Last week we visited the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. As you may recall from past posts- we love the Central West End– it was one of the first places we visited when we arrived a year ago.
We made an afternoon out of it- visiting the historic building it’s in- all 3 floors of it. The first floor houses the gift shop and the current exhibition of Tom Hackney: Corresponding Squares: Painting the Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp. Excellent photography and art exhibit with a few nude photos so parents beware of the kids- my boys looked, snickered and ran away. A nice conversation around nudity as an art form followed to which they struggled to comprehend.
We spent the majority of our time on the second floor with the Kings, Queens & Castles interactive family exhibit. There is a giant medieval castle, life-size chessboard, large scale chess pieces and art-making stations.
The third floor houses the permanent exhibits. There are historic and artistic chess sets housed behind glass. This floor was too delicate for my rambunctious bunch of kids and so we spent very little time here.
We ate lunch across the street at KingSide Diner. Terrible, slow service- make sure you have 2 hours to kill at minimum but while you wait the kids can play in the adjoining room with chess sets at every table.
We wrapped up our day with a visit to Left Bank bookstore to peruse the used book section in the basement downstairs. A perfect way to end the day.
The World Bird Sanctuary sits on 305 acres of Missouri hardwood forest out in Valley Park, Missouri. Their mission is to “preserve the earth’s biological diversity and secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.” The organization does this through education, field studies around the world and rehabilitation of injured animals.
We journeyed out to spend a day at the World Bird Sanctuary in early June. Upon arriving, we visited the Monsanto Fund Environmental Education Center where we met several animals who had been rehabilitated. “Frazzle”- an Eastern Screech Owl really touched our hearts. These owls can be found in orchards or woodlots and are usually a gray or rust color. Frazzle came to the Sanctuary as a young bird with a severe eye infection. Despite treatment, the staff was not able to save her eye and it had to be removed. My kids were so touched by Frazzle- we lingered around her cage for some time and discussed ways we might be able to help other birds like Frazzle. You can see her closed left eye in the picture below.
After leaving the Education Center, we ventured outside where there were several different types of owls, eagles and hawks for viewing. Below you see a European Barn Owl. These owls are found across Europe with the exception of Scandinavia and tend to be smaller and lighter-colored than their American relatives. Did you know that one Barn Owl can eat up to 2,000 mice a year?
We followed a paved footpath where we passed a hospital that helps rehabilitate many patients like Frazzle. We ended up walking through to their outdoor exhibits where they had many animals- All types of owls, Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, Sand Hill Cranes and Turkey Vultures, just to name a few. There were also several off the beaten path trails that took you through their backwoods. It was really breathtaking.
We ended our journey with a visit to the Nature Center. There we saw birds, parrots, bats, an armadillo and our favorite- “Anna” the Green Tree Python! Wouldn’t want to meet her in the forest but behind the glass- she looked pretty cute. If you live in the St. Louis area- this is a great place to visit and take your kids- They have a BatFest in Early Spring, National Trails Day in June, and an Owl Prowl in November. Many of the programs are free or low-cost. And the work they are doing is incredible. Truly.
Been living the St. Louis life the past couple of weeks. Trying to enjoy being present for myself, my husband, my kids. Focusing on gratitude instead of resentments or negativity. Some days it’s harder than others.
A few highlights:
Visit to Missouri History Museum’s “Little Black Dress” exhibit. Cousin Kristy who lives in Brooklyn, New York and is 20-something came to town so I felt I had to take her to a “cool” place. The exhibit takes you through a history of the little black dress- from the 1800’s mourning occasions to Coco Chanel’s 1960’s dress that launched a million little black dresses. Though the dresses on display were neat to see, I was drawn to a side exhibit- a wall of personalized little pieces of paper that allowed you to write a memory of your own favorite little black dress. In particular- I was drawn to this one. Powerful.
More BBQ but really, after having visited SugarFire Grill a few weeks back, I must say the best BBQ in St. Louis. Pappy’s Smokehouse. After standing in line for an hour, we chowed down on the best BBQ I have ever had. The restaurant has been recognized by the Food Network as the Best Ribs in America. So- go figure.
The Missouri Botanical Gardens– in the spring. Really quite fantastic. The last time I had been was last Fall and well- that’s just too long. I hope to visit much more over the next few months. The flowers were in full bloom and the fountains were sprouting blue for the BLUES hockey team (someone had to explain that one to me because I didn’t quite get it- not being a sports hockey fan and a St. Louis newbie).
Union Loafers. I have a food partner in crime and her name is Lisa- we attempt to eat at a different breakfast or lunch restaurant across different areas throughout St. Louis once a week. In fact, we have a whole list of places we’ve been to – we’ve been enjoying these adventures since last year and one of these days when I get around to it, I’m going to post them all here. So, we made it out to lunch on a rainy, spring day at a place called Union Loafers. We sat at the counter and although we did not indulge in the beer that everyone around us was partaking in, we did manage to have some fantastic food. I had the kale carrot ginger soup and a turkey sandwich on their freshly baked bread. The bread, I am not kidding you- to die for. I bought a loaf of their sourdough to share with the family for dinner that evening- truly magnificent. It makes me want to learn to bake my own bread. That is for another time I’m sure.
I am counting the days until school begins. When I first heard that school began on August 12, I thought well that’s rather early. But now- I’m counting days, hours, minutes. I think part of it is that we are all out of our routines. Nothing is the same and we are all driving each other crazy in this suffocating brick house, in this environment of humidity, bugs and little friendships. In an effort to delay my check-in into the asylum we’ve been using our time to explore our new town. It has helped a little.
This past week, we explored a great part of the city – the Central West End of St. Louis. Imagine a cleaner version of Berkeley, California. Charming streets. An eclectic vibe. Hip, funky, young people of all colors. First stop- Left Bank Books! It was a lovely bookstore with a large downstairs used book section where you could get lost for hours. M found his way there immediately while I, C, and I took our time looking around the upper floor. Eventually, we made our way downstairs too. We wasted a nice two hours there and bought a few used books. We had worked up an appetite and it was definitely time for lunch. Our options were Gringo Tacos or Pi Pizzeria. Being the snobby Mexican diner that I am, we trotted off to Pi Pizzeria. Continue reading “Exploring the City”