Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shopping with Mom


Ever since we met in night-school Spanish class more than 20 years ago, my best friend has been raving about the beauties of Kansas City, Mo. Not that she wants to live there. But she grew up about two hours away, outside the small town of Trenton, Mo., and she still goes to KC when she visits her mom.

Today, I finally understood what she’s talking about.

Her mom, Sue Gilhuly, and I met at The Plaza … properly Country Club Plaza … an Alhambra-esque outdoor shopping-and-entertainment zone built in 1922. It’s simply gorgeous.

And big surprise: Kate, my best friend, was with her mom.

This is a surprise because in cities from Miami to Honolulu, Kate and I have missed each other by a day, and if you hadn’t voted for me to come here today, we would have stayed on that track. I travel, Kate travels. She hangs out on Long Island. So visits are rare, and this was a treat.


Kate and her mom took great pleasure in showing me around. First stop was The Plaza, a village of exquisitely tiled towers and domes and storefronts. The idea is similar to Coral Gables, but The Plaza is far more ornate, and dotted with fountains for which it is justly famous.

Like most retail centers these days, it is filled with chain stores, but a few local icons remain. The best known of these is Hall’s, owned by the people who founded Hallmark Cards. It’s one of those rare department stores where every item has been hand-picked, and each is exquisite … and something you won’t see coming and going on the street.

Then, we took a spin around town, to the remarkable Beaux Arts Union Station, built in 1914 to handle the enormous trade of the area owing to its proximity to the Kansas and Missouri Rivers and cattle country. We rode along Ward Parkway through a neighborhood of mansions worthy of Newport, and through backstreets of homes on neatly tended lawns. More fountains, more parks, more green.



Kate and mom headed to the airport for Kate’s flight east, and I went back to The Plaza to investigate. Though I was dressed like a backpacker, clerks even in the toniest stores were delightful and welcoming, and I had a good laugh with the ladies in St. John, where of course I fell madly in love with a leather dress that is NOT in the budget. (No, I didn’t.)

The ladies in the Visitor Center were equally warm, which is what you’d expect but don’t always find. I’d booked a motel blind, and when I asked them about the area of town it’s in, the horrified looks on their faces said it all. I upgraded.

So here’s to Kansas City, friendly and beautiful and sophisiticated. Not that I’m ready to move here, mind you. Hurricanes and all, I’ll take Miami.

6 comments:

Sarah Eaton said...

Hello Jane,
Thanks for the report from Kansas City. It seems that everyone who visits is thoroughly impressed with what the city has to offer. You may be surprised to learn that there are quite a few connections between Kansas City and Miami.

When shopping won the vote, I just knew you'd end up at the Plaza. The Country Club Plaza, which is also one of my favorite places in town, was built in 1922 as the first suburban shopping center in the country. The tower that you saw is a replica of Spain's Giralda Tower, which was also the inspiration for the design of Freedom Tower, the Biltmore, and the Roney Plaza in South Florida.

The fountains which you admired throughout the city also have a Miami connection. Ellen Uguccioni, who is currently the acting preservation officer for the City of Miami, wrote the definitive book on the fountains of Kansas City when she worked there prior to moving to Coral Gables. It really is a small world, isn't it?

Jane said...

Sarah: Really interesting. I didn't know all this history! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Jane,
Meeting you in Kansas City was a delight – Mom and I were thrilled that our schedules finally connected. When Mom got home, she spoke with her friend that rides horse trails through South Dakota. Here are a few recommendations (sorry my knowledge of South Dakota is limited so these will not be in driving order):

1. Corn Palace – Mitchell, SD (everything is made from corn and apparently it is very interesting – much better than it sounds)
2. Murdo – The car museum is a highlight - your hubby would definitely vote for this stop.
3. Wall, SD – Be sure to check out Wall’s Drug Store – this is an old fashion drug store with soda foundation.
4. Kadoka, DS – This is were you can take the scenic Rout 44 through the beautiful Indian country (spectacular scenery)
5. Al’s Oasis on I-90 – stop for buffalo steak and catfish (seems appropriate after so much BBQ in Memphis)
6. Sturgis, SD – I understand that this is the motor cycle capital of the world (that is not first hand information)

They expected that you would see Mt Rushmore and that these would be interesting stops that not everyone would suggest!!!
Call when you have a signal!!!
Hugs
Kate

KateG said...

Jane,
Really sorry to read about the speeding ticket; Mom and I needed to warn you - the best place to speed in the country and you simply can't!

Meeting you in Kansas City was a delight – Mom and I were thrilled that our schedules finally connected. When Mom got home, she spoke with a friend that rides horse trails through South Dakota. Here are a few recommendations (sorry my knowledge of South Dakota is limited so these will not be in driving order):

1. Corn Palace – Mitchell, SD (everything is made from corn and apparently it is very interesting – much better than it sounds)
2. Murdo – The car museum is a highlight - your hubby would definitely vote for this stop.
3. Wall, SD – Be sure to check out Wall’s Drug Store – this is an old fashion drug store with soda foundation.
4. Kadoka, DS – This is were you can take the scenic Route 44 through the beautiful Indian country (spectacular scenery)
5. Al’s Oasis on I-90 – stop for buffalo steak and catfish (seems appropriate after so much BBQ in Memphis)
6. Sturgis, SD – this is the motor cycle capital of the world (that is not first hand knowledge)

We figured that you would see Mt. Rushmore and that these stops would add something a little different to your route.
Call when you have a signal again.
Hugs,
Kate

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,
Was fun to read about your surprise visit from Kate. Kate was my neighbor and she brought me to your house one time. Not sure you will remember me. She moved North and I moved to the Grove and have since lost touch. Hi to Kate if she reads this!

I am so excited your readers chose South Dakota...my home state! I voted 3 times (can you do that??) so perhaps you are there because of my voting. My heart remains in the plains states....nothing more beautiful than a field of sun-drenched sunflowers for as far as the eye can see.

Hope you are feeling better and enjoying the "solo" drive time. Have made the trip from Miami to the Dakotas twice by myself and found it be exhilarating, liberating and incredibly satisfying.

I have really enjoyed reading and keeping up with your adventure. Safe travels!!

Mitzi Johnston

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for giving everyone

an extremely

remarkable opportunity to read in

detail [url=http://www.oksunglassescheapest.com]cheap oakley sunglasses for men[/url] from here. It is usually so enjoyable and also jam-packed with a great time for me personally and my office acquaintances to visit your website not less than thrice weekly to study the fresh secrets you will have.[url=http://www.oksunglassescheapest.com]cheap oakley sunglasses for men[/url]

cheap oakley sunglasses ,Not to mention, I'm also usually impressed

with your [url=http://www.oksunglassescheapest.com]cheap oakley sunglasses[/url] cheap oakley sunglasses sale magnificent [url=http://www.oksunglassescheapest.com]cheap oakley sunglasses sale[/url]

oakley sunglasses cheap solutions you

serve. Some 4 areas in this post are truly the most impressive we've

had.