As we departed from Canton in the wee hours of the morning, our day started out very cold and very dark. Though the temperatures here in Chicago alarmingly frigid, our day has been absolutely amazing!
For many of the students, riding on the train was a new experience. Once we had nearly all migrated to the cafe car in the rear of the train, we returned to our seats to settle in for the journey that lied ahead. We were fortunate in seeing the sun rise above the snow covered ground of Illinois. It was incredibly beautiful. Soon we found ourselves in Chicago's Union Station, which in itself was culturally rich and diverse. Our generous and knowledgeable tour guide, Gene, soon had us loaded onto the bus and on our way.
After eating lunch at the infamous Billy Goat Tavern (cheesborger! Cheeseborger! Cheeseborger!), taking group picture and singing Jingle Bells with the man in the big red suit at Navy Pier (that's right, Santa and the Mrs. welcomed us with open arms), we began our journey with Buddha at the Art Institute. Our docent, though I'm not sure I can remember her name at the moment, was phenomenal. She was so incredible with her vast knowledge and excitement for the art of the middle east region. She shared with us the folklore, love stories, traditions and customs of each region. How lucky we were to have her guiding this portion of our expedition.
We were free to visit the Chinese and the Mexican exhibits before Dr. Sherer took the lead. We visited many incredible works of art, each with their own distinct style and technique. I was particularly fascinated by works of the impressionists. To be in such close proximity to these amazing pieces that I have admired for so many years and to know that these were not mere reproductions but the original works of art was almost surreal. It was wonderful to see the walls lined with the works of Monet as he demonstrated the importance of the use of light. On one wall alone were seven paintings that were of the same scene, yet they were all distinctly different as they were painted at different times of the day. The Art Institute was definitely enlightening. I only wish that we had more time to enjoy the many different areas that we did not have time to visit.
Finally we rounded out our evening at Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, otherwise known as the Brazilian Steak House. There are truly no words to do this experience justice. Though there was a water main break that closed down the salad area of the restaurant, the experience as a whole was still unbelievable. Instead of ordering a single entree from a menu as most of us are accustomed to, we were given the opportunity to try everything that the steakhouse had to offer. The meat was brought to our tables and we were allowed to select as little or as much of the 14 different varieties as we wanted. Just when we thought it couldn't possible get any better than this, the desserts were delivered. I recommend that everyone that visits Chicago make this a must have culinary experience.
After a day full of rich cultural experiences, I am ready to dream away. I look forward to the many wonderful adventures that lie ahead of us on this remarkable journey.