Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Fish, crisps and Central West End.

Today was something of a mixed day, in the sense that it was enjoyable but nothing really out of the ordinary. When we woke up for  breakfast, the weather was very cloudy and the rain was coming down fast. Gone were the shorts of yesterday and out came the long trousers! However fortunately after breakfast the clouds cleared and the rain stopped - not long after we went out the sun came out and it actually became very hot.

Downtown St. Louis.
To start the day off we headed to the Gateway Transportation Centre, otherwise known as the main railway station, served by Amtrak trains to Kansas etc. and by Greyhound and Megabus to other destinations. Unfortunately, railway station is something of a misnomer. The place feels more like an outdated waiting room with not a train in sight and not even a departures board.

Self-indulgent picture in downtown St. Louis.
It certainly can't hold a candle to the wonderful building that is/was Union Station, and I presume that this is the price paid for low cost air travel - still, St. Louis isn't on most tourist trails and therefore probably isn't as well served as other places. Nonetheless, I did pick up an Amtrak leaflet for the 'Adirondack' service between New York and Montreal, which I hope to complete (in full or in part) maybe next year.

The Old Courthouse with the Arch in the distance.
After this brief detour we headed back downtown so my Dad could buy a jacket he'd been hankering after to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arch construction. Whilst he did so I headed upstairs in the courthouse to get the view from the top of the building and to see the old courtrooms previously used. It really is a stunning building, so unassuming on the outside but wondrous in it's myriad of rooms and staircases inside.

Glass model of the Old Courthouse.
Next up we caught the metro train to Central West End, a concentrated area of cafés, restaurants and shops, something which seems curiously missing downtown. I say concentrated, but the wide leafy cafe-strewn avenues are still broken up by long wide boulevards teeming with traffic. What the area sets out to achieve is nice, and towards the latter end it succeeds, but the wide traffic choked highways which break it up make it seem artificial somehow. Still I found an interesting local eco-friendly grocers (with no prices on anything) and an independent bookshop called Leftbank Books stocking a good range of local literature and books on the region.

One of the courtrooms in the historic Old Courthouse.
We ate in a Welsh bar today which had some excellent beers on draft, however I broke with  tradition by having a lovely cider from Urban Chestnut Brewing Company. Also tried a small sample of their pilsner which was utterly delicious and different to those I've tried before. Food was fish and chips which did in fact come with chips (i.e. crisps). Strange but surprisingly tasty.

Tree-lined streets in the Central West End.
The craft beer scene is clearly booming here as everywhere and with such tasty (and unique) brews on draft I just can't see why big corporate breweries making fizzy pig swill such as Anheuser Busch continue to exist. Still, there's no accounting for taste and each to their own I guess, I just prefer a quality taste over carbonated water :).

Llewellyn's Welsh pub in the Central West End.
Leaving the West End we decided to head back to the supermarket near our hotel which had grabbed our attention from the bus window. I know to some people this may be a bit weird, but I just love checking out local supermarkets when I'm on holiday - the shelves full of unique and colourful products that are different to those you see in tesco or sainsburys every day is just fascinating.

A selection of local beers from the supermarket 
In the end I came out with seven sachets of different flavoured hot chocolate, a nice warm up meal made fresh on the premises to take home and a 'summer patio pack' of beer bottles from the local Schlafly brewery. Twelve bottles for $12.99 with three of each style: Yakima wheat beer, Raspberry hefeweizen, summer lager and grape fruit IPA. The store also sold bottles of fireball cinnamon whiskey for only $12.99, with miniatures for just over a dollar, although I was more interested in the somewhat pricier (but still good value) local bourbon on display.

Evening time view from the hotel room.
I got back to the hotel to find I'd gotten email confirmation of the Still630 whiskey distillery tour I've pencilled in for Saturday before our flight. These are a local distillery who's name reflects the height (in feet) of the Gateway Arch previously mentioned. More on that later! Tomorrow it's off to Soulard (said to be like Brooklyn without the crazy prices) and maybe the St. Louis Science Centre. For now it's time to put my feet up and finish watching Back to the Future on CMT (once the commercials end)!

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