Cathedral Basilica of St Louis

This Cathedral is absolutely amazing and is part of the Roman catholic Church.  It has the largest mosaic collection in the world containing 41.5 million glass tesserae pieces in more than 7,000 colors and covers 83,000 square feet.

It is a very overwhelming place to visit….

City Museum – St. Louis

It is practically impossible to describe, characterize or explain the City Museum in St. Louis. The short version is that it consists largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects in an old 10 story shoe factory along with a 10 story cave/labyrinth that has one way in and one way out.  The out happens to be a 10 story slide back to the first floor.

Humongous Chain
Humongous Chain in the Parking Lot

I had come across the City Museum searching the web for things to see and do in St. Louis, but I did not grasp what we were getting into. We pulled into the parking lot which also served as a holding area for parts and pieces that had not yet found a place for in the museum and piles of salvaged stone work.

I was informed when we bought the tickets that there was no map nor were we given any idea where to start or what to do, just a sly “Good Luck”

Different Ways to get Between 3 Floors
Different Ways to get Between 3 Floors

The first thing we say was this large staircase and slide that spanned 3 floors and old refrigeration tubing with children crawling through them.  This place suddenly looked like the love child of Willy Wonka and Caractacus Potts.  It was magnificent!

We started walking around the first floor and found a huge whale that was made of painted concrete, a barfing pig (this was an old tank, painted like a pig, that would fill with water, fall over and spill in a pond) and this incredible inside treehouse. … Continue reading

Gateway Arch

38 years ago, when we moved from Michigan to Texas, I first encountered the Gateway Arch as we drove though St. Louis and recall with a young mind of 12 how awe-inspiring this structure was.  Ten years later I found my self at the top of the arch for the first time and was again captivated by its architecture and innovative engineering.

This trip I again marveled at this structure with a new perspective and 30 years of engineering under my belt.

Visitors Center
Visitors Center

They are renovating the entire riverfront around the Arch which made buying tickets and getting to the Arch a little complicated.   Having purchased our tickets we made our way through a maze of streets and construction barriers to the Visitors Center located underground beneath the 630-foot, stainless steel monument.

Tram Cars
Tram Cars

We were ushered into 5 seat pods that are part of a 8 car tram that would take us to the top.  These claustrophobia inducing pods then make a 4 minute journey to the top along the interior of the Arch and shifting every few moments to stay horizontal.  The pods basically swing like Ferris-wheel cars as they ascend and descend the arch.  Luckily, they have small windows so you can see the structure and the 1,076-step emergency stairs which included many landings and sets of spiral stairs.

Inside the top of the Arch
Inside the top of the Arch

At the top there is a narrow room with a floor that curves and 16 small windows on each side.  The windows are such that not only can you look straight down, you can also see to the other-side.

The views are incredible from the top and the good news is the ride down is only 3 minutes….

Mark Twain’s Cave

It is called Mark Twain’s Cave but to me it a place where Tom Sawyer went to explore and then he and Becky Thatcher had a terrifying encounter with Injun Joe. In movies, the cave was always large and vast with huge rooms. The cave Mark Twain wanted us to visualize was much different and based on this cavern he himself explored as a child.

The real cave from Tom Sawyer is a labyrinth of tight passage ways and a few small rooms. In Tom Sawyer, Mark twain describes the cave:

The cave was but a labyrinth of crooked aisles that ran into each other and out again and led nowhere. It was said that one might wander days and nights together through its intricate tangle of rifts and chasms and never find the end of the cave– Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Mark Twain's Cave Entrance
Mark Twain’s Cave Entrance

The cave is entered through a man-made entrance that was built in 1890 while the original entrance can be seen to the left and would require someone to crawl through to get in. Our guide was a young man of 17 named Thomas and my wife and I were the only 2 on this tour. Stepping into the cave it was immediately clear this was much different than what has been depicted in the movies. The cave has a multitude of narrow, winding passages formed from smooth soft limestone called Louisiana Lithographic Limestone. The cave covers about six and a half miles with four known entrances and 260 passages and a year around temperature of 52 degrees. … Continue reading

Hannibal, Missouri

As a child, I always remember one of my favorite movies being Tom Sawyer and I recall Injun Joe scaring the tar out of me, having a crush on Becky Thatcher, the mighty Mississippi. This led to a later interest in Samuel Langhorne Clemens or Mark Twain and how he was born and then died on the tail of Hailey’s Comet.

The Town of St Petersburg where Tom Sawyer lived was based on the boyhood home of Mr. Clemens’, Hannibal, Missouri. The character Tom was based on recollections from his own childhood growing up in Hannibal. Samuel Clemens did whitewall fences in his youth however he never did talk other boys into paying him to do his work as in the book. Huckleberry Finn was young Sam’s friend Tom Blakenship while Becky Thatcher’s inspiration came from Laurie Hawkins who lived across the street.

Hannibal today is a quaint river town with non-subtle hints of Mark Twain everywhere. Part of Hill Street is blocked off where you will find Samuel Clemens boyhood home while across the street is the home of Laurie Hawkins (Becky Thatcher). A few buildings over is his father’s, Judge Clemens, office, and next door is Grant’s Drug Store where the family lived upstairs for a brief period of time.

Main Street is full of shops and restaurants and even a Hotel with Mark Twain in the name. The Mark Twain Museum is there and I even found an old mechanical horse you could ride for a quarter. And of course we had dinner at the Mark Twain Brewery.

As I sat on a bench on Hill Street my thoughts went to events in a book written a long time ago and gazed around at what Mark Twain recalled as he wrote The Adventure of Tom Sawyer.