This is my final entry on my July 4th mini-vacation in Southwest Illinois. Next time I tease someone what to do in their smaller city, I better think twice.
The Amtrak train to St. Louis is dubbed the Lincoln Service. Maybe because it stops in Lincoln and Springfield, Illinois. The much loved President Abraham Lincoln practiced law in Lincoln before he became president of the Commonwealth, in fact it is the only town in the state named after him. Springfield on the other hand is the seat of state but well-known because this was where Lincoln honed his legal skills. Also the only home he’s ever owned is preserved as a museum here along with other homes in the street where they used to live. It is a good place to visit if you are interested in history and the train station is conveniently located in the middle of the city.
When I was purchasing my tickets, I was surprised that two weeks beforehand the seats were starting to get sold out. I managed to get two coach seats which were actually not so bad after all. I was asking my cousin what’s going on in St. Louis, the final destination of the Lincoln Service that it would sell so fast. Traffic should have been the other way around.
Well, never underestimate a small city. I’ve been to St. Louis twice before, I’ve seen the arch, viewed the museum and been driven around. But my cousins were able to secure three tickets to the Muny, their open air theatre.
And I’ve never been to their botanical garden, their zoo and this great place called Forest Park, home to the Muny. It is like Ravinia and Drury Theatre combined into one, except you are guaranteed a seat with your ticket and like Drury, it has a line up of popular Broadway shows at affordable price. What’s not to love? You can dress very casual and enjoy the show.
Nunsense was a musical comedy, fun but it sounded more hilarious if you’re not Catholic. My mom and my sisters had more experience with the nuns when they were in grade school but I went to the public school and my only contact with a nun was as a piano student. The only thing that stood out from my experience was the sister with her ruler but everyone who’s been to a Catholic school under the sisters could perhaps relate more. But I did enjoy the show and being under the stars on a beautiful evening.
The only hiccup in experiencing The Muny is parking but even that wasn’t so bad as James was able to secure one not too far from the theatre. Get there early.
Prior to driving to the city, we had dinner at J. Fires in Waterloo.
It is one of two or three (if you count The Rooster) highly recommended places to dine in Waterloo. We had an early dinner there under the grapevines. We were one of the first diners that afternoon and the menu reflect the Cajun or New Orleans influence to their cooking harking back from the time Illinois was part of the Louisiana. James and I ordered the same – roasted pork over mashed potatoes and my cousin had a pork chop with some greens. Servings were huge and the food good. They are true comfort food. I won’t mind going back there again and try their other dishes. For me, it was exciting, you can feel the energy of the chef, their dishes were vibrant and well-executed. You know that their food would always change and could only evolve to something better. Nothing fancy but they believe in using what’s best available locally.
Many from St. Louis and vicinity makes J. Fires a destination.