Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gateway to the West

In St. Louis, Missouri since Tuesday evening till today afternoon.

St. Louis was literally the Gateway to the West in 19th century; being on the Western frontier in the earlier stages of the formation of the United States; being the starting point for the 1800s Lewis & Clark expedition to explore the West and find a water route to the Pacific Ocean on the other end of the continent. The City later on launched many people on their journey west.

The main attraction in the City is The Gateway Arch, a 630 feet tall monument to symbolize and celebrate the City's role in the 19th century. The design of the monument is very simple and ingeniously appropriate in it's portrayal of the City's past. The claustrophobia-inducing tram ride to the top of the arch is quite fast, taking a couple of minutes; however the time required to do the whole trip could be around an hour. The top provides impressive views of the City, the Mississippi river and Illinois state across the river.

The Western Expansion Museum at the base of the Monument is impressive as well, primarily focusing on details of the Lewis & Clark expedition.

The other important attraction in the City is the Old Courthouse Museum, which I learnt is of historical importance in the Slavery related trials. The trial of Dred Scott, a black slave seeking freedom for himself and his family, in the 1850s had raised national outcry and had hastened the country towards a Civil War with Slavery being the most divisive issue. The Museum provides a remarkable view into the lives of the slaves and the attempts towards freedom of many of them with Dred Scott's story as the mainstay.

The museum also has a big section elaborating on the growth of St. Louis over the centuries. Charles Lindbergh and 'The Spirit of St. Louis' are a proud part of the City's legacy. Came as a surprise to me to know T. S. Eliot was born in St. Louis.

Went biking along the Riverfront Trail today morning. The 12 mile trail starts close to the Arch (and the Captain's Landing sculpture erected to commemorate the successful return of Lewis & Clark expedition to St. Louis) and snakes its way along the Mississippi towards the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The trail is well maintained - fully paved two lanes - with distance markers every quarter mile. While the trail is not necessarily scenic thanks to the numerous river-side industrial units, the views from the bridge over the Mississippi made the trip worth it. The confluence of the two mighty rivers - Mississippi and Missouri - was just 4-5 miles from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Surprisingly, there are no facilities at the Confluence area and it is not well connected by hiking/biking trails. There are some plans now to improve the Confluence area; so hopefully when I come back here in a couple of years, I will be able to visit the Confluence.

There was one piece of graffiti on the walls along the Riverfront trail which amused me very much and made me stop and take a picture of it. I am sure it will come in handy when dealing with JP :)

Had dinner at Everest Cafe, a restaurant with an interesting story to tell and serving Nepalese and Korean food. Started by a Nepalese - Korean couple, it has parts of the menu dedicated to each of their home cuisines. The husband - a medical doctor who also is the Chef at the restaurant - was adopted in Nepal by an American Mountaineer after his successful climb of Mount Everest. Got to eat tasty mo-mos at this restaurant; reminding me of the delicious mo-mos I had tasted for the first time at a Tibetian restaurant in Denver seven years ago.

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