One of the things I was most excited about doing when we were at Disney World was stopping at the Contemporary Resort so we could see the Mary Blair Grand Canyon mural:
The mural is 90 feet tall (!!!), consists of 1,800 hand-painted tiles, and took 18 months to create. It is really hard to comprehend just how massive and detailed it is without seeing it for yourself!
Here’s a zoomed-in (and therefore slightly blurry), look at one of the most famous parts of the mural…the five-legged goat. Mary Blair included it reflect a Southwest Native American belief that nothing made by man can be perfect because man is imperfect. This reminded me a lot of the way quilters will often turn a block in their design, and I think it’s a really cool way to acknowledge the beliefs of the original inhabitants of the area the mural represents!
The scenes representing daily life in the Grand Canyon are whimsical and beautiful:
My only sadness (ok, two sadnesses) is that A.) I didn’t have someone take my picture in front of it; and 2.) That I didn’t photograph the signature tile with Mary Blair’s signature on it. I guess I’ll just have to go back and see it again someday!
We only ate one meal out in Washington D.C. (the first time I had eaten in a restaurant since before the beginning of the pandemic!), and Ryan found a really cool local place for us to try…Ben’s Chili Bowl:
Before I get to the food, let’s start outdoors. In 2004, D.C. had a public art project, “PandaMania” and one of the remaining statues is located at Ben’s. Seeing it brought back fond memories of our STL250 cake hunting experience!
Ben’s is over 60 years old, and inside, it looks exactly like you would expect a restaurant of its age to…an old-school diner, which I loved!
Virginia Ali and her husband Ben started the restaurant together in 1958, the same year they got married. The big picture over the diner counter is like seeing a family photo in someone’s house!
I tried the Original Chili Half-Smoke (I wasn’t brave enough to try the spicy variety!). Normally, I can kind of take or leave hot dogs…usually they’re just ok. But the half-smoke at Ben’s was really good. There was a definite snap when I bit into it, and the flavor was fantastic. Chili, mustard, and onions are also the perfect hot dog topping…almost good as a Chicago-style dog!
The art on the building is so cool (and yes, President Obama has eaten there)…it really establishes the character of the place, and visually summarizes what Ben’s website says: “Our Black community is front and center in this story and Ben’s is a perfect case study – a study in our quest of freedom and its ongoing re-definition. Ben’s Chili Bowl is proudly Black-owned, and a historic landmark in Washington, DC’s culture.”
I love finding cool local places to visit when we travel!
The second day of our trip was the one I was most looking forward to, because after three long years, we were finally going to go back to Chicago! The weather forecast wasn’t promising, but in the end, although it was quite cool, the rain lifted, and that was good enough for us. We got to leave from a new-to-us Metra station (Palatine), so we saw a bunch of different suburbs on our way downtown.
The sights that greeted us were just like I remembered:
It was so good to be back!
Bunny took some time to feed some pigeons:
And one even photobombed her!
Mostly, we just walked around and took it all in. It was so much fun to see all of our favorite places (and some new ones), and we even stopped to listen to a street musician (who was very talented!) for a bit. The only thing we didn’t get to do that I would have liked was see Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan, but it was very windy, and that was in the opposite direction of the other stuff we had planned, so I settled on seeing a sliver of my lake from a distance.
We walked up the Magnificent Mile to Water Tower Place, something new for us. We stopped in to see the big American Girl store and the Lego Store (two of our favorite places):
We also spent some time in Jane Byrn Park by the historic Water Tower:
After that, we made our way to the Plaza of the Americas so we could visit the “Wings of Mexico” art installation, which is “a symbol of the immigrant journey and celebrates Chicago as a sanctuary city.” Moose didn’t care to have his picture taken, but us gals couldn’t resist!
No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street to buy a box of Frango Mints!
And then we made our way back to the train and said goodbye to my favorite city. The last time I said goodbye, I assumed I’d be back “soon.” Three years later, and without Turkey joining us because he was working Combo Breaker the whole day, I finally made it back. I really hated to leave, and I’ll never take it for granted again.
Back at the hotel, Combo Breaker had begun, so we spent some time on the floor, taking in all those sights, too.
We also enjoyed playing some of the arcade games they had set up, including Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong.
We couldn’t resist another walk outside, where the evening light was perfect. Also, we enjoyed watching muskrats swim in the hotel ponds…who knew?!?
We also found time for one more evening swim…it wasn’t quite the same as swimming under the stars at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool, but it was still fun!
Chickadee wanted to go to the St. Louis Zoo on her birthday (which is tomorrow), but it’s supposed to rain, so we decided to go today. So how, you may ask, did we end up at Laumeier Sculpture Park instead?
The zoo is still requiring (free) reservations for admittance, and much to my surprise, when I went to request our tickets last night, they were already sold out. So Chickadee decided we should go to the Missouri Botanical Garden instead. But when I went to reserve those tickets through the member portal, I discovered that they’re closed on Mondays. So Ladybug suggested Laumeier Sculpture Park, a place we haven’t visited since pre-COVID, and it was a great idea!
We saw a lot of familiar art:
And we took a path we’d never been down before, and saw some really cool things (and did a lot of climbing…those steps were just as steep as they look!):
Last week, Ladybug and I went to “Beyond Van Gogh,” which is currently being exhibited just outside the St. Louis Galleria.
It was really cool to be immersed in his art work…you really felt like you were a part of the paintings, and just letting it wash over you was an amazing experience!
In the end, Van Gogh’s life was so sad, so it was a little sad to see his work, and know the inner struggles he faced. But it was also very interesting to get to know more about him, and see how his life influenced his art.
When Bunny and I visited the St. Louis Art Museum for the first time in almost two years last week, I sought out my favorite piece in their whole collection, a French sculpture of the Virgin and Child:
I also discovered a new favorite, this portrait of Eunice Dennie Burr (who was married to a cousin of the infamous Aaron Burr) by John Singleton Copley:
I love how there are pieces that I seek out like old friends, but also always something new to discover when we visit the museum!
Yesterday before catechesis, Chickadee and I stopped in downtown Belleville to check out one of the new art installations that was recently painted on a building as part of the Belleville Mural Project. It is lovely and vibrant, and Chickadee was excited that she got to be part of the scene…an interactive design is such a fun idea! I can’t wait to see what murals pop up on Main Street next!