Cultural Explorations


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

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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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Trip Date: 2018-Jan-06 * Scouting Mission: 2017-Jan-07 & 2016-Jan-08

 

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The Old Courthouse, located in downtown Saint Louis, is a magnificent building, and an important touchstone in the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.  You can tell what a society values by looking at their buildings — once inside, the Old Courthouse feels like a temple to the Rule of Law.  The arc of justice is long.

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A wonderful time for locals to visit is on January 6th, which is Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas.  On this day, the Old Courthouse comes alive with music and dancing from 1768, as period actors in military dress throw a party for the public, complete with music, dancing and a ceremony involving the “King’s Cake”.

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The event is called the “Twelfth Afternoon Ball“,  and it comes with ladies in long dresses serving pralines, little cookies and hot cider to visitors.  The public is invited to join in the dancing, which is fun and easy to learn. The whole thing is free.

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Street parking is easy in winter, and you get two hours at the meter.  The Metro stops at 8th & Pine, a brisk four block walk to the Old Courthouse.  As you approach, look for the International Fur Exchange building on your right, (now a Drury Hotel), which stands as a tangible reminder of the enormous wealth generated by beaver pelts, and the french fur traders who procured them.  Take a moment to admire the dome, which was modeled after the Capitol Dome in Washington D.C., as well as the Vatican.

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Once inside, stand next to the warm radiators to shake off the cold, and look left at the underground railroad map, then take a moment to explore the Dred Scott exhibit. Watch the short history channel movie as you wish. Use the restrooms as necessary.

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The music and dancing will beckon to you from the center hall, and fancy ladies in long gowns will serve you cider and cookies.  Enjoy the music from your seats while the more courageous members of your party join in the fun and easy dancing.

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Because of the Dred Scott decision, the Old Courthouse is a National Park, and like Yellowstone Park or Yosemite — where most people don’t go more than one mile from the road — most people don’t think to climb up into the rotunda of the Old Courthouse.  This is your adventure.

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National Park

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When you’re ready to climb, explore the side halls until you find the cast iron stairs, which are beautifully crafted and highly unusual.  As you climb each flight, hunt around for the next flight of stairs, until you’ve climbed as high as you can go.

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On your way up, peek inside the historic courthouse rooms, preserved in all their classical revival splendor, and if no other visitors are around, say something, like “hello”,  to experience the amazing acoustics. Maybe you could shout something like “Let Freedom Ring!”, “Once free, always free!” or, “From the Darkness Cometh the Light!”. Imagine the enormous expense, and admire the incredible craftsmanship, and know such a building would not likely be built today.

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Make note of the Greek columns which ascend in architectural order from Doric to Ionic to Corinthian, as you ascend each level.  Some of the columns are load bearing, (made of cast iron), and some are decorative, (made from wood). Knock on the columns to see if you can tell which are made from iron, and which are made of wood.

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The rotunda was designed to carry voices to as many people as possible without amplification, so your climbing adventure will be accompanied by the merry sounds of music and dancing below.  It’s fun to peer down on the tiny dancers, while ascending the upper balconies above. You’re standing inside an old fashioned amplifier!

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When you get to the top, you will be standing beneath the skylight, known as the “eye”, which brings sunlight down from on high.  The very top structure is called a “cupola”, which means “upside-down cup” in Italian.  There are two ways up to the third balcony, which is as high as you are allowed to go;  visitors are not allowed on the fourth balcony.

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See if you can identify the four allegorical paintings by Wimar, representing the British-Indian attack, the discovery of the Mississippi Rive by deSoto, the founding of Saint Louis, and the transcontinental railroad through the Rocky Mountains.  Also see if you can identify the allegorical figures on four walls representing law, liberty, justice and commerce.

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Flag & Dome 2018

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Make your way back downstairs and out onto the East Steps, overlooking the Arch and facing the Mississippi River.  It is here that slaves were auctioned off, as well as the Eads Bridge (to your left) and the St. Louis Post Dispatch (to Hungarian immigrant Joseph Pulitzer).  This is a great spot for a family photo.

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The Dred and Harriet Scott sculpture is to your right. Dred Scott finally achieved his freedom a year before he died. Visit the gift shop on the way out, and check out the children’s books on Lewis and Clark, as well as the excellent selection of children’s books on African American History.  Buy or bring your National Parks Passport, so it can be stamped.

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Use the Restrooms before leaving, and look for the turtle motif on the wrought iron fence facing west, an homage to a quirky custodian who once kept a real turtle in the Courthouse fountain, and complained that the turtle was the only thing in the courthouse that didn’t cause the tax papers money.

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Epiphany at the Old Courthouse in Saint Louis is an excellent adventure for families of all ages; toddlers will get lots of exercise on the stairs, kids will love scampering about the balconies, and teens will enjoy the magnificent building and authentic military weaponry.  It’s a refreshing, short and sweet adventure for the whole family, with a little bit of exercise.

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Finding the event on your computer can be a challenge.  Start with Gateway Arch events; and if all else fails, search Facebook for the  Twelfth Afternoon Ball. The event is hosted on the Saturday nearest Epiphany.  If you miss Epiphany, similar events are held throughout the year, including the President’s Ball on President’s Day.  If you can’t make one of the re-enactment dates, go on MLK Day in January, which hosts the second largest annual civil rights gathering in the nation.

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Here’s your GPS location: 11 N. 4th Street; Saint Louis; 63102. Watch for this information to be uploaded into a collection of adventure maps for sale on Amazon, soon.

 

Dome 3

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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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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.

The Citygarden visit actually happened in

September of 2010 in between tornado storms,

but I’m posting it here while I recreate

historical data after Apple discontinued

supporting it’s web-site, and while I’m

creating a blog site starting at the beginning

of Green Spiral Tours.

Citygarden leads the way in creating naturescapes

for children, and their families, while demonstrating

the viability of economic rejuvenation.  If you build

outdoor places for families to connect with nature,

families will come, and bring their dollars for drinks,

trinkets and more major purchases.  There is pent-up

demand for friendly nature places that is not yet fully met.

You can bring your dog to the Citygarden

and the security officer will give them treats.

Citygarden is quite safe, and parking is easy.

We shall return in the summer to play

in the fountains and water.  Citygarden

is progressive and responsive for

hiring lifeguards and allowing children

to play in the water features.  So often,

beautiful parks are built, and then

children are forbidden from touching.

We applaud all involved with Citygarden

and families thank them deeply for

their wisdom and foresight.

Water is life, and every great garden must incorporate

water.  If you build a water feature, children will come,

and climb right into it.  You can plan on it.

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