Our North American Trip - May and June 2007.
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Our North-East Trip – Week 1:   6 May14 May 2007
Los Angeles and St Louis

(This will be updated as and when internet access allows, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could (will) be a bit disorganised at times!!)

Sunday, 6 May 07 – Fly Wellington to Los Angeles
Paul kindly pick us up mid afternoon and we arrived at the airport with an hour to spare.  Good calm flight to Auckland, duty free purchases, then the Air NZ lounge and now we are on the flight to LA.  We needed to travel business class because of Annette’s back, so I’m told, but that’s ok, we just won’t be able to afford another trip abroad for a while!

Auckland to LA:   The flight is quite bumpy at the moment, but I’m past caring as have had a great meal.  A glass of Trinity Hills’ Tempranillo – different but very nice – followed by a single malt (Glenfiddick) before dinner.  Entre was prawns (yummy).  Another glass of Tempranillo and main was Chicken and tomato.  I think I had a Nautilus Pinot at that stage, then Lemon Pie flavoured ice cream with a Forrest Estate botrytis Riesling, followed by cheese and dates with port.  I’m just finishing off with a Baileys on ice but having trouble with this PC – it just can’t spell anymore!  Still bumpy but time to turn my seat into a bed – bliss, this is when the cost really makes it worth while.  Flight crossed the International Date Line, so we started Sunday all over again!

Sunday, 6 May 07 – LA Airport / Santa Monica, Los Angeles
Arrived in LA soon after 12 noon - waited 30 minutes before our Airport ramp was available, then the usual wait before we got through immigration and customs, then found where the ‘Super Shuttle’ departures were.   Arrived at Hotel Carmel, Santa Monica around 3pm, checked in (small room with two double beds & Bathroom facilities – nothing else, but we knew that) then went for a walk along the foreshore.  It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon with lots and lots of people around.  There was a silent protest on the beach with thousands of white (and a few red) crosses in the sand, many coffins draped with USA flags and details of the lives lost in Iraq and earlier wars.

We walked down onto the lower foreshore walkway, then along the Pier.  Back up on the foreshore we stumble across Bruno’s Italian Restaurant – a little restaurant away from the main touristy eating places - we had a Mozzarella Marinara (magic) then a great thin based pizza, yummy food.  We’ll most likely return there on our way home.


Mon, 7 May – Fly LA to St Louis (via Chicago)
6am – We were collected by a ‘Super Shuttle’ and taken to LA United Airport domestic departures, checked in with a ‘real person’ and succeeded in obtaining upgrades into ‘Economy Plus’ seats (more leg room) and seated together (our booked seats were at different sides of the aeroplane!). 

We arrived at St Louis around 6pm (2 hr time difference), collected our bags and proceeded out to meet our hosts in St Louis for the next week – Deborah & Dan.  They were waiting with a large ‘ANG’ sign (our Slow Travel name), so we instantly knew who they were.

Home to a very pleasant casual dinner – ham and potato rolls and stir fried garlic spinach.  Managed to get 10 hrs sleep, which was great!



Tues, 8 May – St Louis
Late morning we all went to Forrest Park and visited the Information Centre, then drove to the Missouri Botanical Gardens - a very pleasant interesting walk.  We drove back to Forest and visited the St Louis Art Museum,  the James S McDonnell Planetarium  / Saint Louis Science Centre - as we walked into the Planetarium an announcement came across the speakers saying they were closing in 15 mins, so we had a quick walk across the pedestrian bridge across a main highway to the Science Museum - unfortunately we didn’t get enough time there.

After leaving that area we visited the ‘Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis’ – an amazing display or gold mosaics, other ornamental patterns and figurines – so pleased we visited there.

On our way home Deborah took us to her Favourite food shop, the ‘Global Foods Market’ - it has food for many different countries, as St Louis is quite multicultural now - stocked up on a few supplies.

For supper, Deborah had prepared Margareta pizzas (Basil pesto, Mozzarella cheese, tomato & Basil) for dinner, then Mango dipped into Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar – delicious.

Wed, 9 May – St Louis
Late morning Dan drove us to the nearest Metro station to catch the train into St Louis – as we got closer to St Louis the train got fuller and fuller with St Louis Cardinals Baseball fans who were to play the ‘Colorado Rockies’ at the new ‘Busch Stadium’ in the centre of the city at 1.30pm.

We initially walked down to Laclede’s Landing (a little run down); walked under the train and vehicle bridge alongside the Mississippi river (the river was in flood - very muddy water with continuous logs and other wood travelling down it – the monument of the bridge designer was half under water), then up the steps to the ‘Arch’ to purchase our tickets for mid afternoon (airline style security check on entry).  Walked up past the Old Courthouse, through the city green strip area (parks), had lunch and a wandered around.  In one of the parks there was a large ‘Tourist Information Visitor’ display – even a woman with a large snake – Graham was brave enough to stand close for a photo!  By that stage many people were in the stadium waiting for the Baseball game to start.

Returned to the ‘Arch’ for our trip to the top – had to wait for a long queue to enter before we got back in – security check issue!   We shared our tram capsule up to the top with two African-Americans taking their grandson for a ride to the top.  The views of St Louis from the top were fantastic, especially down into the new ‘Busch Stadium’ full of people watching the baseball game – red Cardinals shirts everywhere!  Graham said he kept his eyes closed at the top - not keen on heights at all!

Once back on the ground we visited the Old Cathedral – it’s the plainest inside of a church we have ever visited.  By that time many people were leaving the Baseball game so we got onto the train and got off at ‘St Louis Union Station’ to have a look around.  It is huge and was built around the 1890’s and was the busiest  railway station in the USA during World War II.

Deborah met us and took us to Plaza Frontenac – nice ladies wear shop called ‘Chico’s’ (nice ‘cropped’ ( ¾ ) trousers – none of my size available!). Also two great kitchen shops full of heaps of different kitchen utensils – Williams – Sonoma Grand Cuisine (www.williams-sonoma.com) and  Sur La Table (www.surlatable.com ), then, as for the chocolate shop (Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolates), that was pretty good as well.   Had dinner at ‘Maggianos’ Little Italy Restaurant (www.maggianos.com) – super food and great waiter (they get US$2.15 an hr – so they depend on customers tipping them).


Thurs, 10 May – St Louis
Stayed home and had a relaxing day catching up on the diary, washing, etc. as we have had a busy week with great lie-ins in the mornings, however we have also had some fairly late nights.

A spectacular thunderstorm came through late afternoon – caused flooding in some suburbs as they had 3 inches of rain in 20 mins.

Fri, 11 May – St Louis
We woke up to our first rainy day – temperatures have hovered between 17 deg C to 30 deg C since arriving in St Louis.  Today thankfully it’s not so hot.

Hired a rental car from ‘Enterprise’ Rental Cars and drove to the ’Meramec Caverns’ (Stalactites and stalagmites) – the tour took 1hr 20 mins, and surprisingly enough there were no restrictions for taking photos throughout the tour.

We also drove to historic St Charles on the banks of the Missouri River – had a walk along the main street (red bricked French & Colonial buildings along a coble stoned roadway).  Quite different from other parts of St Louis we have visited.

In the evening the four of us went to an Italian cooking demonstration at the ‘Kitchen Conservatory’ in Clayton.  It was a very interesting evening, great watching our food being prepared and even better still being able to eat it – roasted quail was very interesting.  We have the recipes, so will be able to try some of them when we return to NZ.


Sat, 12 May – St Louis
We were up at 6.15am to drive to the Soulard Farmers’ Market – fresh fruit, veges, plants, meat, fish, etc.  Neat atmosphere, as usual at those kinds of places – came away with some nice fresh fruit and veges.

Deborah then drove us to the Tower Grove Park farmers market – a much smaller market with mostly crafts and food, then we visited ‘Penzeys Spices’ – what a wonderful shop – the displays were great, commonly three different sized jars / packets of spices to buy and at each spice there was a large jar to open and smell the spices and spice mixes.  Their selection of spices would be the best I have ever seen in one shop.

Onto Parker’s Table wine shop - Jonathon  Parker was the wine supplier at the cooking class we attended last night.  It was good to see what his shop was like – we spotted two different NZ Sauvignon Blanc in stock – impressive!  Had a look at his home built Italian style 3 wheeled Ape parked around the back – used for sales stalls at the local market.  Visited another farmers’ market, then a new large supermarket for us to have a look through.

Once home we had a salad and some pork spare ribs for lunch around 3.30pm.  Dan had been to golf and had arrived home before us and already had his lunch.

As we had such a late lunch we didn’t need dinner, so mid evening we drove to ‘Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard to have some ‘Concrete Custard’ for supper!!  This is a St Louis tradition and is one of the few remaining icons from old “Route 66” - when we visited around 7.30pm there were heaps of people waiting to place their orders – approx 8-10 queues of people lined up – no seating, just holes in the walls for ordering your ‘Concrete Custard’s –  all bases are vanilla then the flavouring is either added on top or mixed together.  Annette had the ‘Fox Treat’:  a concrete (can be a sundae) with hot fudge, raspberries, and macadamia nuts – when blended altogether it becomes chocolate.   Graham had the ‘Tiramisu’ - a concrete with Ted's special blend of chocolate and pistachio nuts.  We were told the queues we saw are nothing really, we should see the crowds soon after a Baseball game – they close off part of the road to accommodate the number of people.  They were delicious – could go back there anytime.


Sun, 13 May
– St Louis
Another lovely fine day for Mother’s Day.

Dan & Deborah’s daughter Erin, her husband Bryan and their two boys, Sage & Morgan came around for a brunch.  Mary (Deborah’s work colleague) & her mother Mary-Jane also arrived with a delicious German coffee cake with craisins through it (made with yeast).  It’s texture was slightly croissant like, but not as light.  Mary had done a Rotary Group Study Exchange to New Zealand 5 years ago and spent some time in the greater Wellington area.  She was great to talk to, had a good knowledge of NZ and loved talking about it.  We enjoyed her company.

We all enjoyed a delicious brunch of egg bake - whisked egg baked in the oven, then chopped up precooked mushroom, Italian pork sausage, green peppers & Italian bacon, etc – it was delicious.  We also had fresh fruit cut up finger sized – pineapple, pawpaw & pears along with some Italian Gorgonzola blue & Pecorino cheese, and finished off with Deborah's delicious multi-layer orange cake.

Our entree for dinner was some Italian pork sausage in an Italian tomato mix – it was absolutely divine.  The main was a self made recipe of Deborah’s – Canelline Tricolore, she roasted all the veges prior to making the dish (to enhance the flavours) – tomato chunks, yellow pepper, garlic, fennel bulb, Canelline beans, asparagus, herbs & other flavouring.  The meal was delicious and was enjoyed with the bottle of Nugan Estate ‘Duref’ red wine from Australia  that we had found in Jonathon’s wine shop.

And so ended a delightful week in St Louis.  Tomorrow we head for New York for Andrew and Lee's wedding.