One highlight of the trip began well before we had arrived in St. Louis - a stop to Beachy's Bulk Groceries near Arcola, IL. This business, in the heart of an Amish settlement, had been an hour away from our house in Indiana. It was one of the things I missed the most after moving up here. If you enjoy cooking and baking, Amish grocery stores are a lot of fun! There is an excellent selection of flours, grains, herbs, spices and baking supplies. I happily purchased herbs and spices for far less than what the grocery stores charge.
We continued on our way, watching as the dashboard thermometer climbed the farther south we drove. By the time we got to St. Louis, it read 74. It wasn't sunny, but we were happy to be in an area that was completely snow-free.
Approached the city's most famous landmark:
My husband had wanted to get tickets to ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, but they were already sold out for the day. I secretly wasn't too disappointed, as the closer we got to the Arch, the taller it looked! My husband said it's around 63 stories high. Yes, I am not the bravest when it comes to heights. However, I have been to the top of the former Sears Tower, which is even higher, so I would have gone up to the top of the Arch if we'd been able to.
We still enjoyed walking around in the mild air and watching the Mississippi River flow by. If we had felt like it, we could have gone to the museum at the base of the Arch, but it was already late afternoon, so we headed out to the suburbs for dinner.
I have a personal reason for liking St. Louis. You see, in my 1960's small town childhood, my Sicilian maiden name was difficult for people to say and to spell. But in St. Louis, my maiden name is well known enough that probably most people can at least say it without tripping over their tongues. This is due to several folks there who share my maiden name and who are obviously successful businesspeople. They run car dealerships, restaurants, business centers and who knows what else.
So we went to eat at a pizzeria that has my maiden name on it, where I talked to the affable owner. Busy as he was with Friday night take-out, he filled me on some family history. Said he's actually more related to the Detroit branch of the clan than to the St. Louis bunch. Well, my dad's family settled in Detroit, so I could very well be a distant relative to the pizza man. But then again, I'm probably related to the car dealers as well, as I had already known that the clan generally comes from one town near Palermo - the same one my dad's family came from.
The pizza guy said the clan had originally been in Spain but "had been kicked out of there". I was interested to hear this, since my grandmother had told me there was Spanish blood in the family. She was prone to stretch the truth, so I was never sure if I should believe her, but apparently she was not exaggerating in this case.
Well, enough of the family stuff. The next day, we paid a visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden. We had been there during past stays and had always enjoyed it. True, our visits then had been during the growing season, but even in very early spring, there was plenty to see.
For one thing, the indoor Orchid Show was going on. We've seen orchid displays in other public garden institutions, but this was the nicest grouping of these beautiful flowers that I've ever seen. I have a few photos to share from the many that I took:
As I said, this is just a small fraction of the pictures I could have shown, and I could have taken even more pictures than what I did. Each orchid seemed prettier than the one before!
There was much more to view than just the Orchid Show, both indoors and out. Between fantasizing about a courtyard that my Sicilian ancestors might have had:
or gazing at the subtle beauty of the Japanese Garden plantings:
there was a lot to take in! But as to why I show only one outdoor shot - well, it was rather chilly there last Saturday. The mid 70's had disappeared, with an overcast upper 40's in its place. And with the brisk breeze, we began to wish we'd brought our winter coats along.
Nevertheless, counting lunch, we spent about 4 1/2 hours at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I recommend it highly if you like this sort of thing.
That night, the TV meteorologist chirped about an impending snowstorm for Sunday morning. That had not been in the forecast when we left for St. Louis! If it had been, we wouldn't have gone there. So we went to bed with gloomy thoughts about driving through 3"-5" snow, as if we hadn't driven through enough snow already this winter where we live! "There could even be some thunder snow, which could mean even higher accumulations" the meteorologist had warned. Oh, brother.
But when we got up Sunday morning, there was nothing, not even any rain. It appeared that the storm had stayed further to the south. All we saw were snow flurries for about the first half hour or so of the trip; after that it got sunnier the further north we traveled.
And so there you have it - the Arch, some family history, beautiful orchids, and nice meals out. Sounds like a pretty good trip to me!