WE WENT TO ST LOUIS, TOGETHER

When I was a kid, my grandma introduced me to the 1944 musical, Meet Me in St Louis. She had a copy on VHS, which was one of a grand total of about four videos available for rotation at grandma’s house. Pre-Netflix, obviously.

Meet Me in St Louis poster

It would eventually become one of my favourites. It is a visually stunning film and stars Judy Garland who was a visually stunning person. It’s got a killer soundtrack including the title track and “The Trolley Song” which is essentially a love song about public transport. If you have a spare hour and fifty-three minutes (plus maybe a penchant for 1940s Hollywood cinema), I highly recommend it.

Judy Garland

Hoff took me up on my recommendation once. Or at least, I badgered him until he watched it with me (potato/potahto). He was not a fan. He couldn’t believe that one of the central conflicts is that Judy Garland’s love interest misses the big fancy ball because he forgets to pick his suit up from the tailor before it closes so has nothing to wear (spoiler alert).

But this simplicity is my favourite part. I love that old mate missing the ball is akin to a disaster. It makes a nice change of pace from the barrage of modern-day films that are about actual disasters.

Anyway, when we originally planned this trip, we intended to start with five days in Chicago. Then at some point I was left unsupervised with a map and I noticed that my beloved films namesake, St Louis, was only a relatively short drive from Chicago. So even though I couldn’t convince Hoff to love the film in the way that I do, I did convince him to start our journey there instead.

(Actually, my original proposal was that I go there, and he go somewhere else nearby so that I could ring him and warble “Meet me in St Louis” down the phone in a context that would make sense. Denied.)

I should be clear though: virtually the whole film was shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles. There is very little in present-day St Louis that harks back to the film. Even the beloved trolley is currently out of commission, which I think came as a relief to Hoff because I fully intended to re-enact “The Trolley Song” complete with a giant hat, had it been possible.

The Trolley Song

This came as no surprise though; I had done my research. The point is, I knew that even if it turned out to be a dodgy place, I could always say I’d been there. Kind of like a little in-joke with myself.

In fact, it wasn’t at all dodgy.

We arrived after the obligatory long haul flight (damn you Australia and your epic isolation) and headed straight to Ballpark Village. St Louisans are pretty wild about their baseball, as evidenced by the giant precinct in honour of it.

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Home of the famous toasted ravioli, oops I mean St Louis Cardinals

It was here that we tried toasted ravioli, apparently a St Louis specialty. Who knew pasta could get any better? Well-played, St Louis, well-played.

Toasted Ravioli
Toasted Ravioli

Post-Ballpark Village we headed to dinner at Blueberry Hill, which is a St Louis institution and boasts some of the creepiest restaurant décor I’ve ever seen. More toasted ravioli too. I’m not even sorry.

Blueberry Hill

Unfortunately though, not long after round two of toasted ravioli, the dreaded jetlag set in and we had to haul ass to bed. We would’ve liked to take more advantage of St Louis by night in all her neon glory but it we had a big day of driving ahead of us so had to do the grown up sensible thing and stop for an ice cream sandwich before heading back to the hotel to hit the hay.

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It was an almost insultingly short amount of time to spend in such a charming city but I’m so glad we did. Even though my beloved film really just provided a jumping off point for our overall itinerary, I’ll always feel pretty chuffed that I actually go to go there. Plus I can always recreate “The Trolley Song” on the 109 tram when I get back to Melbourne.

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HOLIDAY MODE

holidayroooooooaaaaadddd
Holiday moooooooooooode, holiday moooooooooode. (National Lampoon’s Vacation, 1983)

The other night I had a dream about our upcoming holiday, as I often do in anticipation of events of note.

In my dream we arrived in St Louis, our first stop. I immediately changed into my gym gear, found a gym, and signed up for a Body Pump class. I went to load my bar with weights and had the horrible realisation that I don’t know my usual weights in pounds and ounces, only in kilograms, so I didn’t know which weights to put on my bar and I held the entire class up and the whole thing turned into a literal nightmare. It was the sad stay-at-home mum’s equivalent to the ol’ ‘turning up to school naked’ dream.

Wild, right?

On the whole, I am a creature of habit. I plan everything. I have a weekly planner on our fridge and a three-month projection on the inside of our pantry door. I meal plan, I budget, I calorie count and I have separate colour-coordinated filing systems for both my kids’ Lego and Duplo. And under no circumstances do I ever “play it by ear” or “see how I feel”. I don’t need my feelings to tell me what to do. I have my diary for that.

lego

When we lived in Auckland, our rental property had a blackboard painted on the entirety of one of the kitchen walls and it quickly evolved to become the blueprint to our week-to-week lives. The kids stuff, my stuff, Ryan’s hours, what we were having for dinner, my to do list and Hoff’s to do list. (Which I wrote. Didn’t work, btw.)

I cannot count the number of times friends and the odd tradesperson commented on it. Once, we had a TV show come and do a bit on Hoff and one of the sound guys actually took a photo of it to show his wife. He also said, “Wow! My wife hates it when I get McDonalds on the way home. If I knew I was coming home to lamb shanks then I wouldn’t need to do it anymore!” Chuck your own damn lamb shanks in the slow cooker before you leave buddy, was what I should have said. But I was so chuffed at the compliment that I just blushed and posed for a photo next to the blackboard instead.

Blackboard

The point is, I’m generally wound pretty tight. Like the springs you used to see on trampolines before kids got all precious and whiney about ‘safety’ and ‘not getting their young skin savaged by hot steel’. Pfft.

And because I am so uptight, it takes generally takes me a few days to wind down into holiday mode. I’m particularly concerned in this instance because the kids aren’t with us and I’m worried that come 5pm I’ll be forcing Hoff to sit down and watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, followed by dinner at 6pm and bed no later than 7pm. Because that’s the rules, you guys.

Luckily for Hoff, this holiday we are preparing with a bit of a transition period. We’ve come up to the beautiful Sunshine Coast because this is where we will be depositing our children while we are away. So we are dutifully spending five days here, winding ourselves down and fully preparing to be in Holiday Mode, so we can hit the ground running walking at a leisurely pace when we get to St Louis.

MUDJIMBA
Mudjimba Beach

Honestly, if you can’t relax here, there is no hope for you. There’s sand, there’s sun and there’s sea, which you can hear from the house.

There are an endless amount of wholesome things for the kids to do in the great outdoors so you feel like you’re winning parenting every day.

There’s a coffee shop down the road across from the beach and if there’s a bit of a wait it’s fine because the morning post-surf crowd is filled with so many achingly beautiful people it’s almost comical. You just spend the wait wondering where on earth they all came from and why do they congregate in this particular place?

So this is where we find ourselves. We did all our packing in Melbourne so I really only have one goal for this part of our trip, and it’s the same goal I set myself every time I come up here: spot 3 children who don’t have blonde hair. Haven’t managed it in the twelve-odd years I’ve been coming up here but I really think this trip is the one.

FOUR SLEEPS TO GO!!

PS For those of you sending well wishes on Hoff’s retirement from the NRL, thank you. Today we went to the beach and the kids dug some holes. Hoff accidentally slipped into one and my heart jumped into my throat because I thought he’d rolled his ankle. Then I realised our livelihood no longer relies on him having fully-functional ankles and it was THE BEST. Eventually I remembered to stop laughing and check if he was okay. He was. I heart retirement.