Bracing myself against the cold, I spent the day very leisurely with a friend around Millennium Park. As a student at SAIC, she lived in downtown, so I was staying with her at her very central location. Going beyond just a great host, she also took a day off to join me and show me around the downtown area and the Art Institute.
Millennium Park is filled with different pieces of art, fountains, and activities. Again, my trip timing wasn't perfect, as the ice skating rink had just closed, but the large fountain was not yet open. However, Cloud Gate, more famously known as the Bean, is there year round, and was quite unpopulated for such a touristy location. The Bean was not only a great reflector of the clear blue skies, but also lay in front of a beautiful skyline background. Walking underneath the Bean is definitely recommended - the reflective surface and unique shape gives the underside a fascinating experience. On the other side, the skyline was no longer a background; instead, it reflected nicely onto the Bean, contrasting nicely with the blue sky.
While the temporary exhibit on Ireland and Irish art was beautiful, my favorite was on the impressionism era. The combination of stunning landscapes, gorgeous color pallets, confident brush strokes, and famous artists (so much Monet!) had me returning to the exhibit multiple times. Seeing Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte was quite a funny experience - since I had followed the walls of Monet into the room, I turned the corner to the label of Seurat's piece, sitting next to a tiny version, no larger than approximately 8" x 10". After seeing the small size of the Mona Lisa in France, I wasn't overly surprised, but was rather disappointed, until my friend grabbed my shoulders and turned me. On the opposite wall, the actual painting was hanging, large enough to fill most of the wall from floor to ceiling, giving a great visualization of the pointillism technique.
There were multiple temporary exhibits, including the one of Ireland and one containing ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art. The exhibit was filled with very old sculptures, mosaics, and paintings, but I completely geeked out over a manuscript of the Iliad from 1055 AD. Making our way down, the lower level contained two unique exhibits - paperweights and miniature rooms. I never imagined that paperweights, an item whose purpose I questioned, could be made so intricately and delicately. Each paperweight, ranging in size from a few centimeters to nearly a foot in diameter, was filled with colored glass flowers, bees, or sculptures. The miniature rooms were just as fascinating - almost a hundred little rooms, no larger than 2 to 3 square feet in area were exact replicas of American and European homes from the 1800's. The amount of detail in each room was mind-blowing, going down to each piece of furniture's engraving and shape, as well as the textile patterns and textures.
We stuffed ourselves with as much pizza as we could eat, and in the midst of a food coma, headed back towards her place, taking a little detour to the waterfront. Our goal was to see Buckingham Fountain, which, sadly, was not on, so we went past it to the lake. We sat along the edge, taking in the crisp, cold air, and enjoying the calm night surrounded by city lights - the best way to end another day in the Windy City.