St Louis, the Gateway to the West.

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We sadly left Bardstown and headed east to St Louis. It was a little far for us to drive in one day, so we had a one night stop off just out of Evansville in Indiana. Darn, and drats, we have usually stayed a minimum of 2 nights at each site, but as we had stayed a day longer in Bardstown than we intended, and we were booked into St Louis, it was a one night stop.
And isn’t always the way, you meet the nicest of people and would love to spend a bit more time hanging out. We had a fun night meeting and chatting with our camp neighbours but sadly we had to head off the next morning.

We arrived in St Louis early enough to catch the metrolink into town and have a wander around, past the Arch, that magnificent structure. We popped in and had a look around the Old courthouse, another wonderful old building with a beautiful dome. This one though is painted so beautifully inside with Frescos.

We wandered on up the street, passing the crowds heading off to the Cardinals Baseball game and on up to the St Louis Food and Music market.

St Louis is actually in 2 states. Where we are camped in St Louis is one stop on the metro on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, yet most of the city is in Missouri. How confusing is that.

We had heard about an old bridge from the early days of Route 66 so we went in search for the Old Chain Of Rocks Bridge. It was built in the 1920’s and was the Mississippi River crossing for Route 66 up until 1965. It is an amazing old bridge, that is a mile long and has a 22-degree bend near the middle. Now it is the worlds longest pedestrian and bicycle only bridge.

I must say I am pleased I was walking rather than driving the bridge, as it seemed to me rather too narrow to be a 2-way bridge. And to think, when it opened (as a toll bridge), people would queue to pay the tolls so they could cross the bridge to see the incredible view and to take the sharp bend.

I have to say I am mesmerised by the architecture in St Louis. I know I have said a number of times about the glass block buildings we seem to build these day’s, replacing so many beautiful buildings. I am not sure why St Louis has not gone down the same path, as they do have some new structures, the Gateway Arch being one. But they have retained their old buildings and they are magnificent. They give the city a charm that we have not found in other large cities. It seems every corner you turn there is another structure of art, because art is what these buildings are. Long may St Louis stay this way.

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of St Louis, like all big cities, that are not so nice. Our dear sweet lady in the GPS seems to delight in taking us to places that, well, we will just say, tourist really should not go. Really the people who developed GPS, must have one hell of a sense of humour.

While in St Louis a trip to the top of The Gateway Arch should be compulsory. Knowing my absolute fear of heights, I had organised the tour to the top, a viewing of the movie and a river cruise well before we arrived in St Louis as I knew if I didnt I would chicken out of going to the top.

The trip to the top is in a “pod”. A small round carriage with 5 seats. Just big enough for 4 adults to feel comfortable. There is a glass door in the Pod so that you can see the workings inside the leg you are travelling up but thankfully, no windows to the outside world. I was pleased we were travelling in our pod with 3 children and to also learn that the pods make up to 80 trips a day, so I had to have faith we would get to the top safely.

The trip to the top only took 4 minutes but my heart was in my throat during the last minute as it neared the top at 630 feet (192 metres) in the air. This is when you felt it wobble, shift and tilt as you moved across the top of the leg. I have to admit to holding my breath here till we arived at the top where you could clamour out of the small door way (even I had to double over to get out) of the pod and climb the stairs up to finally reach the Observation Deck.

It was a huge relief to arrive at the Observation Deck and find the windows are not large and you have to lean on the large carpeted window sills to get a good look of the view. After a little bit of trepidation, I came to enjoy the experience of peering through the windows to the world below. Though I am rather pleased it was not a windy day as it is designed to sway up to 18 inches in bad weather. That doesnt sound much when your standing on the ground, but while your up there the thought is terrifying.

What a magnificent view it is. The day was perfect and it felt like I could see forever. The pod trip up was well worth the trip to take the view in. The only down side, I had to take that Pod down again. But I did, and we headed off to watch the movie about the building of The Gateway Arch. The movie was fascinating. Perhaps it was best that I watched it after I had been up The Gateway Arch as I found myself holding my breath while watching the builders of the Arch clamouring around at such heights with no safetly gear. If I had booked to view the movie first I may not have made that trip to the top.

The Arch is magnificent. An amazing and beautiful piece of engineering. Something you need to see, as not a single photo I have seen has done it justice.

We had been told a number of times, that while in St Louis, we had to visit the St Louis Zoo. It is said to be America’s best Zoo. So we headed off early the next day to the Zoo. We had hoped to be there early to beat the heat, but it seemed the animals had a sleep in that day, and were slow in showing themselves. The St Louis Zoo is a very very good zoo, free and definitely worth a visit if your in St Louis. But apart from the price, I have to say our Zoo in Auckland is just as good and perhaps in some ways better, just smaller.

St Louis was a surprise to me, its beautiful architecture, its Arch and the feel of the city. But Route 66 is calling.

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