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Trip Report Michelangelo tattoos and a black eye, Faina’s St Louis report.

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Part 1, the flights: my luggage nearly went to Florida.

I had 2 one-way tickets. Contrary to the popular belief, one-way tickets don’t automatically trigger a strip search. On Sunday morning the check-in on American (got a cheap one-way on Alaskan website) was crazy. The lady behind the counter was running around helping 10 people at the same time. When my suitcase floated by on the conveyor belt, I’ve noticed the paper tag said MIA not STL. Called the lady, her face clearly said: if only I had 3 wishes, all 3 would be for you to disappear. She annoyingly took my boarding pass: oh, shoot, I gave you the wrong one!!

With the description of my suitcase “small black with blue and gold ribbons” she went to the security area, put the right tape on, brought out the wrong one to prove she’d switched them, gave me another boarding pass. For an apology, she walked me to the 1st class TSA lane. I am horrified to think of the other passenger who’s luggage had gone to my destination.

On the 4-hour flight we didn’t have any snacks. Not even peanuts. Plenty of drinks, though. Arrived on time, took MetroLink to the city, easy to find and to navigate. No need to drag the luggage up the stairs - find the elevator at Union Station. Go toward the Union Station, the huge red brick building on the left is the Drury Inn, walk over the bridges, or through the parking lot.

Going back, my traveling buddy dropped me off at the car rental, took a shuttle to Southwest. They offered almost food! Surprise! A box with 3 packages: cookies, trail mix and more cookies. Then of course came peanuts. And drinks. Made a stop in LA, continued on the same plane to Oakland. BART to the city, called Mr. Again who met me at the bus stop. Home, sweet home!

Part 2, Elderhostel: it was all I’ve expected and more! Mary Lou is a great group guide! And the driver was very professional.

Drury Inn. It gave me a feeling of a dormitory. Our room had a window into lobby, not outside. Comfortable beds with 3 pillows. TV guide on channel 98, weather on 99. Yes, that many channels. Free long-distance and free Internet as promised. Popcorn and drinks/snacks in the evening. Breakfast buffet was good, with waffles, eggs and cereal, but every day the same.

Food. On average, the food was not bad, couple of hits, couple of misses. 2 dinners were at Lombardo’s at the hotel. The first one was excellent; the 2nd was a disappointment. The cafeteria at the court was so-so; their judges obviously never eat there.

Nadoz - get there at any cost! At least for coffee. Even their decaf had a wonderful coffee aroma. They must have the best coffee in the US. The food was good, too. And it’s beautiful inside. This building was something else, if I remember correctly, the restaurant is in the former lobby of a former hotel. All buildings where something else in MO.

Hooligan at the Union Station had good food, but the service was lousy. The waiter got annoyed when 2 people at my table asked for coffee after everybody at another table received this drink. Sara Lee cafe at Contemporary art museum was the worst. We came a bit early; she was still making sandwiches. So, if the panini sandwich is just made, how can it be soggy? Eeeeww...

Dinner at the Best Steak house was very good although 4.30 pm is too early for the last meal of the day. Sassafras at the Botanical Garden is a great place with inside and outside seating - we didn’t go as a group, but had vouchers, the food was wonderful. Grappa’s in St Charles was nice, on the way to see the play.

Classes. Interesting lecture on producing a play from the director’s point of view. A movie about building of the Arch - in the classroom before the fieldtrip. The closing was a woman trying to teach us to do “art”. She brought black/white sketches, which we dutifully copied, on another piece of paper and colored. I said, as my father is still alive, I’ll take it to him to put it on the refrigerator.

Field trips. We went to 2 courthouses. The old courthouse is famous for the Scott’s case (they show a movie too). Beautiful inside with a dome ceiling and a staircase to go up.

The Court of appeals is the place to visit! We could see the whole city from the 28th floor. The people who went up the Arch said I haven’t missed much after being in this court. Also several employees explained how the court and the library work.

Visited a Catholic Church with lots of mosaics. Looked to me like one small church inside a large one, but what do I know! Had a funny conversation in the gift shop. Spotted Solzhenitzin’s book there. Asked the cashier, why a catholic establishment sells this author. He’s a Russian catholic, was the answer. No, he’s not, he’s a Russian orthodox, and there are no Russian Catholics. It’s the same, was the reply. This is when one lady in our group said, she’s from Russia. Then I don’t know, was a quick reply.

To ride the MetroLink was a separate field trip. Now I am not surprised, as it seemed that at least half of our group was using public transport for the first time in their lives. I was also surprised most of the group drove to the program. Don’t people want to learn about new places? But don’t skip this trip, the ride over Mississippi was nice.

I didn’t go to the top of the Arch. My fault, forgot to take the allergy meds the day before, and didn’t feel right for the ride. I was not alone in the Imax to see a really great movie about... Alaska! You would think it would be more area-related, huh? But I was a happy camper. The museum of westward expansion is so worth a visit!

Art museum, a walk with a docent, then time on our own. Loved the old paintings. Appalled in the gift shop: they made removable tattoos out of the classic paintings! One can put Michelangelo on any part of the body. Matisse, Van Gough, they must be turning in their graves!

Powell symphony hall - went there twice, once for a tour, another time for a free concert opened to everybody. Strange choice of composers, maybe because of only 4 players, but the orchestra must be good! Wine reception after the concert.

Sheldon art gallery and contemporary art museum, photography and Maya Lin exhibit, and again a docent walk and time to explore. Employees watch you like prison wards not to touch “the art”. The Pulitzer foundation - loved the water installation outside with the trees turning yellow.

At the Botanical garden we had a walking tour through the park. At the present time, Zimbabwe sculptures are displayed, they are beautiful! And pricey, if you choose to buy - CaliNurse checked the prices. It’s a lovely place, and if you’re tired, we saw a tram running around. In the gift shop (yes, the gift shops are the recurring motif of my report) a man with his hands full said to his wife, her hands were full too: oh, thanks God we didn’t find anything we liked!

The play “Blame it on the Movies” is the amateur university production, songs from old movies of which I’d recognized one... and it was not even a Hollywood movie but a French “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”. What can I say, life is not always fair!

At the Third Degree glass factory we saw the creation of the piece of art. Magnificent! It was nice to see young people working there. If you visit, go to the restroom to see how they use some of their art, not everything is for sale.

Black eye. One day CaliNurse went shopping, I heard the room door opening and she announced: I’ll tell everybody you’ve done that! She fell on her face, it’s a great luck the glasses or bones didn’t break, the first day it was a large scratch, the next morning she couldn’t open the eye, it was swollen and black. K-9s, eat your hear out, I was there to witness the changing colors!

Part 3, outside of St Louis in a rented car, and the black eye didn’t spoil our trip!

First, we went down to Cahokia mounds, what an eye-opener about the Natives, and the movie is great. The website says the 17’ movie is for disabled - no, it’s for everybody, only separate entrances to the same theater. I don’t know how many times we said “wish we’d have more time here!” and not only at the mounds.

The Trail of Tears park looks so peaceful now. In the nice weather, plan to spend a day there hiking. Difficult to believe the tragic history of the place. Don’t miss the movie.

The night was in the Microtel in Ste Genevieve. It was inconvenient not to have a coffeemaker in the room. For some reason, I have very little recollection of this town. Cute little houses. Cute little streets. Cute overweight people walking them. Genevieve java house sells the worst coffee ever - mine tasted bitter and sour at the same time. Yuck. Sirro’s pizza is good, thin crust, very busy with families, takes forever, we got a wrong salad, water glasses were never refilled.

Hannibal. Some Fodorites advised us against going to Hannibal or staying there 2 nights. We had exactly one day between the 2 nights, and it felt just right. We did the trolley tour and a river ride. Thank God I insisted against the dinner cruise, or that mandolin music would make me walk the plank. Called Mr. Again on the cell phone, let him listen a bit, he didn’t like it either! But the floating along the banks was so nice and relaxing! They take your mandatory picture upon boarding and try to sell it for $10 a piece. Good luck with that!

The rest of the time was filled with the street fair, shopping, visiting, walking, and nearly getting lost in the dark. Holiday Inn Express is probably like other hotels in the chain, the location is not good, too far from everything. We didn’t have much choice as the town was sold out for the festival. Dinner at the Logue’s restaurant was fine, nothing outstanding, but somewhat educational. A large Amish family was next to us in the non-smoking section. I was surprised they interact that much with the “English” as to visit a restaurant. I was under impression, probably from TV movies; their communities are isolated from people with different beliefs.

St Charles, the last night before the flight home. The Country Inn was at least 2-3 blocks away from everything, and we’re talking about major cobblestones! Riding in the car along the main street was like: dr-drr-drrrr-drrr-dr-drr. And try to walk on uneven brick road in the dark and rain! Lewis and Clark started their expedition in St Charles, now I know what they were getting away from. Their museum is also a nature museum, and the movie about their expedition runs non-stop.

We had lunch at Magpie. CaliNurse tried to explain to me what a cobbler is, and it was my understanding it’s like an open-face pie, so I ordered. What I got was a bowl of liquid preserves with an occasional piece of dough floating inside. Ouch! There is also a brewery 2 blocks away from the Country Inn, the non-smoking section is upstairs, and the food was soooo good! Portabella strips, appetizer is yummy. Every dish there is good.

The trees were just turning, and the locals told us they don’t expect colors this dry year. The only great red maple was in the Jewish Cemetery in Louisiana. Louisiana I think MO. Next to the cemetery is a fire station, it was shut, and across the road a raging fire. We didn’t see any trucks nor people there. Was it a controlled fire? A drill? We’ll never know.

A general observation: what is it about the dead bodies on and off the roads everywhere we drove? Like shoes along the highways in CA, the roads in MO are littered with killed animals. Why was it only the chicken that managed to cross the road?

We also found the restaurant prices to be much lower then in San Francisco.

Part 1, the flights: my luggage nearly went to Florida.

I had 2 one-way tickets. Contrary to the popular belief, one-way tickets don’t automatically trigger a strip search. On Sunday morning the check-in on American (got a cheap one-way on Alaskan website) was crazy. The lady behind the counter was running around helping 10 people at the same time. When my suitcase floated by on the conveyor belt, I’ve noticed the paper tag said MIA not STL. Called the lady, her face clearly said: if only I had 3 wishes, all 3 would be for you to disappear. She annoyingly took my boarding pass: oh, shoot, I gave you the wrong one!!

With the description of my suitcase “small black with blue and gold ribbons” she went to the security area, put the right tape on, brought out the wrong one to prove she’d switched them, gave me another boarding pass. For an apology, she walked me to the 1st class TSA lane. I am horrified to think of the other passenger who’s luggage had gone to my destination.

On the 4-hour flight we didn’t have any snacks. Not even peanuts. Plenty of drinks, though. Arrived on time, took MetroLink to the city, easy to find and to navigate. No need to drag the luggage up the stairs - find the elevator at Union Station. Go toward the Union Station, the huge red brick building on the left is the Drury Inn, walk over the bridges, or through the parking lot.

Going back, my traveling buddy dropped me off at the car rental, took a shuttle to Southwest. They offered almost food! Surprise! A box with 3 packages: cookies, trail mix and more cookies. Then of course came peanuts. And drinks. Made a stop in LA, continued on the same plane to Oakland. BART to the city, called Mr. Again who met me at the bus stop. Home, sweet home!

Part 2, Elderhostel: it was all I’ve expected and more! Mary Lou is a great group guide! And the driver was very professional.

Drury Inn. It gave me a feeling of a dormitory. Our room had a window into lobby, not outside. Comfortable beds with 3 pillows. TV guide on channel 98, weather on 99. Yes, that many channels. Free long-distance and free Internet as promised. Popcorn and drinks/snacks in the evening. Breakfast buffet was good, with waffles, eggs and cereal, but every day the same.

Food. On average, the food was not bad, couple of hits, couple of misses. 2 dinners were at Lombardo’s at the hotel. The first one was excellent; the 2nd was a disappointment. The cafeteria at the court was so-so; their judges obviously never eat there.

Nadoz - get there at any cost! At least for coffee. Even their decaf had a wonderful coffee aroma. They must have the best coffee in the US. The food was good, too. And it’s beautiful inside. This building was something else, if I remember correctly, the restaurant is in the former lobby of a former hotel. All buildings where something else in MO.

Hooligan at the Union Station had good food, but the service was lousy. The waiter got annoyed when 2 people at my table asked for coffee after everybody at another table received this drink. Sara Lee cafe at Contemporary art museum was the worst. We came a bit early; she was still making sandwiches. So, if the panini sandwich is just made, how can it be soggy? Eeeeww...

Dinner at the Best Steak house was very good although 4.30 pm is too early for the last meal of the day. Sassafras at the Botanical Garden is a great place with inside and outside seating - we didn’t go as a group, but had vouchers, the food was wonderful. Grappa’s in St Charles was nice, on the way to see the play.

Classes. Interesting lecture on producing a play from the director’s point of view. A movie about building of the Arch - in the classroom before the fieldtrip. The closing was a woman trying to teach us to do “art”. She brought black/white sketches, which we dutifully copied, on another piece of paper and colored. I said, as my father is still alive, I’ll take it to him to put it on the refrigerator.

Field trips. We went to 2 courthouses. The old courthouse is famous for the Scott’s case (they show a movie too). Beautiful inside with a dome ceiling and a staircase to go up.

The Court of appeals is the place to visit! We could see the whole city from the 28th floor. The people who went up the Arch said I haven’t missed much after being in this court. Also several employees explained how the court and the library work.

Visited a Catholic Church with lots of mosaics. Looked to me like one small church inside a large one, but what do I know! Had a funny conversation in the gift shop. Spotted Solzhenitzin’s book there. Asked the cashier, why a catholic establishment sells this author. He’s a Russian catholic, was the answer. No, he’s not, he’s a Russian orthodox, and there are no Russian Catholics. It’s the same, was the reply. This is when one lady in our group said, she’s from Russia. Then I don’t know, was a quick reply.

To ride the MetroLink was a separate field trip. Now I am not surprised, as it seemed that at least half of our group was using public transport for the first time in their lives. I was also surprised most of the group drove to the program. Don’t people want to learn about new places? But don’t skip this trip, the ride over Mississippi was nice.

I didn’t go to the top of the Arch. My fault, forgot to take the allergy meds the day before, and didn’t feel right for the ride. I was not alone in the Imax to see a really great movie about... Alaska! You would think it would be more area-related, huh? But I was a happy camper. The museum of westward expansion is so worth a visit!

Art museum, a walk with a docent, then time on our own. Loved the old paintings. Appalled in the gift shop: they made removable tattoos out of the classic paintings! One can put Michelangelo on any part of the body. Matisse, Van Gough, they must be turning in their graves!

Powell symphony hall - went there twice, once for a tour, another time for a free concert opened to everybody. Strange choice of composers, maybe because of only 4 players, but the orchestra must be good! Wine reception after the concert.

Sheldon art gallery and contemporary art museum, photography and Maya Lin exhibit, and again a docent walk and time to explore. Employees watch you like prison wards not to touch “the art”. The Pulitzer foundation - loved the water installation outside with the trees turning yellow.

At the Botanical garden we had a walking tour through the park. At the present time, Zimbabwe sculptures are displayed, they are beautiful! And pricey, if you choose to buy - CaliNurse checked the prices. It’s a lovely place, and if you’re tired, we saw a tram running around. In the gift shop (yes, the gift shops are the recurring motif of my report) a man with his hands full said to his wife, her hands were full too: oh, thanks God we didn’t find anything we liked!

The play “Blame it on the Movies” is the amateur university production, songs from old movies of which I’d recognized one... and it was not even a Hollywood movie but a French “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”. What can I say, life is not always fair!

At the Third Degree glass factory we saw the creation of the piece of art. Magnificent! It was nice to see young people working there. If you visit, go to the restroom to see how they use some of their art, not everything is for sale.

Black eye. One day CaliNurse went shopping, I heard the room door opening and she announced: I’ll tell everybody you’ve done that! She fell on her face, it’s a great luck the glasses or bones didn’t break, the first day it was a large scratch, the next morning she couldn’t open the eye, it was swollen and black. K-9s, eat your hear out, I was there to witness the changing colors!

Part 3, outside of St Louis in a rented car, and the black eye didn’t spoil our trip!

First, we went down to Cahokia mounds, what an eye-opener about the Natives, and the movie is great. The website says the 17’ movie is for disabled - no, it’s for everybody, only separate entrances to the same theater. I don’t know how many times we said “wish we’d have more time here!” and not only at the mounds.

The Trail of Tears park looks so peaceful now. In the nice weather, plan to spend a day there hiking. Difficult to believe the tragic history of the place. Don’t miss the movie.

The night was in the Microtel in Ste Genevieve. It was inconvenient not to have a coffeemaker in the room. For some reason, I have very little recollection of this town. Cute little houses. Cute little streets. Cute overweight people walking them. Genevieve java house sells the worst coffee ever - mine tasted bitter and sour at the same time. Yuck. Sirro’s pizza is good, thin crust, very busy with families, takes forever, we got a wrong salad, water glasses were never refilled.

Hannibal. Some Fodorites advised us against going to Hannibal or staying there 2 nights. We had exactly one day between the 2 nights, and it felt just right. We did the trolley tour and a river ride. Thank God I insisted against the dinner cruise, or that mandolin music would make me walk the plank. Called Mr. Again on the cell phone, let him listen a bit, he didn’t like it either! But the floating along the banks was so nice and relaxing! They take your mandatory picture upon boarding and try to sell it for $10 a piece. Good luck with that!

The rest of the time was filled with the street fair, shopping, visiting, walking, and nearly getting lost in the dark. Holiday Inn Express is probably like other hotels in the chain, the location is not good, too far from everything. We didn’t have much choice as the town was sold out for the festival. Dinner at the Logue’s restaurant was fine, nothing outstanding, but somewhat educational. A large Amish family was next to us in the non-smoking section. I was surprised they interact that much with the “English” as to visit a restaurant. I was under impression, probably from TV movies; their communities are isolated from people with different beliefs.

St Charles, the last night before the flight home. The Country Inn was at least 2-3 blocks away from everything, and we’re talking about major cobblestones! Riding in the car along the main street was like: dr-drr-drrrr-drrr-dr-drr. And try to walk on uneven brick road in the dark and rain! Lewis and Clark started their expedition in St Charles, now I know what they were getting away from. Their museum is also a nature museum, and the movie about their expedition runs non-stop.

We had lunch at Magpie. CaliNurse tried to explain to me what a cobbler is, and it was my understanding it’s like an open-face pie, so I ordered. What I got was a bowl of liquid preserves with an occasional piece of dough floating inside. Ouch! There is also a brewery 2 blocks away from the Country Inn, the non-smoking section is upstairs, and the food was soooo good! Portabella strips, appetizer is yummy. Every dish there is good.

The trees were just turning, and the locals told us they don’t expect colors this dry year. The only great red maple was in the Jewish Cemetery in Louisiana. Louisiana I think MO. Next to the cemetery is a fire station, it was shut, and across the road a raging fire. We didn’t see any trucks nor people there. Was it a controlled fire? A drill? We’ll never know.

A general observation: what is it about the dead bodies on and off the roads everywhere we drove? Like shoes along the highways in CA, the roads in MO are littered with killed animals. Why was it only the chicken that managed to cross the road?

We also found the restaurant prices to be much lower then in San Francisco.

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