Several years ago, I spent the weekend with my niece who lived near Clearwater Beach, Florida. I remember having a drink with her while watching the sunset on the beach my first night there and remarking that it must be so wonderful to live that close to the beach. Unbelievably, she said she and her husband rarely went to the beach, and I was so befuddled by that. I told her I couldn’t imagine living that close and not going all the time. I thought about it later and decided that actually made sense; even if I lived in Florida near the beach, I would still have the obligations of life that would likely prevent me from going to the beach as often as I imagine I would. I thought about how we often take for granted that which is right in front of us, not really appreciating our surroundings the way we should while we let the routines of life prevent us from doing so.
Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about that conversation. I live on the outskirts of St. Louis, and I love the area where I live. St. Louis, for all of the bad press it has received the past few years is a vibrant, beautiful city with so much to do, see and eat. Yes, there most definitely pockets of the city where one would not want to visit or be lost in after dark. But, doesn’t every large city have such areas? St. Louis is known mostly for The Gateway Arch, but STL has a rich ethnic history, and there are areas and neighborhoods that still carry on that history. A neighborhood called The Hill is known for its plethora of Italian food and shops. There are beautiful parks all over the metropolitan area. We have two popular sports teams, a world class botanical garden, breweries, festivals galore and a fantastic zoo. There are many surrounding communities and towns not far from St. Louis that also have much to offer in the way of shops, restaurants, scenic hiking trails and other attractions.
It seems so crazy to me when I think about how I live in a place with so many wonderful things to see and do, yet I often stay in my own little bubble and don’t venture away from what I know and love. I have lived in the St. Louis area off and on my entire life, and for all of the past 27 years, but there are places I haven’t visited, for no real reason, other than I just haven’t. I did more when the kids were little and we made regular trips to the zoo, Grant’s Farm and other kid-friendly sites. Now, I go to Cardinals games here and there and make a trip to The Muny every summer, but other than that, I am not at all adventurous about checking out new things and places. So, the past few months, I’ve been trying to go off the beaten path more. I’ve tried new restaurants instead of falling back on my long-time favorites, stopped at places I’ve never been before even though I have driven by them many times with no attention paid to them in the past. Sometimes, it has been worth the effort, and sometimes, it really wasn’t at all, but I have really gotten a kick out of stumbling upon weird places and looking for new adventures. I’ve also eaten some really good food from restaurants I didn’t know existed.
Two Saturdays ago, my sister and I wanted to take our mom out to lunch and shopping for her birthday. Typically, we go to Columbia, MO since it is close by and we know it well. I go there even more now that Lauren attends college in Columbia. But this time, I suggested we do something different and go to our state’s capital, Jefferson City, instead. I spent a few days there back in December when I was there for Share training and discovered it is a really quaint little town, not at all what I expected it to be. There is an historic downtown area near the capitol building with several blocks of shops and restaurants. I will shamefully admit that until this past December, I had never been to Jefferson City. I had never seen the state capital building of my own state up close, only from a distance as I drove through on my way to the Lake of the Ozarks. When I suggested Jeff City to my sister, I was surprised to find out that she had never visited the city either.
So, Jeff City it was! It is only 10 minutes further than Columbia, and it was so worth it.
On my drive to meet up with my mom, sister and Lauren, I decided on a whim to stop at a store that I have driven by more times than I can count, in Williamsburg, MO, an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere country town. Williamsburg is about 25 miles from the town where my parents and sister live, one of those places I drive through but never stop because there is really nothing there, not even a gas station. There is however, Crane’s Country Store. I was a little bit ahead of schedule, and I decided to stop. It’s not a place I will go again, but I did take a few fun photos. The two old men hanging out on the porch drinking soda out of glass bottles gave me a chuckle, and I felt like I’d stepped onto The Walton's set for a moment.
I love these chairs! They remind me of chairs my grandma once had.
A few miles later, I stopped at Apple Wagon Antique Mall. I have been there before, but I usually don’t take the time to stop. How can you not love a place where you are greeted with sights such as this before you even enter the store:
I went on my merry way, met everyone, and we headed to Jeff City. It was an unseasonably cool day, beautiful and sunny and only in the low 80s. The humidity was non-existent, which was a real treat for late August. We started with a delicious lunch at The Grand Café, shopped at what has to be the world’s largest Hallmark store and my favorite, Southbank Gifts. We finished our afternoon at Yo Yum with bowls of frozen yogurt. I think my sister and mom enjoyed the day. I know I did. I adore old buildings, and I especially love this one, which just happens to be the home of Yo Yum:
Those stained glass windows. Swoon. <3 p="">3>
All this within full view of the stunning capitol building.
While my favorite part of the day was simply strolling along the streets of a picturesque town,
Lauren's favorite part of the day was this:
She loves it when we go in stores that have couches, and she always has to give them a test run. She was quite comfy and laid there the entire time we were in the store. She didn't take a nap on this day, but she has been known to do that, too. :)
I guess I can’t get enough of road trips because last Saturday, I drove to Ste. Genevieve, MO and met Rachel there. This is a town I have driven through multiple times the past year or so because it is about half way between home and where Rachel goes to school. I’ve always heard it was a cute little town with fun shops, etc., but since I live in a cute little town with fun shops, I have never bothered to go. I am not sure what exactly I was expecting, but it really is a hidden gem in the middle of practically nowhere, and we had a fun day exploring. It was quiet, not like the crowded St. Charles historic district is on a beautiful summer Saturday. The people and shop owners were so friendly—more than once, we were stopped on the street and drawn into long conversations about the history of the town and some of the buildings, many of which still look exactly as they must have looked in the town’s early days.
We had lunch in an old saloon turned restaurant called The Anvil:
We ate homemade ice cream (that really wasn’t all that great, I must say, and totally not worth the calories) and found some interesting little shops.
Did I say already that I adore old buildings?
And the flowers! I wish I had taken more photos.
When I was on the way to take Rachel back to her car and head home, we (or rather, *I*) got lost and ended up many miles out of the way from where we were headed, which led us wayyyyyy off the beaten path to the biggest antique mall I’ve ever seen, in the teeny little town of St. Mary with a population of 360.
One fun fact about the day: I learned that my daughter has inherited my weird infatuation with taking pictures of doors. She even said while walking by one building, “Oh, I want to take a picture here because it’s a cute door.”
It was a town full of "cute" doors.
She is also drawn to taking photos of herself in front of brick walls.
What is the point to all this? Absolutely nothing. :) Writing it just provided me a mental break from trying to scrub tape residue from the walls in a bedroom I am painting. :)