Under the Arch

Trip Start Feb 09, 2010
Trip End Mar 17, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Missouri
Thursday, February 11, 2010

(written by Jessica)

Had a glimpse of the Arch yesterday as we approached St. Louis, but today we got to see it up close - inside and out. We read in our guide book a little about the gracefully curving arch and that Eero Saarinen designed it. I am familiar with this designer/architect from some chairs he designed- specifically his "tulip chair" and his "womb chair." Google him and you can learn about his architecture designs and his winning design submission for the monument to represent westward expansion in the U.S.- a monument to represent the "gateway to the West" that turned out to be his Gateway Arch.

At the arch (well underneath it actually), we passed through airport-type security and then rode a tram up inside to the top of the 630-foot structure. Small 2-foot by 8-inch windows running along the top curve allow tourists to gaze out over the city on one side and the Mississippi on the other side. My heart fluttered a little as I looked straight down to the ground. Ten minutes at the top and we headed down to see the documentary of the construction of the Arch. It was really interesting how they built up both legs at the same time and joined them in the middle at the top. Justin and I were taken with the Arch, to say the least.

After the Arch, we head to the Tin Can bar/restaurant where we hear we can ride a free shuttle partway to Soulard, the area outside downtown where Mardi Gras activities will take place on Saturday. After a couple beers (and a free one, too) we decide we'll come here Saturday morning to start off our Mardi Gras celebration. We then head back to our wireless-inaccessable hotel to hang out and eventually go to sleep. We make plans to check out Soulard tomorrow and maybe visit the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

(written by Justin)

I had high expectations of St. Louis despite mixed opinions I had heard from past visitors.  Something about the city has always had an appeal to me in the back of my mind.  Having visited the Gateway Arch in person today and been awestruck by its massive scale and immaculate design - I wonder if the residents of St. Louis who commute into the city every day and catch their first glimpse of the Arch every morning still feel a shred of inspiration or motivation from its presence.  Unlike the Statue of Liberty, the various Washington D.C. Monuments, and all of the other man-made symbolic structures that I have witnessed, the Arch is visible from virtually any distant or elevated vantage point in the city.  It would seem impossible to spend a day in St. Louis without at least once catching the reflection of the sun beaming back at you from the massive structure, or seeing the top of the catenary curve silhouetted against the horizon. Could placing some sort of massive towering symbol like this  in any major city have a lasting effect on its inhabitants?  I would like to think so. 

Sitting in traffic everyday in my five years of commuting to downtown Atlanta, I stared at billboard advertisements, skyscrapers full of busy-bodies, and hundreds of other cars full of angry individuals with cell phones glued to their heads.  If instead I imagine having a glimpse of the Gateway Arch in my rear-view, would I at least occasionally be reminded of its purpose: a symbol of exploration, dedication, and all that this country and its people have accomplished as combined individuals? Would I see how irrelevant the time it takes me to get home every day really is to the overall goals and achievements of my life? How even though some jackass just made me slam on my brakes because they couldn't pause their conversation long enough to turn their head and check their blind spot - it really doesn't matter? How we each control our own futures entirely independent of what other people do, and to build up stress and waste energy on the trivial unpleasantries of daily life really is futile?  Maybe not with such dramatic effects, but it might at least distract ones eyes for long enough to lower their heart rate a few beats per minute, reduce their blood pressure, and take off a thin shaving of stress.

Combine this imagery with mild traffic, a tolerable climate, very cheap beer prices, and very affordable housing - and you should end up with a livable city. I've interrogated as many waitresses and bartenders as possible, and thus far every one of them grew up in another city at least 150 miles away and moved to St. Louis and has loved it ever since.  When asked about crime, one mentioned that last week her car was broken into and all the thief took was a brand new box of Cheez-it crackers out of the passenger seat, but she went on to say that it is a very safe city.  That particular incident seems to me to be related to the aforementioned very cheap beer prices.  We've all had that drunk bottomless hunger, I bet that box of Cheez-its was the best meal they had had in years.  So far we haven't paid more than $1.75 for a domestic 12 oz beer at a bar, in most cases much less.  Having spent three years scouring Atlanta for cheap drink specials, I can say with some authority that with the exception of the occasional bottom-of-the-barrel skunk $1 drafts - it costs at least twice as much to get the night rolling in Atlanta, five or six times as much if you are at a Midtown club. As for comparing the quality of the actual entertainment, that remains to be investigated.

On Saturday we are attending the St. Louis Mardi Gras festival all day.  It is the second largest in the US and takes place in Soulard (a district in southeast St. Louis), less than a mile from the massive Anheuser Busch Brewery.  After getting dozens of tips from locals, we have a long list of bars to visit and hope to see a bit of everything and really get a feel for how people here really are.  I am cautiously optimistic that it will be an amazing time - but will definitely remain sober enough to know where the exits are at all times if things start looking bad. Taxi in - taxi out for us, for obvious reasons.

More to come - we're still trying to catch up the days, hopefully tomorrow (Saturday) morning we can catch up and be actually writing "night of" the rest of the way.
Thanks for reading
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