<< Day 45: Rend Lake to St. Louis, Missouri | Day 47: St. Louis to Central Iowa >>
Our friend Cordell graciously offered to show us the beauty of St. Louis today.
First, we visited “the Hill”, where many Italian immigrants had settled years ago. The small homes were charming.
The large building at the top was the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center.
It was built in 1869 on the highest point in the city. The building was originally the St. Louis Country Insane Asylum and was surrounded by open fields; however, the outskirts of the city crept westward and eventually consumed it. The cast iron dome can be seen for miles, and the building is considered a landmark. It was completely restored in 1998.
For “the best meatballs in St. Louis,” Cordell highly recommended Gian-Tony’s.
The red-bricked St. Ambrose Catholic Church was dedicated in 1926 and is still the focal point in the daily lives of many nearby residents.
In front of the church is “The Italian Immigrants,” a 1972 memorial to all of the Italians who came to America seeking a better life. Artist Rudolph Torrini injected the figures with hope, dignity, and determination.
I wish that our RV had been large enough to take one of these ladies (or at least one of the skirts) home with us.
We visited Forest Park, which was created in 1876 and is the largest urban park in the United States (500 acres larger than New York’s Central Park). The park recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation project.
Along one side is a line of large homes.
We stopped to let the children play at the “Variety Wonderland.”
This playground was specifically designed to accommodate children with many types of physical disabilities (or challenges). For example, there was a wheel-chair accessible tree house, a Braille panel, musical pylon, metal slides for children with cochlear implants (plastic slides pose a danger because they create static electricity that zaps the hearing devices), and other “state of the art” equipment.
The kids loved the disc swing.
Sebastian and Sully bounced up and down on the see-saw (with the high-backed seats for safety).
Genevieve and Tate swung and twirled on the rotating, hanging rack.
We then strolled through the gardens to the Boathouse.
The Boathouse has a great restaurant. There was a 45 minute wait to be seated. We chose to spend that time exploring the lake in two paddleboats.
Sully, Tate, Genevieve and Sebastian dressed in their mandatory orange vests.
Cordell started out in the back of a boat, with Genevieve and Tate energetically pedaling.
Ben and I rode in the back of Sully and Sebastian’s boat. We took turns burning out our thigh muscles, and then letting another paddler take our place.
Looking back toward the dock area, with the restaurant and boathouse.
The waterway around the lake meandered under several pedestrian bridges and around small islands.
Under one of the bridges, we witnessed a mother bird zooming in to give food to her babies, who were snuggled cozily in this nest.
We finally reached the fountains in front of the Art Museum.
Our goal was to navigate around one of the fountains and then head back to the dock. ("I think I can, I think I can!")
Paddleboating always looks like such a peaceful and relaxing activity. However, it can be an intense endurance exercise!
We had definitely worked up an appetite. Here are Sebastian and Sully at the Boathouse restaurant. (I never noticed that their eyes are almost the exact same color. Sebastian’s eyes change color depending on his mood and the colors around him; I’m not sure if Sully’s do the same.)
After lunch, we headed for the City Museum, near downtown St. Louis.
We passed the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
St. Louis has a lot of art in public spaces. Here are some paintings done through St. Louis ArtWorks, a community program that provides paid art apprenticeships to inner city youth.
“Peace Rabbit” was hanging out in a park. The sculpture was designed by artist Catharine Magel, who continued the multi-cultural tradition of using the symbol of a rabbit to tell stories. Various parts of the sculpture were created with ceramic tiles painted by inner-city teenagers, who told their own stories in their paintings.
We saw many older buildings that had been remodeled for commercial use, standing empty.
Here is our first view of the building containing the City Museum. (Note the schoolbus, the airplane, the long diagonal slide, the ferris-wheel, and the see-through circular-stacked “ornament” shape on top.)
The one word that sums up this place is definitely “WOW”! It was not the kind of “museum” that the children were expecting. Instead, it was an amazing mixture of tunnels, climbing structures, slides, and fun activities—all designed and fabricated by artist Bob Cassilly and a crew of 20 artisans. The City Museum opened in 1997.
Genevieve and Tate at the entrance.
Every single aspect of this museum is infused with creative and playful energy. Metal has been welded together to make unusual (and WILD) climbing structures, with tunnels that were high in the air.
Here is an artistic fence:
Genevieve starts climbing:
Here is Ben! (He and I climbed all over the place.)
An interesting cage, with tunnels coming off of the top.
The detail here was incredible, with lots of visual suprises. Notice the three cranes in the photo below.
I can only imagine the enthusiasm that went into welding this tangle of steel.
Here is one of the two airplanes, “flying”:
The second plane:
Sebastian and Genevieve climbed out onto the plane’s wing.
“Come on up, Mom!” they yelled. So I did. It was kind of freaky out on the wing. No, forget the “kind of”—it was definitely freaky. My mind started messing with my confidence—“I wonder what the structural integrity of this wing is?” “What if the welds break?” “How far up are we??”
An open-air tunnel started at the wing tip and then stretched out over space, far above the ground. Here is the beginning:
Yes, we climbed through it. I have to say that I had to suck up every bit of courage to start out into that tunnel and then keep crawling through it. My internal mantra was “DON’T LOOK DOWN. JUST KEEP GOING. DON’T LOOK DOWN. JUST KEEP GOING.” Genevieve started having some issues with the height of the tunnel, and providing emotional encouragement for her severely diminished my own fears.
Here is a better perspective of the tunnels—we ended up at the top of the green cone-cage:
We all zoomed down this long slide. Here is Genevieve going down:
Of course, it seems steeper when you are at the top, preparing to go down the tube. Here is Cordell sliding down before me:
Genevieve found another slide:
The interior of the museum building had numerous winding tunnels and colorful creations.
This wall was made entirely of glass bottles.
Sebastian quickly disappeared up one tunnel.
He and Genevieve then reappeared above us.
Ben and I scooched and shimmied our way through many of these indoor tunnels.
Ben said the tubes were like “hamster trails on steroids”. Sometimes, it was a tight squeeze.
Ben, exiting a slide.
We bought an extra ticket for the “rooftop” extravaganza.
The bus, sticking off of the rooftop, was a big hit. You could sit in the driver’s seat, high above the ground, with the front wheels floating in the air, and open and close the front door (which did, thankfully, have a safety screen to prevent anyone from falling to a dreadful end). Here is Genevieve, inside the bus:
Peering out the open door:
The children loved the stepping stones. Sebastian couldn’t resist getting wet by the sprayers (over and over).
Genevieve wanted to climb to the tippy-top of the large “ornament.”
I joined her and took these photos from inside:
Looking down at Cordell, Sully and Tate:
At the top of one slide was a large praying mantis:
Ben and Sebastian prepared to go down the loooonnnngg slide, which was fast and exciting.
Genevieve climbed to the top of another fun slide:
Of course, we couldn’t leave without riding the rooftop ferris wheel.
Waiting in the ferris wheel line.
I noted the three very different types of roof tops on these downtown buildings:
The entrance gate to the ferris wheel:
Sebastian was a bit nervous getting on the ride.
But he was soon all smiles!
Genevieve and I rode around and around together, enjoying the breeze, chatting, and looking at the views around us.
Some of our views:
Cordell and Sully took a turn:
Under the praying mantis was a “secret” entrance that led to a small crawl space above a swinging pendulum.
Once you dropped down into the little “basket” area, you were directly above the pendulum.
The spaces between the bars were large, and we were very high in the air.
I was getting some good practice in the art of perseverance.
We exited the Museum at closing time, with huge smiles on our faces, and excited chatter of “Did you see me . . . “, “I can’t believe . . .”, “I got lost in the tunnel and . . .”, “Wow! That was AWESOME!”
We thought that the Museum was better than any amusement park that we have ever visited.
Cordell gave us the “scenic tour” on the way home. Here were some of the sights.
Genevieve’s shoulder provided a nice pillow for Sebastian, whose eyes had drooped as soon as the key turned in the ignition.
After another delicious dinner at Pam and Cordell’s home, they treated us to “frozen custard” at Ted Drewes, a small family-owned store that has been serving custard in the same spot since 1941. The building had walk-up window service only, so the sidewalk outside was crowded with people standing around talking, enjoying their tasty delights, and soaking in the ambiance.
It was the perfect way to end the day.
<< Day 45: Rend Lake to St. Louis, Missouri | Day 47: St. Louis to Central Iowa >>
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