Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Trip to St. Louis

Hi there!

Now that the crazy holiday season is coming to an end, i can finally get back to a normal-ish routine. I've been wanting to blog about our trip to St. Louis since we got back but my schedule just hasn't allowed it (see last post). I wouldn't say i don't have anything to do now because my to-do list is still a monster but at least they aren't as time sensitive so i can work through them in the order i choose. Anyways, enough rambling!

James and I went to St. Louis two weekends ago because that is where his corporate office is for his job. They were having a Christmas party and was nice enough to pay for his trip up there. We decided this was a good opportunity for me to see St. Louis as well so we negotiated more hotel nights if he drove instead of flying and thankfully his company agreed. So begins our adventure!

Day 1
We (purposely) booked a hotel right next to Forest Park. I knew James would have to work on Friday and I would be left most of the day without a car so i wanted to be close enough to walk to somewhere for something to do. Turns out this "park" has tons of things inside of it. I made the joke while we were there that "it was funny what these city folk call a park" because they had an area with a bunch of buildings and roads and just because there was some grass sprinkled in between they called it a park. Seriously, it was a very nice area but it was like driving from my house to work every day. In my opinion, it wasn't a true park. Anyways, enough ranting, back to the trip!

If you know me and James at all then you would know our first stop was the Zoo. It was located in Forest Park so we were able to walk to it in less than a mile. It was huge! There were tons of animals and the best part is that it is FREE!! I don't know how an area gets a free zoo but Knoxville needs to get on that! They were doing some construction on the sea lion part and the future plans look awesome. I hope we get to go back up when it is warmer so the animals are more active. Here are some highlights:
A cool multi-animal statue outside the zoo. St. Louis sure does love its steel statues!
You could get really close to the Penguins!
These were like 3ft away. So cute!
My favorite part was the Hippos. They were super friendly
and got really close.
When we walked up to this fellow, there wasn't much space between us. All i could think about was the movie Aladdin when Genie warms Aladin about camels "watch out, they spit!" I think this guy was saving one up to nail someone!
Meet James' new favorite animal; the Bush Dog. They look like a mix between a bear /fox/dog.
They were very active too. I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up with one next week.

The moral of the story here is, if you go to St. Louis definitely make time for the zoo!

The walk to the zoo was nice and sunny but by the time we headed back to the hotel the sky was looking really gloomy and it was very windy. It was miserable. It was so cold that James' cheeks were turning purple and i am not exaggerating at all. We ducked into a nearby Jimmy John's to get warm and rest our poor feet. The sandwiches were delicious, I don't know why i don't eat there more often. I don't know if Mayo is an important item to have in the event of an apocalypse but Jimmy John's was, without a doubt, ready!

What you can't see in this picture is that they have a third shelf to the
left that is also full of mayo. What the???
After we were full, warm, and rested we decided to venture over to the Science Center. It was also right beside the hotel. We read on the internet that the Science Center was also free so we were excited. We ended up driving there because it was just too dang cold. Honestly, i would not recommend the Science Center unless you have kids. It says it is free but it cost $10 to park and only about half the exhibits are truly free. The featured (a.k.a cool) exhibits cost money, the fancy omnimax theatre cost money, and the planetarium cost money! All that is left is some little kid activities that are half broken. We were very sad.

Next we decided to venture to Delmar Loop which is suppose to be "the happening place". It ended up being several speciality boutiques that just weren't for us and also several unique eateries. One of them being Fitz's soda. They make their own soda and have GIGANTIC floats of all kinds. They had one called "A Better Brown Cow" that was chocolate ice cream in cream soda. They all made me drool but we didn't plan right and were so stuffed after the food that we couldn't even stomach the sight of a float. We did get a cool view of the soda making room. They just weren't making anything because it was late at night.

Day 2
This was the day that James had to go into work for his review and Christmas party. One of the activities was that everyone had to decorate their own wreath. Apparently we misunderstood the rules and it was suppose to be ABOUT james. Like we should have put some disc golf discs around it with a jeep and probably LOTS of animals but we just decorated it like a normal wreath. I thought it turned out pretty good but he lost the contest needless to say.

Notice the cardinals, you know, for St. Louis.
So off James went to work and i had planned to sleep in but i just couldn't. I was too excited to start my day. (What? that doesn't sound like me at all!) So i went down and had breakfast and got ready for my run! When Forest Park was developed they installed 2 trails, one for "heels" and one for "wheels". The idea was to have a separate trail for runners and bikers but it looks like everyone just goes on whatever trail they feel like. The trails don't always go the same way and the bike path was actually way less hilly. They had made the "heels" path out of limestone to be easier on runner's joints but overtime the material had crumbled so the path just wasn't as smooth as the bike trail. I started at the zoo and ran around the edge of the park to pretty much the opposite side where the history museum was and decided to check it out.

The history museum also boasted that it is free but again, the featured (again, cool) exhibits cost money. I am really getting frustrated at this point... I guess i shouldn't complain though, at least part of it was free instead of nothing. There was a 1904 World's Fair exhibit in which i learned that one of first official marathons were held there. It started with 30 something runners but only 14 finished and several people were caught cheating by taking short cuts. I also learned that runners would take a small amount of rat poison because they believed it would help them deal with the pain. Also, supporters would run up and offer the runners shots of brandy to help deal with the pain. When you think about it like that, it is kind of funny that we continued this tradition since they had to find ways to deal with the pain.

Another one of the free exhibits was about Charles Lindbergh. It showed all his different plane experiments and there was even a life size model of one of his first planes. It didn't even have a windshield because that was the only spot for the gas tank. He used a parascope to see where he was going like a submarine. What i found most interesting about this exhibit was that Lindbergh's whole life he had wanted nothing more than to fly and once he was able to he concentrated all his efforts on advancing the technology until his later years when he became a huge environmental advocate and this was one of his last quotes:

How depressing is it that he worked his whole life to achieve his dreams and he actually got there but only to realize that he regretted what he had helped create. Maybe we all need to take a minute to look at our goals and think about what is really important to us, what we truly want.

On a happier note, Lindbergh was given several gifts from his travels but the coolest by far was this tiny guitar that was actually functional.

It measured about 1.5 - 2 inches tall. That is a pick on the neck.
By this time i was getting pretty hungry and luckily there was a cafe in the museum since i didn't have a car. I got a reuben and a beer and it was $15 freaking dollars! (Also, as a side note, 20oz bottle drinks were $3! Talk about big city prices!) I had been craving a reuben for a few days so even though the price was retarded, i decided to get one. However when it was delivered to my table there was no sauerkraut to be seen. There was coleslaw instead! What the crap, you Northerners?! First you call an area "a park" that is clearly NOT a park. Then you put coleslaw on a reuben. This is too far. So I threw it across the museum! okay... not really.. but i wanted to dang it!

Next i ventured off to the Grand Basin and Art Hill which turns out is just a large pond with 9 fountains in it and it backs up to a giant hill that is infront of the art museum. Nothing exciting at all. Wasn't even worth taking my gloves off to take a picture. However, you are allowed to sled down Art Hill and i bet that is a blast!!

While walking about the park i kept seeing signs for the Jewel Box so i decided to go check it out. Apparently it is a fancy greenhouse (and i mean hella fancy) that is lined with plants but you can actually rent the middle for weddings and functions. You wont see any pictures of the inside because it cost $1 to go in. That's right, they charge to see plants. Not flowers. Plants. So needless to say i didn't go inside.

The Jewel Box (aka fancy greenhouse)
Cool druid-y statue outside Jewel Box
20,000 steps later I finally made it back to the hotel and immediately soaked in the hot tub. Then I went back up to the room and relaxed while I attempted to knit (which i am sucking at, by the way) until James got back from his work Christmas Party.

Day 3
All the adventuring caught up with us and we slept in and missed breakfast (nooooooo!) but that's okay. You have to sleep in at least one day per vacation. We decided to try out this mac and cheese place all Cheese-ology in Delmar Loop. They basically just had a bunch of different kinds of mac and cheese combinations and 3 salads. I got the bacon mac and cheese and James got the buffalo mac and cheese. They were AMAZING. We really need one of those here in Knoxville. Market Square would be perfect. Anyways... we finally made our way to the Arch. I have to say from the outside it was pretty dang cool. It is honestly just beautiful.

View from the base of The Arch
You are able to go underground at the base of the arch and they have a museum, a theater that plays a show about Lewis and Clark and you can also get on the lift that takes you up the arch. If someone asked me, i would tell them just to go SEE the arch but don't go up in the arch. The wait is 10 minutes per group and that doesn't include if there are groups infront of you. The shuttle is a tiny egg that barely fits 5 people and even i had to slump forward because i was too tall for the ceiling. (I am only 5'5"). The ride up (630ft) is 3 minutes and then you cram into a narrow area with windows on both sides. You look out of the windows for 2 minutes and then you have to wait another 10 minutes for the shuttle to come back. I'll save you the trouble, here are pictures of the view:

Left side out of the arch
Right side out of arch
 We wanted to watch the Lewis and Clark movie but we had a beer to to get to! You would think we would have went to the Anheuser Busch tour but instead we opted for another local beer, Schlafly's. It was an interesting but short tour. However, i saw that they are Sysco customers, yay! Actually i think all the places we ate, including the hotel, were Sysco customers. Sysco St Louis must be kicking butt up there. After our delicious beer tasting we went to the restaurant they had onsite. We had received a giftcard from James' work so we had planned to get an app, entree, several beers, and dessert but the portions were gigantic. So we only made it through the bread, 1 beer, and half our entrees. I ordered ravioli and one piece took up my whole plate! I do have to say, in general, that the food in St Louis was much better. Maybe it was just the places we ate but restaurants seemed to go for a more gourmet style instead of just throwing something on a grill to reheat. Since we couldn't eat the rest of our giftcard money we decided to get each get shirts which was the smarter (aka healthier) thing to do anyways.

We decided to take it easy on our last St Louis activity, which was just to see Sherlock Holmes in a nearby theater. It was a cool style, it looked like an old performance theatre that had been turned into a movie theater.

Day 4
Since it was an 8 hour drive, we just ate breakfast and headed home on this day but i had to share one last adventure. We drove by Metropolis on our way home. That's right, the home of Superman! So of course there was a statue and a photo-opt! :)

Overall we had a great time and i look forward to going back to St. Louis. I believe a big part of the success of this trip was the amount of time planning i put into it BEFORE we went. I made a list of everything i wanted to do, completely researched the activities and any applicable hours and fees. Then i divided the activities over the days we were there being careful to take the hours of operations into consideration. I was also very careful about the location of the hotel i picked which as you can tell played a huge role in what i was able to do while James was gone. Sure, i could have called a taxi but that would have added up quick and with some planning i was able to avoid that expense all together. If you have never used Google to search and even book a hotel then you are missing out. Find something you want to stay near (ex. Forest Park) and google map "hotels near (Forest Park)". It will bring up all the surrounding hotels and even list 4-5 sites to book them on with prices! A-MA-ZING! 

I would highly recommend our hotel for location and cleanliness. However, for extended stays it could have had a few more bells and whistles. I really missed having a mini fridge. As you can guess, my number one recommendation is the zoo and then, heck, check out that cheese-ology place for lunch and head over to Fitz' and get yourself an amazing float! 

Okay, so this blog post turned out WAAAAAAY longer than i expected so if you made it this far, I commend you. I have almost fallen asleep 3 times just while writing it. (j/k!) I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure! :)

Alright, off to bed now, for realz. 

(Update 12.29.11: added the picture of The Arch. I can't believe i forgot to include it originally!!)