Monday, December 1, 2008

Take Me to St. Louis, Louis . . .

Or Kennon, as the case may be. Incidentally, my father-in-law tried to teach me the infamous song about St. Louis years ago, but that is a story for another time. ;)

A few years ago, my husband was informed that he needed to go to St. Louis, Missouri for a session of training classes. Several fellow employees were given this same opportunity, and they were all told that they could bring their spouses along for the ride.

I was thrilled. I had never been to St. Louis and I was excited to explore this area. Arrangements were made, and we soon found ourselves on a flight bound for this nifty location. Since several of us were flying together from Idaho, when we arrived at the airport, we were loaded into a special bus that took us directly to the hotel where we were staying, the Hyatt, in downtown St. Louis.

I was so impressed with this hotel. Not only was it huge, but it was connected to a three story mall. This was great---during moments when I wasn't being entertained by my husband's company (I'll explain this in a moment) I could wander the mall and explore numerous shops. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. =D

My husband works for Monsanto, and since this company owns plants all over the United States, and around the world, there were people here for this training adventure\convention from all over the place. We met several of them at a special social held that first night at the hotel. Lots of good food, and plenty of excitement as we contemplated this tremendous opportunity.

We were told during the social that first night that buses would be provided to take the spouses of the Monsanto employees around the town. Since I'm an avid tourist, I could hardly wait. Before retiring for the evening, I prepared my trusty camera bag, intent on taking several pictures. I loaded it with film (since my camera at that time was a 35 mm); glucose tablets (a diabetic's best friend to combat insulin reactions); and important items like money, my debit card, etc.

The next morning, my husband and I arose early and ate a bite of breakfast. We merely wandered down to a handy eatery located inside the hotel\mall and enjoyed delicious breakfast croissants. Then we walked down to where the other spouses were gathering for the ride around town. This is when I learned that we were being taken to a local mall. I know my jaw hit the floor.

"But . . . I wanted to doing some sightseeing," I silently complained. Sighing, I decided to make the best of things and I sat on the bus with a friend of mine whose husband also works for Monsanto. As Joan and I visited on the way to the mall, I found that she was as disappointed as I was.

"We can always travel to a mall, no matter where we are, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the sights of St. Louis, and we're stuck spending the day at the mall."

I agreed. We both sighed, resigned to our fate. Before we exited the bus, we were told to travel in groups of 4-6---the infamous buddy system. So Joan and I joined up with a couple of ladies who live near the Monsanto plant in Soda Springs, Idaho. I didn't know them, but I quickly learned that they possessed a fun sense of humor and both of them were as disappointed about the mall scenario as we were.

An interesting thing was, all four of us were approximately the same height. This meant that none of us play basketball for a living, being relatively short. Possibly because of this, we appeared non-threatening, since a shy young woman from Thailand politely asked if she could hang out with us for the day. We quickly agreed and we were off to explore the mall.

This mall was like other malls I've been in. It contained lots of stores. =D As such, I didn't take many pictures of what we were seeing. The prices were relatively high in most of the stores, so we Idahoans finally headed for the food court for a bite of lunch and to commiserate about this sad excuse for seeing the sights of St. Louis.

Our Thailand friend seemed as disappointed in the high priced stores as we were. She asked if there were stores around that were better priced. It took us a few tries to figure out what she was asking since none of us speak the Thailand language and her English was often challenging to decipher. But we finally put it together and Joan nodded excitedly.

"I spotted a Target store not far from the mall. We could wander over there and be back by the time our bus leaves," she exclaimed.

I thought this was a great idea, but our fellow Idahoans bowed out. So it was just Joan and me and our new Thailand friend who left the mall for this adventure. Sure enough, as we exited the mall, I could see the tall sign that indicated a Target store was in the realm.

"Good prices?" our Thailand friend inquired.

"Good prices," Joan assured.

And we were off. We had no problem crossing the mall parking lot, nor the couple of streets past that. The challenge was crossing the freeway that lay between us and our desired destination. This is when we learned that our Thailand friend was wearing platform heels. Not good, since we had to sprint for our lives across these busy lanes of traffic. But we persevered and it didn't take us long to play frogger and cross the freeway.

Our Thailand friend, although not very thrilled over the "frogger adventure," did fall in love with the numerous bargains she found in the Target store. She bought clothes for herself, and several items for her family, souvenirs of her stay in St. Louis.

After quite some time had passed, we realized we needed to hurry back to the mall parking lot to catch our bus for the hotel. Once again, we had to run like crazy, darting around cars to cross the busy freeway. Joan and I had already decided we weren't going to share what we had done with our husbands, who would very likely lecture us a great deal about the unsafe measures we had taken to provide a good quality shopping experience for our Thailand friend. They found out anyway later on---our Thailand friend blabbed to her husband, who in turn shared the story of the two crazy Americans who nearly got his wife splatted on the freeway. ;) For the record, we were as safe as we could manage under the circumstances.

We reached the bus in plenty of time for the return trip to the hotel and figured all was well. Joan and I had time to freshen up before we met up with our husbands, and while we waited for them to appear, we explored the mall connected to our hotel. We watched, fascinated, as a talented young man spun fudge up in the air at a candy making shop. We found cool souvenirs for our offspring in some of the stores. All in all, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Then we went to dinner with our husbands at one of the restaurants near the hotel.

Joan and I told our husbands how disappointed we were in the mall tour. Evidently, we weren't the only ones who complained. The next morning, we found that another option was being offered. Instead of taking us to yet another mall, we could go sightseeing if we so desired. Joan and I were thrilled. So were our buddies from Idaho who had spent time with us at the mall the day before. Our Thailand friend wandered over just in time to hear our prospective tour guide explain what we would see that day, if we elected to go with him instead of on yet another mall jaunt.

"I will take you ladies to see the famed botanical gardens, the St. Louis zoo, the home of the Budweiser Clydesdales, and several historical sites."

"What is Clydesdales please?" our Thailand friend inquired.

"Huge horses," our tour guide explained.

This is when our Thailand friend shared a horrified look with all of us. "You ride huge horses today? You crazy ladies get me killed."

And before we could explain we were only riding out to see these famous horses, she disappeared into the crowd of women who were intent on seeing yet another mall. So there were only four of us who opted for the official tour of St. Louis. We rode around in a small bus and had the time of our lives seeing places like the botanical gardens:

The St. Louis Zoo, where we saw all kinds of fun creatures, including a water-logged hippo:

The Clydesdales in question:

And several historical buildings:

We loved our tour and took numerous pictures to record this adventure. We later returned to the hotel, pleased with our day.

That night, Kennon and I walked down to the nearby Mississippi River and went for a ride on a riverboat. We saw the famed St. Louis Arch up close and personal, climbing all of those stairs to see inside the visitors' center located at the base on one side of the arch. If one wanted to, one could ride a roller-coaster around the arch, but we decided not to because one of us (me) possesses an extreme fear of heights. And my husband struggles with claustrophobia, so the cramped roller-coaster didn't appeal to him either. ;)

I fell in love with St. Louis. Most of the people I met were so gracious and laid-back. The city itself was clean and attractive, at least the parts of it that I saw. We did experience one scary moment while on a bus ride back to the zoo. Kennon had some free time on the last day we spent in St. Louis and that was the one spot he wanted to see. We arrived just fine, but we did run into some brief trouble on our way back to the hotel. Some young toughs on the bus were out to give us a bad time. I guess it was all too apparent that we weren't natives to St. Louis. But it all turned out okay. As we exited the bus, hurrying to the light-rail train that would take us back to our hotel, we saw a group of young people that looked familiar. It was a group of LDS missionaries who were traveling around that day to see the sights on their P-day. When we linked up with their group, the young toughs turned around and left us alone. We had found a safe zone, and I don't think it was by chance. It was another witness to me that we are watched over more than we fully understand while here in mortal mode.

That night, my husband and I and about eight other Monsanto men hit a temple session in the St. Louis temple. It was great, even if I was the only woman who went with them. =) Let's just say I was spoiled rotten the entire evening. They all fought over holding doors open for me, etc. as we left the temple and went to a fancy Italian restaurant for dinner.

All too soon our trip came to an end and we flew home, savoring the adventures we had experienced in St. Louis. It is still one of my favorite trips of all time, and a place I would love to see again. Perhaps one day we will. I know this, I won't be going on any mall tours if we do. =)

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1 comment:

Accounting said...

0:)I am i kind of person who is really like adventure but since I am luck of financial I really don't,anyway St.Louis is a kind of a nice place But since I've already seen it here in your blog I already feel that I'm also there :) thnx a lot0:)