Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 48

We woke up early(ish) this morning in an effort to see as much of St Louis as we could. We managed to leave the hotel at 10:30 and had the car parked in the city just before 11:00. There was a strange little box at the carpark where you had to fold dollar bills in about four and stuff them into a tiny slot. If the bill didn't go in, there was a flat metal type of key on a string that you could stuff the bill in with. It was unusual but it only cost us $4.00 to park all day.

The first thing we did was walk down to the Gateway Arch, which is located along the Mississippi in Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park. The arch, known as the 'gateway to the west' symbolises the expansion of America when President Jefferson purchased 530 million acres of land from the French known as The Louisiana Purchase. The land cost America over 23 million dollars and was a very unpopular decision at the time. Many Federalists opposed the acquisition because they did not like the French and were concerned that people moving west could threaten the political power of the Atlantic states.

The land purchased contained present day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, most of North Dakota & South Dakota, the top of New Mexico & Texas and parts of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, which effectively doubled the size of the States. Afterwards, the area that comprises the park and Gateway Arch today became the starting point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The arch was designed and completed in 1965. It stands 630 feet tall and is also 630 feet at it's widest point. The arch is hollow and is covered by stainless steel. It contains a tram system that can shuttle people up to the observation deck at the top. There are also two stairwells in case of emergency evacuation. Apparently, on a windy day, the top of the arch sways back and forth.

Beneath the ground underneath is a visitor center but we decided to give it a miss when we realised there was a full security check like you have to go through in an airport.

So, instead we walked down to the Gateway Arch Riverboat cafe for something to drink.

We then made our way to the nearest metro station to go west to the area known as The Loop. There was an interesting view of the arch from the station.

We arrived at The Loop and walked down Delmar Avenue which is the main strip. It has hundred of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and provides a pretty good mix of old and new all along the way.

It also contains the walk of fame with stars for lots of different celebrities who were born or lived in St Louis.

Our destination was the bar / restaurant Blueberry Hill. The place was amazing. It has nine rooms, seven dartboards and endless cabinets of just about every iconic piece of pop culture in the last 50 years. All of the walls are covered in posters and original album covers and there are cabinets dedicated to The Simpsons, The Rams and The Cardinals. And of course Chuck Berry, who actually has been playing one gig a month there for the last eleven years.

Their jukebox has been rated by Billboard Magazine as one of the best in the entire world. And just about everything on their menu has been voted 'Best Of' Missouri.

The atmosphere was good, the tunes playing were brilliant and the food was amazing. I started off with toasted ravioli (a local specialty) and then had one of their famous, award winning burgers. I also tried a pint of Shlafly pale ale, which is the local brew and is quality. (Note the concert poster for Chuck Berry in the window in the last photo.)

Feeling incredibly satisfied with our lunches, we walked one more block to Vintage Vinyl. Wow! What a shop! I was a bit disappointed by their dance section but that just isn't their thang. They have just about everything else though, including t-shirts that say, 'Hey windy city, blow me!' as well as knickers with the Gateway Arch on them.

To give you an idea how much stuff they had, I will list the CDs that I bought. It is about as eclectic as you can get.

* Buzzin' Fly Volume 4 - Ben Watt
* See How We Are - X (The band, the myth, the legend)
* Soul Message - Richard 'Groove' Holmes
* Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

I also had a few others in my hand but decided not to buy them. Yes, I regret it now.

We then started heading back towards the metro and went into Rag-A-Rama (a second hand clothing store) and Streetside Records along the way.

Rag-A-Rama was a cool place. I bought a pair of 'rock star' shades for only $16.00. And Paulo bought a pair of green and yellow Converse Hi-Tops for his $16.00. But Streetside was quite disappointing as we were both certain that it was really a FYE in disguise. Very cheeky.

We got back on the train and went to Forest Park but it was way too big and way too hot to have a proper look. We hung in the shade for a bit but decided to leave when the army of bugs were trying to eat us for dinner.

The Froot Magnet

When we got back to the metro station, some dude started talking to Paulo and when he wouldn't make eye contact, the dude got pissed off and started giving him abuse. Then, we get on the train and the guy behind us says to Paulo, "hey buddy, you don't want those green Cons." What!? What the hell do you say to some twat like that? I told Paulo he should have opted for "douche bag says what?" He started laughing and told Paulo that he was only kidding but
neither of us got the joke. I told Paulo when we got off the train that he was a total 'Froot magnet' and that I might stop hanging with him.

We got off the metro near the Arch again and went into the Historic District to have a look. Unfortunately, like most cities, one of the oldest parts of the city is now a strip of bars and restaurants. Still, we went into the Feisty Dog for a drink and were able to catch some of the Cardinals game with the Marlins.

We drove back to the hotel, had a quick tidy up and then went right back into town to a blues bar called BB's Jazz Blues Soups. We had seen that there was live music every night and tonight was Keith Ellis and the Sessions Big Band.

The bar was great. And so were the band - 15 local guys. Despite their name, there didn't seem to be anybody called Keith Ellis. But there were several drummers, a bass player, lots of trombone players, a couple of sax players and a few trumpet players. Most of the set were the same guys but a few different ones jumped in now and again for a few tunes. They played a good few old songs as well as some re-arranged traditional songs. All of the songs were introduced by a small guy in the back corner who reminded us of Ned Flanders.

We had a few Shlafly's (as you do) and some quality food. I went for the toasted ravioli again and then a cajun chicken sandwich. They were both fantastic. The band played two sets and the music was absolute quality. Just what you would expect to see / hear in St Louis.

We drove back to the hotel, had some wifi time and watched old re-runs of Three's Company.

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