The sun came out today, but it was pretty cold, especially later on, when the wind whipped up more cold — the forecasters are saying that there is a chance for snow tomorrow, so I suppose it is good that this is our final day. We checked out the River District and the City Market, picking out some souvenirs and admiring the cheap produce for sale. We had breakfast at the venerable Harvey’s Restaurant inside Union Station, which was also hosting an Easter Bunny event that drew in hundreds of kids. I had the cinnamon roll pancake, which was doused in melted butter, or so I thought. One bite into the pancake and I discovered that it was melted frosting, which meant that I didn’t need any syrup for this treat. Actually, I found the cinnamon roll pancake to be too sweet and too much, so I am glad that Lisa allowed me a few bites of her Crab Cake Eggs Benedict and hashbrowns.
After breakfast, we hiked up the steps opposite Union Station and visited the World War I Memorial and Museum. Traveler reviews recommended a minimum of three to four hours here, and they were right — we spent four and half hours learning about the complexities of how the war started, read accounts of life in the trenches and key battles in the Western Front, and how the US finally got involved and how the war ended in 1918. Man, some stark stuff, and it ended just about 100 years ago. That just blows my mind. I will definitely be paying more attention next month to hear of any events to commemorate the date.
With our museum visit finished, we made our way back to the downtown core for one more final serving of barbecue, this time courtesy of the people behind Joe’s BBQ. Lisa and I split the combo plate of pork ribs, beef burnt ends and sausage. This time our sides were french fries and baked beans. It was pretty good, but Lisa and I both agreed that we enjoyed Jack Stacks more. And for our next time visit, we will hit up: Gates BBQ, Q39 and Arthur & Bryants. Then we will have tried the top five Kansas City Barbecue Joints. Don’t know when we will ever return, but when we do I will make sure that we have a rental car so that we can also visit Independence, MO (start of the Oregon Trail!) and check out other attractions that were just a little too far out of reach on public transportation. We had a great visit here in Kansas City, and part of that was the fact that we stayed dry the entire time because it didn’t rain one bit!
Today’s theme was all about eating. Lots of eating.
In St. Louis, we were able to take advantage of our Hilton Diamond status and enjoy the Executive Lounge — an extensive breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres and end-of-evening cakes. For our hotels in Kansas City, not so much.
AM: breakfast at local hotspot Succotash, conveniently located less than a mile from our hotel. I got the Kitchen Sink — two eggs scrambled with ham, peppers & onions and served on home fries and finally topped with cheddar and sausage gravy. This had to be at least 2,000 calories. Lisa ordered the Swedish pancakes with eggs and bacon. And I helped myself to one pancake. Stuffed!
PM: lunch at recommended barbecue joint Jack Stacks. Lisa and I split the combo platter. We selected the pork ribs, pulled pork and beef burnt ends. I was also served with a side of baked beans, cheesy corn and some toast. If that wasn’t enough, we also got an appetizer of smoked jalepeno cheddar cornbread, because I just love love love cornbread! Needless to say, we were stuffed. Add another 1500 calories to my daily total.
PM part two: dinner at our hotel – I purchased a Living Social voucher worth $40 and even though we were not hungry, this was about the only time that worked out in our schedule for us to use it. Lisa got a glass of wine and the happy hour cheeseburger. The nice thing is that she could swap the fries for some fresh grilled asparagus. I ordered the half-slab of babyback pork ribs, which was also served with a cornbread muffin, grilled asparagus and risotto. I ate most of it, including 90% of Lisa’s burger. She just wasn’t hungry. At the end of our meal, we still had $10 to spend, so we got the buttercream cake dessert, served with some homemade ice cream that included beer in the recipe. Oh man, that dessert put me over the edge. I reckon I easily surpassed 5,000 calories today. And I am fully stuffed. Don’t know if I can even lie down and sleep, but I’ll try. All the food was great, and we still have tomorrow to try out more. Well, that is if we have room after today’s gluttony. Oh man, I am full. But Kansas City barbecue sure is delicious!
Rain rain rain. That was our theme for our final day in St. Louis. We ventured forth into the rain with one piddly travel umbrella. You know, one of those umbrellas that packs up really, really small and therefore the coverage is barely big enough to fit one person. We tried to share this, but after a while I just gave up. Let me get wet. And so I did. It was cold, it was windy, it was rainy. It was only a mile walk to the Gateway Arch, so how wet could I get? Within two blocks of walking and unsuccessfully attempting to avoid the puddles, my feet were wet, the bottom of the pant legs were soaked and there was no more fight left in me to try and stay dry. Lisa fared a little better, but her jacket was not waterproof – it was water “resistant.” We braved the elements and strolled quickly through CityGarden, stopped by the courthouse and took some photos of the Gateway Arch — we decided not to go up the Arch since it was such crappy weather. Saving this for ‘next time,’ especially since the museum is under construction and everything won’t be ready until this summer. Next time! We were able to dry and warm up at the “Inside the Economy Museum” at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, but as soon as we went back out we got wet again. So we finally headed back to our hotel to pack up and move on to our next spring break spot, which we will highlight tomorrow. But for now, we are dry, we are warm, and we are ready to sleep.
Last year during our spring break we were in ninety degree weather, hot and dry and spending a day voluntarily getting wet at Wadi Wadi water park. This year we are in forty degree weather, cold and wet and spending the last few days dodging the rain. Ah, the surprises of travel! Actually, it isn’t a surprise. We’ve tracked the weather for a week now and expected rain. However, we just didn’t expect this much rain.
We were played it smart yesterday by spending our evening inside a museum and away from the rain. Today the forecast was for cloudy skies, with no rain in the forecast until 8pm or so. Naturally, we trusted the weather guy and so we left my umbrella back in the hotel. For our morning we spent almost three hours at the St. Louis Zoo under mild forty-five degree temperatures and cloudy skies, just like the forecast predicted. Which was perfect, since we were outside for most of the time touring the zoo grounds. Our next stop was for lunch and to tour the St. Louis Art Museum. But wait — isn’t this indoor activity something we should be doing if the weather turns wet? Yeah, but we were only there for an hour, so no big deal. Our next stop was to be the botanical garden, pretty much 100% outside but we had plenty of hours for that. Actually, no we didn’t. When we left the art museum, we were greeted to rain. Not steady, soaking rain. But rain nonetheless. So we ditched the plan to tour the botanical garden and instead we took a brewery tour (and free drinks!) at Anheuser Busch. The rain relented during our visit, and afterwards we had just enough of a dry window to walk around the historic Soulard neighborhood to get some famous St. Louis Ribs. Unfortunately, the place that was recommended was only open through lunch time. I mistakenly thought that it was open for dinner. Dang! We settled on a nearby taco joint, then walked through some drizzle to the Lafayette Square neighborhood. We couldn’t quite make our bus connections work, so we ended up just walking back to our hotel and our awaiting Executive Lounge for some light snacks and desserts.
In the end, everything worked out okay. We are on vacation, so not everything is going to go smoothly. Lisa has been great to remind me of this fact, since it seems that every time that we wanted to catch the light rail it just happened to pull away as we started walking down to the platform. It happened right after we got off the Amtrak train yesterday. Happened when we tried to go to the museum. And on the way back. And this morning going to the zoo. And this afternoon. That is five times out of five times! Lisa said that I should just take a picture of the departing train because that is our view from the top of the stairs. Sure, the wait between them is only ten to fifteen minutes, but that can through bus connection times out of whack. We lucked out by actually getting those buses, it was just the light rail that we’ve had poor luck with. But c’est la vie. I just gotta let it go, laugh it off, and enjoy the time I have to wait because I could be doing something else that is totally not enjoyable, like getting a root canal, weeding the lawn and slicing bags and bags of onions. Missed my light rail?! Fine. So be it. Raining on my vacation?! Fine. So be it. Tomorrow is a new day. It couldn’t possibly rain again could it? And I couldn’t possible miss another light rail train, could I??
We arrived to Chicago just over an hour behind schedule, which is pretty impressive considering that we were three full hours behind schedule late Sunday night. Chicago’s Union Station is huge, beautiful and undergoing some restoration. We had a small issue collecting our baggage after we deboarded the train — all the bags come out in a carousel just like in an airport, the only problem is that our bags never came out. Fortunately we were not the only ones — there were a couple others lingering around waiting for their luggage and eventually after the intervention of an Amtrak baggage attendant, our bags finally came out.
For our limited evening in Chicago we walked over to get some deep dish pizza and also made a stop for dessert at Magnolia Bakery — an outpost from New York City, but one cannot pass up their famous banana pudding! We checked into our hotel to relax for the rest of the night, but first I also had to pick up a to-go order of a Chicago hot dog and fries – of course I had to!
This morning I wanted to go running along the Riverwalk and through the park, but the rain was just enough to convince me otherwise. After 48 hours on the train, my body was really needing some activity. Walking around with our luggage to our hotel helped, but I needed just a little more. So I walked up the 22 flights of stairs back to our room instead.
We took a Lyft Line ride back to Union Station, and that was quite the adventure. Lyft Line is basically like a carpool, so we picked up two different people en route, which added another fifteen minutes to our ride. We allowed enough time to catch our train, but for a $3 savings off of the regular rate it wasn’t really worth it. Plus the driver had this super strong air freshener that began to sting our eyes — we wanted to roll the window down but we didn’t want the rain to come in and we were close enough to our destination that we just toughed it out.
Our train ride today was down to St. Louis, MO on the Illinois Service, which is almost a six-hour journey that went by very quickly. And when we arrived to St. Louis … rain. Like lots of rain. We took their light rail one stop to our hotel, but had trouble finding the lobby since it is housed in the old Union Station. They’ve done a marvelous job repurposing the space into a multi-use venue, and the seating area just outside of reception is just grand — hopefully we’ll find some time to just hang out down there.
For the rest of our evening we got some happy hour small plates in the Central West End district and then spent two and half hours touring the Missouri History Museum because let’s face it, one of us really loves history. And now it is time to turn in for bed since we have a big day tomorrow — no rain please!