St Louis is called after King Louis lX who was also a Saint; not too many of these - King and Saint! The city was established by the French as a trading post and is where the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers converge into one big wide and busy river with tugs pushing barges in all directions on the river. Christine was our tour guide on our first day when she drove us to Forest Park, which is 500 acres larger than New York’s Central Park; set on top of a hill overlooking the park is the Palace of Fine Arts, originally built for the 1904 World's Fair - the inside of the building is beautiful art in itself - we did a speed walk through the German art collection which is superb. A marvelous statue of St Louis IX overlooks a downhill sloping formal garden with magnificent fountains that are simply breathtaking. Afterwards Christine drove us around very nice residential area where we had lunch in a lovely neighborhood cafe.Christine is a wonderful cook and we had two excellent home cooked dinners at her home. Hard to imagine that a week before we arrived she had no counter tops and no running water in the kitchen as she was in the process of moving in; we think she was just about in the door the week before we arrived.
The next day we went to the St Louis Arch – as it is more than twice the height of the Statue of Liberty - it is visible from miles away. Also known as the Gateway Arch or Gateway to the West - it commemorates the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and was unveiled in 1965. Made of stainless steel it shimmers in the sunlight especially early morning and at dusk. We took the journey to the top which is a capsule (5 people in each) ride up the inside of the arch (not for anyone with claustrophobia) to an enclosed observation platform; needless to say the views were magnificent with St. Louis looking very small from up there. Once again, the Arch is in a very nice park along the river that has been renovated to cater for tourism.Shopping was how we occupied ourselves the next day, clothes shopping to be precise which is something we don't do much of at the moment due to lack of space in the RV. However, as we both needed something new in the wardrobe a-shopping we went and it was good.
Springfield IL was our next schedule destination and, while we did not intend to - we cheated by not taking the RV! Of course, we had many reasons the principal one being that there was an RV service garage right next door and we decided not to miss a good opportunity to have the RV serviced. So having made appropriate reservations, we got in the car and drove to Springfield where we booked into the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel right in the middle of town. When we arrived the day was really hot so we spent the afternoon visiting the Lincoln Library, a veritable treasure throve of Civil War memorabilia, had dinner and then explored the town. Springfield is the Capitol of Illinois and looked it; everything is so clean and well kept. The Capitol building is just like an enormous French Chateau transplanted straight from the Loire Valley.After breakfast the next morning we walked to the Lincoln Museum our reason for going to Springfield was to learn more about the American icon that President Lincoln became. Opened in 2005 it is a 40,000sq ft. recollection of Lincoln's life from the cradle to the grave. In the entrance hall are wax figures of the Lincoln family, a great photo opportunity. Next is a replica of the White House where in a long corridor, from floor to ceiling is covered with reproductions of cartoons and comic strips depicting the range of insults, opponents derogatory remarks and insults all aimed at Lincoln. To us the press was far worse at that time than they are now. From there we drove to his grave which is very beautiful monument. One can enter into the Mausoleum and view the marble sarcophagus where President Lincoln lies at rest. Thoroughly educational and enjoyable…well worth the trip.