Chicago 2020:
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Tuesday, September 8, 2020: We slept in and took our time checking out.
For only a three-night stay, we sure had a lot of stuff with us.
Debbie waited in the lobby while Tom got the van from the parking lot.
We had four hours to pass before we could check into our next destination, so we drove to the museum complex next. We passed Soldier Field again.
There's Shedd Aquarium, ...
... and here's Adler Planetarium.
Debbie had last been here with her family in 1977, and it had clearly expanded quite a bit since then. Debbie has no memory of going inside so perhaps this is as far as her family made it last time too.
We got a photo of the Chicago skyline, but with the very low cloud cover, it was almost impossible to compare it to ...
... how it looked back in 1977. That's Debbie's dad in this picture.
It was cold, wet, and windy, so we just drove around a bit. We finally got a full view of Soldier Field.
We stopped for a minute to watch the waves crash against the Aquarium grounds.
Speaking of the Aquarium, here's the adorable sign.
Our last photo was of the Field Museum.
You may be guessing by now why Debbie and her family were here in 1977: the King Tutankhamun exhibit. This building obviously hasn't changed much on the outside since then.
Back in the van, we headed north, past Navy Pier, ...
... to Lincoln Park Zoo.
Although entrance is free, online registration is required to reserve a specific entrance time to limit attendance.
We figured that the best time to go would be on an overcast weekday the morning after Labor Day, and we were right.
Let's go!
Let's stop! The women's restroom was empty and spotless.
We passed the Kovler Lion House, which was under construction.
But let's zoom in on that excellent brick work. Yes, those are lions made out of bricks.
Next up: The Helen Bach Primate House. Like every other interior zoo exhibit, it was closed during the pandemic.
The Eugene Field monument is right next to it.
This little sign reminded us to keep our masks on for our entire visit, despite there being so few other visitors that we rarely passed anyone.
There were also many fewer animals visible. Whether this is because of the weather or the pandemic, we don't know.
These bronze gorilla statues were still out though.
We never did spot a Grevy's zebra, but were amused by the name.
We spotted a gorilla in a habitat behind the primate house.
These guys are Chacoan peccaries.
Back there is a Bactrian camel.
Here's a Sichuan takin.
Ostrich, of course.
These are Patagonian cavies.
The waterfowl lagoon was gorgeous, ...
... as was the swan pond.
Here's a pretty duck, ...
... and here's a sleepy one.
Here's a pair of flamingoes ...
... and a pair of swans.
We headed to the Park Place Cafe for lunch.
We placed our orders and found an empty table, which was easy because only one other table was taken.
The menu was online so we had already chosen our lunches by the time we arrived.
Tom opted for the chicken burrito and Debbie had the gyro with potato chips.
At the Kovler Seal Pool, ...
... we watched a seal swim around for a bit.
What are these flowers? Debbie's been trying to identify them since a colleague gave her a pressed flower like this 20 years ago.
The Landmark Cafe was open and ready for socially distanced customers. By now, the rain should have returned, but it still hadn't. Hooray for dire weather predictions that don't come true!
Here are some macaques, ...
... and here's one trying to get some sleep. As we were tiptoeing away to leave him in peace, a delighted toddler came running toward the window to greet him.
The Birds of Prey exhibit featured cinereous vultures.
When this guy opened up his wings to dry them off, we were stunned by how huge his wingspan was. Here, he's just letting them rest a bit instead of keeping them outstretched.
These guys are European white storks.
Here's the McCormick Bird House with its interesting brick work and bird statues.
Here's a red river hog.
This is a kugel fountain (also called a kugel ball). We didn't know these things had names; we just knew that we liked seeing them because we've seen several of these. This one has a map of the world along with pictures of animals native to each area.
Here's our own continent of North America.
After we finished squealing over the kugel fountain, we looked at the plains zebras and giraffes while they looked at us. A baby giraffe joined the party a few minutes later but we didn't get a good picture.
Here's the completely empty African penguin exhibit, ...
... and here are the African penguins.
The polar bear exhibit was also completely empty. Check out that pile of ice - an ice maker was churning out shaved ice into the pile. But where was the polar bear?
We could see through the glass that he was having a snooze inside the cave behind the pile of snow.
Here's a cool beehouse. This is the first year we've had one at our house and it has been great fun to watch. Maybe we'll upgrade to one this impressive someday.
The Arctic Tundra exhibit was also completely devoid of people.
Here's an Eastern black rhinoceros.
This little plaque explained about how zoos place fake, heated rocks into exhibits to provide heat sources for cold Midwest winters.
This exhibit has two and they blend in very well.
This plant is a Chicago hardy fig. Fig leaves have such a distinctive shape.
We passed this beautiful grate with a lion on it as we were leaving the zoo.
A statue of Adelor the Lion rests outside of the entrance.
By now, Debbie was starting to notice interesting brickwork everywhere, including on the exterior of the zoo buildings.
We had an hour to kill before we could arrive at our next destination, so we made ourselves comfortable in the back of the van and started our next Scrabble tournament. It was only after we settled in that the rain returned. Amazing weather luck, as usual!
Shortly before 3:00 PM, we headed north. We passed more closed beach-front parks.
Hey! There's Loyola University!
While trying to get into the alley where we were going to park, we saw that it was blocked so we had to go to the end of the street to turn around. This gave us the opportunity to get a photo of one of the cool blue Rogers Parks bike racks and a tiny glimpse of Lake Michigan.
Then we passed around the front of our destination - the Emil Bach House - to try getting in on the other end of the alley.
Success! We were given a temporary code to enter the garage, which was large, clean, and all ours for the next two days.
Here is the reason for this trip: a two-night rental of the entire Emil Bach House, a home that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1915. We had paid a deposit on our reservation for an April trip, but had to postpone due to the pandemic. Rather than postpone again, we decided to come up this week for a modified vacation.
We did a quick look around the spacious grounds. Japanese teahouse: check!
Outdoor furniture: check!
More outdoor furniture: check!
The property normally has an event tent but it had recently been destroyed, so only the base remained. It was scheduled to be replaced the next day during our visit.
We headed to the front door. There's the covered porch to our left.
And there's the front door on the left and the door to the front street on the right. The entire property was surrounded by locked gates and fences. We never did go through that door on the right. Huh. Probably should have seen what it looked like.
Fortunately, Google Street View can somewhat tell us what it looked like. It can also tell us what the house looks like in the sun because we never saw that.
We went inside and Debbie immediately went to the basement because we could hear laundry in the dryer. No one was supposed to have been in the house for hours before our arrival but clearly someone had been here within the last half hour.
There was a small bathroom in the basement but we didn't touch it because we had two to use on the second floor.
There was another room in the basement but it was locked, so we couldn't see what was in there.
Next, we checked out the kitchen.
Additional sets of keys and garage door openers were waiting for us on the counter.
The kitchen was fully stocked with utensils, dishes, cookware, etc., plus a huge assortment of coffee.
We found this little bowl of adorable personalized Andes Mints in the refrigerator. Yum!
The glassware included Emil Bach House mugs, which we used later on for tea.
Here's the view exiting the kitchen toward the front of the house. Check out the cool dining table that wraps slightly around the brick column on which the lamp is standing.
Similar view with the kitchen door closed.
Tucked next to the kitchen door is a built-in bookshelf. It contained vintage photos of the house, ...
... plus a copy of "Death in a Prairie House" - the same book we had seen at the Robie House that Debbie was interested in, and here it was, free to read!
On with our tour. Here's the front of the house, with built-in bookshelves on either side of a long built-in bench. Note the little narrow hidden windows on the sides, and the built-in shelves under this end of the dining table.
Here's the built-in bench, ...
... and here's the cool window detail on either side of the bench.
Moving further around to the south of the main floor, we have some interesting modern furniture.
Turning to face the center, here's the fireplace. The stairs to the second floor are partially visible in the upper center of this photo.
This vintage photo of the home showed it with the built-in bench removed. Recent restorations have replaced some of the missing original features of the home.
Here's a closer look at the fireplace and its cool stone floor.
Backing up from the fireplace and looking toward the southeast. None of the furnishings are original, but that tall lamp in the corner is a Frank Lloyd Wright reproduction that costs a couple thousand dollars.
Here's the front door and entryway.
Turning back toward the fireplace, here's the built-in bookshelf on the other side of the fireplace bench.
These look like vintage National Geographics, but they're actually Scribner's Magazine, all from 1923.
These are actually National Geographics - either very faded or perhaps they were actually white back then. This set is from 1915, the year the house was built. Nice decorating touch!
Propped up on top of the bookcase is this framed certificate noting the designation of the Emil Bach House as a Chicago landmark in 1977. A small cutout photo of FLW himself stands in the corner of the frame.
At the top of the stairs to the front door, turn to your left to enter the screened porch.
Here's the view looking back toward the house. The front door is also visible in the center of this photo.
Time to go upstairs.
Partway up the first half of the staircase is this little window back to the front door.
On the staircase landing is this set of doors leading to an outdoor set of stairs. We'll explore that later.
Continue up the stairs, ...
... turn, and look at the little balcony outside. Again, more on that later.
At the top of the stairs, a bathroom is on your immediate right. It contains a classic clawed-foot bathtub, ...
... a window with an eastern view of the alley and the lake in the distance, and a flower planter with drain.
Next, here's the north bedroom. It has its own little balcony and built-in bookshelf on the left, ...
... and a little alcove on the right, ...
... with a built-in desk and the same view of the alley and lake to the east.
A little sign on the desk let us know that there were souvenirs we could buy if we wanted, so no, the answer to the question we asked ourselves at the Robie House gift shop is that we would not be getting free Emil Bach mugs with our stay. Not a problem - we are too old to need more souvenirs.
The bedroom closet held two adult-sized bathrobes and you can be sure that we used them.
Here's the gorgeous west-facing bedroom.
Even though all three of the bedrooms were surrounded by windows, this one was the most beautiful, so this is the one we chose to sleep in.
It also had its own balcony, ...
... shown here.
Here's the detail on the windows ...
... and on the table lamp.
Here's the south bedroom.
It had a built-in vanity area, which was restored from the original plans since the original had been removed years earlier.
This bedroom also had its own small balcony.
What was probably originally the maid's quarters had been turned into a second bathroom on the second floor, so we each got to claim our own for the duration of our visit.
This one had a huge, beautiful shower, ...
... with a narrow window peeking out toward the toilet and windows.
Speak of the devil. Here they are. Nearly all windows had screens that needed to be opened in order to reach the roller blinds behind them, so opening and closing them was a little inconvenient, but it was worth it because they were so cool.
With our tour now complete, it's time to do some relaxing! Tom made some popcorn, ...
... and we did some very welcome sitting.
A little later, Debbie took some photos of some display posters we found in the main entry closet. Our camera failed to take good flash photos, so we went to Debbie's iPhone for the remaining four on here.
Each of these panels describes a little of the home's history. This panel includes the original sketches, and photos of the home in 1915 and 1920.
This panel shows the home as it looked between 1930 and 1976, plus photos of the 1983 renovation and before the 2005 renovation.
This panel shows photos of the work that went into the 2011 restoration, including removing the full porch that had been added to the second floor and restoring it to its original design.
This panel included detail of the 2012 restoration, including upgrades of the heating and cooling system, and recreation of missing elements, including the original window design, the north bedroom's built-in desk, and the south bedroom's built-in vanity. It's clear that a lot of money, effort, and love has gone into this beautiful building.
We decided to go out and visit the teahouse for a bit.
Here's Tom opening one of the doors.
It's a lovely room and must be great for parties and events. With it being dreary and a little buggy, we decided not to stay and hang out.
Instead, we got a couple more photos ...
... of the exterior ...
... and one of the resident rabbits.
Next, we went back inside and took the outdoor steps through the door from the internal stairwell landing.
It led to a lovely little balcony ...
... with views of the moss garden-topped garage, the teahouse, the patio, the lake in the distance, ...
... and the gardens toward the front of the property.
We bundled up and enjoyed a tiny bottle of Elmaro Frontenac Gris on the screened porch.
Then we rummaged through our large collection of food ...
... and had some delicious cups of microwaved mac & cheese while we read. Debbie started "Death in a Prairie House" ...
... while Tom continued his reading of "Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys" by Mike Collins.
Later on, Tom tried out both the claw-footed bathtub and one of the Emil Bach House bathrobes.
Finally, it was bedtime and we slept in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Cool.

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