"All experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world."
Alfred Lord Tennyson
I've strolled, sailed, or driven, beneath some of the most famous man-made arches in the world. To name a few… the Arc de Triumph in Paris, France…Gateway to India in Mumbai, India…Brandenberg Gate in Berlin, Germany…Arch of Constantine in Rome, Italy…Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain…Rua Augusta Arch in Lisbon, Portugal…Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia…and the playful yellow arches of McDonald Restaurants around the world.
But try as they may, no other arch does it better than the soaring 630-foot Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. Clad in stainless steel, this iconic arch is the tallest man-made monument in the United States, and the world's tallest arch. Designed by renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, the Gateway Arch commemorates the westward expansion of the United States. This internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, was completed on October 28, 1965.
THE GATEWAY ARCH
Bonjour et Bienvenue à Saint Louis! It's check-in time! Cozy up with me at the Moonrise Hotel, an 8-story boutique hotel that opened in April 2009. This quirky, yet sophisticated hotel, where the largest man-made moon on earth revolves atop the Rooftop Terrace Bar, has added new life to the vibrant Delmar Loop neighborhood.
The rooms at this whimsical hotel, all with moon-themed art, feature first-class boutique accommodations you would expect in a luxury hotel. Ten "Walk of Fame" suites are individually themed and named after stars from the St. Louis Walk of Fame. The hotel's lighted staircase abuts the Eclipse Restaurant, a St. Louis leader in modern American cuisine.
The Moonrise Hotel combines Mid-western hospitality with urban chic and comfy sleek boutique. The hotel's prime location is near the Blueberry Hill Restaurant & Music Club where 87-year old Chuck Berry is still rockin' once a month.
87-YEAR OLD CHUCK BERRY PERFORMING AT BLUEBERRY HILL
However, let it be known that St. Louis (the "Gateway City" and hometown of "Mad Men" hunk Jon Hamm) has much more to offer than an arch. Come "Meet Me in St. Louis", and I'll show you a lot more than Judy Garland would have when she serenaded you to meet her at The Fair.
In 1904, the world traveled to St. Louis for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more commonly known as the World's Fair. A taste of The World's Fair can still be seen in the 1300-acre Forest Park. The Grand Basin, the centerpiece of the Fair, remains the crowning jewel in Forest Park. The St. Louis Art Museum, overlooking the Grand Basin, served as the Fine Arts Palace during the Fair. Sir David Chipperfield designed the adjacent new wing.
THE GRAND BASIN IN FOREST PARK
A massive walk-through birdcage, which served as the Smithsonian Flight Cage exhibit, can now be found as part of the Zoo's Bird Garden. An addition to Forest Park in 1936 is The Jewel Box, an Art Deco greenhouse that is listed on the National Historic Register.
The Jefferson Memorial Building section of the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park was built entirely with proceeds from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Bixby's Restaurant, located in the museum, offers stunning views of Forest Park in a contemporary atmosphere.
The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando, was opened in 2001. Cocooned behind glass-smooth "Ando" concrete walls, the Pulitzer was a gift of Emily Rauh Pulitzer, widow of newspaper scion Joseph Pulitzer Jr. Many graduates of Cincinnati's Walnut Hills High School, like myself, might remember Emily Rauh from WHHS.
EMILY RAUH PULITZER (left) WITH JANET STEINBERG
Richard Serra's 123-ton torqued spiral steel sculpture in the Pulitzer's courtyard is aptly named "Joe" after the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr. To me, it was reminiscent of Serra's rolled steel "A Matter of Time" through whose narrow curving passageway I had recently slithered at The Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. "Twain", another Serra sculpture, can be seen downtown at Gateway Plaza.
The Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, opened in May 1995, provides a chronological history of the Holocaust with personal accounts of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to St. Louis. Museum exhibits guide visitors through pre-war Jewish life in Europe, the rise of Nazism and events during the Holocaust, and post-war events including the Nuremberg Trials and Jewish life after the Holocaust.
The Cathedral Basilica, called "the outstanding cathedral of the Americas" by Pope Paul VI, contains mosaics created with over 41,500,000 tiles in more than 8,000 shades of color.
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF ST. LOUIS
On the St. Louis Walk of Fame, more than 140 bronze stars and informational plaques are embedded in the sidewalk along Delmar Boulevard in the diverse Loop neighborhood (so named for an old streetcar turnaround). Each star honors a famous St. Louisan.
If breweries are your thing, you can explore the world-famous Anheuser-Busch Brewery with a tour of the historic Brew House, Budweiser Clydesdale stables, lager cellar, packaging plant, hospitality room, and Anheuser-Busch gift shop. To drink some of that beer, head to Ballpark Village, a $100 million multi-level entertainment complex adjacent to Busch Stadium. The Budweiser Brew House offers 239 beer taps.
All touring and no dining is not a good idea. So for dinner, head to dinner at Charlie Gitto's On the Hill, the quintessential Italian restaurant in St. Louis's Italian neighborhood. Toasted ravioli ("T-Ravs"), a signature St. Louis dish, was born in 1947 in the kitchen of Charlie Gitto's On the Hill when a careless chef accidentally dropped traditional ravioli in hot oil instead of water.
St. Louis sweet specialties come in all tastes, shapes, and sizes. The Fountain on Locust features ice cream martinis; sea salt caramels are Kakao Chocolate's famous confection; and Gooey Butter Cake originated in St. Louis.
However, when your sweet tooth really starts aching, head to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, an iconic Route 66 attraction that's been around since 1941. The specialty here is concrete…edible, of course. Concretes are über-thick milkshakes made from vanilla frozen custard and blended with any number of sweet treats. Instead of driving on concrete on the renowned "Mother Road" of St. Louis, your taste buds will be savoring Drewes unique concrete.
EDIBLE CONCRETE AT TED DREWES
Surely, you'll get your kicks on Route 66.
ROUTE 66 IN ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and Travel Consultant.