Monday, October 10, 2011

That Ain't Pittsburgh: Adventures in St. Louis Vol. 1

Sometimes even the most outspoken Pittsburgh advocate (me) has to get out of town for a weekend. A few random events inspired my three day weekend in St. Louis, but most important of those was hanging out with Marlana one more time before she heads halfway across the world to live in Australia. (By the time this posts, she'll already be living down under!) Marlana has come to visit me in Pittsburgh TWICE, so I had to repay the favor and explore her hometown of St. Louis, which she speaks as highly of as I speak of Pittsburgh.

Marlana picked me up from the airport (that was still all boarded up from the tornado) and we headed toward Forest Park, which was a complete clusterf*ck because of the hot air balloon festival that was about to begin. We drove through the park trying to find ANYWHERE to park, but eventually gave up, but I managed to snap a shot of what is apparently a famous balloon in this festival: the Energizer Bunny.

After ditching our plans of watching the hot air balloons, Marlana took me to Crown Candy Kitchen, where I enjoyed a grilled cheese sammich and then an awesome ice cream sundae with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and marshmallow cream. (Plus whipped and a cherry on tup, duh.) After stuffing ourselves (Marlana got a BLT that was literally the size of her head and a chocolate banana malt), we picked up some homemade chocolates for later and made our way back into the city.

We drove down to the Mississippi and parked the car so we could walk around the Arch and the nearby section of North 2nd and North 1st streets. I was immediately in awe of the Arch; I didn't expect it to seem so immense in person and the fact that structurally it just stays upright and doesn't fall over is pretty impressive. We tried to go in, but it was closing time, so we saved it for another day of my trip.

The section of North 2nd and North 1st we walked through felt like stepping back in time. The buildings were historic and brick. Their former signage was fading away. There were murals and small hidden gems around. Marlana is a lot like me, needing to stop and take pictures of things every thirty seconds. It's always fun to have a fellow urban adventurer to explore with.

Given the opportunity, I finally put my feet in the Mississippi river.

Hello from the Mississippi River, with lovely East St. Louis in the background.

It was getting dark, so we hopped back in the car and drove to Marlana's mom's house, where we were greeted by many cats and many stories about St. Louis. Her mom's love of St. Louis rivals my love of Pittsburgh and she had the trinkets and memorabilia around her home to prove it. Marlana's brother stopped by too, and eventually he offered to take us on a ride and show us a spooky town in nearby Illinois. He also took us to this massive cave, which sadly had its entrances fenced off. If it weren't for my fears of both authority and the dark, I would have climbed that fence and gone right in. On the side of the cave was this massive and very creepy mural. Good work, Illinois.

One final mural of the day in Alton, Illinois. Fortunately, this was right across the street from a Taco Bell, and any night that ends in Taco Bell and running across a street to take a picture of a riverboat mural is a good night in my book.

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