Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chicago Saga: Part 3, Garfield Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo

Check out those Dromendaries!

After our binge at Cousin's, we headed to Lincoln Park. The children had specially requested a visit to the zoo. Because of the high cost of parking, we chose free street-parking on campus at our alma mater, DePaul University. We stopped to visit a few friends who were working on campus and then walked toward the zoo.

The walk was a bit agonizing since we were all weighed down by our huge lunch. I personally felt like I had a boulder in my stomach, and the kids complained a bit. But the weather was cool and breezy.

We stopped to take a pic on Shakespeare's lap and then to admire the gorgeous formal gardens in front of the Garfield Park Conservatory. I especially admired the use of edible landscaping. There was colorful City Lights chard in the borders and in the center bed, which had a black and white theme, there was a huge quantity of Black Pearl Peppers. I have a couple of these in my own garden--not sure why, since the peppers are actually just pearl-sized and are hotter than anything.

The kids enjoyed the beautiful fountain at the center of the garden, but the running water signalled the need for a bathroom break. This gave me the excuse I needed to drag everyone into the Conservatory. They were reluctant at first, but once they were inside, they were mesmorized! Gorgeous, lush, unusual, exotic... this place should be a DO NOT MISS for anyone coming to Chicago. And, they've got all kinds of producing fruit trees, something I don't remember from my visits years ago. We spied bananas, oranges, limes, soursop, guavas, and what I'm pretty sure were dates. Big signs are posted everywhere admonishing people NOT to pick the fruit.

There were also a couple of strange conceptual art projects to gape at (and listen to). The enormous ball made from lawn chair skeletons and driveway reflectors was a bit much, as was the composition playing in the fern room, a piece entitled something like "If the Ferns Turn Metallic and Start Vibrating, Turn the Sound Down..." in which the composer intentionally simulated the sound of cicadas. However, I absolutely loved Niki de Saint Phaelle's whimsical Nanas!

After a tour of the Conservatory, we wandered around the Lincoln Park Zoo. There is much there that was new to us. We loved the Africa exhibit and the children's space with the huge climbing area. The kids insisted on running through the fountains in their bathing suits, even though the temperature was in the high '60s. They didn't last long.

Let's face it, though, zoos are depressing. Despite all their focus on conservation and education, a zoo is just a place with animals in confined spaces. It was saddening to watch the Spectacled Andean Bear, whose natural diet was listed as fruits, leaves, and roots, munch on some sort of dried pellet. Many of the displays were empty and contained signs that the animals were inside due to the heat.

After all of that activity, the kids barely made the walk back to the car. We played 20 questions games about animals as a distraction from our fatigue. Our intent was to first drop my husband off to play with his friends and head for the highway for home. My husband would stay over with a friend and take the bus back later the next evening. However, at the last minute, I decided I just HAD to make a pitstop at Whole Foods. This led us to a chance meeting with an old friend and the extension of our trip, as I'll describe in Part 4 of our saga. Stay tuned!

p.s. I REALLY wanted to put a slideshow on this post, but I cannot get BubbleShare to work for me. It gets to 99% downloaded and it just won't go any further.

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