A Little Bit of England... in St. Louis
The Olde Cheshire has been holding down this corner in St. Louis since it was just a hamburger joint in the 1920's.
Olde World Charm
The Cheshire underwent big renovations a few years ago and I was afraid it would lose some of its kitschy charm. I remembered the place being jam-packed with large European furniture, dark woods and fireplaces... stuffed wild animals and lots of British red!
It did still feel like the old Cheshire. I could smell the smokiness of the fireplaces and I loved spotting the bear in the corner, ready to pounce! From my photos, the atmosphere looks almost formal or stuffy. Really the place is totally relaxed. I'm even tempted to use the word playful. When I stepped into the "business room" where 4 computers were available for guests, I just grinned.
Queen Elizabeth was everywhere. She was posing in old black and white photographs on one wall and staring down from a trio of colorful Warhol-ish images, from another. Besides all the fun Queen stuff, there was a useful assortment of office supplies, at the ready for business travelers.
I could have taken about 15 photos of halls, because they were all so curious and different. Each hall was filled with collections of prints and furniture and interesting molded work on the walls. Every room was named for an author and how I wish we could have had the room with the impressive door frame. The room was named for Beatrix Potter and there was an additional plaque that read: Tale of Peter Rabbit Suite.
Our room was actually very comfortable with quite the grand bed frame. I did however knock my knee into the bulky sharp corner repeatedly. The room was clean and nicely updated, with some clever book related bits here and there.
..like a reading chair, with a good reading lamp. And just in case the room guest should feel a little troubled when it comes to recalling H.G. Wells and what he wrote... there was an actual copy of The War of the Worlds sitting on the table... with a complimentary H.G.Wells bookmark! And look at the bookshelf on the wall. How cool is that? Actually, it's not a shelf. It's a picture of a shelf.
When I tiptoed into the bathroom, I was jolted by the glaring light. So was Don, who woke to the bright spotlight shining through the glass! Who started this glass door trend in hotel bathrooms?
Now Let's Be Positive
A Comfy Evening
I love a hotel where you really don't have to leave for food or entertainment. The Cheshire has a few dining options and we stayed put in our hotel building to enjoy the Fox and Hound pub. There were so many cozy sitting areas and quite a festive atmosphere. (It had just opened when I took this quiet looking photo) Don and I found a corner in the far left and waited for our St. Louis friends Mark and Jeff to join us for the evening.
Talk and Food
Luckily we didn't chose a corner with hard benches, like the picture above... or we wouldn't have been able to sit and talk for a couple hours! The cushy chairs that we did enjoy made it feel like we were sitting in my mom's old house in St. Louis. Mom didn't decorate with strange metal tools and deer heads, but her house was just as comfortable and we needed that for all our catching up. We ordered drinks and a feast of food from our very nice waiter. He got a brief chuckle (or nicely pretended to) out of seeing the Cheshire's recipe for "Spanish Onions en Casserole" from the Ford Cookbook.
It's hard to enjoy everything a hotel has to offer when you only stay one night. In the morning I hurried around peeking at things we didn't have a time for. The pool looked pretty relaxing with lounge chairs and umbrellas and man, how I wish I'd had time for a swim with that lion in the bottom of the pool.
Worst of all we had to be off at 11 and did not have time to have lunch in The Restaurant at Cheshire, in the building next door.
Fourth Night of Road Trip... St. Louis!
This hotel stay was downright modern compared to our night before in a 240 year old inn. But The Chase is still packed with history.
Beside the Park
The red brick building on the right opened on Kingshighway, across from Forest Park in 1922. The Park Plaza was built 7 years later. The 2-building hotel bustled with stylish activity for a few more decades. Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra or Bob Hope could have been spotted at the Starlight Roof or the Zodiak Cocktail Lounge.
The lobby was buzzing with business travelers when we checked in. I didn't recognize the place at all from when my mom, brother and I checked in on a summer morning in 1975. That may be because, back then I was preoccupied with sneaking in our slobbery boxer, Ted. I'm still not sure how we did that.
I could smell movie popcorn down this hallway. It seemed a little odd that a movie theatre was taking up space in such a classy interior as this. The only theatre memories I have of The Chase are from 1977. At that time, the hotel was past its prime, but it was still the preferred hotel for celebrities. I remember spotting a number of classic, sticker covered trunks like you might associate with traveling actors. We were told Carol Channing was staying at the hotel while starring in "Hello Dolly".
Back and Forth
Don and I actually wore out these shiny floors after checking in. Our key card refused to cooperate and we couldn't work the elevator properly. When I returned to the desk for the third time, a very efficient and professional manager stepped in and apologized. He upgraded us to a suite overlooking Forest Park and then escorted us to the room.
Clean and Quiet
As we left the lobby area, it was beginning to get a little livelier, with a professional crowd flocking to the more informal bar. It made the contrast of the quiet hall and room that much nicer.
Our Bonus Space!
We kept grinning at our surprise upgrade. What a treat to have 2 spacious rooms when you weren't expecting it! The living area was open and airy with two large windows looking over the park. After a few days on the road I wanted to just spread out and enjoy the space, but there was so much to do!
I haven't been so excited about a hotel pool since I was a kid, giddy over Howard Johnson's! First of all it was a lovely afternoon for soaking in a pool. But mostly I wanted to soak up the atmosphere of this classic beauty which was completed in 1956, just in time for a live broadcast of the Miss America Pageant!
Back in the Day
It was easy to imagine bathing beauties from Texas and Georgia strutting in their high heels and one piece suits. Evidently the "parade" of scantily clad babes caused a bit of a problem, since the cars driving on Kinghighway could actually view the event!
Another Memory Surfaces
The Tenderloin Room has long been considered a classy choice for dining in St. Louis. Don and I enjoyed martinis before heading out to a cheaper dinner elsewhere. We chatted with our bartender about her grandfather who began managing the Tenderloin Room when she was a child. We chatted with another couple who lived across the street and wanted to sell us their house in Ireland. As we chatted I couldn't stop looking around and remembering one more curious memory from 1978.
I had a summer job that year, working at a residential facility for young girls. The "troubled teens" in my dorm had worked together doing odd jobs... to earn a night out at the very ritzy Tenderloin Room. I remember stressing about whether this was really a good idea, but the evening couldn't have gone better. The entire serving staff treated the girls like princesses. What a fun memory!
No Royal Treatment for Us
Don and I did not treat ourselves to a Royal dinner that night, but we did stroll on down from the hotel to the ever-hopping Central West End. It's been years since we've been in the area, but there were more cafe and bar choices than ever. I love making use of a hotel's good location!
Night 3 of Road Trip in Sainte Genevieve, MO
After staying in a big city hotel the night before, it was a treat to be in an old "house" in a tiny (and the oldest) town west of the Mississippi.
Don and I didn't even mind lugging our stuff up to the third floor. We were just glad they had stairs at all. Originally, when Francois Valle II built this home in the 1790's, there was only a ladder to the third floor. Stairs were built after the Civil War and some ladder/steps still lead up to the rooftop Widow's Watch.
The Quilt Room
There are 9 guest rooms at the hotel, but we were the only guests during our stay. Our room, The Quilt Room was appropriately named. (I counted 20) It also had a nearly 200 year old "4-poster cannon ball bed" which was surprisinly comfy. I loved the slant-y ceilings (more than Don who is tall) and dormer window. Six dormers were added in 1870 to make the third floor more useable.
I'm a big window person, especially when they are open, letting in a warm, fall breeze. I'm always a little excited to look out and see what surprises I might find. The first window was beside 2 comfy chairs and a plate with chocolate chip cookies. The view revealed a church steeple and some evening clouds.
There was a nice view of the back garden from the window beside the tub. I'm not sure we can call that a bathroom, though. The short, wood screen beside our bed hardly blocked off the dormer area with its collection of bathing features. It's good Don and I have been married 35 years or we would have done more cringing than laughing at the sight of our unhide-able green toilet and the claw footed tub.
Something Not Funny at All
For some reason the whimsically painted claw footed tub was hidden behind a quilted skirt. I flipped up the cover, not to get a closer look at the animals, but to peer at the floor underneath with my cell phone light. Sure enough, there was an iron ring, just as we had recently learned. Our hosts Mike and Cathy confirmed that this was a part of chaining system used when the Valle's slaves were housed in the attic during the winter. It was sobering and sad to imagine this piece of history. For a while Don and I didn't even know how to react to that knowledge...
Mike and Cathy made it clear we were welcome to enjoy the common areas in the downstairs. The first parlor had a pump organ and baby grand piano and an on-going quilt project that guests were encouraged to sign.
The Pool Room
We were invited to take off the cover and play pool on the classic 9-foot standard pool table built in 1875. The Southern was evidenlty the first pool hall west of the Mississippi to be issued a pool hall license in 1812.
Saloon and Dining Room
The dining room was where breakfast would be served in the morning. It was next to the saloon with parlor games and swinging saloon doors. After the house officially became a hotel in 1805, that room really had been a saloon. Women weren't allowed to stay in the hotel because they would have to pass through the saloon to get to the rooms.
Cathy served us quite a breakfast in the morning. Butterscotch and chocolate treats, before we even had our plate of fruit, sausage, muffin and sweet breakfast dish that tasted like bread pudding! She was wise enough to leave us alone a bit, but later when Don and I had lots of questions for both Cathy and Mike, they spent nearly an hour filling us in on all the mysteries of the Mississippi River and the area that we had wondered about.
...and I took a walk where I spotted dried cornfields and cozy cottages and even a horse drawn wagon.
Memphis on Day 2
Another Historic Hotel
Don and I like historic hotels. We like grand staircases and creaky elevators and we put up with peeling paint and drippy faucets because we like the history. So many of the iconic hotels we visit are past their prime. That's okay, because we are too and we like the prices that go along with that. But The Peabody is still hopping. And we paid $350. for this hotel experience. That is ten times more than what we paid for a night at Hotel Blessing in Blessing, TX!
A Grand Lobby
I had to take this photo at 7 in the morning to get a photo without all the duck fans. It's easier to imagine this hotel back when it first opened in 1925, without people reading iPads and gabbing on cell phones.
The Peabody Ducks. That's why I pushed for this stay. You can stay at nice hotels in any city, but the Peabody is the only hotel as far as I know that does "fancy" as well as "ducks". You see that combination when you step inside the ritzy elevators and look down to see a lovely image of mallard duck on the floor.
Before really enjoying the ducks, we dropped off our bags in the room. The door to Room 1106 had a door knocker. That's kind of fun. And in the morning we got a special little black Peabody bag holding our newspaper. Our room was purple and spacious and there were quite a few ducks to be found!
Relaxing a Moment
Before dashing to the lobby to get a good spot for watching the evening Duck March, we relaxed for a few minutes. Don did some reading and I headed for the bathroom.
Going on a Duck Hunt
I moved to the bathroom in search of more ducks. In the room I had already found duck images on pillow cases and rugs and I found a framed print of duck feathers. In the bathroom (which had a most unusual round sink) I found a tiny duck shaped soap as well as ducks printed bath mats and shampoo bottles and toilet paper covers!
Don and I gave up finding a spot in the crowded lobby and headed up to a terrace to await the Duck Procession! It soon became clear, the people watching was actually more entertaining than the ducks. Then again, there was an amusing moment when 2 ducks (who should have gotten a room) amused the viewers with a little Duck Love. My people watching didn't include anything close to that.
Finally, the Duck Master gave a little speech and invited a little tyke wearing a tie and vest to join him on the carpet for the big moment. Suddenly there was a little quacking and the ducks waddled down the stairs and out of sight and the whole thing was over.
Nearly 80 Years of Duck Marches!
That's it? I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, when I told Don months ago while planning this trip, "We really need to stay at The Peabody. I have just got to see the Duck March!"
So Much More...
As one might guess, there is much more to do at The Peabody than clap for ducks. We had the best time watching Laura play Chopin and Honky Tonk on the lobby piano. She was perched, pretty as a picture on her animal print pillow. It was a pleasure putting a tip in her golden tip satchel, before heading to the hotel's Corner Bar for martinis. Check out the tiny duck on the plastic toothpick!
Enjoying the Area
Part of our room package included a carriage ride. Our driver, Bubba took our photo. You can't see his tiny puppy that was curled up under a blanket on the opposite seat. Dogs are a common addition to the carriages of Memphis.
Dinner and Blues
The Peabody would be a fun place anywhere, but the location is actually pretty amazing. We were in walking distance to Beale Street where we could wander in and have BBQ ribs at Blues City Café and then stroll on down to the Blues Hall Juke Joint to hear this guy play harmonica! We took full advantage of our location.
And in the morning, since I hadn't stayed up till 3 am, like some might on Beale Street, I was able to head up to the rooftop for sunrise.
I had the roof to myself with a nice view of the Mississippi River below. I wandered over to peek in on the ducks who were swimming in their own little fountain outside their Duck Palace. They have a pretty good life I must say.
Even though the whole duck thing was a little silly, I have to admit I will remember the ducks. I'm a big fan of themes and I appreciated every hint of a duck I saw. I also like ducks, as an animal, not a theme. So I was pleased to note, the fancy restaurant does not serve duck.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Don and I started our 22-day road trip with a stay in this fabulous historic hotel!
A Grand Place, in 1924!
This hotel is enormous. When it was built in 1924, (Replacing 2 others from 1875 and 1892!) it had 560 rooms.
Now there are about 500 rooms and suites. It's the largest hotel in Arkansas.
We climbed the front steps, walked across the veranda and came through the front doors, into this grand space.
It was fun to imagine socialites and celebrities of the past coming through these doors. Even though Barbara Streisand and Tony Bennett might have good memories of this place, I'm afraid the dated furniture and carpets might not lure them back in this day and age.
At night, it all looked a little more pleasant from the second floor mezzanine. You could still smell the popcorn from the lobby/bar, near the colorful mural.
We took advantage of the complimentary popcorn in the early evening and enjoyed it with drinks, on the veranda. So did the sad looking woman who sat on a nearby bench. I had the feeling that she comes daily, for free popcorn. Hot Springs has some interesting characters.
Hotels always get big points from me when they have curious things to play with. The mineral water fountain was pretty fun... even if you had to drink warm water!
The mailbox and elevators were mighty impressive. I imagined Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Clinton and Bush rumbling up inside one of these, when they stayed. But I read later that these were installed in 1969. The originals required an elevator operator.
We didn't dine in Arlington's Venetian Restaurant, but it looked like it must have been quite the place with the grand piano and chandeliers.
I'm afraid I didn't see a single diner on that Sunday night.
My Kind of Staircase!
We definitely tried out the staircase, which took us down to the basement. I wonder how many different feet over the years, wore down those marble stairs?
Maybe they should install a nice, cushioned pit at the bottom, for all the people who admire the lovely railing but don't use it. I have a feeling that a ride down the banister would have been slow, compared to sailing over those smooth, rounded steps.
We almost got to know our 7th floor neighbors very well. We we messed with their door for about 5 minutes before realizing our key went to a different room.
Our room wasn't even close to Al Capone's favorite room, 442. He used to book the entire floor for his body guards and other VIPs.
Our room was actually pretty darn good, for $89.00!
We wanted one of the historic rooms, and they happened to be cheaper. Although, maybe we could have afforded the top dollar room, at this hotel. The bathroom was pretty small and cramped with only a shower. Too bad, since I could have soaked in mineral water if we'd had a tub!
Room With a View
Our window looked down on the very lush hill and park below.
I'm sure this pool area was quite the thing, when it was first built. The entrance to the pool is on the 7th floor... which is odd.
There were 2 levels of pools, one had a slight water feature that spilled into the other. There was also a hot tub and lots of Astroturf. Don thought about doing some laps, but decided against it.
From the hotel you could go lots of directions. From the pool you could hike up some stone steps to a sitting area, or continue up on some amazing trails.
Across the street (as seen from the raised pool area) we found some very good food. We tried the Pancake Shop and Rolanda's, with a great chef from Ecuador.
Near Bathhouse Row
Best of all, we could just stroll down Bathhouse Row, from the hotel. You can see the twin towers in the photo.
What an amazing history to this town, where people came to soak in the healing mineral waters! I wish we'd had time to experience that as well, but we absorbed plenty in the moist air!
If we'd made use of the baths, I'm sure that would be the notable part of our stay.
There is no separating the hotel from the curious town that surrounds it. What a interesting place!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!