Friday, July 23, 2010

Finally...the rest of the St. Louis Story

Well, to make it short and sweet - we had another fun day going to see Grant's Farm. Seems the Busch family (of Anheuser-Busch) had a big estate a few miles out of St. Louis, which they loved and used.

It is called "Grant's Farm" because the land originally belonged to Ulysses S. Grant's wife's family, and they were given some land and a house their when they married. This is adjacent to Grant's Farm and is a National Historic Site. Apparently U.S. Grant would ride his horse from his military post in St. Louis out to court his future bride on this farm.

The Busch family lived near the brewery in the city and it would take a whole day to take a buggy out to their "country estate". Finally, Mr. Adolphus Busch moved the family to the farm when transportation became easier between city and country.

Mr. Adolphus Busch loved wild animals, and it became a bit of an animal sanctuary over the years. Mr. Augustus Busch, who passed away in 1989, is the one who is responsible for those wonderful parks many have enjoyed - Busch Gardens. Anyway, it is now mostly open to the public, and the grounds are beautiful and full of wonderful animals to see up close and personal.

A little "aside" about Mr. Gus - when my daddy was still alive, he had the opportunity to go fishing with Mr. Gus on the Miss Budweiser, out of Tampa. It was all set up by none other than Roger Maris - Yankee great and record setting home-run hitter - who owned the Budweiser distributorship in Gainesville after his retirement from baseball. Anyway - so I have a special place in my heart for Mr. Gus.

On the grounds of Grant's Farm is the famous Budweiser Clydesdale Stud farm - and we got to see several of these magnificent animals up close. This one is named Carter.

One of the most fun parts is getting "baby bottles" and feeding the goats. They don't seem to get enough of this and will climb on you for the next bit! Tilda really got a kick out feeding them - as well as numerous muddy hoof prints on her clothes!

The old barn and carriage houses are now museum areas and a place to get some good food and a free sample of some of Anheuser-Busch's finest.

There's much more to show and say about Grant's Farm - but to sum it up - it is a wonderful place to spend a few hours - and it is FREE!! You do have to pay to park, but that is all. We highly recommend it for anyone visiting the St. Louis area.

One the way back to our hotel, we detoured to the area of St. Louis known as "The Hill" which is very much still an Italian neighborhood, with more great restaurants than you can pick from. We stopped at a deli and picked up some wonderful meatball subs to eat back at the hotel. It is a very cute old neighborhood and I'd love to try one of the restaurants next trip to St. Louis.

I realy loved that St. Louis is more "old fashioned" than the newer big cities in Texas - I like cities that have their unique neighborhoods with their own distinct personalities. It is really a beautiful city, with many wonderful museums and parks. Can't wait to visit it again one day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wicked Fun

So...after a nice nap, Tilda was in charge of getting Google map directions from the Hotel to the theater - the Fabulous Fox Theater. The Fox is famous and is one of the amazing art deco masterpieces from the 1920's. They sure don't build them like this anymore.

Tilda's directions were perfect, and we found our way to the theater district with no problems. I was concerned about finding parking - not knowing the area at all. But, as usual, our angels were looking out for us and we found a little parking lot with ONE space left just a half-block from the theater.

There's a cute little park on the corner of the street in the theater district which had this unusual and rather lovely statue of a rabbit. It is called "Earth Rabbit" and he seems to be doing Yoga. The statue is covered in colorful mosaic tiles - wish it had been brighter in the picture. (I was having an issue in getting my camera to go flash on, no flash or auto).

Here is a picture of the outside of the theater - even it's exterior is so reminescent of those "good old days" of big movie theaters - not the kind we have these days at the mall. I used to love going to the "Florida Theater" in Gainesville when I was a kid and sitting in balcony - front row - and watching movies. But, as usual, I digress.

When we walked into the lobby, we were stunned at the beauty of the architecture - I just really can't describe how ornage it was. Every where you looked was elaborate carvings, gargoyles and more. Darn my camera for not working to get a picture of it.
We learned there was an elevator to take us up to the "middle balcony" area - and it was the old-fashioned kind which requires and operator to stop and start it. Very cool. We found the ladies room - and it was as beautiful and exquisitely decorated as everything else in this place.

When we got to our seats, I tried to fidget with camera and got one picture of the interior of the theater - not very good - and was told "NO PICTURES". I wasn't trying to take pictures of the show - but apparently taking any pictures inside is not allowed - for goodness sake! If you look really hard, you can almost make out the dragon that is part of the stage decor (over the stage) and the curtain which glows green on the map of Oz.

Now...for the most important part....the SHOW! Well, it was fabulous. So creative and such a great message. I read the book "Wicked" a few years ago - and the musical is "loosely" based on the book. They do a great job of tying the book's main theme's in with the original "Wizard of Oz" story. The dialogue and lyrics are clever, and go between hilarious and very touching. The sets and costumes were just great. I have to say, it is one of the best - if not THE best - musical I have ever seen. And, I have been lucky enough to see some great shows on Broadway and with major touring companies. I guess I always love them all - but this is one I hope to see again - very soon. It is really special. Tilda just loved every minute of the show. We bought the CD and listened to it almost all the way back to Tulsa. We want to be ready if they need us to fill in on the tour - Ha!!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis!

I am asking myself "Why, why have I waited so long to go to St. Louis?" It is a beautiful city and has so much to do - great place for a family vacation. The main reason I always wanted to go someday was to see the Arch - well, that's the tip of the iceburg on the fun that awaits in beautiful St. Louis.

I booked a room via Hotwire for 3 nights and went for the 3.5 stars downtown choice. It was - as always - a great hotel for a great price. (If you aren't using Hotwire, you should be). We got the Crowne Plaza, right across the street from the Jefferson Expansion Memorial - aka - the Gateway Arch. Let me also mention that I got it for $57 a night - which you can hardly get a Motel 6 for in a major city these days. Here's the hotel as seen from the parklands around the Arch.

When we checked in, since I was traveling with my teenage granddaughter - I asked for a king room. The front desk clerk said - not only am I putting you in a king room, but I'm giving you a balcony, sofa with pull-out bed and a kitchenette. Are you kidding me (thinking to myself - I only paid $57). We were on the 25th floor - and here is Tilda on the balcony. Honestly - can you believe how blessed we are?

We took a nice stroll around the national park grounds and then headed over to eat at Joey B's which is Laclede's Landing area. This is an historic section right by the river and next to the park - just a few blocks from the hotel. I had found Joey B's online and picked it when I saw that Rachel Ray recommended it! Yahoo!! The old area is charming, with original cobblestone streets and the old buildings that used to be warehouses for goods brought up the Mississippi by river boats.

Next morning - we were off to discover St. Louis. We had reservations to take the trip to the top of the Arch at 10:30am (you can book your reservation and get your tickets on-line). Before our appointed adventure to the top, we did a little walking around downtown and found ourselves at the home of the St. Louis' Cardinals - Busch Stadium. I had hoped they would be in town and we could take in a game - no luck on that one. But, I have to say this is a gorgeous baseball stadium and quite an addition to the downtown area. My daddy loved Stan Musial, and I had to take the picture of his statue in memory of Daddy - who loved baseball so much!

We discovered the MetroLink right next door to the stadium, and a quick subway ride later we were back at the Arch park and on our way to the top - oh my!! You ride a "tram" with about 10 cars, each holds five people and are shaped liked bubbles!
Here is the door to the tram car and the tram car - showing only 3 of the 5 seats inside. This trip is not for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia!

Fortunately, the ride only takes a few minutes - and then you are up 630ft in the air. It wasn't windy during our visit - but I've heard people say you can feel the sway up there - I didn't. The arch was constructed to sway up to 9" in either direction during a 150 mph wind - and is said to usually be swaying about 1/2" on most days. Note to self - don't go up there during a storm!! Got a nice picture of Busch Stadium from on high and here we are in the somewhat tight space at the top.

A good friend had recommended we check out the old Union Station - once the largest train station in the world - while in St. Louis. It has been "saved" and is a shopping and dining area now. The architecture is beautiful and they have small exhibits highlighting how travel was when everyone went by train - the beautiful dining cars, etc. There are even stained glass windows in this lovely old building.

After lunch at the St. Louis Hard Rock Cafe, we headed back to the hotel for a swim on the roof-top pool - 29 floors above the city - and a nice nap - and then we'd head for the Fox Theater to see "Wicked". That's another post!