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Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis’

I got to visit my parents in St. Louis after my conference trip to Chicago.  The timing was good, as my dad had just had surgery, so I was able to visit him, while my mom worked.  Most of the visit was spent just hanging out with my parents, but Mom and I did take some time to check out the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of Mom’s favorite places. I generally get out to visit my folks in the winter, so it was nice to be there at a time when the garden was in full bloom.  It really is an impressive place, with lots of different styles of garden, beautifully executed.  It is free for residents of St. Louis county and very reasonably priced for the rest of us.  Honestly, they must do a lot of fund-raising, because the quality is way above what one would expect for the admission price, especially once you see the number of Chihuly pieces the Garden acquired permanently after the exhibition of his work there several years ago.  Those glass installations are not cheap.

Mom and I started in the Climatron, a domed glass greenhouse filled with an amazing variety of stunning tropical plants.

I wish I had taken the photo above with Mom in it, because those plants are enormous!  The blooms were over her head.

See?  More Chihuly.  Mom and I liked the flamingo-like shapes of these, and they really glowed in their pool of sunlight.

And it wasn’t only the colorful things that caught our eyes.

I am guessing this plant is either carnivorous, and catches insects in these hanging pods or that they are for capturing water, with the prickly bits to keep critters from stealing the liquid.

Isn’t it amazing how much variety is in our world?  I love that there are always so many new things to see and wonder about! Anyway, after the Climatron, we wandered to Tower Grove House, which was originally the country home of the Garden’s creator, Henry Shaw.  It’s odd to think of it as a country house, when today the Botanical Garden is surrounded by city neighborhoods.

Of course, it’s easy to forget the city in the immediate surroundings of the house, such as the lovely formal garden, based on Shaw’s original design.

Next we headed to the expansive Japanese Garden.  While I tend to love showy, colorful landscapes, I was struck by the serene and ordered layout in this section.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

There were some flowers, of course, including irises, a favorite of mine.

And we got to feed lots of koi, whose colors and patterns were nearly as beautiful as the plants and flowers (though the photos don’t do them justice, due to the jostling for food.)

It was a hot day, so Mom and I were flagging by that point.  But on our way back to the Garden entrance we wandered through one of the rose gardens and the Orangerie, and enjoyed yet another Chihuly installation.

Really we only saw a portion of what the Garden has to offer.  There were several sections we didn’t see, so you could probably spend the better part of a day here.  Yet another jewel in St. Louis’s cultural crown.

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One of the highlights of my trip to St. Louis a few weeks ago, other than just getting to be with my family, was visiting City Museum.  It is, quite literally, a marvelous place.  It’s a little difficult to describe the museum, so I will let this bit from their website do the talking:

Housed in the 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company, the museum is an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects. The brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor and serial entrepreneur, the museum opened for visitors in 1997 to the riotous approval of young and old alike.

Cassilly and his longtime crew of 20 artisans have constructed the museum from the very stuff of the city; and, as a result, it has urban roots deeper than any other institutions’. Reaching no farther than municipal borders for its reclaimed building materials, CITY MUSEUM boasts features such as old chimneys, salvaged bridges, construction cranes, miles of tile, and even two abandoned planes!

Definitely not your average museum.  Definitely a fun place to spend an afternoon.

The first floor has an area of mosaics, like this one, and huge sculptures connected by tunnels and caverns. At one point in my exploring, I emerged from the mouth of a big whale sculpture.  As neat as it was to explore parts of the museum, I couldn’t help but wonder how often kids get lost for a little while.

Very little of the museum is undecorated or purely functional.  Stairs are built into the back of a dinosaur and are bordered by colorfully painted, repurposed rollers.  And that spiraling coil of blue at the top?  You can climb through that.

Many of the walls are covered with salvaged materials, like these printing press plates.  You could easily spend 15 minutes staring at a wall in this place.

Judging from the map on the website, I am realizing we may have missed some elements, like the entire second floor.  Oops!  I suspect we mistook the mezzanine for the second floor, where we saw a snack bar and an awesome forest area with more areas to climb and crawl and explore.  The actual second floor has the World Aquarium (which requires a separate admission fee), an exhibit of vintage opera posters (so bummed I missed those!), and a shoelace factory.

The third floor has a ton to see, including one area that displays a collection of neon signs, carnival bits, and an assemblage of robots crafted from junk.  There’s also a large section known as the Architectural Museum.   It was one of my favorite parts of City Museum.  There was an exhibit on George Grant Elmslie, part of the Progressive School of Chicago Architecture, who created gorgeous medallions and other ornate, symmetrical ornaments for buildings in the 1930’s.  Alas, my photos of the exhibit didn’t turn out.  But I can share some of other architectural elements at the museum.

Another element we missed (more reason to come back the next time I am in St. Louis!) was the Everyday Circus, where there are daily performances (more on weekends) by acrobatic circus performers.  Sadly, that day’s show was over by the time we arrived.  They even offer classes!

The fourth floor of the museum houses a vintage clothing store, where I picked up a nifty, pale blue plaid men’s vest and we all spent some time browsing.

The cool, salvaged, whimsical vibe of the museum continues beyond its walls, too.  The roof (closed when we visited) has more areas to explore and a ferris wheel.  I’d say the most unique part of City Museum is the wacky, multi-story, recycled jumble of a  playground that climbs the front of the building.  You can see it in the photo at the top of this post – it’s called the MonstroCity.  I spent probably twenty minutes wending my way along platforms and catwalks, climbing stairs, crouching or crawling through coils of metal, and sliding between levels.  It was fabulous, and would be even more fun with kids, I bet!

That’s part of one of the planes incorporated into the structure.

Not only planes, but trams, a school bus, and even a firetruck are there to be climbed and explored.

Honestly, I cannot recommend this museum enough.  If you live in or near St. Louis or ever visit, definitely add City Museum to your to-do list.

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Last winter, when my family came to visit here in Boston, we toured the Sam Adams brewery, and this year, when we gathered at my parents’ home in St. Louis (where my brothers and I were all born), we decided to take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch brewery.  My family is not as into beer as that might make us seem.  In fact, though my brothers and father enjoy beer, my mom and I aren’t really beer drinkers at all.  However, we are curious folks who enjoy learning how things work and how they are made.  Plus we all like learning about history and looking at cool architecture.  Plus, I wanted to see the Clydesdales.  So, after a nice lunch at Sage, which is right around the corner from the brewery, we checked in for our tour.

First we got to see the Clydesdales and their beautiful stable.  You’d think that with all the Budweiser commercials featuring the Clydesdale team over the years, I might have realized there are strict criteria for the Clydesdale team.  All the horses have to brown with four white stockings, a white blaze, and black mane and tail, and they weigh between 2000 and 2300 pounds.  The Budweiser Clydesdales made their first public appearance in 1933, pulling a beer wagon, to celebrate the repeal of prohibition.  Today there are six teams, or hitches, of Clydesdales that travel the world for appearances and parades and appear in commercials, of course.

Only a few of the Clydesdales are kept at the brewery in St. Louis, but those that are have an impressive home.  The circular stable was built in 1885 and has ornate chandeliers, stained glass windows, and stalls with intricate iron decorations.

One of the  impressive things about the Anheuser-Busch tour was seeing the scale of the brewing complex, and that is one of the big differences between the Sam Adams tour and the A-B one.  While the Sam Adams tour took place in one building, the A-B tour ranged over the equivalent of several blocks and included a number of different buildings.

Our first beer related tour stop was in the beechwood aging plant.  Huge tanks hold the beer and the wood, which, if memory serves, increases the surface area for the yeast in the brew to form bubbles.  Apparently workers have to enter the tanks sometimes, presumably to clean them or change the wood, which requires a permit and a warning sign that amused me.

We also got to visit the Brew House, where we learned that Budweiser is brewed with rice to set it apart from other beers.  The inside of the Brew House is really striking, and you can tell it was built with more then functionality in mind.

Those several story tall chandeliers were designed to look like hops plants, and they are really beautiful.

The Anheuser-Busch “A” and eagle logo that you can see at the bottom of the chandelier is absolutely everywhere on the brewery campus, on the sidewalk grates around trees, part of wrought iron fences, in stained glass, etc.  Back when I was a kid and first visited the brewery, you even got little pretzels in the shape of the logo in the tasting room.

In addition to the Anheuser-Busch logo, there are other company icons you can spot around the complex.

During Prohibition, Anheuser-Busch survived by creating a number of products to sell, in addition to a non-alcoholic version of Budweiser.  The company sold yeast, malt powder, truck bodies, and a grape soda syrup called Grape Bouquet.  They also made ice cream and used the elephant as its emblem.

That’s Renard the Fox, who was featured in advertising for Bevo, another non-alcoholic malt beverage that A-B marketed during prohibition.

After hearing about the Budweiser brewing process, we passed some other nifty, old buildings en route to the bottling plant.

The last stop on the tour was the bottling facility, which is topped with the big, Budweiser neon sign in the picture at the top of the post.  The bottling plant has some serious contrasts.  The lobby has lovely, turn of the century decorative tile work, featuring Renard the Fox again.

Further in, though, the bottling and canning happens in a high-tech, automated process that churns out thousands of cans and bottles of beer each minute.

After that, you get to take a trolley back to the “hospitality center” where the tour begins and those who like beer get two free glasses of beer in the tasting room.  Whether you like beer or not, though, I think the brewery is worth visiting for the historical information and architectural eye candy, especially since the basic, roughly two hour tour is free.  There’s a pricey Beermaster Tour available, too, but I think the free tour should be enough for most people.

Maybe next year when we get together my family will branch out and tour a winery or distillery.

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