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Thankful…All the time. Let’s Pay It Forward

If you know me, you know I’m all about travel and exploring the world. That’s what this blog is about. Hubby and I love to travel as much as budget, time, and responsibilities allow. We have so much fun, that much of the time, I don’t even have time to blog about it.

Over the past 13 years since I started keeping track, we have taken around 60 trips, whether long weekends or months long journeys. Someday I will calculate the mileage and I’m sure it will be amazing. We have another dozen trips in the planning stages and a seemingly endless list of cities and countries we want to explore and then go back again and again because we meet such wonderful people and make great memories.

Having just changed homes (yet again), we are home for a few months before the next adventure. One of our grandsons recently asked, “Grandma and grandpa, why do you keep moving?”  Hmmm…probably terminal wanderlust.  In his 8 years of life we have been in 5 different homes. He and his brother especially enjoyed our big forever home with the huge dodge ball friendly basement and yard that was really too much for us to worry about. Now we are in a condo that Goldilocks & big Bear says is “just right”. Finally we have a home that can sit unattended when we travel the world.

What is the segue way to Thankful? This is the time of year when Being Thankful is always playing on my mind. I am so thankful for where I am in my life. I have an amazing husband who enjoys the same things I do (24/7…but that is another story). We are retired and can do what we enjoy – particularly travel. We enjoy good health for the most part. We have lovely friends, and most importantly, we have healthy, happy children and grandchildren, most of them close by. What more could you ask for?

We also have a brand new cozy home to come back to when our wanderlust is temporarily satisfied.

Not everyone is so lucky. Living close to the city, we daily encounter people in need on the street. Every year we typically donate to our favorite organizations, but these everyday reminders of humans in need make me more thankful that I can help a little, particularly at this time of year when we encounter so much overindulgence.

Giving Tuesday is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving . Many organizations that you donate to have matching donations on that day so make sure to put Giving Tuesday on your calendar and remember your favorite charities this holiday season (November 28, 2017).

Besides monetary donations, the MacLennan’s like to give back on a personal level whether it’s volunteering or sometimes adopting an elderly person or children off a gift tree. This year we are collecting scarves, hats, and gloves to keep in the car (because it gets pretty darn cold here in Chicago). When we come across those less fortunate, we will hand out something warm to wear with our donation, as well as some days a bag of something to eat like Subway and fruit. This requires planning ahead, so I’ve marked a few days on the calendar when I think we will be out and about in the car, so we can pick up food in advance.  Another day we plan to bring a holiday meal and some wish list items to a local homeless veterans shelter.

We have a great deal to be thankful for, and have a wide variety of favorite organizations. This is not a shameless plug for our favorites – I just wanted to share our list so it might jog your memory for ways that you might give back or pay-it-forward.

Special Needs:  

Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey


We Grow Dreams


St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital


Operation Support our Troops

Midwest Homeless Shelter for Veterans


Toys for Tots (it’s a great tradition to get your children involved in choosing toys for the less fortunate & bringing to a donation center as a family)


Chicago Scots Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care

DuPage County Convalescent Center (Adopt-a-Resident)


DuPage County Animal Control Foundation

Public Television:

WTTW (When we are not traveling, I love to watch Masterpiece, Doc Martin and a ton of their shows. Outlander & Game of Thrones are a given but we need Public Television!)

Church: of course that’s your choice and it’s personal to us all

I hope that you, your loved ones, family and friends, are warm and safe, healthy and happy this Thanksgiving and Holiday season. If you are as blessed and lucky as we are, consider paying it forward on Giving Tuesday to your own favorite organizations or finding a way to make contact with those less fortunate and pay it forward.

We continued to be very blessed, very lucky, and very thankful!  Sending good wishes from our home to yours, Happiest Thanksgiving to you xo

C’est tout.


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Normandie-WWII International Film Festival June 2017

Our 2017 significant vacation adventure is just about upon us as we prepare to travel next week. Our first destination is Normandy for the inaugural WWII International Film Festival to be held June 2 through 5, 2017 at Musee Du Debarquement Utah Beach in Saints-Marie-Du-Mont and Cinema Le Cotentin in Carentan.

Do not fear my little friends…there will be plenty of other Le Bon Vie fun to report on this holiday. Stay tuned for updates from some lovely European towns and cities.

C’est tout!







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Countdown to 5 Glorious Days in Berlin

We are in the last week countdown before jetting off to Germany and are looking forward to visiting the cultural and historical hub that is Berlin. So far for us, Germany has been explored via a series of plane changes in Frankfurt and Munich on our way to sunnier climates in France, Spain and Italy. September 2016 we will finally visit Berlin, Munich, and Ingolstadt (yes home to Audi!) before moving on to Italy.  Stay tuned for some exciting travel stories and hopefully gorgeous photos.

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Downton Abbey Fashions at Driehaus Museum

19 MuseumBeing a Downton Abbey lover, I was excited to find the Driehaus Museum in Chicago is presenting Dressing Downton – Changing Fashions for Changing Times February 9 through May 29, 2016. As the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey has concluded, PBS stations WTTW & WMFT have sponsored an exhibit of over 35 period costumes from the award winning show.

This exhibition explores fashions in Britain between 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) and the early 1920’s, the dawn of the Jazz Age. The impact of World War I greatly affected people’s lives and the way that they dressed. These changes are particularly highlighted.

The culturally and historically significant Driehaus Museum is located steps from the Magnificent Mile and the perfect setting for the Fashions of Downton. This grand and palatial mansion was the residence of Samuel M. Nickerson and is one of the few remaining examples of the 19th century Gilded Age-era in both design and architecture.

My first visit to this glorious mansion left me dreaming of years gone by, experienced only in old movies or British television series. After tickets and coatroom, obtaining a colored brochure of each exhibit and an audio presentation, I ascended one of the grand carpeted marble staircases to the first floor. There I joined the crowd of ladies who lunch in watching a short introductory film on the made for television show. The visitors on a Tuesday morning were 99% women with some serious Red Hat Society ladies. Today however, they were wearing white gloves and adorned with straw hats, feathers and such finery as to fit in at a proper tea party.

Promptly at 10am, the ticket taker appeared and we glided into the grand reception room from where the staircase ascended to upper floors and from which all the first floor rooms connected.

17 staircase


Tickets are purchased for every half hour admittance times. Quite well thought out. There never seemed to be people crowding in if you wanted to take a photo or in your way while you examined an exhibit. There is plenty of room to envision yourself a distant Crawley cousin, belonging in the priceless surroundings.

1 Martha Levinson









6 Lady Crawleys spanish dress



15 presentation at court









16 presentation


4 stained glass ceiling

3 library


2 fireplace











The library is furnished around an artistically significant fireplace and statuary which leads the gaze up to a stained glass ceiling. The ceiling is beyond words.









13 Mary's riding habit




Each of the rooms on the three exhibit floors hold multiple costumes, informational directories, and photos from the television show.

The rooms themselves have directories as well that are part of the regular Driehaus Museum exhibition. There are no words I can use to describe the beauty and opulence of the mansion. It just requires a visit to absorb it all.

6 Edith's riding costume






11 Cora & Lord Grantham






14 Dowager Countess

10 Cora & Lord Grantham








8 Cora's gown Edith's wedding

7 Mary's dress


18 tea


Traditional English tea is available by reservation in the Murphy Auditorium, served by properly costumed servants .

There must be a gift shop! Oh yes there is, just next to the tea.  Many treasures abound.




Life after Downton…what will we see next? Luckily the Driehaus Museum is a must see on it’s own, holding many interesting programs and exhibitions. The Museum entrance is located at 40 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL, 60611.

C’est tout!

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Digging into the past in with Agatha Christie in Old Montreal

Palais de Congress

st Patricks









As our December visit to Montreal comes to an end, I ventured forth with my trusty camera for photographic evidence of the holidays…but then was distracted by the past and an old friend.    Agatha Christie

Walking along the waterfront in Old Montreal, I came upon a new exhibit entitled In the footsteps of Agatha Christie at Pointe-à-Callière museum.  Très excitant!

Agatha Christie has always been one of my favorite authors and earlier just this spring I read The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery.   This particular book is a travelogue of her yearlong trip around the British Empire in 1922 with her first husband, and contains letters and photos from her travels.  Interesting side note, Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.

The Pointe-à-Callière Museum is the only major archeology museum in Canada, and caters to interest children as well as adults. There is much more to see here than this one exhibit, but time was limited, so I concentrated on digging into my favorite mystery writer’s life.

The Pointe-à-Callière exhibition is presented in French and English and runs through April 2016. Photos were not allowed except in the gift shop, but that was good for me, as I then took my time to drink it all in.

If you are familiar with Agatha Christie, you know of her interest in archeology as well of her archeological adventures with her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan. Max was a prominent British archaeologist specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history. At least half of this exhibit highlights this part of Agatha’s life in previously unshared artifacts, black and white films, audio recordings, notebooks and photos, from the Christie Archive Trust and her grandson. The other half of the exhibit shows the writer and her personal life, and also has many personal artifacts and huge larger than life photos of Agatha.

The exhibit presents how she incorporated her travel and experiences, and even her favorite dog into some of her novels. It was all terribly interesting darling, and makes me wish I could curl up in front of the fire with one of her books and a cup of tea. I do love Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and wish I could have met the Agatha in person. Sometimes living in the past seems wonderful…in the meantime, it will have to be books, photographs and movies that take me there.

Looking into the past in Montreal…C’est tout.

railsquare philliphidden gardenCentre d'histoire clocktower

look into the past

Habitat 67

Montreal abandoned rail

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Montreal’s festive holiday markets (Marché de Noël)

ice sculptureThe weeks leading up to Christmas are a fantastic time to explore downtown Montreal. Having recently spent three months living near Old Montreal, I was excited to travel back this week to visit the Christmas markets, or Marché de Noël as they are known in Quebec.

Today while walking over to Rue Ste-Catherine for a little retail therapy, I came across a pop up Marché de Noël in the square above Place Ville Marie, complete with Christmas trees, ice sculpture, and scattered comfortable Adirondack chairs covered in cozy (faux) fur throws.

fur accoutrement

Place Ville Marie is an underground shopping mall connected to the underground city, located across the street from the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel. The Fairmont is the site of the Beaver Club, and many famous celebrity guests have stayed there.  Probably the most celebrated of all, John Lennon, held his ‘bed-in’ here in 1969, where the song Give Peace a Chance was written and recorded. As well, the Fairmont has a unique gift shop worth exploring and the BEST high tea, but that’s another story.

Back to the Marché…one of my favorite pâtisserie/boulangeries – bar à beurre, has a booth with samples of their yummy cookies and candies, and mason jars of the same for sale as gifts, and their signature shopping bags.  bar à beurre literally translates to butter bar…hmmm, no wonder their cupcakes and cookies are so wonderful.


There is a artisanal bread booth, and a cheese and sausages booth, perfect for gift baskets…walk faster you little weight watcher!

les chocolats de chloe

But alas, I was caught up at the chocolate booth, Les Chocolats de Chloé.  I met lovely Chloé herself, luring in customers with her wonderful cocoa treats.  I guess a few bars for stocking stuffers would be okay…if I just can forget they are packed in the suitcase.


Raplapla sells handmade dolls and animals to cuddle…so soft, and they have a doll hospital to repair your treasures.

Boucle & Papier  papeterie boutique had many fun gifts…. artisan stationary and labels and soft little handmade zipper bags…oh my. So many cute things.








I love that the Christmas markets boast artisanal wares and unique gifts from boutiques, and am looking forward to treasure hunting tomorrow.

Joyeux Noël!  C’est tout! 

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Sault Market and A Cycling Star

Sault is an old fortified village situated high atop a ridge overlooking a wide valley, with many lavendar fields spread out like purple patches on a summer quilt. patchwork lavendar

This amazing countryside is northeast of Villes sur Auzon where we had experienced a wine-cycling tour last week. It is also very close to the Gorges de la Nesque were we picnicked another day. Each time we drive back to this area, the lavendar is more in bloom and intense in hue.

L'Etoile cycle

bile sign

We knew we wanted to come back at least one more time this Provençal visit so Le Grimpeur could climb all those glorious Ventoux hills on a bike, and me for the lavendar and a little shopping. We planned a Wednesday visit when the Sault market could entertain me while John cycled. In the 18th and 19th centuries Sault was the center of an important glass industry. There are no glass works today, but the weekly market continues as it has since since 1515…and that’s good enough for me.cycle shop










We found a brand new cycle shop just a km or two out of Sault, so we called ahead to rent a road bike.  L’Etoile Du Ventoux (The Star of Ventoux) had just opened for business and John rented their first road bike. They offered a brand new Fondriest 19-speed as well as new clip shoes right out of the box. John cycled up Col de la Ligne (altitude 756 meters) twice and was pleased to ride 60 kilometers.

sault market

dream of anna


While John was cycling, I explored the village armed with camera and shopping sac. There are so many wonderful markets every day in Provence, but with limited luggage space, if I purchase something, I prefer fabricated in France or something fantastic that cannot be found at home. The markets are filled with fresh, colorful and delicious produce, soaps, oils, wine, bread, fromage, flowers, clothes, linens, bags and nougat to name a few. I like to check out the artisinal shops as well that sometimes are overlooked with the market stalls blocking them…and sometimes I am just delighted with some photos.

The proprietress at Art’Isa sits at the counter hand-painting her porcelain ware.sault towersault kitty 2 pretty Sault doorholleyhocksmore lavendarsolaire

The village is open and large with many squares and cafés and panoramic overlooks to the Ventoux mountain range, and the Plateau de Vaucluse spread out across the south.

Just a few kilometers out of the village to the southwest are the deep canyons of the Gorges de la Nesque. gorge de la nesque





gorges 2


When John had cycled as much as he wanted, I picked him up and we drove part of his route to go back and enjoy the scenery and the lavendar fields up close. They smell delicious!

brilliant lavendar

kathy and lavendarlavendar & goldenrod



C’est Tout!

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Inverness & The Clan Gathering 2014

Day two of our UK summer adventure started off with a jolt. We woke late with the Parliament due to begin in 10 minutes downtown at the Town Hall.  John raced out the door, but no good can become of a day without coffee, so I set off to explore Inverness a little more slowly along the way. Downtown Inverness seems to have changed drastically over the 7 years since our last visit, with much more expansive shopping, dining, and many coffee houses. I picked up a couple semi-skim lattes before joining the clan. I was immediately impressed to find most people wearing their tartans, whether it was a full out kilt, vest and jacket, or tartan dress, skirt or scarves for the women.

Clan MacLennan Leadership

Clan MacLennan Leadership

Our clan chief is Ruairidh MacLennan, Scotland’s youngest. Over the next hour or so, Ruairidh worked his way through the parliament agenda discussing the MacLennan museum, future gatherings, and made well-deserved leadership appointments for Canada and Australia. There was a presentation from the clan genealogist regarding the new clan database and DNA testing. The parliament last met in 2009 but it was decided the next gathering will be in four years in 2018 to coincide again with the Commonwealth Games which attracts a lot of people to Scotland for Homecoming.

Alex Graham, the Provost of Inverness (Mayor) then welcomed and addressed the clan first in Gaelic, and then in English. He most generously offered an expansive buffet lunch his staff had prepared and set out in the council board room for us.17 townhouse

The Town Hall Inverness is a gorgeous 16 Town househistorical building with many plaques, paintings, flags and memorabilia that interest history and genealogy buffs such as us.

In 2007, we had been walking past the Town and came upon a children’s performance when we went inside to look at the WWI and WWII plaques. We enjoyed their dancing, piping and singing and their families welcomed us to their coffee and cookies social hour afterwards. The Town Hall always reminds me of the friendly folk of Inverness.

After lunch there were to be the mini Highland games in the Northern Meeting park. As it was starting to rain lightly, we decided to explore downtown and shop for John’s sporran, which was needed to complete his formal attire for the formal clan dinner.

3 the old high church



4 old high church





We stopped in the churchyard of the Old High Church to peruse the headstones, before making our way down through the raindrops to Leakey’s Secondhand Bookshop and Cafe. 4 LeakeysWe follow Leakey’s on Facebook and are treated to the day’s soup and sandwich menu from 3,600 miles away. I had been craving a bowl of their hearty soup with “a chunk of crusty bread or oatcakes” for over a month, but was no longer hungry after the Provost’s luncheon. Leakey’s occupies a former church and is warmed by a wood burning stove next to the cash register station. The second floor cafe and print selection are accessed by a metal circular staircase.5 Leakeys 15 Leakeys6 Leakeys latteWe enjoyed looking down on the stacks and stacks of books while enjoying perfected steamed lattes and sharing a piece of pecan shortbread tart. It was unusual to see all those books in one place as we usually read on our iPads. Even when we go to the library to enjoy the reading room, we have not seen the massive amount of books that Leakey’s has on their shelves. It was very cosy and I can imagine spending another rainy afternoon by the warmth of the wood stove skimming through the stacks. We did find two prints verified over 100 years old, with sketches of the MacLennan and Munro crests, so we scooped them up as souvenirs of Inverness.Munro printMaclennan print

7 the butcher








We continued to explore in the rain and found a wonderful old indoor Victorian Market. Huge black and white historic photos are displayed over many of the shop’s arched doorways. There were some expected touristy shops including one that sold Yankee Candles, a dentist, spice shop, hair salon, and an inviting coffee shop.14 Market

9 Victorian Markey








10 Vic Market

11 Vict Market










Marks & Spencers was close by, so we stocked up on wine and bottled water (travel essentials) and shopped around. It’s always fun to see what is on grocery stores shelves in other countries. My grand-cat Max might enjoy the cat milk?

11 Marks & Spencer cat milk 10 Marks & Spencer






The high street around the corner from Marks & Spencer and Eastgate Centre Mall is closed to cars for pedestrians to enjoy. Where we would have teenagers with guitars busking for change, we found delightful bagpipers in full Highland dress – across from McDonald’s…at least it sounds Scottish.

16 bagpipers

16 chisholms

Why can’t’ we have a purple tartan?

The search continued for the elusive sporran as it had to be authentic and created in Inverness. We shopped at Highland House of Fraser and Ben Wyvis, but the windows at Chisholm’s Highland Dress had caught our eye, so we ended our search there.

1 chisholms


Upstairs we found the perfect combination of old world craftsmanship, attention to detail, and with the help of a very knowledgeable and sweet saleslady, we found the perfect pewter silver thistle sporran made in Scotland. What about me you ask?  I did find a brooch for my MacLennan sash with purple amethyst-like stones as a remembrance of Inverness. Lovely.

2 chisholms

fine leather working


The perfect authentic sporran

Chisholm brooch

Made in East Kilbride






Later in the day, a shuttle delivered everyone to the Dores Inn  for pre-dinner drinks and socializing down by the shores of Loch Ness. Clansmen gathered with children, families, and new friends for photos, to raise a glass, and to gaze at the amazing scenery.

Loch Ness 2 Loch Loch 4

After an hour or so, Chief Ruairidh picked up his pipes and called us all to the street to march behind him and his colours to the Dores Parish Hall, where we were to have the traditional ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee).

Chief Loch Ness


John kicking up his man-skirt at the ceilidh

At the hall great room, we quickly found ourselves at the last vacant table and were seated with a fantastic couple, Jane and Dave from the area, and 3 wonderful new friends from Ontario, Marilyn, Leslie, and Kristin.

The catered dinner started with prawns and Scottish salmon appetizer and was delicious as all Scottish salmon usually is. When it came time for the main course, they had run out of food for our table so there was a fair amount of joking and teasing while we waited for the hotel to prepare and deliver the missing meals of stovies (Scottish meat stew) and cranachan, which is literally a huge container of whipped cream, honey, whiskey and fresh raspberries.

Creaky Dores provided music for dancing and our new friend Jane got my husband up on the dance floor to learn a reel. He had been hiding his prowess on the dance floor all these years, so there is definitely dancing in his cards soon! There were raffles for prizes and a very cool bottle of Scottish whiskey with a Clan MacLennan label and games with pitching coins.  A great evening was had by all. Soon it was midnight and time to drive back down the country roads in the moonlight to the Beaufort.

Tomorrow we travel to Eilean Donan Castle.








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MacLennan Scotland Homecoming 2014

Old Man of Storr

Hiking Old Man of Storr – August 2007

The first time that my husband and I traveled to Scotland was in August 2007 to experience Fringe Fest In Edinburgh.  We stayed downtown Edinburgh on the weekends, and Inverness and Isle of Skye on the weekdays. Being a huge Outlander fan, we cycled Culloden and Clava Cairns.  We cruised Loch Ness, visited Eilean Donan Castle, hiked the Old Man of Storr on Skye, and of course tasted some mighty fine whisky. We had a marvelous time exploring for a couple weeks, but did not have specific ancestral information to do a deep dive into my husband’s Scottish roots.

Uruquart castle

We have been members of Chicago Scots for many years. We volunteer at the Highland Games, attend the Robbie Burns dinners and the picnics at the Scottish Home, but until retiring, have not had time for the ancestral research that was necessary to plan a personal journey home to the UK. When we heard that Clan MacLennan was planning a 2014 Clan Gathering to promote our clan and to bring the global family together to celebrate customs and traditions, we decided to participate and make the UK our primary vacation destination in July 2014.

Clan MacLennan offered a jam packed 4 day program of activities which we eagerly signed up for and started counting down the days until we began our the first leg of our vacation in Inverness. Ancestral research flipped into high gear, and day by day planning of our vacation kept us busy finding interesting things to explore in each city we planned to visit over the course of our journey.  We had 17 days including travel time to fit in Inverness, Bristol, Bournemouth and London as our 4 major stops where we would stay multiple days, and walk or drive out from our hotels to explore.

UK Trip 2014

Planned UK Route

3 main courseDue to our aggressive frequent flier mile strategy and some fortuitous planning, our adventure started with a relaxing flight across the pond on United Global First class. We had a delicious meal and a few glasses of wine before stretching out on our lie flat beds with duvet coverlets for a few hours sleep before changing planes in Frankfurt for Edinburgh. (Thank you husband for all your required travel that helps us accumulate miles)

The drive from Edinburgh Airport to the Beaufort Hotel in Inverness took approximately 5 hours.  (New personal planning rule: multiply Mapquest and GPS time estimates by 1.75 in UK.)  The Beaufort was the chosen headquarters for the Clan gathering and we were happy to book a room right in the center of the action. We were given a well furnished, quiet room with double bed and nicely equipped bathroom with strong shower and a towel warmer…a welcome European treat.

Having not eaten during the drive up, we were eager for our dinner reservations at River House restaurant in downtown Inverness. Currently rated #2 of 184 restaurants on Tripadvisor, it is a very charming small restaurant in an old storefront right on the River Ness. 9 River House exteriorThe interior is adorned with floor to ceiling velvet curtains on the windows and front doorway, and the dinner specials are listed on a blackboard. It is a very cozy atmosphere. River House serves locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable meals so I chose a scrumptious grilled filet of sea bass with pancetta risotto, and my husband Prime Scottish sirloin steak Au Poivre with french fries. They had him at frites! A little warm rustic bread, a bottle of French white, and a crème brulee to share…life is good!

River House








By the time we walked back to the Beaufort, the clan meet and greet was over, but we were happy to go to bed early to try to adjust our bodies to the UK time zone.

Stay tuned for more photos and The Clan Gathering.

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Summer Weekend Getaway in St. Louis, Missouri

My fun-loving better half and I decided to drive from Chicago to St Louis, Missouri over the Memorial Day weekend to catch up with dear friends that live farther south. St. Louis is the halfway meet up point for us both and we looked forward to a couple days of tourist activities and relaxation.

Being dedicated Marriott Rewards members, we had reservations at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel, just blocks from the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium. We found at check-in that The Grand is a wedding ceremony and reception destination with 18 weddings planned for Memorial Day weekend, but not to worry. Many formally dressed people mingled in the lobby among hundreds of gifts bags and flowers arrangements, but the weddings in no way affected the service of the staff or the elevator response time at this 23 floor facility. This is a gorgeous property architecturally, with an elegant curved marble staircase down to the Capri restaurant where we enjoyed complimentary continental buffet breakfasts. There is an in-house Starbucks, a gift shop, and the chic Grand bar. There are two Renaissances in St. Louis, so make sure you reserve the one downtown at 800 Washington Avenue for a luxury experience. arch blue After dropping our luggage, we soon met up with our friends to head over to the Gateway Arch. Planning ahead, we had purchased timed entry tickets online the previous day for $10 each, allowing us to skip the line and show up at the time of our trip to the top. The experience is very well run and involves slowly walking through dioramas detailing the construction completed in 1965. Two trams run to the top viewing room every 5 minutes, where at 630 feet, on a clear day you can look out over 30 miles.  arch view The structure was built as a monument to Thomas Jefferson and all the pioneers for who St. Louis was the Gateway to the West, as Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory in the Louisiana Purchase and made Westward Expansion possible.


Once down to earth again in the visitor center, we stopped in the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is free to the public.  museumThe museum has many interesting exhibits and helpful docents. We could have spent more time here but they were closing at 6pm as it was the last day of winter schedule, so we moved outside to take a few more photos.








In the mood for seafood, we meandered over to Broadway Oyster Bar at 736 S. Broadway, about a mile from the Arch. Outdoor seating had an hour wait, but we were quickly shown to a table inside the eclectically decorated and air conditioned bar. After sharing a delicious dinner of oysters, crab legs, wine, and tasty bites of my husband’s sampler platter of spicy Gumbo Ya Ya, Jambalaya, red beans & rice & crawfish Étouffée, we slowly walked back towards Busch Stadium. Stopping at the Budweiser Brew House for drinks, we took selfies and checked out the on stage entertainment, multiple bars, and huge television screens. The Brew House just opened in March 2014, spans 3 levels, 26,000 square feet, has an outdoor beer garden and a rooftop deck with views of Busch Stadium.  It is definitely a party atmosphere with bachelor and bachelorette limos dropping and picking up partiers everywhere. As I mentioned earlier, St. Louis is a wedding destination.

After calling it a night, we returned to our respective hotels for some R&R and planned to meet up in the morning after breakfast.

We woke Saturday to a bright and beautiful day and Starbucks skim lattes just an elevator ride away. Caffeine heaven so close!

The first stop after picking up our friends, was the Soulard Farmers Market located at 730 Carroll Street, where we scored an on street parking spot right across from the main door. The market is open Wednesday thru Saturday, year round and features locally grown and shipped in food, and the usual farmers market goods like organic soap, plants, and flowers. This market has been in existence since 1779 and is definitely worth a visit. I regret we did not bring a cooler and ice, as there was plenty of fresh produce, farm raised meat, and award winning artisanal goat cheese from Baetje Farms. We bought fruit, took many photos, and enjoyed the market sights and smells, as well as the sounds of down home entertainment.   Soulard Entertainment






From Soulard Market, it was just a short 20 minute drive to Grant’s Farm, home of the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales and a beautiful family entertainment park.

Clydesdale wagonBeing a gorgeous summer day, many families and couples had the same plans. There was a bit of a line getting in to the parking lot, but the entire park, tram ride through the exotic wildlife park, and entertainment are free after paying $12 for parking.

parrotsInteresting to note, once you enjoy the narrated tram ride through the park, see all of the exotic animals and grounds, adults can enjoy two free draft beers of their choice in the Bauernhof Hospitality area. A greater percentage of visitors were enjoying the beer and food than petting the goats.


Ever the frugal travelers, we also indulged in grilled brats, grilled chicken sandwiches, fries, and free beer, and made it a lunch.

BaernhofOn the way back to the car, we walked to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site – White Haven Farm just across the parking lot. There is an intriguing exhibit entitled An Intricate Tapestry: The Lives of Ulysses and Julia Grant, that details their public and private lives within the context of their time and how they shaped and were shaped by events of the nineteenth century. There were many personal letters on display that gave insight to their loving relationship. Sigh… ever the romantic, I am inspired next to read Julia Dent Grant’s personal memoirs.

Later that afternoon we met up at Robust at 635 Washington, just blocks from our hotels, to watch the Chicago Blackhawks play the LA Kings in the third game of the semi-finals. The hostess was not happy to provide a television for a Chicago game, but after convincing her the bartender had promised…we were seated in a back corner table with two TVs at our disposal, which was quite excellent. Kris, our server, was extremely attentive. The wine and appetizers were to die for. We enjoyed a selection of small plates, particularly the Figgy Piggy Apple Flatbread with bacon, Granny Smith apples, fig jam, Gorgonzola and Mozzarella cheese – piggy being the operative word. Unfortunately the Blackhawks lost in game 3 to the Kings, but we had a fantastic time catching up with our dearest friends.

St. Louis remains on our to do list of drivable weekend destinations, with many attractions we have yet to enjoy:  Forest Park world’s fair site, botanical gardens, a brewery tour, a Blackhawks and Blues game, or a Cubs and Cardinals game. Washington Avenue west of Broadway abounds with many interesting coffee shops, restaurants and wine bars waiting to be explored:  Three Sixty, Copla Restaurant & Wine Garden, Blondie’s Coffee and Wine Bar…to name just a few.

Just 4-1/2 hours from Chicago, St. Louis offers an enjoyable getaway and a another taste of The Good Life…

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