I plan to write this entry in two goes: To tell you about my afternoon in a very wet Downtown St. Louis now, and about my evening — which no-one will be surprised to hear involves a possibility of beer — when I come back in.
So, this is St. Louis…
No prizes for guessing where that’s taken from. This is how it all worked out…
Having spent the morning drying out and waiting – in vain – for the weather to clear up, rather than see the whole day disappear I girded my loins, zipped up my fleece and headed off into the teeth of the, er, drizzle. I actually felt a little over dressed in the end, most locals were wandering round in their T shirts still, with fellow tourists easy to spot under their Disneyland-style disposable ponchos.
I’ve lost count of the number of times in this trip that I’ve said something to the effect that – for whatever reasons – “I’m not seeing this place at its best”. Well that was certainly true of St. Louis. In fact, at times it was like wandering through a ghost town. The downtown business and entertainment area was virtually deserted.
First port of all on my walking tour was the rejuvenated Union Station. Trains were long ago banished to a less convenient stopping place and this is now a restaurant & entertainment complex with some shops. Like almost everywhere else, everything was open, there were just hardly any customers about. I’m sure, at its best, this is a good place to visit, but today I simply kept on walking.
I continued along Market Street, drawn toward the ever larger-looming Gateway Arch, dominating the city – as it was designed to do, of course.
It was about this time that I became somewhat acutely aware of the fact I hadn’t eaten a thing for 24 hours, and that had been an Amtrak turkey sandwich. More fool me, I know. I looked round for options and happily came across Hardees at the Ballpark (having already found and photographed the frontage of Busch Stadium, it is actually several blocks from the ballpark, but…) I thought this must be a local chain, having not heard of them, but I now see they’re fairly common east of the Mississippi. Anyway, their “bacon cheese thickburger” really hit the spot.
Refreshed, I continued on along Market Street, eventually reaching the Gateway Arch. I did wonder whether it was worth going up, given the weather, but the cloud seemed reasonably high by then, so I went for it. Through the airport style security and at the ticket desk, I politely declined all the add-ons (film show, boat trip, museum etc..) and stumped-up just $10 to go up the Arch. Travelling alone has its advantages and this was one of those times. The ‘tram’ used to take people up each side of the structure consists of several small capsule-like vehicles each holding five people. An odd single, therefore gets to jump the queue of couples and quartets in order to fill-up the remaining pods. I was at the top within about five minutes of walking through the door, which I was pretty pleased with.
I didn’t spend long up there, just enough time to take in the view on each side and snap a dozen or so images. Preparations for a concert were taking place underneath the Arch with a stage set up. That kind of spoilt the symmetry looking straight down, but otherwise, despite the grotty weather, I was really pleased with the views.
Back down on terra firma, exiting through the gift shop, of course, I went and dipped my toe (figuratively) in the Mississippi. Having done so in the Pacific, and planning to do so in the Atlantic, this seemed like a ceremonial moment. Actually, what I stepped in was real Mississippi Mud!
Touristy stuff done, I returned to the Downtown area, walking past Macy’s which is in the process of closing down. The thing about Downtown St. Louis is that there seems to be a lot of places for people to work (high rise offices of financial institutions), quite a lot of bars & restaurants, and an awful loft of ‘lofts’ and apartments – but I singularly failed to find anywhere where people can shop! It seemed quite bizarre. Added to the almost post-apocalypitic sense of the streets being deserted, it felt almost eerie.
Of course, at 8th & Washington, I found a Starbucks, this is America after all. There were four staff and, guess what, NO customers. Uncanny – this was 15:15 right in the middle of the business district. The rain really must have scared people away. Actually, by then, it had about stopped. It was here that my research developed into a plan for this evening. I’d been mildly countering to myself that the Courtyard is quite a way out – 1½ miles from the Gateway Arch, for example. Except that I found that within four blocks there is Schlafly Tap Room (I just need to work out how to say it!).
As I type, my jeans are once more hanging over the air conditioner unit – cranked up to as high a temperature as it’ll go, and the window is open to compensate. Even so, I still expect the room to smell of wet clothes later – as it did when I came in, just.
Later, as promised…
Yep, visited the Schlafly’s Tap Room. Good food, Good beer, Good service — two-and-a-half out of three ain’t bad. Beer-wise, no complaints at all: Oatmeal Stout 6.0%, Dry-Hopped APA 5.9%, Eighty Schilling 4.0% & Maibock 6.86%. – all very good. Food; I went with something a little different – Meatloaf Muffin. I kid you not – bacon wrapped meatloaf served in an English muffin (with fried egg & onions – both ditched, I’m afraid) and fries. No complaints there either. The bartender – mmm. In many respects, he kind of made me think of how I’d be as a bartender. He was a fifty-something, a build which suggested he enjoyed the product and a dress sense I applauded. Whilst I recognise good customer service, I’m just not sure I’d practice it. I also get the sense he didn’t readily enjoy the company of strangers. He did his job – very well, it has to be said, never said anything out of order, but his body language, mannerisms and facial expressions were screaming. I tip my cap, I suppose.
Again, the place was far from busy, but there were a fair number of other customers – maybe what you’d expect of a early Tuesday evening. Either way, it was pleasing to see representatives of the good folk of St. Louis other than inside a motor vehicle – though given how out-of-the-way Schlafly’s is from anywhere but the Courtyard, I’m pretty sure they all got there in an automobile.
Tomorrow: Off to the Airport to collect the hire car, back here for bags (I’m not going through THAT again) then south-east toward Nashville. Sounds like a plan?