Cultural Explorations


Trip Date: 2017-02-27
Trip #50
GPS: Address: 5025 Pattison; 63110 (at Kingshighway and I-44)
Search Words:  Chocolate Factory Tours

2017-02-01 Chocolate morsel

Surprisingly, Saint Louis has a high concentration of award winning chocolate makers; probably due to our immigrant roots. There are many chocolate destinations worth visiting in Saint Louis, but the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Company has the “best” chocolate tour in Saint Louis for kids, only because it’s the shortest and the sweetest, and thus the easiest for busy families to visit.  This is a 20 minute “tour” with a piece of chocolate waiting at the end.  The tour is free.  Over 50,000 people come from all over the world visit this chocolate factory every year.

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Drive to the GPS address at Pattison Avenue listed above, and wind around to the front lobby, which is right up against the highway.  Inside awaits an oasis of delights.

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Tours launch every 30 minutes from the spacious ‘Chocolate Shoppe’, and everyone is required to wear a “hairnet,” which doubles as a rather cool souvenir.  Guests get a little giddy as they gather, and then enter through the doors marked “Chocolate Heaven”.

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Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate is a third generation family business started by the Abel family in 1981, near the famous Ted Drewes ice cream stand on Route 66. They moved to the current location in 2012 in order to accommodate their expanding business. This is a Greek family who got their start with help from another Greek family, and are thus now continuing the American Dream.

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Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate uses the term “clean chocolate” to describe their products. Listen carefully when they list their ingredients:  chocolate is sourced from the Ivory Coast, vanilla comes from Madagascar, sugar from Belize.  Anything worth doing, like making chocolate, is worth doing well, and making fine chocolate is harder than it looks.

Doing Well

Take special note of the solar panels on the roof, the LED lights throughout the factory floor, and the Goodwill employees to packaging the finished chocolates.  Ask about the creation of jobs, as local jobs increase the multiplier effect of money — basically meaning that money circulates throughout the local economy instead of whooshing away and into the pockets of people who are already rich. Handcrafted local chocolate is an example of “Slow Food”;  every chocolate you buy brings you closer to a “Less but Better” world.

Worker

Keep an eye out for Oompa Loompas on the factory floor.

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Back inside the “Chocolate Shoppe”, be sure to ask about specialties and sample any award winning chocolates. Also ask which holiday drives the most sales.  Don’t miss the “Oops Shelf” which is full of perfectly imperfect chocolates.

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The science of happiness is a relatively new field, but it’s really, really true that some things make you happy.  It’s not the weather, or your salary, or your kids that make you happy, but rather flowers, dinner with friends and adventures to new places that bring happiness. Take your friends and family on a tour of a chocolate factory, and follow Green Spiral Tours in enjoying all the goodness that Saint Louis has to offer.

Happiness

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Scouting Mission: 2017-Jan-06

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The Old Courthouse, in downtown Saint Louis, is a magnificent building, and the best time for locals to visit is on Epiphany, (the Twelfth Day of Christmas), which falls on January 6th of each year. On this day, the Old Courthouse comes alive with the sounds of music and dancing from 1767, hosted by re-enactors in period military dress and fancy long gowns.  The event is called the Twelfth Afternoon Ball, and it comes complete with little cakes and cookies for visitors to enjoy.

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Visitors are invited to join in the merry dancing, and the party culminates with the “King’s Cake” which has been baked with three beans.  Gentlemen eat the cakes, and whoever gets the bean, gets to be King, which means the honor of throwing the next party.  It’s a jolly festive atmosphere, but the real reason for a family adventure visit, is to climb the stairs of the magnificent rotunda, and get some exercise in winter.

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Explore until you find the staircase on the side halls, and climb each balcony to hunt for the next hidden set of stairs, until you’ve reached as high as you can go.  The Old Courthouse was crafted by hand, at enormous expense, and it is impossibly beautiful and grand by today’s standards.

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The skylight at the top of the cupola is called the “eye”, and allegorical figures are painted on the walls depicting law, liberty, justice and commerce. Some of the columns are made of cast iron and some are made of wood. Knock on them to see which is which!

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Look down on the dancers below, and peek inside the courtroom doors.

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The Old Courthouse is a National Park, and stands as a touchstone for the courageous struggle for freedom and justice, as it was the setting for the famous Dred & Harriet Scott case, which in part, sparked the Civil War. Be sure to visit the Dred Scott exhibit and add something new to your understanding about the battle for individual rights gone awry. Dred Scott eventually did become a free man, shortly before he died.

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Be sure to visit the gift store, which has an excellent selection of books on Lewis and Clark, as well as possibly the best collection of children’s books on African American history.  Step out on the East Steps, to see the Arch and stand on the spot where slaves were sold, along with such items as the Eads Bridge (to your left) and the St. Louis Dispatch to immigrant Joseph Pulitzer.  This is a good spot for a family photo.

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Because of the delightful dancing and music, not to mention easy parking, Epiphany is a great time for local citizens to visit the Old Courthouse, to get some exercise and cultural appreciation. The event is free and suitable for all, from toddlers to grandparents. On your way out, hunt for the turtle motif on the fence, an homage to a quirky custodian who once kept a turtle in the fountain.

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Every kid should visit the Old Courthouse at least once, to touch a monument to the dream of American equality, and to reinforce in the next generation the shared value of governance by the rule of law, without which we surely would be ruled by tyrants. Go anytime your schedule allows, but if you go to the King’s Ball on Epiphany, or perhaps the President’s Ball near President’s Day, the adventure is twice as fun.

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TripDate: 1-Nov-2015

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We often get into trouble with Green Spiral Tours, and our trip to Bellefontaine  Cemetery was no exception; the trick in life is to figure out the right kind of trouble to get into.  Visiting a cemetery with kids is the right kind of trouble.

We got in trouble for bringing too many kids.

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Kids weren’t always banished from cemeteries. During the Victorian age, newer thinking moved cemeteries from churchyards & family plots into landscaped gardens, which also served as children’s playgrounds. Families would spread out a picnic blanket after church, near their deceased loved ones, and the children would play hide and seek among the grave stones.

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Bellefontaine (pronounced Belle Fountain) Cemetery is a wonderful destination for families longing to stretch their legs under a wide open sky. It’s not only a cemetery, it’s also an arboretum and haven for wildlife. Keep it in mind for when you need a quiet place to go, and just “be”.   We ventured forth with several families on the day after Halloween, as a cure for our “Halloween Hangover”.

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Start your trip at the Welcome Center by picking up maps and bottled water. Beautiful restroom facilities are on your left.  If you rendezvous with more than 8 people, keep it on the quiet, or notify Dan in advance at 314-381-0750.

Bellefontaine Cemetery is historic, culturally dense and rich with art and nature; they offer lots of interesting tours of all kinds (but none for children), which you can see here:  Bellefontaine Guided Tours

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Use your maps or simply turn right when you enter, and find your way to the lakes and the Columbarium, a beautiful column fountain and final resting place for cremated remains. Obviously, children will need to be respectful, but a little skipping and hopping between the rocks is part of the quiet celebration of life, not unlike the lilies, dragon flies and butterflies that frequent the same place.

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Drop kids off at the top, at Cypress Lake, and let them hop and skip their way past the Columbarium, all the way down to Cascade Lake. Stay and play for a while.

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Enjoy.

Here’s a Green Spiral Adventure Map for you to download and use as a guide. Put it on a clipboard and let the kids color it in as you invent your own adventure.  Switch between the Arboretum, Cemetery Tour and Green Spiral map as you explore the cemetery.

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2015-11-01 Beer Baron Tour logo SQ SmWhen you’ve had enough time at the lake, jump back in the car and drive along the rolling hills of the cemetery.  Be sure to see the Wainwright Tomb, and look for a variety of “Beer Baron” tombs.  Come back (without kids) in October for the “Beer Baron Tour,” complete with local food, trolley tours and local beer tasting. It’s fabulous!

Be sure to find your way to the oldest part of the cemetery, down the ravine near #18 and on your way to William Clark’s resting place at #16, and marvel at all the really old mossy gravestones.

Know that “Evergreen Meadow” on your map is one of the few resting places in the country that offers a green burial option.

From William Clark’s grave, refer to your Arboretum Map or your Green Spiral Map to find your way to the giant red mulberry tree, which we have named “Mother Mulberry.”  She makes a great climbing tree.  This is a nice place to spread out a blanket and have a little nap or a snack.

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Calvary Cemetery is across the street, and SLU is studying the bees in that cemetery.  Turns out, Calvary Cemetery hosts the greatest bee biodiversity in the region; and by the way, city bees are healthier than rural bees because city folks use fewer pesticides than the farmers do.  Kinda scary, huh?

Rock hopping, a winding drive and a picnic at Mother Mulberry will probably use up all your time, so be sure to use the restrooms on the way out, recycle your maps and make a plan for your return visit. Best of all, a visit to Bellefontaine Cemetery is free! Saint Louis is rich with free destinations for kids.  Let’s keep it that way.

Logo Green Spiral

Now, here’s your homework:

2013 The Dead Bird

While uncomfortable at times,  death, like sex, is something that children are curious about, and families are learning how to normalize conversations about these difficult topics, from a young age.

Find age-appropriate books for your personal library, for that inevitable moment when someone, or something, dies. The author of “GoodNight Moon” wrote a classic titled, “We Found a Dead Bird.” I’m Jessie, and I used this book quite a lot while teaching, as we would often find dead birds on the playground. There are lots more contemporary books on the market. Post your favorites, and the ones that have helped you, or your family, in the comment section, below:

 

 

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Strawberry picking is a favorite Green Spiral activity, and when May rolls around, Green Spiral Tours starts watching the strawberry fields, as strawberries ripen on their own time, the window is short and more people than ever seem to be attracted to this sort of activity with each passing year.  Don’t let your kids grow up without strawberry picking at least once!

We like to head for Thies Farms at the Maryland Heights location, on Strawberry Festival Day, when Farmer Dave brings out the tractors to the delight of many-a-young child.  Due to an unusually late spring this year, the strawberries were about two weeks later than usual, so folks got to pick well into June, long after school let out.  The month of May is incredibly busy with school activities and it’s easy to miss the strawberry picking window.

Send an email to greenspiraltours@gmail.com to get on the “berry alert” email list for one email per year with berry picking locations, tips and tricks.  This would have been the fifth year of strawberry picking with Green Spiral Tours, however…

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However, as sometimes happens in a recurring Green Spiral theme, we suffered a somewhat disconcerting misadventure on this field trip.  “Green Spiral Tours” is a family adventure school consisting of unique adventures, not “canned” or sanitized experiences, and thus, we are often presented with unexpected challenges like water-main breaks, high winds, pouring rain or brutally hot weather.  Exposing children to all kinds of weather builds character and resiliency, and besides, once we’ve given a field trip a “go” we couldn’t stop it if we tried, people just spontaneously “go”!  The strawberry field trip was a “go” with lots of families planning to attend, and suddenly, it became the first ever Green Spiral field trip to be cancelled.

*CANCELLED* due to the extremely concerning West Lake landfill fire, which is headed directly for a radioactive nuclear waste dump, unfortunately and illegally located on the Missouri floodplain.

At the time of our field trip, only a handful of Facebook friends knew about the fire and the radioactive waste, except for the folks directly affected by the venting stench; and seriously folks, after 9/11 does anyone really believe that venting a landfill fire has absolutely no adverse effect on young children or their mothers of child bearing age?  If you know anything at all about breathing vaporized landfill waste and plastics, it is bad, bad, bad for you. Adventuring about on field trips gives you a kind of real world working knowledge that simply cannot be gleaned from newspapers and little screens.  Surprise!  We went to pick strawberries and found a “dirty bomb” instead.

Long after it has been published, this article in Rolling Stone Magazine still explains the situation best:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/st-louis-is-burning-20130510

And here’s a link to the West Lake Landfill Facebook Page which has been given a new name:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/508327822519437/?fref=ts

So in keeping with the adventure school spirit, you too can embark on another sort of eco-adventure, by visiting the West Lake Landfill site, which is easily found through any GPS device.  If you have young children, or care about the earth and her children, I recommend that you monitor the situation by immediately becoming a friend of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

2013-05-25 westlake landfillWhat you can do:

Read Up: Try to cut through the fog of information to figure out what’s going on with the West Lake Landfill fire. (Hint: something smells bad, and it’s more than just the garbage).  Here’s an article from the Saint Louis Post Dispatch posted nearly 15 months after our misadventure that reveals almost no forward progress on the situation: http://lakeexpo.com/news/top_stories/editorial-governor-should-take-the-muzzle-off-landfill-contractors/article_6b6a5d2c-390e-11e4-8a95-001a4bcf887a.html

Adventure Forth:  Visit the West Lake Landfill site, so you know exactly where it is located in relationship to you.  Calculate the wind path to your home, and take a water tour to know where your drinking water comes from.  Follow Green Spiral Tours to witness a weekly prayer vigil by the Franciscan nuns.

Share:  Find a supportive group to share your thoughts, concerns, fears and things you might be learning.  Share posts from the West Lake Landfill / Nuclear Out Now Group and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment Facebook sites to help them build audience.

Stand Up and Speak Out:  Stand in solidarity with the good mothers of Bridgeton who are valiantly trying to defend their children, our air and our water supply,  Sign petitions, make blog posts, show up at functions, and press your elected officials for action.

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Friday 13 July 2012 – 

We returned to Lafayette Park and french

cafe “Rue Lafayette” for the third year in

a row, in keeping with the Green Spiral method.

(If you can’t make a field trip this year, it

is very likely to spiral around again next year.)

Meanwhile, we know lots of people track our adventures,

and venture out on their own, with friends.

Around Bastille Day every year, we like to celebrate

our rich french heritage with a visit to

“Rue Lafayette,” a french cafe serving

famous desserts and chocolate croissants

imported from Paris.

Rue Lafayette Cafe – across from Lafayette Park

2026 Lafayette Avenue; 63104

http://ruelafayette.us/

The nature connection

begins on the outdoor patio (dogs welcome!)

and continues at the pond across the street.

At Rue Lafayette, you can rent fancy little

sailboats (we got them for free) to sail on

the pond at Lafayette Park.

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The swans and geese are beautiful,

but teach kids to respect these birds,

as swans and geese can be surprisingly mean.

Since storytelling is the language of nature,

a cautionary tale about a mean old goose snapping

at a wagging finger can really drive the point home.

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Part of the fun of spiraling back

to the same great places

is watching the places evolve.

Like many parks, Lafayette

Park is “naturalizing” an area,

by planting in a less formal,

and more natural design, using

some native plants. Naturalizing

our parks is a fairly new trend

and one worth watching and

celebrating. This year, the park

is dry, and not so pretty, so no photo.

In March 2012, we toured “The Hill,”

with professional tour guide,

Joe DeGregorio.  Joe was fun and

informative, hire him if you have a group:

Joe DeGregorio

Here’s a cute 2 minute video that

describes our adventure best:

We watched handmade ravioli

being made, we played Bocce Ball

at a private club, and toured

Herbaria, makers of fine natural

soaps.  The more you learn about

soap, the more you want to go natural.

Love Herbaria!

Herbaria.com

Every year on Veteran’s Day,

we host a metro journey to

see the secret “Whispering Arch”

at Union Station.

Union Station is looking less than vibrant

these days, but the fudge shop still sings

and there are magic goldfish to still feed.

We will keep the faith and continue to

use our metro to visit.  The metro in

Saint Louis is clean, beautiful and runs

on time.  It is second to none in the world.

Plus, kids love a good train ride.

Hey look! When you get on the metro

at the Clayton Station, there is a sculpture

by Carol Fleming!  She’s the artist who

created “The Egg” at the Sensory Garden

at Shaw Park when we visited the

Adventure Playground in April 2011.

It’s important for kids to meet real

working artists.

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