UPDATE: I've decided to change the title of this post since I'm updating with more events about this other than Soulard.
Some people not familiar with St. Louis think of us as a bland and boring town. The thought is, outside of the Cardinals and the Arch, what else is there?
One of my favorite areas of St. Louis is the Soulard Neighborhood. It's a great place to spend the day AND evening; and is home of the second largest Mardi Gras in the United States. (and they are wondering how large this year's will be post-Katrina New Orleans). Then there's the annual Bastille Day celebration, complete with the ceremonial beheadings.
The homes in Soulard are over 200 years old and a number of them have been turned into restaurants. Along with great food, they feature some really great music; especially zydeco and blues.
The Soulard Neighbordhood also features a number of well-tended community gardens which have transferred trashy abandoned lots into eye-pleasing green space accented with colorful flowers.
A friend of mine volunteers at a soup kitchen at Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard and asked me to help today as some volunteers couldn't make it. Kathy, Pat and I arrived early enough that I was treated to a tour of the church. Trinity was built in 1864 and was designed by Charles May, a renowned architect at the time, responsible for many churches and schools in St. Louis. The Soulard area is enjoying a regrowth, which is benefiting the church. I was told that it is packed on Sundays with a great deal of the congregation being under forty.
The outside photo of the church was taken from an article about the Soulard neighborhood. The sanctuary photos were ones I took this morning with my camera phone.
This photo does not do justice to the chandelier which is made out of guilded bronze. While there is the ability to raise and lower it, the only time that has happened was in 1998 when the church was renovated; then it was raised a couple of feet to give better clearance. Cleaning and lightbulb changing are done with poles.
Trinity does impressive mission work to the homeless in the community. Among the work they do is a soup kitchen which operates six days a week, as well as a food pantry serving needy families.
When I was first given our assignment, serving chicken flavored ramen noodle soup and pastries, I was a little surprised. Soup with pastries? But it is a hit with their customers. I was told that attempts have been made to vary the soups with beef and even homemade chili. They were told by their customers to leave the chicken soup alone, thankyouverymuch.
The church was also giving away clothing that morning, as well as vouchers for haircuts. Bob, a volunteer who was working with the clothing later told us that one guy came in wearing a coat that was a little snug on him. He tried on a different coat which fit him much better, and asked if he could trade, rather than keeping both for himself.
Bob told us he lives across the river in Collinsville, Illinois, but belongs to Trinity because of its mission work. He works in the soup kitchen every Friday. I could tell from the customers they recognized him and liked him.
We served up 82 bowls of soup, lots of coffee and pastries and saw a lot of clothes being carried away in bags. One guy was sporting a new Rams hat, with the sales tag flapping in the wind. Pat offered to cut it off for him, but he preferred it like that.
Kathy donated some coats that had belonged to her husband (also named Bob) who passed away almost eight years ago. She stood at the window and watched as some of the men walked down the street in her Bob's coats. No longer stuffed in the back of a closet, they were being put to good use.
The kitchen had a large window through which the food was served. Pat worked the window while Kathy and I were busy getting it ready. I could hear Pat keeping up a running chatter with her customers.
One girl couldn't have been 20; and there was a little boy with his mother who appeared to be high on something.
Count your blessings.
After our shift was over, we went a few blocks away to the historic Soulard Farmer's Market.
The Market has four wings, each stuffed with fresh produce, live poultry, meat markets, t-shirts, hats, spices, coffees, teas, and pastries. I went to the market several times about 10 years ago and promised myself I would shop there a couple of weekends a month. Even though I pass there at least a couple of times a month, I haven't shopped at the market since then.
I do need to make it a part of my routine.
Unfortunately, it appears an earthquake hit during these two photos. It was just so crowded that it was tricky getting a good shot.
Being a major Mardi Gras party area, beads were already on sale. These are beads that also serve as beer can holders.
Sadly, the picture of the sign advertising "Alligator on a stick" did not turn out at all.
And then, of course, there's the fresh beaver.
I'll wait until the giggling stops.
I'm still waiting.
As I was taking these pictures, a woman standing next to me said, "Girl, you actually takin' pictures of that beaver?!" I asked, "What else are you going to do with it?"
OK, I hear more giggling.
And then there was the guy who seriously asked the butcher, "Is that beaver good eatin'?"
OK, now I'm giggling.
I ended my day in another interesting place in St. Louis; the Washington Avenue Loft District. I went to a wedding reception at a place called Windows on Washington. Pretty cool place. In the lobby, they have a waterscape which is a flower garden made out of glass flowers in a pond. It's a fountain with the water raining on the glass flowers.
Again, my camera was not with me, so we'll have to rely on a CramCam photo. I took 4 pictures and this is the best one.
Do they make tripods for camera phones?
UPDATE: I drove downtown to meet Meghan for lunch this afternoon. She was passing through St Louis on her way from visiting a friend at Mizzou. It was a beautiful day in St. Louis, close to 60 degrees but windy. After Meghan drove off, I took a few more pictures with the good ol' camera phone.
Here's a look east towards with Arch and the Old Courthouse. In front of it is Kiener Plaza, still decorated for Christmas
This is the new Busch Stadium under construction.
A look west down Market Street, the Civil Courts building is on the right, way day Market is Union Station.