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.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 5:28 AM