Tuesday, September 23, 2008

St. Louis deserves a week - MINIMUM!

Sept. 21, 2008
St. Louis is a fantastic city! What a wonderful way to enjoy our last day of summer!

We woke up bright and early this morning, took advantage of the hot showers, then packed up our rolls from Panera (I’d actually planned ahead, can you believe it?) and headed out for the Metro light-rail. On our walk toward the casino (and on to the light rail station), a security van picked us up. (They run a shuttle from RV park to casino, but we’d missed it. I think the shuttle driver radioed for the security van to pick up the slack(ers). When we told him it was our first time to St. Louis, he said, “Well, I’m going to take you to the best view of the arch!” After we snapped our shots (and he took some family shots for us), he delivered us to the rail station.

The light rail here is remarkably clean, fast and convenient. There’s really no reason to have a car in St. Louis, particularly if you can find a Metro bus schedule and map (something we lacked). Our first rail stop was just across the street from the Riverfront Park, home of the Gateway Arch. We sat on the benches under the arch and munched on our muffins as we watched the Mississippi River roll on by. Then it was up to the top! I was afraid I’d be claustrophobic in the capsules, but the four-minute trip felt rather quick, the capsule was well ventilated and the muzak combined with the historical narration provided via loudspeakers were all soothing.

The view from the top is great, E said. “If I could have a doll house that looked like THAT, that’d be perfect!” She was referring to the entire St. Louis skyline, the Mississippi River and views east into Illinois! SHEESH!

We also visited the Westward Expansion Museum (Jr. Rangers AGAIN!?), Old Courthouse (home of Dred Scott v. Sandford), had lunch downtown at a comfortable, scrumptious restaurant (Caleco’s), played in a fountain downtown, and hiked through Forest Park.

Forest Park is an amazing park: hiking trails, pedestrian trails, bike paths, playgrounds, museums, St. Louis Zoo, boathouse, and woods, real woods! We’d spent so much time in town that we didn’t have enough time here. Actually, it would take a few days to have enough time to really enjoy it. If we lived in the city, we’d spend more than our fair share of time here. We managed to wander through the St. Louis Museum of Art (the bag/coat check lady wasn’t very nice about our “decision” to come so late in the day) where we saw Monet’s “Water Lillies,” Rodin’s “John the Baptist,” and countless others we’d read about or seen images of online or in books. These were the real deal. The museum was really fantastic even though it was between exhibits (the next, Pollock and the like, opens Oct. 10), and many of its galleries were closed as the museum gives itself a facelift.

The zoo was closed by the time we reached that portion of the park, so we continued on to Turtle Park, just across the freeway (don’t worry, we took the overpass) from Forest Park. V says, “I especially liked the huge turtles like the sea turtle because he had a pin nose and because his neck was like a slide. I also like the other big turtle because he had a great picture seat at the bottom of his neck.” E says, “And we met a boy and a girl we were playing with and we were sort of playing a mixture of Titanic and sailing through a sea of lava because we kept running into icebergs in the sea of lava. And then when we went in the water/lava we’d get hypothermia!”

It was starting to get dark, and we were depending on mass transit for which we didn’t have a great schedule, so we headed back across the park, past The Boathouse (tempting stop for dinner), and back on to the train.

Now another night in camp. Oh, and they’re closing the bathrooms for repairs for three full days beginning tomorrow morning at 7. Good thing we’re heading out! (Interesting way to run a campground.)

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