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“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy!” John Denver
The tulips are blooming, and leaves are finally appearing on the trees here in Michigan. But while we had a few nice days in April, the rest of the month was cold, rainy, and gray. And so far, May has been running about 10 degrees below normal. Yesterday’s high was just 58°. This is a problem for me every spring. So, I just declare ‘Travel Time’ and head off to warmer temps. Two years ago, it was Panama. Last year, it was North Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. This year, I spent a wonderful week in sunny (well, mostly) St. Louis.
Greg and I visit St. Louis on a regular basis.
Our oldest daughter (aka Canary – name changed to protect her anonymity) has lived there since the fall of 2009. On our many trips to the Gateway City, we’ve visited the iconic St. Louis tourist attractions:
- The St. Louis Arch (Gateway to America)
- Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals play (We’ve always cheered for either the Tigers or Cubs, but our daughter has her Cardinal wear.)
- Forest Park – the site of the 1904 World’s Fair and several FREE attractions including:
- The St. Louis Science Center – a phenomenal hands-on science museum
- The St. Louis Zoo – voted America’s Top Free Attraction and Best Zoo by USA Today
- The Missouri History Museum – one of my favorites as it has changing exhibits. If you enjoy history, the 1904 World’s Fair exhibit is extremely interesting.
- The Missouri Botanical Gardens – both when the flowers were blooming and at Christmas time to see their gorgeous light displays
- Budweiser Factory and Tour (of course) and
- Missouri wine country’s Montelle Winery
We’ve even eaten lunch at the Lemp Haunted Mansion.
This time, my visit to St. Louis wasn’t as a tourist but just as a visitor spending time with my daughter.
I scheduled my trip at the end of April so that I could see her play the part of Mistress Ford in the SHAKE 38 production of Merry Wives of Windsor. Other than attending Shakespeare plays – a pastime she and I both enjoy – my plan was just to enjoy my time with Canary. I did take my computer along so that I could work while she was in rehearsals. (One of the things I love most about being a freelance writer is that I can do it from anywhere!) When she wasn’t in rehearsal or on stage, she went about her normal life, and I went with her.
Saturday Morning Yoga Class
Saturday morning, we went to a yoga class led by Alyssa at the Stray Dog Theatre. While I had done video yoga classes in the past, this was the first time I’d ever attended one in person. There is absolutely no comparison! (Maybe because my mind is always going a mile a minute.) I’ve never found the quietness during the video classes that I experienced with Alyssa teaching. With an extremely soothing voice, she directed us to let go of all the challenges and the busyness of life, to focus on our breathing, and then to choose just one thing to focus on during the class. Inspired by the beautiful stained glass window in front of me, I chose prayer.
Because theatre companies understand and appreciate the acoustics and aesthetics of old church buildings, the Stray Dog Theatre company now resides in the old Tower Grove Abbey. (One of my favorite venues, when I was directing theatre, was the tiny church where we produced The Diary of Anne Frank. More on that another time, maybe.) In any case, the Stray Dog Theatre was a wonderful place to experience my first yoga class. The beautiful stained glass windows all around and the prayer position we returned to after each position and stretch really helped me to center myself and added to the peaceful introspection that is such an important part of yoga.
The yoga poses felt good. I did have to touch a column to steady myself during the standing balance tree (or vriksasana) pose. But overall, I was surprised at how many of the poses and stretches I was able to do. Alyssa warned that I would probably be sore the next day, but that’s not unusual for me. And, as it turned out, I wasn’t sore. Maybe I’m in better shape than I thought I was!
Understanding the benefits of balance and flexibility that yoga provides, my daughters have been encouraging me to try it for several years. One of them even gave me a yoga mat for Christmas a few years back. “Give it a try, Mom. We really think you’ll like it.” They were right. (Side note: After returning home, I discovered that there are several yoga classes scheduled at my local YMCA. I’m thinking that yoga on Saturday mornings might feel good. I’ll let you know.)
Tower Grove Farmer’s Market
After yoga, our plan was to go out for breakfast. All that stretching had made me hungry! I told Canary I wanted her to take me to her favorite breakfast restaurant. Instead, she took me to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. Now, I love farmer’s markets and visit them regularly in the summer, but the two closest to my Michigan home (Lowell and Ada) don’t open until the first week in June. So, while Saturday was the one chilly day I had in St. Louis (low 60’s and rain in the afternoon), the farmer’s market was another little bit of summer while I was there.
When shopping farmer’s markets, you know that the food is good when the line is long. I was told that the line at the Kitchen Kulture booth was shorter than normal because of the chilly morning, but it was still one of the longest lines at the market.
Kitchen Kulture is a unique restaurant in St. Louis. They actually got their start in 2011 at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market serving a menu created from foods purchased from other farmer’s market vendors. From there, they transitioned to catering and pop-up restaurant operation to a brick and mortar location in 2016. The week I was there, Kitchen Kulture had two booths at the market, one serving delicious (I mean really, really good) breakfast sandwiches and another representing their brick and mortar location, Kounter Kulture, and handing out samples. While Canary and I didn’t have an opportunity to eat at Kounter Kulture on this visit, it’s definitely on my radar for my return visit to St. Louis later this month.
After breakfast, we walked through the booths, talked to several local farmers and entrepreneurs, and then settled on macarons from The Tipsy Goat for dessert. When I think of healthy eating and organic foods, sweet and luxurious confections don’t generally come to mind, but maybe they should. The Tipsy Goat French Macarons are created from organic and locally sourced ingredients, and they are soooo good. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?) Canary and I shared chocolate mint and sangria-flavored macarons, and then I bought a box of six to take home and share with Greg
Shakespeare, Sunshine & Walking in the Park
The rest of our weekend was spent attending Shakespeare productions, picnicking with friends — more on that in an upcoming post – enjoying the St. Louis sunshine while walking in Tower Grove Park (I kept up with my exercise the whole time I was there,) and I even met a St. Louis Clydesdale.
I’ve seen Clydesdales on several visits to St. Louis, at the Anheuser-Busch tour and outside of Busch Stadium at a St. Louis Cardinals game, but I didn’t expect to see one as I took a walk in Tower Grove Park. Moonshine is a 5-year-old registered Clydesdale and the newest resident of Tower Grove Park’s oldest structure the Stone Shelter Pavilion. Named for the white flashes on his neck and withers, Moonshine often helps park rangers patrol the park. He arrived in St. Louis from Wisconsin in late 2016 to replace retiring Clydesdale Jimmy Joe who had pulled the park’s horse-drawn carriages since 1999.
When Greg and I travel, we always try to figure out where the locals go. We’ve found that local restaurants, bars, and markets generally offer more flavor and are a lot more fun. You can always do the tourist thing – we love that too – but if you want to really get to know a vacation destination, you need to find the yoga classes, theatre venues (sometimes they are one and the same) and the parks and farmers markets that are off the beaten path.
When we retire, rather than settling down in one place, we’d like to travel spending a couple of months getting to know each destination like a local. But that’s still a few years off. In the meantime, we’ll be Rehearsing RetirementTM a week at a time in St. Louis and Dallas and maybe somewhere near you!
What about you?
Where have you gone this spring? Or where are you headed this summer?
Leave a comment below, and let’s get this conversation going!