It is always interesting when you visit a city and it changes your perception. Having been to St. Louis, usually for work and once to see the arch, I considered it your usual midwest city. With this longer stay, I realize it is a fascinating city with a lot of unique neighborhoods, a strong French influence and great food options. We also started feeling a personal connection as the name Benton was everywhere. Apparently, Thomas Hart Benton was the first elected senator of the newly made state of Missouri. Perhaps a long lost relative?!

The shield of St. Louis, clearly showing its French roots.

One of the neighborhoods is known as the French Quarter of St. Louis, Soulard. With it being a week before Mardi Gras, there was a weekend festival. We caught it later on Sunday right after the pet parade, so it was lowkey. But it also gave us our first taste of St. Louis – cupcakes at The Sweet Divine and barbeque at Bogart’s. Nice folks and tasty food. You know it is good bbq when they run out of favorite cuts by 3 p.m. With barbeque on the mind, we also visited a popular spot during our stay – Sugarfire Smoke House.

Of course, there were many other options as well. We indulged our sweet tooth at an incredible bakery by Nathaniel Reid who was recently named a finalist for the James Beard Award. Croissants just like in France and delicious sweets! And because we were craving pie, we found Sugarfire Pie, yes a sister to Sugarfire BBQ.

Lest you think that all we did was eat, we also found the International Photography Hall of Fame (I know, who knew?). Paul Gittings, founder of Gittings Photography is an inductee. Might take a while to get Barry in there, but we can keep trying! We also visited the Sheldon, a mix of concert hall and galleries with several interesting exhibits. And I had a wonderful visit to the Butterfly House – 2000 butterflies flitting about in a beautiful garden. Joy!

The St. Louis Union Station is marked as a must see in at least one list, but clearly that was an old entry as most of the place is closed as they renovate for an aquarium. After much work, we were able to find the Grand Hall, which is now part of the Hilton Hotel and view an incredible musical light show, truly the largest I have seen indoors. We sat back and watched a kaleidoscope of images accompanying a medley of Beatles songs.

St. Charles, a small town outside of St. Louis and base-camp for us, had an adorable old town with cute small shops and old buildings. It was a great spot to walk around, shop, and even work at the coffee shop.

And a special treat, our friend Mike Mahoney was visiting his son who goes to college in St. Louis. They went to see their beloved Blues play St. Louis so we met after the game – for dinner, of course.

Sushi in St. Louis – yes!
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