Some one recently brought to my attention that my love of churches (and cathedrals) is a some what unusual one considering I am NOT religious whatsoever. Not that there is anything wrong with being religious it’s just not who I am. But I do love going into churches. I think they are an amazing source of inspiration. I genuinely think that everyone should stop in at least one church when visiting a new city.
I know there will people reading this being like ugh I’m not going to spend my vacation time walking around to churches. I totally understand that, but hear me out. Churches were the hub of communities for centuries so they can reveal a great deal about the city they are in. Then there is the masterpieces of architecture that most churches are. Plus they often house the most spectacular works of art: in the form of paintings, stained glass and much more. Churches were often showcases of the masters and architects of their time. I love that about churches. I mean granted the art work focuses on one subject matter, but the variance in approach and skill is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I mean hey everyone remembers the botched retouch of the fresco. So why not go see the amazing craft presented in these churches before someone else’s grandmother gets a hold of some paint brushes.
Ok so somehow I’ve convinced you to go to church (haha, it is probably best if it’s not a Sunday!), but where do you start? Glad that you ask! I’ve compiled my top 5 favourite churches for you to check out for yourself. So these are in chronological order for me, not most favourite, because that would be too difficult. Also I didn’t want to spend weeks going through photo albums, hard drives and photo folders to find my photographs of these places, so I am using other people’s.
Cathedral Basilica, St. Louis, MO
This little gem of the Central West End is one that I remember from being a little kid. Like I said I’m not really religious, nor was I raised particularly religiously. This was a beautiful place for a person of any age or religious background. Once you walk through the doors the inside is a warm, glistening gold. Then once you look closer you see that the ceiling is not just gold but a collection of mosaics. These mosaics were completed in 1988 and collectively contain 41.5 million glass pieces and since is covers 83,000 sq ft it is the largest mosaic collection in the world. Which ain’t too bad for a little ol’ church in the middle of Missouri. If you ever get to St. Louis you should go and spend time looking up at all the amazing detail this ceiling has to offer.
Ok so Notre Dame itself is amazing! BUT my love for this church definitely comes from a little Disney movie that I doubt anyone besides me has actually seen.The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out when I was 6 and I was obsessed to say the least. For my 7th birthday, my dad made me not one but two Notre Dame themed cakes. One was the shape of the outside, while the second was a stained glass window made of cake and sprinkles. Now that I’m an adult I think way to go Dad that was no easy feat, also come on 2 cakes, sort of adorable overkill. When I finally did get to Paris I made sure to get to get to the Cathedral as soon as I could. Any place with gargoyles and flying buttresses is cool to me. What is a flying buttress? Well it’s the weird arches sticking out of the back of the building that essentially hold up vaulted ceilings. Plus gargoyles, did I mention gargoyles?! This Cathedral is beautiful inside and out.
Gedächtniskirche, Berlin, Germany
The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is a church in Berlin located in a big shopping area of Berlin on the Kurfürstendamm. The church was built in the 1890s and was partially destroyed in a bombing raid. A portion of the church still remains, but there is a new church that was built alongside the former portion. The new freestanding tower is a hexagon and built with a bunch of blue glass bricks. The tower is often lit from the inside and shines through out the night. The inside envelopes you in the blue. My favourite bit is the balance between the old and the new that is so evident from the outside.
Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France
Ok for this one you don’t necessarily need to go in side. Of course you can, it is stunning on the inside. But I think the beauty of this church lies on the outside. It sits on the top of the hill of Montmartre which is the highest point of the city. From a distance you can see this beautiful white building sitting above the city. Then once you get to the top of the hill and see all of the intricacies and details of the building it is mesmerising. Then you turn around and you get one of the best views of Paris that you will ever see.
Sagrada Família, Barcelona Spain
This is probably an obvious one. Inside, outside, Gaudí’s creation is a masterpiece. Each facade is a completely different work of art and one that needs to be marveled at. Seriously words can not describe the beauty that is this church. Then you go inside and just wow. The stained glass, the columns, the vaulted ceilings, every millimeter has been painstakingly thought out and created. It is definitely worth the hefty price-tag. Make sure you spring to go up the tower. Here’s my post about Paris and Barcelona.
Ok so after this long post I do need to say it’s not all about the churches. I just find them to be the most easily accessible to the public. While I was in Paris I had the opportunity to the Grand Mosque of Paris. It was equally as inspiring and moving as any of the churches that I listed above. The amazing tile/ mosaic work was like nothing I’d seen before.
I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that even if you aren’t religious whatsoever (like me) take a minute and look toward a nearby religious centre (especially the old ones). They were the center of communities and have very inspirational architecture and art. Plus it’s a chance for all of us to step away from our computers for a little bit.
I love St. Louis. It is my hometown and even though no one has ever heard of it, it is a city worth visiting. It was Colin’s first time in my hometown and seeing where I grew up. I’ve been to his childhood home a lot and I just wanted him to like it.
For a city with just under 3 million people it’s a small town where you see people you know where ever you go. Mostly that means avoiding eye contact and walking past people you’ve known for years. But this trip I arranged to see people I really wanted to plus some ridiculously touristy stuff and it was one of the best times I’d had.
So the touristy stuff. Well we did the Arch, Wash U, the Budweiser Tour and the Art Museum. Sort of. The Arch was closed for repairs, well you can go into the museum but not up in the Arch. And being that I’ve visited the Arch loads… what is the point of that?! So we just went to see it. Then Wash U the tour was on me and my friend Amy. She took us around the Kemper Art Museum on campus and showed us a few of her favourite things. While I just walked Colin around the main campus. I love Wash U and it felt great walking around campus again. The Budweiser Tour is a classic for people visiting St. Louis. I know what you’re thinking Budweiser, yuck. But in the Brewery it tastes better, crisper and more expensive. Plus the tour is free and you get a free beer out of it. My favourite part of it is the Clydesdales and the Dalmatians. Yes the horses and dogs are the best. I mean the one Clydesdale’s was at least a foot or two taller than I was. They are impressive and gorgeous creatures. Last tourist stop was the St. Louis Art Museum. Like lots of other stuff in St. Louis, the museum is free. Much like the Art Insitutute of Chicago SLAM recently added a modern art extension. The museum is great and getting to go with Colin and my mom is just what I needed.
Like I said previously a great deal of the trip to St. Louis was for friends and family. Plus it was Christmas. I love Christmas with my family and this was lots of family and puppy time. Ok Riley isn’t a puppy, he’s like 5-6 or so. We played board games, ate lots of food and laughed a lot! Meeting with my friends was no different. There was a Christmas pop up bar and my friend Kelly was determined to get us in there. With wrapping paper every where, fairy light all around and Christmas themed cocktails, it was definitely worth the wait.
Being that Colin had never been to America before, he wanted to go through as many American cliches as possible. Those ranged from eating at a diner late at night, going to dive and regular bars to various foods. I think we covered Corn dogs, hot wings, dinner food, breakfast food all while in St. Louis. I even made gooey butter cake from scratch. As far as going places I think my favourite was the bowling alley. We dragged my mom along with us and although she said she had never been bowling, she beat us. It was embarrassing, but so much fun. The trip to St. Louis was a great time and I think Colin really enjoyed it as well. He even said St. Louis was his favourite of the 3 cities we visited! 😀
My friend came into town and convinced me to spend the weekend in Glasgow. It was just one night, but two days of fun. We took the city link bus, so an 1 hour and 20 minutes and we were in a totally different city. We decided to take the bus which takes longer, but it was cheap and it ended up being extremely convenient. Upon arriving in Glasgow we had a straight shot to our hotel, Alba Lodge. It was a quaint little guest house and a nice relaxing place to sleep, which included Breakfast. Then there was exploring the city. So much reminded me of home. We started with a big walking tour which included the Cathedral, Necropolis, St. Mungo Museum, George Square and more. My favorite place might have creepily been the Necropolis. It’s a beautiful Garden cemetery with huge sandstone grave stones and you could see the entire city. It was incredibly peaceful and relaxing and inspiring in a way.
After a stop in a museum and a little more walking we had tea in the Willow Tea Room designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1904. Kelly and I of course got a high tea which was lovely. Mackintosh reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright, with his geometric designs, which of course made me think for the Wright house in Kirkwood. Then we did some quick shopping. Glasgow has every shop you can think of, everything from Forever 21 to Gap to Fat Face. The city itself continually reminded me of St. Louis and Chicago. It was wonderful. An industrial city with everything you can think of including a ton of history. There where places near highways that you could have sworn would be right next to Busch Stadium. There was even a Monsanto Protest, how much more St. Louis can it get, ha. Then Kelly and I walked to the river and found what really made it St. Louis (of the future of course, because Glasgow has it’s shit together more than St. Louis does), an arch! Ok it’s on a bridge, but look at it. If that isn’t a reminder of St. Louis I’m not sure what is. The next day we went for a walk in a huge park (like Forest Park) and went to the Kelvingrove Museum. It was a really random museum, with everything from a dinosaur to Elvis and Dali to Van Gogh. It is a wonderful museum. Then an hour and 20 minute bus ride and I was back in Edinburgh. I can’t believe in about an hour you can be in a city that is so vastly different. It is an amazing aspect of Scotland. At home it would be like the 5 hour drive to Chicago. I’m so glad we went to Glasgow.
I’ve lived in St. Louis for most of my life (except for Chicago for one year and a few months in Germany). In a few weeks. I am picking up my life in St. Louis and moving to Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve never been to Scotland. I decided that after college I should just apply to Masters Programs, just in case I couldn’t find a job. I found an amazing program at Edinburgh Napier, but my application didn’t go through the first time I sent it. They kept my application on file and resubmitted it the next semester. I had at that point totally forgotten about it.
I got a job at Crushed Red: Urban Bake and Chop Shop. I loved it instantly. First of all it is a wonderful restaurant that prides itself in fresh, organic food in a fast casual setting. I knew that I was going to enjoy it simply, because of the food that was being served. Then there were my coworkers, who became my second family quicker than I would’ve thought. A wonderful, funny, sweet group of people that I saw every day and am now leaving. I was promoted after about a month to be one of the Shift managers. I can’t imagine not spending 6 out of 7 days of a week without seeing these great people. Also I am going to miss our salads and pizzas!!! Definitely not going to find anything like it in Edinburgh.
Now that I’m leaving soon, I’m starting to tie up loose ends in St. Louis and thinking about all of what I want to do in Edinburgh. I have a new apartment. I have sold my car. I am canceling memberships in St. Louis. I have a flight. I think I’m getting close to being ready to leave.