Hello Fog, Goodbye STL Summer Break

21 Jun 2013

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Oh hello! I’ve just returned from a much needed break in Saint Louis to visit friends and family. The weather there hovered around 85 all week, which was just fine by me. Now I’m back at my desk in San Francisco in a sweater (!!!) drinking a cup of tea, and wondering once again why I live in a place with no warm weather. “But 60 degrees is perfect!” say you silly people who enjoy wearing at least three layers at all times. Whatever! I really don’t mind a bit of chill – I just really, REALLY, miss seasons after seven years in the Bay Area. At first I missed the fall, with it’s lovely colours, then summer, with its heady warm nights, and lastly the winter. It of course, does not snow here, and I have to say the Christmases I’ve spent here have been the most depressing I can remember. The streets are empty, there’s barely a decoration in sight, and no one seems very interested in that Jesus fellow.

Enough whining! Anyway, yes, it was nice visit home. Saint Louis always has a nice mix of “Town & Country” going on. You can go to upscale restaurants downtown or in Clayton (in St. Louis County) or in a few minutes you can be in the rolling hills of the river valleys, with no one around except a perhaps a weather-beaten barn and a few horses. The area is rapidly growing too, which means there’s always something new to see every time I visit.

Here are a few discoveries from this trip, as well as a few photos I snapped with my trusty phone along the way. Enjoy!

See:

Shakespeare in the Park – Annual free festival in Forest Park of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s worth noting that the festival is the only free outdoor professional theater in St. Louis. Well attended during nice weather, so make sure to come early to find parking and a good spot for the picnic blanket!

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Vino and Shakespeare with @esweeney8

 

Saint Louis Art Museum – Still, hands down, one of my favorite places in the city – and it’s free! The Saint Louis Art Museum’s building was designed by renowned American architect Cass Gilbert for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair. Originally part of the Palace of Fine Arts, the Museum was the only building from the Fair designed to be a permanent structure, the “one material monument of the Exposition.” The museum was just about to undergo three weeks of renovation during my trip, but I’m sure the new extension is going to be breath-taking. Designed by award-winning architect Sir David Chipperfield + HOK, the new East Building increases the museum’s public space by 30 percent.

Quincy, Illinois / Hannibal, Missouri – About a two hour drive north of Saint Louis, Quincy and Hannibal are historic river towns nestled on the banks of the Mississippi.

Quincy, Illinois in Adams County, is famous for its tree-lined streets, beautiful parks and attractive historic neighborhoods. The city of Quincy is home to 42,000 residents and was voted as one of the top ten of historic towns in the United States. In addition to local designations, Quincy is home to four National Register of Historic Places districts, covering about 250 blocks and a dozen individually listed National Register properties. Be sure to check out the architecture driving tour during your visit.

Hannibal, founded in 1819, is most famous as the boyhood home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Twain based many of the characters in his books upon people he had known growing up in the town. Besides visiting Twain’s home and the museum, there’s also nearby Mark Twain Cave which is mentioned in five of Twain’s books and well worth the visit.

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Mark Twain in front of his boyhood home in Hannibal

Eat:

HotPot Smoothie Shop- A super healthy (especially by Midwestern standards!) and cheap lunch option. We only had the smoothies there but I was quite impressed with the Green and Sticky, which is noteworthy considering my current obsession with Pressed Juicery. Not too sweet, not too herbal, and definitely made me feel 200% better after a late night out. They also serve lovely sounding vegan and paleo friendly bowls.

* Nerd Note – they also have a smoothie called Red Dwarf!  It’s made with mango and pineapple and topped off with a Swedish fish!

Crazy Bowls & Wraps – OK. So this a chain… But! If, you, like me, aren’t really fond of eating burgers and fries for every meal, CB&W makes tasty bowls (and yes, wraps) that even cater to vegan and gluten-free folks. Since it’s a local chain, there are several locations around the STL metro area.

Mai Lee  – Get your pho fix at Mai Lee. I tried the Bun Mang Vit (bun noodles with duck and bamboo) but I have the feeling the Pho Ga (noodles with chicken) is probably even better!

Drink:

Robust Wine Bar – We stopped here for dessert and a bit of champange after dinner. Located in the very cute downtown area of Webster Groves, Robust has a suprisingly good wine list for the Midwest. And the DESSERTS ARE SO GOOD. The salted caramel pot de crème is possibly the most decadent thing I’ve tasted all year. Pro-tip: Avoid the noisy dining room and chill at the bar.

Shop:

Paperdolls – A local boutique that’s recently added a new location in Ballwin, Paperdolls reminds me of my very favorite place to shop in SF, Ambiance. The decor is girly without being juvenile, and the clothes they carry are trendy, wearable, and not too expensive. I picked up a sparkly multi-strand silver necklace for $32.

Secondhand / Discount Stores – Overall, the secondhand and thrift shops in Saint Louis are much less picked through than in other places in the U.S. Chances are, that amazing mid-century chair you found for a steal on eBay probably came from a small town in Missouri. Let me put it another way, if vintage shopping is your thing, Missouri is your Mecca. Seriously.

Also, be sure to check out designer discount stores like T.J. Maxx. We hit up the one in Des Peres and I was blown away by the selection of Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and Parker for bargain prices.

Do:

If you are visiting during the summer months - hit the pool! There are many neighborhood pools that are well-appointed, clean, and downright swanky compared to the pools you might find in other cities. We visited the pool in Manchester, and I have to say it much more “theme-park” than city pool. Pro-tip – If you’re not down with “OPC” (Other People’s Children!), go later in the day to avoid the crowds of littles.

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Get a “concrete” – Concretes are the STL version of a frappe or shake. It’s blended so thick that it’s like, you guessed it, concrete, and you can actually flip over your cup without anything falling out. The hometown favorite is Ted Drewes, but most of the frozen custard (Sidebar, yes, frozen custard instead of ice cream!) places around STL sell concretes.

Drive down a country lane, especially one with trees hugging the road until you see a beautiful farm with a white-washed barn. Stop for moment to enjoy the view, breathe, and sigh contentedly.

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hearts,

msjj

 

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One Response to “Hello Fog, Goodbye STL Summer Break”

  1. Carol 21. Jun, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Wow! The nearest thing to being there. Not sure my Irish body thermostat would survive living in S.L., but so enjoyed your wonderfully expressive recounting of your visit. Thanks Julie.
    P.S. should we get a day over 23C here in Dublin, I will definitely attempt making a ‘concrete’! Cx

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