The drive into South Bend, IN doesn’t offer much of a view. Gone are the hills, lakes and touristy resorts of Michigan’s shoreline. Here the highway is flat and dotted with Perkins restaurants, Econo Lodges and public service messages (1 in 5 Indiana teens abuse prescription drugs). We pull into a KOA, which is more like a carnival than a campground with its happy yellow welcome signs announcing a putt putt course, arcade, wagon rides and Jenny, the donkey. There is nothing at a KOA that resembles camping but we are glad to be parked so we can detach the toad and explore the rest of South Bend.
We head to the University of Notre Dame, passing by bored off-season security guards and curving our way around construction sites. We navigate our way to the center of campus and are rewarded with a grand lush lawn, shade trees, and cluster of beautiful old buildings. The main building with the golden dome requires a big climb for Gabriela (those who know us well know that G can’t usually climb more than a few steps without help) but she was determined and made it all the way.
Inside, she marveled at the vaulted ceilings and wall length paintings, many celebrating Columbus’s discovery of America. She noted that the paintings were made to look like hanging rugs, and remarked at the various colors and textures, while Elian launched into a speech about how the paintings were actually historically inaccurate because technically Columbus didn’t discover America and by the way he wasn’t a hero to the native people and also…He went on and on. The boy has a lot to say.
He was still talking when we made our way to the Basilica and then to the library. In the first, we quieted down and sat still for a moment, enjoying the dark, cool peace and beauty of a cathedral (or at least two of us did; the kids said it was spooky and started to make up “what if” scenarios about getting stuck there alone at night).
In the library, we went from floor to floor, explaining that this was a research library so there was no children’s section or tween graphic novel collection. But we did get to teach them how to use the movable shelves and get lost in the stacks. In the end, we really did lose G to the stacks, whistling and calling to her and finally finding her behind the government documents section. We left shortly after, having disturbed any and all summer faculty and students with our search and rescue mission.
We stopped by the Grotto and lit a few candles and then left the university in search of dinner. We found Barnaby’s, a local pizza place, and then a sweet spot in South Bend, where a chocolate shop was just a block from a street called Woodward and some chalk messages that made us all smile.
Sometime after we left South Bend, we switched over to Central Time (Indiana is split between Eastern and Central). So we are feeling officially midwestern now, as we head to see cousins in Iowa…(dot, dot, dot)