When I lived in Memphis, my favorite weekend trip (other than hiking at Sycamore Creek) was to make the four-hour drive north to The Hill in St. Louis. I’m not quite sure how I found out about The Hill, but I’m sure I’ll never forget it. I don’t have any Italian in my blood, but I must have an Italian soul. The one place in the world that I want to visit outside of this country is Italy. I love cappuccinos, cannoli, pastas, garlic, olives, homemade ricotta cheese and virgin olive oil. One day I will find myself in Rome or in the Tuscan countryside, but for now I’ll visit The Hill with lust in my heart.
A few weeks ago on a Sunday I knew I had to get out of my house, and I decided to make the 6-hour drive to St. Louis for some good food and coffee. With the pandemic in full swing I knew I couldn’t do a lot, but I definitely could eat and drink and find a nice place to walk. Ashok and I made our way down on a rainy, cold day and stayed at the Hotel Indigo downtown.
We were in walking distance from The Gateway Arch, so we walked around there a bit. I found myself transfixed by the lines of this beautiful arch and took a hundred photos at different angles. Darkness came quickly, but the pizza I ordered never did. In fact they stiffed me, and I had to work really hard at not letting it ruin my trip. The hotel was lovely as was the front desk clerk, and I enjoyed a night away from my little house that is getting a bit claustrophobic here at the end of winter. My dinner was dried chickpeas and some fruit, and I lived to see another day. It could have been worse.
The next morning I chose a breakfast spot on Cherokee Antique Row. The Mud House was a cute little coffee house/restaurant in a historic building. It was lovely but small, so the tables were cleared out for Covid. I sat in an outdoor tent on the 60ish degree morning, and the server was nice enough to put me right by a heater so I’d be comfortable. The French Lentils and egg dish I ordered was amazing, and the coffee was perfect. After eating Ashok and I took a stroll through the historic district. I’d love to come back when things are open, but the architecture was lovely, and I enjoyed imagining this place in its heyday. They even had a Cat Cafe!
I took a drive out of town to find a hike, and I stumbled on the Route 66 State Park. We hung around outside the closed Visitor Center looking at the ruins of a bridge and drove across the river to walk. The trail was nice. You could either drive or walk and a lot of it was paved. It was warm which was nice given it’s still cold in Michigan. I just enjoyed being in the sunshine wearing only a light jacket.
I took Ashok back to the hotel and went to The Hill intending on finding lunch and doing some grocery shopping at DiGregorio’s Market. I stocked up on their house sauces, homemade pasta, olive oil, fig preserves and relishes. The staff recommended Anthonino’s Taverna for lunch because they make their own pasta. Anthonino’s is famous for their toasted ravioli. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and, in my opinion, deservedly so. But I was blown away with the Salmon fettuccini dish I ordered which featured an olive oil and butter sauce accented with capers and red onion. OMG! Mama Mio! I am truly not sure I’ve ever put anything better in my mouth. After licking the plate and leaving a really big tip, I headed out to my favorite local bakery.
Pandemic traveling has its downside. People are stressed so sometimes hotel and restaurant staff are just not on their game. Revenues are down, so quality sometimes suffers. I’ve really been working hard at appreciating whatever I receive and being grateful that I have the opportunity to get out. I’m focusing on connecting with the people rather than expecting a stellar experience. It’s really the only way to enjoy traveling during this time. And I’ve enjoyed the change of focus. But I did not enjoy that my favorite bakery was closed. I’m not sure if it’s out of business for good or just temporarily, but I was really sad when I saw that sign on the door.
I found a nice coffee house and soothed myself with a mocha. Then I returned to the arch for some more photos. I was lucky enough to catch an airplane traveling just beyond the top of the arch which made for a very interesting shot. I thought of the people in the airplane looking down at me as I was looking up at them. We are all in a strange world right now, and we need to grab a little happiness wherever we are. St. Louis provided a pretty good distraction. I’d love to come back when everything is back in full swing, but they provided a soft place to land when I really needed a break. I am really grateful for that. And I’m loving that olive oil.