Stuff to do in The Lou

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When we decided that we were actually going to move (to a whole different state!) we started trying to visit all the places that we figured we’d miss when we left St. Louis. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely since we want to move…. there weren’t that many places that we felt like we had to visit.

These were our top six places to visit in Missouri.

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St Louis Zoo

My #1 place that we had to see again, and the place that I’d actually recommend to STL visitors would be the St. Louis Zoo.  Brian and I got a Zoo membership before we got married and we visited fairly frequently.  It’s been our go-to place for when we just wanted to do something. Technically, there are lots of things you can do in STL completely free…. but you’re going to have to walk and be a bit creative.  STL has a really amazing zoo and you can do it completely free, but I’d recommend getting either one of the zoo memberships (a lot of zoos honor other zoo’s memberships too) or one of the day pass things.  I adore riding around on the train and seeing the sea-lion show… oh! and the new Stingray area! I’m not a big fan of the children’s area, but if you bring little humans with you, they’d probably enjoy that too, so you’d might as well have bought one of the bands or membership thingies.  Try to go mid-week if possible, otherwise the place is busy.

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Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard

Brian and I visited Ted Drew’s the first time I brought Boo along on one of our dates.  We sat in the back of the MINI and people watched and ate our custard.  (For the record, Boo likes blueberry) Brian’s parents took us to Ted Drew’s to celebrate our engagement (Cindermint).  Birthdays…. (Fox Treat) and Christmas (Hawaiian).  It’s one of those STL traditions and it became one of our favorite special treats.

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Missouri Botanical Gardens 

The Missouri Botanical Gardens is one of those places that my mom and aunts used to drag me every summer and I hated it…. and then I got my own house and my own yard and learned to appreciate all the flowers and landscaping.  The gardens are beautiful any time of year, you really can’t go wrong.  They also have a number of festivals throughout the year that are all really cool, but they’re also really crowded.  If you have the chance though, I’d absolutely recommend the Garden Glow at Christmas.


Okay, so those are the typical ‘Must See’ things that you’re going to see on every other list.  And I completely agree…. I love ’em too, but there are lots of other great things to see and do outside of St Louis.  I’m not a huge fan of being in the city anyway.  I’d rather escape the crowds and traffic.  The next two items are going to take you about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours outside of St. Louis….. and they are totally worth the drive.

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Historic Kimmswick 

Kimmswick is probably the place that I am most going to miss in the St Louis area.  Mom and I spent many a lazy afternoon roaming through the historic homes turned adorable and eclectic shops.  Each visit was always capped with a visit to the Blue Owl.  If you’re not gluten-free you should order the Levee High Apple Pie for dessert.  I don’t care how much you ate for lunch…. order dessert.  The Blue owl is famous for their desserts.  Order dessert.  If you are gluten free, there aren’t may dessert options, but you can go next door to the Blue Owl Sweet Shop and get ice cream.  I’m a fan of the Coconut Sunday.  There are plenty of Gluten Free entree options, and the staff is so sweet!  I am going to miss all of the ladies at the Blue Owl…. and the food.  Kimmswick hosts several huge festivals throughout the year that are great… but huge and crowded.  If you’re going to visit during a festival make plans to come back on another day to just enjoy the town.  (The whole town is closed on Monday.)

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park is a fair drive out of St Louis, but it is a fun place to wander and explore.  You can climb all over the huge, elephant like rock formations and wander down paths surrounded by the granite monoliths.  Take a picnic lunch and spend the day climbing, wandering and taking awesome photos.  On your way back to the city, drive north on Hwy 21 and stop in Caledonia, MO.  It’s a teeny, tiny, blink and you missed it town, but there are several cute little shops that are fun to visit.  Stop at Old Village Mercantile to check out the antiques and enjoy and ice cream sundae.

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Chaumette Winery

Chaumette Winery is also a bit of a drive from St Louis, but certainly well worth the trip.  The wine is delicious and the food at the Grapevine Grill is wonderful.  Everything is locally sourced from area farms and dairies.  The menu changes seasonally, but there are usually several gluten-free option for entrées and dessert.  The staff is knowledgable about Gluten Sensitivity and I’ve even had the chef come out and talk to me once or twice.  He even offered to make a special sauce for me once!  Delicious food and wine, great staff, pup-friendly, allergy friendly, beautiful views, good music…..  They even have bed & breakfast villas and a spa.  I’d always wanted to do a spa weekend, but never got around to it…. It would make for an awesome Girl’s Weekend.

 

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Cheese Curds & Apple Wine

The morning started out windy and rainy. I’ve discovered that I like the sound of the rain on the top of the RV. It’s not quite the patter of raindrops on the metal porch roof at my old house, but it does have a pleasant ‘plunk’ that lends well to burrowing beneath the covers and sleeping in late. 

The weather seems to have turned here in Wisconsin and decide to be ‘fall’ now. The leaves are starting to turn as well. It is a perfect time to be in Wisconsin. Actually, it’s an especially perfect time to be in Wisconsin, since our Missouri homes have sold and our Florida house hasen’t even begun to be built yet. Now with Hurricane Matthew wreaking havoc in our future home state we’re better off being ‘homeless’ at the moment. 

Brian had planned on taking us to a Fall Festival today, but apparently he’d mixed up two festivals and the one that was today was actually six hours away.  Oops. Poor Brian… my contribution to planning is to send him a bunch of random links and pictures from Pinterest and figure he’ll smooosh them all together into something awesome and organized. Actually…. he has no one to blame but himself, cause that usually works out just fine. 

I googled around a bit and found a winery and a cheese shop nearby and we decide to make today a lazy day.  We ate a late lunch of leftovers in the RV and then headed out to the winery. 

Armstrong Apple Orchard & Winery in nearby Campbellsport, WI offers a nice variety of Apple wines, a few hard ciders, regular wines and fresh picked apples. 


Brian was our designated driver… and basically ignored us as best he could while Mom and I sampled our way through far more wine than we normally (or should) consume at a time. The winery had a nice cushy couch near a huge window looking out into the orchard… and good cell service, so he was fine. 


I pretty much loved everything they put in front of me. I like sweet wine. I don’t even begin to understand how people can drink dry wine… why?! Just why?! I am not a wine connoisseur by any means. I like sweet, fruity, crisp and (usually) white wine. The Apple wines were my kind of wine… I even liked the hard cider that they warned me was much drier than the wines. 


Boo sat in her puppy pooch and seemed to enjoy the wine tasting. I think she just likes hanging out with us and meeting new people. She’s becoming a very well traveled pup. 

Mom and I agreed that we needed the Chocolate Raspberry wine 

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY We took the finished Raspberry Wine and added a dark chocolate to give you this amazing dessert wine. It starts off with the aromatic chocolate and finishes with the raspberry taste. 

And the Hot Apple Wine –

 

Hot Apple wine has a hint of chilli peppers and is our sweetest apple wine. It goes great with anything spicy like salsa or nachoes. It only warms you up a little, it doesn’t make you sweat, honest. 

We packed up our wine purchases, a bag of Honeycrip apples and our souvenir wine glasses (I forgot to pack wine glasses!) and headed out to find cheese.  


There was a cute little area of pumpkins outside the winery and I tried to convince Boo to let me get a few photos of her. Little stink!  I had to bribe her with treats to get her to hold still and smile. Brian was standing beside her to get her to stay on the wall and Mom was standing behind me snapping and whistling. I’m sure we looked like a bunch of drunken loons…. but I did get some cute photos… so it was worth it. 

Baker Cheese Store was just a few miles down the road from the winery… (See why I like Wisconsin?  You just drive around windy back roads and find cheese, wine and art!) I’ve been telling Mom about cheese curds since Brian and I visited Wisconsin last year and I finally had the chance to have Mom try squeaky cheese. She’s bought it from the grocery store at home, but it’s just not the same. FRESH cheese curds are warm (these bags were just sitting on the counter at room temperature) and when you eat them they are slightly rubbery and they squeak against your teeth. Yes, it sounds wierd, but they taste good and they’re fun. We also bought FRESH string cheese… packaged this morning… and a tub of port wine cheese and a tub of chocolate fudge cheese.  I’m not so sure about that last one, but Mom wanted to try it, so what the hell. 

Boo was in heaven!  Cheese is her favorite thing in the world. 

It was still pretty early after we’d stocked up on cheese, apples and wine….what else could we possibly need?  Exercise, perhaps?!  Yeah. So I googled ‘attractions’ in Google Maps and Parnell Fire Tower popped up nearby. (We find more weird and interesting thing by just searching around us on Google Maps.) 


Boo was not impressed with the bazillion steps that needed to be hiked to even get to the tower, so… Brian carried her. She doesn’t quite seem to get this ‘hiking’ thing.  Or maybe she does…?


Then there are even more stairs once you get to the tower. It’s 60 feet up…. but the view is worth every step. 


That seemed like more than enough exercise for one day, so we headed back home to the RV to snack on our new cheeses and wine.

Cedarburg, WI

I had a miserable night last night.  I started out with a little headache and I’d hoped that it would go away while I slept.  Nope.  It was one of those nights where the pain pooled in the crevices and hollows of my skull like liquid acid.  Rolling from one side to the other only caused the pain to slosh across fresh, tender brain matter where the acid gnawed its way into the brain and bones on the other side.  I got up sometime during the night and took some aspirin and got a warmie for my neck.  I should have gotten something to eat while I was up… I know better…. When I have one of those headaches I usually have some kind of blood sugar issue going on.  My Grandma used to call them ‘Sick Headaches’.  Getting her food and/or sleep schedule thrown off would bring on a ‘Sick Headache’.  I lucked out and didn’t have a major headache today too…. just a little off and on ache… hungry and then not hungry. I’ve had worse.


Brian, a fan of architecture, wanted to see some of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses today. I’m not a huge fan of FLW…. actually, I dislike FLW houses….. I think they’re uncomfortable, ugly and overly impressed with themselves… but Brian likes them.  I knew that Boo wasn’t welcome on any of the FLW tours so Mom and I agreed that one of us would go with Brian and one would stay in the car with Boo.  Since I was tired anyway, I said I’d be happy to stay in the car and Boo and I would read…. maybe take a walk around the grounds.  At Wingspread there was supposed to be a walkway out to a lighthouse or something…. it was on their map in the parking lot. Yeah… no… no walking on the grounds.  Gods forbid we walk around unchaperoned.  Boo and I got sent back to the front parking lot.  The lady, very politely, told us if we wanted to walk we could walk back up the driveway.  Oooookkaay.  Boo and I sat in the car and waited for Mom and Brian to return.  Boo and I remain unimpressed with Frank Lloyd Wright and his leaky houses.


After the FLW tour we headed to the historic town of Cedarburg, WI.  We’ll be going back again this weekend for their Fall Festival, but I figured that the town would be crowed this weekend and if we wanted to see the shops, we should go during the week. It’s a pretty little town.  Lots of old building and interesting shops, but living in the RV has really dampened my shopping abilities for the moment.  I don’t have anywhere to store anything that I buy and since the new house isn’t even built, I don’t know where anything would go anyway.  I did want to check out Amy’s Candy Kitchen though.  I’d read drool worthy reviews of the gourmet candy apples and just had to sample them for myself.


Yup…. heaven on a stick!


We finished off our tour of Cedarburg with a visit to the last remaining covered bridge in Wisconsin.  I’ve got a thing for covered bridges.


We snapped a bunch of photos and then headed back to town for dinner.  


After dinner Mom and I ran into Piggly Wiggly for some groceries.  It was surprisingly civilized for a place called ‘Piggly Wiggly.’

 

 

Brown County Indiana 

Our first stop on our Fall Colors Tour (as I’ve decide to call this month before we actually move to Florida) was Brown County Indiana. Brian and I had planned to visit a few years ago after a MINI Track Weekend, but ‘lil Blue pitched a hissy and we ended up spending a few days at the dealership getting her fixed instead. 


Pinterest led me to the Brown County State Park. It’s a huge park with a nice campground that had good facilities. The cats enjoyed sitting in the RV windows and watching the neighbors. Boo wasn’t so impressed with all the people and their dogs. Apparently, she’s got something against Beagles…. I dunno what, but the she cussed the neighbor Beagle out every time she saw it. 

On Monday we hiked some of the trails through the park. I took a ton of photos of mushrooms/fungi. I also slid down a hill and landed on my butt… good thing I have plenty of padding. If I hadn’t been eating all those caramel apples I might have really gotten hurt! 

Maybe I can convince Brian to let me visit a Starbucks for caffeine and WI-FI and I can load a few of my more interesting fungi photos to my Fine Art America account later. 

Boo likes to go on hikes…. as long as someone else is doing the hiking. 


Saturday we visited Downtown Nashville, IN. It’s a pretty little tourist town with dozens of shops, restaurants and wineries. 


I finally found one of those tall banner flags (sometimes called feather flags) shaped like a ghost. I’ve seen them places, but never for sale. I convinced Brian that we needed it because all the other RV’s and campers had decorated their spots and we just looked pathetic without any decorations. (Seriously, people have decked out their camp areas. It’s crazy!) The ghost flag should go good with the zombie flamingos that the lady who bought our house gave us as a moving gift. (Watch Facebook for the photos!) 

Boo found some treats at Bone Appetit Bakery that she was just head over tail for. I’ve bought her tons of fancy treats, but usually she just turns up her nose and sneers at me… but these Pumpkin Flax cookies were something special. They’re gluten free and made with pumpkin and cinnamon… flax…. and other stuff… they smell really good and they’re nice and soft. We bought her a small bag because she usually gets bored after a treat or two, but she kept asking for more. The shop owner said that they ship, but she also said that they freeze well and since Boo was so impressed with them we went back and bought a 1lb bag and froze it. 


Boo has her own Instagram account now and she’s also on Facebook if you’d like to follow her adventures and read her reviews. 

Sunday we drove around and checked out the local artists’ studios on the Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour.  (The self guided tour runs all through October.) They’re really, really serious when they say ‘back roads’. There were a number of tiny, twisty gravel roads that made us really glad that we’re driving Mom’s sensible car and not our sporty convertible. We probably couldn’t have made it to a number of the studios in the convertible. The dive was enjoyable. Indiana is beautiful, but it feels lonely…. nice to visit, but I don’t think I’d want to live here. No wonder there are so many artist studios… they’ve got to be bored out of their skulls when the snow starts to fall. 


We saw a lot of pretty artwork. I would have liked to buy a few things, but since our house isn’t even built yet I’m not sure where anything would go…. I’m not even sure where all my walls are going to be yet!   

On the recommendation of one of the artist from the Studio Tour we tracked down the Bean Blossom Covered Bridge. There are a bunch more covered bridges in the area, but we only had the three days and I’d already managed to keep us pretty entertained so we just visited the one. 


Brown County was fun to visit. I’d recommend it for a long weekend in the fall. A nice girls weekend or romantic getaway. 

Pup Friendly Winery

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Boo has recently begun traveling with us beyond the short trip to Gramma’s house or Home Depot and she’s really taken too it like a pro.  She hops into the car and makes herself comfortable without any fuss or anxiety.

We’ve had a recent warm spell in Missouri so we decide to spend the day at our favorite winery and take Boo with us.  She wasn’t as impressed with the convertible… though I think she mostly didn’t approve of the noisy motorcycles who had also decided to take advantage of the 75° February day.

FullSizeRender 5We knew that Chaumette Winery is pet friendly since we’d visited other times and met other pet families. The staff was great about seating us so we weren’t sitting right in the main crowd of people and everyone was really friendly to Boo.  It wasn’t long before our area got a few more pet families, but the waiter asked us if we minded first. Which I thought was really nice. I asked to make sure it wasn’t a big dog, since I wasn’t sure what Boo would think and I didn’t want her to get upset. She’s been a bit of a homepuppy for a long time… but she’s branching out and handling it all so well!  Our table neighbor was a Corgi/Pug mix named Jack and his parents.

It’s always amazing to me how pet people can come up and talk to each other’s furbabies without any hesitation… but without our furbabies around, we’d probably never speak to one another.  Another example of how furbabies improve the world!  IMG_7978

Boo and Jack shared a bowl of water, but Jack wandered off to say hi to a new diner, a Chihuahua, and Boo decided to sit on my lap so she could have a better view of things…. like bacon.

I’m really loving the new chef at Chaumette.  Chef Rob has been really great about modifying menu items to be gluten free for us.  Chaumette has always been good about having something GF on the menu, but this is was the first time the chef came out to talk with us.

Brian and I both had the Grass Fed Burger (applewood-smoked bacon, roasted sweet peppers, caramelized onions, IMG_7974white cheddar, herb cream cheese, arugula) without the bun and Garlic Fries.  We split an order of the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp.  I’d had them as my meal last time… and had refused to share with Brian… I should have shared, they’re huge!  The BBQ sauce that it comes with has gluten in it, so the chef made a Romesco sauce for me instead. I reminded our waiter that I’d had a different sauce last time and the chef came out to check that we were thinking of the same thing.  The waiters are really good about checking that everything is safe for us too eat and never making us feel like we’re being a problem.  There is almost always something on the dessert menu that is gluten free (and delicious) too.  They had creme brulee today, but with the Shrimp appetizer and the hamburger… I was just too stuffed.

After lunch we took Boo for a walk around the winery.  Chaumette is really beautiful.  We first discovered it when we were venue hunting for my cousin’s wedding.  I tried to convince her to choose Chaumette, but she chose a winery that was closer to home.  I keep trying to convince Brian that we need to throw our Anniversary party at Chaumette, but he hasn’t given in yet.  Maybe now I’ll have Boo on my side!

After a trip around the little lake and a through the wedding barn (it’s SO cute!) we headed back home.  Boo made herself comfortable in the floor using one of Brian’s jackets and slept most of the way home.  Poor baby… it’s tough being a world traveler!

You can follow more of Boo’s adventures on Facebook!

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Gluten Free & Pup Friendly

When I went Gluten Free in December of 2012 and Brian joined me a few months later, our traveling lifestyle changed.  We’d never been huge fast food people, but going Gluten Free eliminated most fast food restaurants…. which made traveling a bit more tricky. The Find Me Gluten Free app (iOS & Android) has been priceless.  We’ve discovered several amazing little places that we’d have never discovered on our own.  We picnic a lot too. Fill a small cooler with deli meat and cheese and a bag of chip and you’re good to go.  There are a lot more Welcome Centers and nice rest stops along the road than I ever realized. Brian has become a master at locating cute little parks and picnic areas for us to eat our picnic lunches.

Well…. now we’ve added another challenging element….. Our Pomeranian, Boo has started traveling with us.  Mom is traveling with us too, but she’s pretty easy.  Mom is GF too and our travel style works for her, but since she’s going with us we’ve lost our baby-sitter for Boo.  I just can’t stand the idea of leaving Boo in a kennel and most of our friends know how neurotic I am about Boo and they’re too afraid (of me) to baby-sit. So Boo has to become a traveling pup.

I wanted to introduce Boo to road trips gently, so we took her on a day trip to Alton, IL to see the eagles.  She was a bit nervous at first, but but got bored pretty quickly and slept through most of the ride home.  We didn’t see any eagles… I don’t think she was too disappointed…. she does look like a little fox, so I don’t think she’s a huge fan of eagles.

I’d been thinking of a short weekend trip for Boo’s next excursion, but our ‘short trip’ turned into an 8 day adventure all around Texas and into New Orleans.  Boo was nervous for the first 20 minutes and then got bored and fell asleep…. which is pretty much how I travel too.

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Boo had a great time.  She was totally relaxed in the hotels… Love the Holiday Inn Express (some are pup-friendly) and Candlewood Suites… (Most were pup-friendly).  Boo snoozed in the car and had a great time running around the parks and rest stops.

Breakfast is always easy.  Since we like to stay at Holiday Inn Express’ we usually grab breakfast at the hotel. The omelettes, sausage and bacon are usually GF. The scrambled eggs make me nervous.  I haven’t been able to get a hold of the packaging for the scrambled eggs to confirm that they’re GF and I’ve heard that some places add flour to their eggs to make them extra fluffy.  So on the mornings where my option is scrambled eggs I grab a banana and peanut butter from the breakfast bar instead.  When we stay at the Candlewood Suites we usually opt for Cliff Bars or Laura Bars brought fromIMG_7757 home.  We’d get our food from the breakfast bar and then eat in the room since fur-babies aren’t invited to the dining room. 😦

Lunch is easy too… Boo is a huge fan of picnicnicking at parks and rest areas.  Dinner is the bigger challenge.  By dinner time I want real food… I want to try the local foods and sit down for a real meal.  Finding a sit down place that accomidates fur-babies and offers GF food is a bit more of a challenge.  Most places with a patio or outdoor seating are likely to allow pups (always ask first!).  I found the BringFido app (iOS) which lists pup-friendly hotels, parks and restaurants.  We didn’t bother using it for the hotels, but it really helped finding restaurants.  I do wish it had a section for Gluten Free restaurants.

Boo was super well behaved at the restaurants.  She usually sat under the table and then sat on our lap after the meal so she could join un while we finished our drinks and chatted.  She loved the attention from the waiters and waitresses… especially when they’d bring her a fresh bowl of water and talk to her.

I’m pretty sure we’ve made a spoiled monster now.  She’s never going to want to be left home alone again.

Some of Boo’s favorite places were:IMG_7773

Freebirds in Waco, TX

Austin Terrier in Austin, TX

Cafe Amelie in New Orleans, LA

The Rum House in New Orleans, LA

Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop in New Orleans, LA (We ordered take out, since it wasn’t actually pup-friendly, just GF, but we took it back to the hotel and had a fabulous dinner… and Boo got to try a bit of Cajun food.)

And, of course, Starbucks!  Boo is now addicted to the Puppuccino on the Secret Starbucks Menu.  Just ask for a Puppaccino and they’ll give you a little cup of whipped cream…. Boo thought it was the most fabulous thing ever!