St. Louis Part 2

The friendliness of the locals I met in St. Louis was nearly unprecedented. I couchsurfed with a couple in Lafayette Square and I really got to experience what the locals do there. STL has tons of really cute local spots. In the Benton Park area I got to see some of the houses and the park, and this one bar called Venice Café. It was reminiscent of the ruin pubs in Budapest in the sense that there are a lot of found items creating an assault-on-the-senses vibe filled with colorful and wacky installations. It’s a huge quirk-fest. There’s a great outdoor space and live music there as well, a truly remarkable local establishment.

One of our couchsurfing hosts Megan being silly with a concrete

One of our couchsurfing hosts Megan being silly with a concrete

Outside Venice Cafe

Outside Venice Cafe

All seeing eye at Venice Cafe

All seeing eye at Venice Cafe

Have a slice of brain birthday cake

Have a slice of brain birthday cake

Street art at Venice Cafe

Street art at Venice Cafe

We ended up having a bit of an all-nighter with our hosts which resulted in their friend opening his sporadically in-use speakeasy for our visit. Their friend Dick has a legit speakeasy in his basement that was used during prohibition; it was a piece of history. Everyone was really friendly and open about sharing what it meant to be from St. Louis. Dick even showed us his classic TV from the 1960s which he held onto for the speakeasy (unfortunately pictures cannot do this experience any justice).

The variety of food is also very impressive in St. Louis. Areas to check out for this are the Grove and Cherokee St. You can find anything in this city! I passed through Afghani, Mexican, Nicaraguan, Nepali, Peruvian, Italian, German, Japanese, you name it! I can attest that you can get an authentic Mexican meal for a good price at La Vallesana on Cherokee St. Good prices and ample outdoor area, alongside the oozing delicious and authentic Mexican cuisine makes this place a winner, even to high New Yorker standards. For a taste of some awesome deep dish pizza check out Black Thorn Pub where you can get behemoth and spicy deep dishes and play shuffleboard while the pizza is cooking. Who could forget some St. Louis specialties? Ted Drewes’ cannot be missed for its frozen custard. It is lovingly referred to as concretes because if you stick the spoon in it and put it upside your spoon won’t fall out! It draws a lot of Route 66 fans since it’s along the route. Nearby, there’s Gooey Louie which is famous for their extra buttery mini-cakes, which you could probably only handle one per sitting; you be the judge.

Gooey butter cake

Gooey butter cake

Horchata and other beverage at La Vallesana

Horchata and other beverage at La Vallesana

Amazing shrimp burrito at La Vallesana

Amazing shrimp burrito at La Vallesana

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Waiting in line to get some concretes at Ted Drewes

Ted Drewes' right off Route66

Ted Drewes’ right off Route66

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Concretes!!

Other famous things to come out of St. Louis include: 7Up, Nelly, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Crow, Chuck Berry, Yogi Berra, Andy Cohen, Panera (which is locally known as St. Louis Bread Company or “Bread Co.”), Miles Davis, Jon Hamm, TS Eliot, and Tennessee Williams, among many others.

St. Louis Bread Co!! It exists

St. Louis Bread Co!! It exists

I found St. Louis to be filled to the brim with surprises and charming treasures. It’s a city dying to be explored. Have you been to St. Louis? What are some of your favorite places or experiences?

Long Island Gold Coast Part 2

Sticking to the Gold Coast theme, I also had the pleasure of visiting Oheka Castle about a month ago in Huntington, NY. It is the second largest private residency in the United States at an impressive 115,000 square footage. It is no longer a residency, and is now converted into an upscale hotel and as a site to host special events such as weddings (Kevin Jonas and Joey Fatone both had their weddings here). Scandalously enough, I learned after my visit that the owner of the castle, Gary Melius, was shot 3 times in the parking lot a mere 3 days before my visit.

I have lived on Long Island for the majority of my life, and have been around the area of these 2 estates several times, but never made it. Now I’m glad that I was able to put aside some time to explore my area more, which enriches my understanding of the history of Long Island and how it forms such a unique culture. Long Island is in the shadow of New York City, yet life remains very suburban and simple despite its proximity to the city. The island is massively overcrowded and traffic is an accepted reality of everyday life. The population is steadily on the rise, and in a place so starved for space it’s interesting to see the wide open acreage of estates such as this.  

 

Long Island Gold Coast

We all want to be able to travel more, but what to do when we’re in the stages of saving money to travel again? Well I like to look for adventure locally in the meanwhile. I’m blessed to be from the New York City area, so there’s are plenty of options in such a small area. Many may not be as fortunate. However, adventures are what you make it and there’s always a place that you have overlooked for years or just postponed going to. On your days off when you don’t have anything to do, try and do one of those things! I made a list of places that I’ve been putting off for years and have been slowly checking them off.

So yesterday I did one of those things and I drove a whopping 17 minutes from my house and went to the Old Westbury Gardens here in Long Island, New York. I even went for free thanks to a pass from my local library. The OW Gardens houses a rather large mansion known as the Westbury Mansion which is a legacy of the Gold Coast era that developed in the late 1800s and peaked during the 1920s on the 16 mile stretch on the north shore of Long Island from Great Neck to Huntington. You may be familiar with this era through the classic book, The Great Gatsby. It is also the filming location of many famous films such as North by Northwest and Cruel Intentions.

The mansion was gorgeous, filled many lavish pieces from the time period. What struck me as something peculiar was in this mansion-turned-museum they had mannequins in every room dressed as the previous owners would have, adding a more visual dimension to how these people lived in their wealth. The estate is a vast 160 acres and it has its very own lake and also many beautiful, expansive gardens. It boggles my mind that I was born and raised only 17 minutes from this opulence, but at the same time I could drive 17 minutes and be in the worst neighborhood in the South Bronx. Only in NYC my friends.