The Quiet Side of St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri, a melting pot of ethnicities, income levels, and historic and modern architecture, extends an eclectic array of food, activities and accommodations to visitors. The Fleur-de-Lys Mansion, built-in the 19th century, is in Compton Heights, one of the city’s quiet upscale neighborhoods. This starting point gives guests easy access to many of the city’s remarkable landmarks like Forest Park and Tower Park which are the perfect places for a picnic or bike ride. Music lovers can peruse the National Blues Museum, and history buffs can delve into the past at the Missouri History Museum and the Old Court House. Take in the sights and smells at the picturesque botanical gardens boasting hundreds of different floral varieties.
History of the Fleur-de-Lys Mansion | The Fleur-de-Lys Mansion, a stunning bed and breakfast currently owned by Gary and Jerilyn Sadler, has four magnificent rooms for rent and spectacular gourmet breakfasts. According to Jerilyn, the Mansion was built-in 1913 by Mr. and Mrs. William Beckman as a multigenerational home for the family. They lived there until the 1970s and then left it to a church where it was abandoned for about 17 years. During that time the roof joist caved in. Cats and pigeons took occupancy of the third floor, which was an amazing ballroom, and the animals spent their evenings dancing the night away under the moon.
In 1986 two architects bought the property and restored it to its previous splendor. The architects lived in the 6,000-square-foot house for about ten years, then sold it to a couple who turned it into a B&B for the next ten years. A second couple owned the property for an additional seven years until the Sadlers purchased it over four years ago.
The Promise of the Afternoon Welcome | At 3:00 p.m. each day the formal parlor, library and two formal dining rooms are set aglow with lights, and the aroma of freshly baked cookies wafts through the air welcoming incoming guests. Complimentary brandy and amaretto are always available resting near the crystal decanter.
Amenities in the Mansion | I checked into the Tower Grove Park room with a Victorian king-size bed, two-person Jacuzzi, and a Victorian fainting couch. Typically, this room serves as the Mansion’s signature honeymoon suite. The upstairs hallway closet remains stocked with snacks and toiletries for any hungry guest or for one that may have forgotten something at home. The balcony overlooks the lush backyard, and the cozy chairs became my favorite place to begin the day with a fresh cup of coffee while I gazed down at the fish pond.
Breakfast at the Mansion is a gourmet indulgence. Each breakfast begins with coffee or tea and flavorful juice like fresh mango, followed by fruit or possibly a lemon-raspberry parfait with yogurt, lemon zest, raspberry sauce and granola. Jerilyn always prepares a hot course. I was privileged to enjoy French toast, Bananas Foster style, with cinnamon and candied bacon one day, and shirred eggs with herbs and Parmesan cheese the next.
Green Spaces in the City | St. Louis boasts several expansive green spaces. Tower Grove Park, founded in 1868, is a Victorian walking park adorned with more than 6,770 trees. This park is home to 12 asphalt or grass tennis courts, three playgrounds, numerous fields hosting sporting events, historical pavilions, picnic sites and a wading pool. Locals and visitors can listen to free concerts in the park throughout the year.
Forest Park opened in 1876. The 1,293 acres encompass the Saint Louis Zoo, Science Center, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum and The Muny. General admission to each of the above places is free to locals and guests except for tickets to The Muny. Cycling is enjoyed by many in the park and around the city. Smartphone owners can download an app for either LimeBike or Ofo. The bikes can be located all over town via GPS and then left virtually anywhere when finished.
Delicious Dining | Panorama, a stunning 2500-square-foot restaurant located inside the Saint Louis Art Museum, overlooks Art Hill through floor-to-ceiling windows. Open for lunch four days a week and brunch on Saturday, Chef Ivy Magruder creates delicious menus showcasing products from local purveyors.
Botanical Garden | The Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest botanical park and one of the top three public gardens in the world. Landscaped with historic structures and divided into individual segments with themed gardens, like the Japanese, Victorian, Boxwood, Chinese and tropical, it is a gorgeous place to spend the day. The Climatron, a greenhouse enclosed in a geodesic dome, houses the tropical rainforest. This garden was my favorite because I recognized many of the tree and plant varietals from my travels around the world.
Hip Sounds in the City | Blues music has influenced most other music genres, and it is alive and vibrant in St. Louis today. Begin with a history lesson at The National Blues Museum and learn about individual musicians and the music culture. Later, head to the Soulard district and dance to some fantastic blues music in one of the neighborhood clubs while enjoying great St. Louis BBQ.
Famous Gateway to the West | The Gateway Arch is the nation’s tallest manmade monument. Erected in honor of Thomas Jefferson and his Louisiana Purchase, the Arch rises 630 feet into the air and spans 630 feet wide at the base. It is an optical illusion to anyone standing nearby as it looks far taller than it is wide.
The museum beneath the Arch is under renovation; but when finished, it will include interactive exhibits telling the story of “heading West” and explaining the role of St. Louis in that process. I rode to the top of the Arch inside one of the six-person pods and was rewarded with dramatic views of the city and the river.
St. Louis, Missouri, is full of things to see and do. Visit the Explore St. Louis website to develop your plan of action for tackling the city’s sights, sounds, tastes and smells. With so many historical places, delicious restaurants, interesting museums and incredible music, you won’t want to miss a thing.