I love to travel…but to be honest, until as of late, the most important thing about travel was the shopping. I’m not sure when it changed, but these days I’m finding myself more and more interested in sights and culture when I’m away from home – don’t get me wrong, I still shop ‘til I drop but there’s more to it these days. I took a business trip in January to St. Louis, Missouri. Admittedly, never on my list of places to visit and so it was scheduled to be a very much in, and done, and gone type of trip. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans, or maybe just the universe in general, as from the moment I hit the Winnipeg airport everything went awry. The plane was over-sold. To this day I don’t know how or why this happens, but as I travel more I see it’s very common. To me it seems pretty cut and dry, you have x number of seats on the plane and that’s a constant variable. It does not change. Therefore, airline, you should only sell x number of seats for that flight. No? Anyway, finally aboard and seated and then they had to de-ice the plane. When we finally put that bird down in Minneapolis I had 15 minutes to get from gate A to F. I’m sure it was an over 5km haul. As I briskly walked (a.k.a hauled ass) I noticed there was a tram that went between terminals so I hopped on…and the trams only travel back and forth between terminals and don’t make a circuit. So it transported me backward. Arghh. Flight missed. Thank goodness for the American Express Lounge and some other poor souls who missed their connection as my time was spent sipping cocktails and I was able to hop on the next flight and make it to St. Louis for the Blues’ puck drop.
My companions, who reside in St. Louis, were quite worried about the impending winter storm that was expected to hit the region over night. They were expecting ‘thunder snow’ – yes, that’s real – look it up! Even with that unsettling new meteorological term under my belt I was still a little shocked to learn that in anticipation of it they had already closed schools for Monday – it was Saturday. When we left the game there were some lovely light snowflakes falling through the air. The type that melt when they land – and people were becoming alarmed. I was dropped at my hotel and turned in fairly early as I had the majority of the next day to myself, before some meetings, which I had ear marked for shopping until dropping. When I headed down to the concierge for a cab the next morning he laughed in my face. No cabs were running. “Huh? Really? It doesn’t look too bad out there? How about your shuttle?” He informed me that if anyone were crazy enough to drive me anyplace nothing would be open upon my arrival. “What about the mall?” I asked. I’m not usually a mall shopper when I travel but desperation was setting in. More laughter. I returned to my room and flipped on the news to see what was happening outside since the view from the lobby looked pretty balmy to me. Reports were that everything was closed. Churches, government offices, gas, shopping, everything. Travel was not advisable and everyone should just stay home and ration their provisions as it could be days before things were back to normal. Highways were impassable due to white out conditions and snow crews were taking their lives into their hands. I flung open the drapes to check things out and I swear I could see for a kilometer and there was about 6 inches of snow on the ground. Are these people serious?
After the city recovered and our formal meetings were all cancelled, as only two of us made it into town, it became apparent that we weren’t going to get out of town. My flight home was cancelled…for two days! At this point a lot of things were starting to open up, although it should be noted that this was Wednesday and kids were still not back at school. I took the shuttle to downtown St. Charles which is a lovely, old neighbourhood with historic homes converted into shops and pubs and restaurants. About half were open and shoveled out and it was a lovely day.
On Thursday I headed into downtown St. Louis to check out the Gateway Arch and broaden my knowledge of Lewis and Clark (the explorers, not Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher). I had seen The Arch while driving to the hockey game but to walk the approach of the gorgeous grounds around it and stand under it was an entirely different experience.
Once inside and able to view an aerial diagram of the landscape design it truly brought the bucolic park to a whole new level. While reading through the history of how The Arch was designed and constructed I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was designed by Eero Saarinen. I had no idea. I do love me a Saarinen table, one of my favourites in fact, so this was a truly exciting discovery.
The 630 foot stainless steel monument is the world’s tallest arch. It is as high as it is wide from triangular leg to triangular leg and its form is derived from that of a weighted catenary arch; a curve created by hanging a flexible chain from its ends and letting gravity do its thing – think of the sag in telephone wires. The arch is hollow to accommodate a unique tram system that takes visitors to an observation deck at the top. It is much like a ferris wheel and as you ride up, the little cart that carries you swings over to keep you and the cart parallel as you travel up the arch (it makes all sorts of disconcerting noises that are made even more alarming when riding up solo!).
At the top is a beautiful view of St. Louis and the Mississippi River. Standing in that observation deck and looking at a view that extends for many miles while so far from home gets one to thinking of how small we truly are in the great big world – that is until conquering the 1,200,000 square feet that is St. Louis’ Galleria Mall…then one feels much like a goddess!