Friday, December 12, 2014

A Day of Respite

DH never gets excited over Christmas, hates Christmas music, finds winter disgusting, and abhors shopping so it has been a surprise to me that for three years he has expressed the desire to see St. Charles, Missouri at night while decorated for Christmas. This autumn he asked to put it on the calendar this year. So I made a one day plan for meeting our Sunset Hills friends there for the day.

When this agreeable wife also agreed to the Ceiling Project from Hell and it ran six weeks long, I thought we should skip the mini-trip. But after the carpet was stretched and steam cleaned it had to dry anyway so we took out for the East. Then we learned our friends had been sick with a virus and had to pass on a cold Christmas walk.

We went anyway with a weather report of maybe hitting 50 degrees. That didn’t happen. The closer we got to the St. Louis area, the darker the skies. It never hit 40. The skies were so dark I felt like a heavy ceiling was about to fall on my head….a ceiling again! But we arrived at the Drury with no near mishaps on I-44. It had been restful driving with some music and sitting without knee deep sheetrock dust.

The next morning we had a nice Drury breakfast. Motel breakfasts are not superb but Drury does well, and frankly even tasteless gravy can please me if I don’t have to make it and I can walk away from the mess. We waited for the rush hour to be over and then eased ourselves down to The Hill, the Italian area of St. Louis. It was another dark and cold day but no wind so walking in and out of those wonderful Italian grocery stores was pleasant. The shelves are crowded with brightly colored cans of olives and tomatoes along with numerous brands of attractive bottles filled with golden olive oil. The spices are fragrant, and oh, the smell of that pungent salami! We bought frozen raviolis and bags of ice to bring it home, a load of pasta for winter. I bought a jar of garlic pepper that I hope will do two things: 1) Lure DH into eating a wee bit more pepper, and 2) ease us away from some salt.

                                                          Getting to Ragazzi's!

Then we ate a great lunch at Ragazzi’s, a place we found last summer. DH asked if I wanted to try some place new, but I wanted to go back to this place famous for their fried ravioli. We found it with ease and it is not a flamboyant place, in fact it is stuck near an old viaduct and train yard. One feels like black sedans carrying Al Capone might show up any minute. But once inside food is wonderful. Some student nurses were celebrating having finished a heavy final and many other diners were filtering in. I ordered the fried ravioli appetizer with a small salad instead of a meal. The salad was as wonderful as their ravioli and their idea of small was way larger than I could have imagined.

We returned to our room  for shifting some of our groceries, stealing a a brief rest, and then heading to St. Charles. The brick streets and decorated store fronts were beautiful and the day dark enough already the lights were glowing. St. Charles, a river front town preserves its ancient brick buildings well and at Christmas they set a scene of the 1800’s with strolling Father Christmas characters, a pioneer Santa, carolers in long skirts and top hats. The stores offer items that I don’t need or want, but it is fun to wander in and out looking for something special. I picked up some small gifts along the way, but having just weeded this house of “stuff” (and I assure you there is plenty left!) I was leery of toting home more things that were “cute” dust collectors.

We visited our favorite bookstore now under new management but looking the same as always. It was finely decorated for the season. We ate at Braden’s although neither of us were very hungry after such a spectacular lunch. The place was crowded to the hilt; we got the last tiny table for two. We had big cups of hot tea and BLT’s we barely finished. I went to the washroom and when I came back I passed a table where I matched eyes with a lady who seemed familiar. Whoops, could it be? I asked if she were Becky? Yes. Becky Povich? Yes. There sat one of the first bloggers I ever read and was followed by. We had never talked on the phone or met, but wow, did we know each other. She and her husband were having a very rare date night; we had never been to Braden’s before. What were the chances we would be six feet away from each other on a December night? What fun to meet her in the flesh and to introduce our husbands. This was a real gift for the season.

                                                               Favorite bookstore

My one disappointment was not tasting the roasted chestnuts when the English characters roasting them were late and had to build a fire yet. We were tired and cold and with a 45 minute more wait we gave up. Also the very old brick sidewalk and odd curbs were potential disasters for us in the dark night.



The next morning our friends managed to meet us for breakfast although they were  washed out.  None of us could give up the opportunity to see each other for even a brief while. We have been friends for about 45 years, meeting in an apartment complex when we were all newly married. The time was short but better than nothing. They lacked energy and we had a long road ahead to get home. More work waited!

                            Home on the Hill decorated for Christmas


Sioux's Page said...

Claudia--Roasted chestnuts...think of a potato. (That's the closest I can come up with to how they taste.)

I love going to St. Charles in December. And Zia's is my favorite place on The Hill. (Rigazzi's is always good, too.)

I'm glad you had such a wonderful time.

Elephant's Child said...

You met Becky? In the flesh? My eyes are glowing a jealous green...
What a wonderful treat.

Susan said...

Oh Claudia, that sounded like SO much fun. It was just the kind of excursion I love----a little bit of everything. So happy you had a little respite after your many weeks of being under dust cover.

Your photos were great!

Hope your Christmas season sizzles with delight. Susan

Marylin Warner said...

What a fun post this is, Claudia! With all the snafus, you still went on your adventure, and the details are great...and the pictures of the food make me hungry. What a great pre-Christmas time you had!

Linda O'Connell said...

Claudia, you should have emailed. I would have met you. I live very near Sunset Hills. Isn't St. Charles fun? Side note: there were mafia guys who did frequent those places on the hill. I know one of their grandsons :)So it wasn't Al Capone, but you were right.

Lisa Claro said...

What a lovely time you had, Claudia! And how fun that you met Becky. It is amazing, isn't it, how well we get to know our blogger friends. :)

BECKY said...

Claudia, I always love your descriptions of your travels. You write so beautifully. And how fun to be mentioned in this post!Meeting each other that evening really was amazing, wasn't it?! And the fact that we immediately knew each other! I wish I had better photos of us. You know how I feel about one in particular! Ha! The fact that you visited both The Hill and Old St. Charles in the same trip is wonderful, too!

Rebecca said...

Now THAT is amazing - meeting/recognizing a blogger friend!

I've only been to Old St. Charles once and long ago, but I can imagine how beautiful it must have been (and your photos make me want to return at Christmas time.

Those meals sound and look delightful, too.