Missouri & Illinois
Thursday, January 8th
It has been almost two years since I studied abroad and met one of my dearest friends Lori, and I haven't seen her in a long time, so we planned a spur of the moment trip for me to come out and visit her in St. Louis. She visited me in California so it was my turn :) I arrived on Thursday night after a layover in Texas and we grabbed some groceries and headed back to Lori's place where we spent a long time just catching up.
Friday, January 9th
I slept in a bit, ate breakfast, and practiced using my camera Friday morning while Lori went to work, and when she got back we were ready for our very short adventure. I could only come for the weekend, so we had to cram a lot of activities into one weekend. We started off our adventure with a driving tour around town and stopped for lunch at a pizza place called Pi and split a very cheesy and delicious deep dish pizza. After lunch, we drove to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. We were happy to be indoors as much as possible because it was below freezing for most of my time there. The cathedral was even more beautiful than most of the ones I had seen in Europe. We walked around and around and around for quite some time while I tried to capture how beautiful it was with my "fancy" camera, which I haven't completely learned how to use yet. Everywhere you looked, you would see something new. The ceiling was covered in shiny little tiles that made it glitter from every angle. The photos actually turned out really well, which I am very thankful for. (Lori's photography skills are much better than mine, though.)
After spending quite some time at the basilica, we popped back in the car and headed back to Lori's hometown of Camdenton, which was 3 hours away. The sun set as we drove in traffic all the way there. It was really beautiful. It seemed to linger in the sky to make our drive more appealing. We arrived at Lori's parents house, which was surrounded by forest, and her parents greeted us at the door. Her dad had cooked us yummy Thai food and peanut butter brownies. I got to know her parents over dinner, and they were very sweet. I would have stayed there probably forever if I could have haha. Her house was so cozy and filled with plants and big windows with a view down to the lake nearby. Lori and I spent the night playing card games in the game room before we went to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up to fresh baked cinnamon rolls. I definitely overindulged on this trip, but it was well worth it. We chatted with her parents while we ate, and they left afterwards so we said our goodbyes. Lori and I got ready for the day and she took me on a tour of her hometown. We started off at her childhood home, her middle school, and her high school, where we ran into some of her old teachers and old photos of her in the hallways. We also stopped by some ruins of a castle that burned down in the early 1900's. We got a little crazy impersonation a fountain, which I thought was a fire pit. We were continuing our tour around the area when a friend of Lori's saw us driving down the highway and called her. We ended up having lunch with her at a little restaurant called the Paint Box where we had salads and yummy "pink" cookies covered in pink Himalayan sea salt. I wish I would have bought all of the cookies. Her friend had mentioned a place that had puppies, so we said goodbye and went there after lunch. It was a little puppy store where you can go and hold the dogs that are for sale. I was in heaven. I think I've been having animal withdrawals, because I never wanted to leave that place. I held all 6 dogs at least twice. We headed back to St. Louis after our little puppy break.
We were trying to figure out where to eat dinner when somehow crab had some up. Lori told me she had never had crab, so I looked up the nearest Joe's Crab Shack and we drove all the way to Illinois to try it. It was quite entertaining to teach Lori how to crack crab, and we had really creamy crab stuffed mushrooms. I'm pretty much addicted to dessert...I think all of my teeth are sweet teeth...so we brainstormed dessert places. After driving to one place which was jam packed with over an hour wait, we decided to look elsewhere. We decided on a place called Fountain on Locust, which was a trendy old soda and ice cream shop. It had a cool art deco, Great Gatsby vibe. We got seated right away and before I knew it I had gotten a rooter float AND the "world's smallest ice cream cone". No regrets on getting both...and I did warn you I overindulged. I wasn't kidding. We ended the night once again playing cards where Lori kicked my butt in a game called Golf. She has more decks of cards than one human would ever need; my favorite deck was shaped like carrots.
Sunday, January 11th
Sunday was sadly my last day. We had breakfast before we left Lori's place and decided to start the day at the big arch. I never knew you could go inside it. After a really confusing and complicated detour, we finally got to the arch. I saw that there were metal detectors and realized I had my favorite pocked knife in my purse, so I tried to hide it inside a construction cone, which did not turn out well. While I was buying tickets to go up inside the arch, a park ranger came to return it to me and proceeded to lecture me about how he could have given me a $150 ticket. We went to wait in like to get into the pods that take you to the top of the arch, but I never realized how tiny they would be. Claustrophobia set in real hard when I saw the little door open up and we had to climb inside. There wasn't even room for me to sit up straight, it was that small. I tried to ignore my fear of heights and appreciate the view from the top. On one side you could see St. Louis, and on the other side you could see the Mississippi River and Illinois just across it. It was an awesome experience, but I was glad to get out of the tiny pod and be on solid ground again.
Since I like to get a ring on every trip I take, I thought we might find some cool ones at antique stores. They seemed to be everywhere in the city, but we went specifically to a historical district that had a bunch of them all in a row. It started to rain, so we scurried between shops. We found a lot of cool knick knacks, including a whole flower shop in the back of another antique store and several old signs and stained glass windows. There also happened to be a healthy, sustainable bakery at the end of the street called Whisk, so we popped in for ginger cookies and a peanut butter bar. No luck on rings though. We had time for lunch before I had to go to the airport, so we went to The Loop to a restaurant called Blueberry Hill, where I had the best veggie burger I've ever had. Afterwards, we walked across the street to a place called Fitz's where they brew their own soda. I had my second rooter float of the trip and we watched the bottling line, but it kept getting jammed. We paroosed the shops on this street since we had some extra time. We went into an art gallery where we were encouraged to visit a guy's exhibition that was going on. It was a bunch of metal work inspired by songs. There was some really cool pottery there that I definitely could not afford. We went to another shop down the street called Phoenix Rising where I picked up two rings. I had a serious addiction haha. Now that I had found my necessary souvenir, it was time to go. Even though I miss Lori so much, it was such a fun visit and a perfect first experience in Missouri.