Aside from Olympic years, I have definitely never planned summer school this far in advance, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to get started for months! (As always, at the end of the list, there are few non-literary items that fit the theme.)

Summer School 2017

I won’t lie…in some ways, this year’s edition of summer school felt very disorganized. We did a little bit here, and a little bit there, which is very unusual for us….usually, I pick a week or two to focus on our topic for the summer. But we went on several fun field trips (to the St. Louis Mississippi Riverfront/Gateway Arch, Camp River Dubois, the Confluence Tower, and Faust Park), read a lot of books, watched a documentary, did a craft, and enjoyed a pioneer dinner. So it may not have been as organized as I prefer, but we still learned a lot, and had some fun in the process!