Meet Me In St Louis

11 Jan

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Having recently returned from a trip to St. Louis Mo, I am anxious to share with all of you the wonderful things there are to do. I had not been to St Louis before, so I was looking forward to meeting the city. Kris had a brief visit years ago, so it was really all new to him as well.The United States bought St Louis from the French in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Louis and Clark Expedition left St Louis in May 1804, reaching the Pacific in the summer of 1805. Both Louis and Clark lived in St Louis after the expedition. The city hosted both the 1904 World’s Fair and the 1904 Olympic Games, it was the first non-European city to host the Olympics. St Louis is probably best known as the home of Anheuser-Busch and the iconic Gateway Arch, but it is so much more… We found St Louis to be a friendly, multifaceted city; we explored historic neighborhoods, ate fantastic food, visited museums and got to know the real St Louis through St Louisans themselves.

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Our first day began with a visit to the Gateway Arch; built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States it rests on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Designed by Eero Saarinen and soaring 630 ft, it is the tallest man-made monument in the US. It opened to the public on June 10, 1967 at a cost $13 million to build. We parked in a lot alongside the river, giving us a panoramic view of the city skyline, the Arch the Mississippi and its bridges. We had the perfect day for viewing, not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the temperature hovering around 60. I was astounded at the height! After Kris finished taking pictures of the exterior we headed under the Arch to the museums, I had no idea all of this even existed. This is the where you take the tram ride to the top, they have a tram-car on display for you to “try out”;  a small enclosed capsule that seats five, after the two of us sat in it, we mutually agreed we would not be taking the “Journey To The Top”.  The Museum of Westward Expansion follows the Louis and Clark Expedition; exhibits are modern and attractive, figures on display talk and move as if they were real, we found it very interesting to see what the old west was like. In addition you can also choose to see a documentary or a giant-screen movie.

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If you are ever in town the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is not to be missed! Located on Lindell Blvd in the Central West End the building is a work of art. Constructed between 1907 and 1909 the exterior architecture is Romanesque in design, the dome and pitched roof are covered in green tiles making it hard to miss. The interior is done in the Byzantine tradition and is spectacular, I have never seen anything like it. Covering 83,000 sq ft, this is one of the largest collections of mosaics on the world, it took 20 artists 75 years to complete. We came in through the side door and were immediately taken aback by the beauty and craftsmanship of the building. To our right was a small and ornate chapel, the colors of the mosaics create sharp images. We followed other visitors into the main dome and my jaw literally dropped. It’s an amazing sight, a dome within a dome, every square inch covered in tesserae; a dark blue background surrounded by the stars of the heavens, mosaics of saints, the Beatitudes, and milestones of the Catholic Church in St Louis. Everywhere you look a story is being told, I read there are 8,000 shades of color tiles, gold being the predominant color. In addition to the two domes there are four chapels, each wondrous and distinct, again each depicting scenes from both Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The West Transept has the most vibrant colors; red, violet and blue images of Jesus’ baptism and Ascension to heaven. Along with a tour there were probably a dozen or so other visitors along with us taking an abundance of photos. You are free to wander the Cathedral except during a Mass, one was about to begin, so we took one last look before heading back into the sunshine of the day.

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We drove over to the South Grand neighborhood for lunch, known as a popular destination for immigrants from Vietnam, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Thailand and the Middle East, the variety of cuisines is amazing. We parked on the street and walked for a bit looking at our options. We approached a charming red brick building with black awnings, it was a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Grand. We climbed the stairs and entered the contemporary Asian dining room, there were just a couple of open tables. The menu had a few pages, and everything sounded delicious, a basket holding squeezed bottles of house made sauces sat on each table. We picked 3 different dishes to share; beginning with a pair of the best spring rolls I think we have ever had, they were served with a wonderful sauce. Next up rice flour crepes filled with shrimp, pork, and a variety of veggies, awesome. We also had a noodle dish with tofu that was equally tasty, if we live in St Louis this would be one of our regular dining spots. Walking North on Grand to Arsenal we discovered a funky little coffee shop called Mokabe’s. We dropped in, struck up a great conversation with the girls behind the counter while enjoying really good espresso’s, what a great find!

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The Missouri Botanical Gardens are located on Shaw Blvd and feature 79 acres of horticultural displays. We didn’t have much time before closing so we had to go through kind of quickly. We began in the “Climatron”, a geodesic dome that opened in 1960 and the first dome to be used as a conservatory. Based on a tropical rainforest theme the dome houses lush foliage and waterfalls taking up 1/2 acre of space. I love coming to a place like this in the winter time, the green of the leaves, flowers in bloom and balmy temperatures. The Temperate House was next, this section was built in 1990 and is 8,900 sq ft. The temperate house features species that grow in a Mediterranean type climate along with a wildflower garden, rock garden and pretty flowering vines. My favorite spot was the antique portico that overlooks the moorish garden. Outside of the Climatron is a stunning reflecting pool, tall columns reach upward, statues designed by Swedish Sculptor Carl Milles balance on top. The sun was starting to go down creating an exceptional backdrop to the scene, Kris took some great pictures. We walked through one more greenhouse used to overwinter Orange trees and Camellias, also quite lovely. Being December the outdoor gardens were out of bloom so we didn’t feel too bad about not being able to see them. I would love to come back in Spring or Summer and really get a chance to see the whole place.

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University City Loop was the next neighborhood on our list to see. Delmar Blvd is the main drag; lined with eclectic shops, independent book stores,vintage clothing stores, music clubs and ethnic restaurants this area offers a bit of everything. Delmar is also home to the St Louis Walk Of Fame which honors famous St Louisans with brass stars and plaques embedded into the sidewalk. Here are just a few examples: Betty Grable, John Goodman,Kevin Kline, Miles Davis, Phyllis Diller, Vincent Price, Ike and Tina Turner, and of course, Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry’s star sits appropriately in front of  “Blueberry Hilll” a restaurant and live music club stuffed with pop culture memorabilia. We dashed into the Tivoli Movie Theatre to have a look around; there were movies playing in the theaters themselves, but we did manage to get a few pics of the lobby. At the far west end of the street we poked our heads into the University City City Hall building and were captivated by the incredible ornate stairway.

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Dinner time came around right about the time we came upon a restaurant named Pi (as in the mathematical symbol) that serves, you guessed it, PIZZA! The decor was modern and funky, large windows allow you a front row seat to the activity on Delmar. The list of specialty pizzas is long, without too much deliberation and some sound advice from our waiter we ordered a thin crust version of The Hill. Without much delay our pizza arrived hot from the oven, toppings were generous and the mozzarella cheese gooey, in other words perfect! The crust had a nice texture to it that comes from cornmeal, both crispy and chewy. We were very hungry from a full day of activities so we polished of the entire small. Then it was back to the hotel for a good nights sleep so we could be fresh for another day of exploring St Louis.

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