For breakfast, we once again opted for convenience: the Corner Bakery Café, right next to the Palmer House. (ID and vax pass required, though if we had done take-out we might have been able to avoid that.) One of the reasons Porter chose the Palmer House as our hotel was that it is right in the middle of most of what we planned to do. Our goal this morning, the Art Institute of Chicago, was only a short walk away.
We didn't go there directly, however, but stopped along the way at Millennium Park. (I only just discovered that link, which turns out to be somewhat depressing. First of all, it comes with a bright pink ad at the top for the COVID-19 vaccine. Then there's the list of prohibited items, including jackknives, pets, and suitcases. Chicago is weirder than I thought. For us, it was just a pleasant little city park with an arresting sculpture in the middle. No one asked for proof of vaccination, and we didn't even have to wear our masks. (But we sometimes did, for the warmth.)
On to the Art Institute! (ID, vax passes, and masks required.)
One great advantage of a large museum is that the art is diverse. The weird art and still weirder commentary is there, but it's avoidable. Our party split up here, for maximum flexibility.
The Art Institute hosts an impressive collection of masterworks. For me, one of the most fun was Van Gogh's Bedroom, chiefly because it meant we have now seen all three of Van Gogh's versions of the painting: one in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris (2007), the next at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (2018), and finally this one (2022).
Those of us who have spent time with Porter in museums expected we'd be there from opening until the museum closed, but as it happened we all ran out of energy at the same time, leaving the museum about an hour and a half early in favor of dinner and some rest before our big evening event: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.
There wasn't as much rest as we had hoped. Did I mention that we were visiting Chicago in the middle of winter? And that on this night a big winter storm was hitting the Northeast? While we were supposed to be resting, we got the news that Faith's Sunday flight from Chicago to Boston had been cancelled. Ours to Orlando was still good, but we were not about to get on a plane and leave a thirteen-year-old behind to spend the night alone in the airport (or even in a hotel). We batted around several possible options, including one in which one of our choir ladies volunteered to give up her Orlando-bound seat to Faith, rent a car, and go visit her sister, who lived a mere four-hour drive from Chicago!
Cooler heads prevailed, however, and as the concert time approached, Faith's mom told us firmly, "Faith has been greatly looking forward to this concert, so go and enjoy it. We will take care of the problem." So off we went, once again on foot, as Symphony Center is only a short walk from the Palmer House. ID, vax pass, and yes, masks were once again the order of the day night. By now were were getting pretty good at the drill, and Faith's extra-large paperwork was still bringing smiles.
While Faith's dad worked on her problem, the four of us had our own work to do once we entered the concert hall. Twenty-four hours before our flight time was just 10 minutes before the start of the concert. Since we were flying Southwest, that meant we were checking in from our concert seats. That could have worked out very well—except that our seats were in a wireless dead zone and the four of us were soon seen scurrying around the lobby waving our phones and searching for a signal. (I found one near the restrooms.) Finally, it was "mission accomplished" for us, and more critically, for Faith, whose dad had found her a flight that went to Manchester, NH with a plane change in Baltimore. Not ideal, with the risk of the connecting flight being itself cancelled, but if Faith and her parents were comfortable with it, who were we to impose our fears on them? Just in time, we were able to settle down and enjoy the music of Vivaldi and Handel. (Click on program images to enlarge.)
Faith, Porter, and I had special seats—behind the orchestra. We were nearly close enough to read the players' music. Most of the musicians had standard sheet music, but the harpsichord player used an iPad with a foot pedal for turning pages.
Best of all was being directly opposite conductor Riccardo Muti and able to see his skill close-up. He did not use a baton, but did all his directing with his hands. Correction—he also used his face, and did not wear a mask. What he did was as far from "keeping the beat" as you can imagine. He sculpted the music. At times he didn't appear to conduct at all, letting the musicians do their work, adding just a small hand gesture here, an eyebrow twitch there. Absolutely fascinating.
We had come prepared for a cold, cold walk in bitter wind after the concert, but it really wasn't bad at all. A balmy 21 degrees and almost pleasant. The coldest temperature I saw during the whole trip was 12 degrees, and at that time I was snuggled warmly in bed.
We had earned our rest this day. The next would bring delight of a different sort.