Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Showing Off St. Louis




Today, millions of people get to cross off their calenders for the last time, giddily pack their backpacks or suitcases, load up their IPODs, stare at the Departures sign in the airport with wanderlust in their eyes, find their gates, board their flights, pick up the airplane magazines for the tenth time hoping to discover something new, and hundreds of other travel traditions. Sadly, I am not one of them. I will be waking up here in Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. and going to bed here in good ol' St. Louis. If you can't be the one traveling though, playing host is without a doubt the next best thing, right?  As a host, you get to experience things through another traveler's eyes, re-discover the town where you reside, and maybe find a few new things to do around home while you are at it. This weekend, I get that chance.


A recent post by America's finest news source, The Onion,  poked fun of the dynamic of hosting a visitor (go ahead and read it, I'll wait) and the laid back expectations most guests claim to pack in their luggage. It mocked the whole idea that when a guest rolls into town, they are usually just "okay doing whatever" during their stay. I chuckled out loud reading those laugh lines because I know for a fact that I have uttered those words on many an occasion. Did I really mean what I said though? Not really, and like the fictional character in the post, I certainly have panned plans because they were, in truth, not what I had in mind. As I prepare to play host to Manchester, England native Julia from the blog Homeless & Confused this weekend here in St. Louis, the flip-flop will be on the other foot for me. I'll be honest about it, I am feeling a little bit of pressure! My job is to not only make sure I illuminate the 'Lou in its best possible light this weekend but to show someone from out of town an amazing time with an accurate snapshot of St. Louis without letting my personal favorites get in the way "too" much. 


My favorite hangout in St. Louis, sadly no hockey games until October

My dilemma is solely based upon that blank canvas that I know I will be handed to sketch St. Louis upon.  You see, In a baseball-obsessed city, I am a hockey fanatic. In a city that worships the ground Anheuser-Busch brews on, I prefer microbrews and imports. In a town that adores family-friendly type attractions, I am a bachelor with a penchant for partying and laughing way too hard and loud. In a town that thinks the Gateway Arch is an awe-inspring world class monument, I couldn't agree more! It's just that after the Arch, the plans get a little hazy and frayed. Do I show my English guest the St. Louis sights that I and other like-minded locals love or the St. Louis that the tourists and most other St. Louisans love? 

I think every city or country has the same "destination dilemma".  Going to San Francisco? Well, you have to go to Fisherman's Wharf & Lombard Street, right? Weekending in Barcelona but skipping La Ramblas, well you might as well root for Real Madrid. Heck, are you even legally allowed to craft a Cambodian itinerary that does not include Angor Wat? Not that these sites aren't worth visiting, I am just saying that sometimes it feels that our travel plans are already made for us, and that's not cool!

For example, Ljubljana, Slovenia is a very well known capital city in Europe, and hosts tens if not hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. I had a great time there last year and cannot wait to visit again. Yet, when I told people I was visiting there last fall, I usually got a slack-jawed blank stare and this noise emanating from somewhere in the background. Then, when the city I was going to visit after Ljubljana in my travels was revealed next, which was Munich for Oktoberfest, I would get the approving nod and the obligatory bone thrown to me that "that sounds awesome." So, I am conscious of the fact that I want my guest to see some things in St. Louis that we are known for of course, because the last thing I want her to have is those same blank stares and tumbleweeds that I got when she goes back to England. 

Sunset on the Mississippi

So, this weekend in St. Louis, does it have to be  Ted Drewe's, which is an absolute institution in St. Louis for frozen custard, or should we enjoy my favorite place called Fritz's? Is eating at Imo's, the birthplace of St. Louis style pizza featuring provel cheese, an absolute must do, or will Pi, which features "Chicago by way of California" style pizza get the nod. Should we party on Washington St. or at the very questionable bar on Hampton Ave called Talayna's that I happened to adore late night? Should we spend a day at the Zoo or at the wineries out in St. Charles County? I don't know, I am still deciding as I type honestly. I tend to think the answer is a good mix of secret places, touristy ones, and those new to me.


What do you think? How do you show off your home town? Any St. Louis folks with any suggestions for me?