Sunday, 31 July 2022

Day 6 - Birthday party

So today started with another early start as our lovely hosts found some details about a local yard sale. These are becoming more common in the UK along with car boot sales but this was a first for us.

Rummaging around someone else's stuff looking for the thing that could be our treasure. This yard sale was advertised to start at 6:30am and with no doubt there would be the professionals there before the start time too. These guys are at every market, carboot etc in the UK and they are usually looking for jewelry or records.
Unsurprisingly my daught Hattie was looking at the cuddly toys!

After breakfast a trip to world famous store Walmart. This is really the definition of a supermarket. There isn't much you can't sensibly buy at a Walmart. Everything from groceries, domestic applliances, to sporting goods, and clothes. It is really interesting comparing prices of things from back in the UK. 
The rest of the day was spent celebrating Shelley's birthday. We got to meet some of her family and this gave a chance for us to chat and meet another young family, albeit our kids were older, and watch the social interactions of the kids whilst meeting and learning from each other.
This has to be one of my favourite photos of the day. Hattie and Mia enjoying a snack after paying all afternoon together. The innocence of youth and the immediate bond and connection between them was beautiful to watch. They simply just got on. Proud parent moment.
 Corn hole made another appearance today. I think this is a firm family favourite that we will continue to play when we get back. Just need to make a set of boards.

It has been a real privilege to be part of the family celebrations today. I attempted to make a Victoria sponge style cake for the second time. The first time was 4 years ago and that time it fell apart! That was me.trying to convert measures to grams. This time I picked a recipe out of Shelley's cookbooks and this cake came out far better. Slight sticking of the pan but good spread of jam in the middle and a dusting of icing sugar, confectionery sugar here, and it looked pretty good. For some of the family the jam was a nice surprise in the middle so definitely a successful cake!

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Day 5 - Tourist day

Today was a tourist day. We hit the St Louis arch, Mississippi River cruise, stopped by the old Cathedral, old courthouse, central library, basilica, chess center, the local scout shop, Ted Drew's ice-cream place, and some retail shops that my son was desperate to go to.

Some traditional tourist destinations and some that are specific to this particular family. 
The arch is amazing, the second largest manmade monument in the world and we watched the video of its construction and the way that the cranes piggybacked their way up the legs to the middle was a engineering wonder. Health and safety were, far from anyone's mind but the expected 13 deaths from construction, but not one construction worker died in making it.
Unfortunately the cathedral and the courthouse weren't open but I explained the significance of the court house and the case of Dred Scott, and his testing the judge if he had rights as a slave. The judge ruled against him and condemned slaves to property and not people! #humanrights
The basilica was so beautiful with mosaics adorning the ceilings.

This was such a reverend place and was a perfect quick stop on our way across town.

The World chess center on the other side of time had the St Louis club, museum and a shop dedicated to the sport.
There were some guys outside playing games on tables outside the club and they were definitely players. Games were played at breakneck speeds and we watched one game where the guy was seriously running out of time but clinched it with 3 seconds left on the clock.

St Louis has a scout center for the local centers and I spent a reasonable amount of time chatting to Dan about the similarity and differences of our scouting practices, and girl scouts can't be in a scout troop but can be in cubs, and rovers so we will see how that changes in time.
The shop itself was like a sweetshop for scouters with badges, equipment, awards, neckers etc but what surprised me was the lack of a national necker! I asked Dan about Sunday, international scout necker day, he seemed to not know so I'd be interested to hear if he is wearing his!

Frozen custard another food item that I'll add to my food post when we are returning home, but Ted Drewes, is an ice-cream parlour, and frozen custard is essentially what we would call ice-cream. Similar to our Italian gelatino, and just as delicious. This place is a must for anyone driving through St Louis and is always busy. The car park was full and the last time I came through on 2018 schools busses were stopping with students from an athletics meet.
It is great being a tourist seeing the sites, grabbing some culture after a wash out the previous day. St Louis has plenty of history being the gateway to the west in the days of the gold rush. Despite the relative short history here in the US there is so much to see here with the different architecture, and civil war.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Day 4 - wash out

Planning for the weather is always interesting when working to a schedule. Today's plan was to hit the new water park in Ste Genevieve but the rain made the plan change. 
There are so many sights to see in st Louis so another drive into the city with lunch on the way.
2 large pizzas and a couple of house salads filled the troops ready for the day. 

The place we stayed at for lunch operates this scheme to support people get a free lunch. Unfortunately I couldn't download the app so couldn't support this but this reminds me of #payitforward but without the need to pay for it.
As we finished lunch the rain started. Heavy rain continued for the rest of the journey to st Louis but we were hopelessly unprepared for what we found there.
St Louis was flooded! Lakes in the street causing roads to be completely unpassable. Truck owners, pick up trucks, were navigating the roads with caution but cars were submerged in the street with roads completely blocked. This is the second time in 3 days that st Louis has been flooded with someone tragically loosing their life stuck in their submerged car. 
This is extreme weather for the area and totally unexpected. We were talking about the effects of climate change and how the heat and the rain is more extreme than it has been ever before. Climate is definitely changing but the debate about has man contributed to it or not is fairly irrelevant. We need to work on living with the changes and reducing our impact not worrying about the cause.
So after a road trip with biblical rain a nice relaxing evening back home before rescheduling the plans for the next day.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Day 3 - Shopping and the Muny

My children wanted to go to some specific shops to get some things which are cheaper in the US then they are back home. This took us into St Louis to the mall and other shops on the way.

A second hand bookstore was a nice little treasure trove of books whilst the goodwill shop was like a UK charity shop with a difference. The business model here was genius. They take donations from people and then price them and sell them for profit. Literally people are giving their unwanted items to a business that then sells them on, for a fair price, but not ridiculously cheap. As a retail outlet this is genius, no cash is tied up in your own stock. This is where lots of businesses fail by having no cash flow due to it being tied up in the things they are selling.

The mall is not so dissimilar to any indoor shopping center in the UK. Department stores, clothing shops etc and Rhett explains that in their prime these would be a busy bustling place where everyone would come to hang out. Sadly there wasn't much evidence of that today. We hit the St Louis dugout store and got some new cardinal tops and had a look around the others.
Heard my first "I love your accent" to which my customary reply "well, I love your accent too" was met with a laugh as usual. The remaining conversations with the shop assistant revolved around the usual nuances of language and in this particular exchange a conversation about pants (trousers) in a bag.
The mall has obviously fallen victim to the change in consumer shopping habits especially since the covid pandemic, but the surprising thing for me was that almost all the shops we saw had now hiring signs. My eldest who is looking for a part time job would have jumped at the chance and he said why can't this be the same in Worthing.
The Muny is the second largest outdoor theatre in the US. It seats nearly 11,000 people in this large amphitheatre. We were here to watch legally blonde the musical which was a good show, well staged and we were informed at the start about the flooding the previous day that turned the backstage area into lake Muny. 
I have since discovered that the last 9 rows are free. Every show, every performance has these free seats and has been the same for the 100+ year history of the Muny.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Day 2 - a day relaxing.

At the start of every long journey time zones play havoc with body clocks and having a first day of just relaxing is a perfect start for our holiday. 
A day with the comforts of home and a pool in the garden is a perfect start to a family break. Home cooked food, I'll post about food later, the relaxed atmosphere and the space to spread out into.
The pool here is a perfect size and for us a great temperature. We are not used to the heat of this summer and the coolness of the pool is perfect for us whilst our hosts prefer the pool to be hotter. 
It is also nice to play some simple board games, well their American equivalent, like clue, cluedo, monopoly which is the New York version, and then introduced to corn hole, the bean bag throwing that is great and simple and I now have something else to make my own version of. 
These are all things that would have been missed if we had stayed in a resort or hotel.
One of my favourite things about travelling is about the people we meet and the experiences we share. Whenever, a school year finishes and I talk to my students about travelling I always speak of this need to meet the people and not just visit the places. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Travelling again.

Day 1 of travelling since the world was hit by lockdown and this time instead of taking a group of students to some far flung place the Cooper's have landed in the United States. 
Hattie's first ever flight was a whopping 7 hours from London to Boston. As most flights go it was largely uneventful with in flight entertainment taking most of the strain of the flight. 
Landing was a bit heavy and that really shook her up a little. 
It felt that largely covid had been a thing of the past. Some people were wearing masks on the plane whilst most were just happy to be travelling. 
The mile long walk between terminals was quite something after a long flight and a delay before taking off made the day all that bit longer.
Flight number 2 was far from smooth. Turbulence was quite violent at times and made Hattie and Lu quite nervous understandably but we landed safe and sound at St Louis just an hour later than planned. 
I had forgotten how much I actually enjoy the adventure of flying. Travelling with people from all walks of life, heading of in countless other destinations. 
I have to admit to being a little nosey at times on the flight and caught a glimpse of a conversation between a passenger and her new partner and the innocence of a newish relationship kept me glimpsing over at the messages.
It is always great seeing familiar faces.on arrival and Shelley was there to pick us up in her little truck! Wow this great big red monster truck was super comfortable and a perfect ride through St Louis, down to Ste Genevieve.
It is great having all the comforts of home away from home. Staying with friends is amazingly liberating. The space and creature comforts outstrips staying in a hotel room.

Looking forward to taking it easy and adjusting to the new timezones and surroundings tomorrow!