Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Missouri Road Trip Continues into Lake of the Ozarks

My friend Jaimee and I left the Sheraton Westport Plaza Chalet in the suburbs of St. Louis and headed to Jefferson City, Missouri. We were to meet Deb Hendricks of the Lake of the Ozarks tourism board there to get our itinerary for our adventure on Fun Lake, as they accurately call the area.

From Jefferson City it was only a short hour’s ride to the Country Club Hotel and Spa. We were surprised how large the place was, complete with an indoor pool and banquet facilities. It reminded me a bit of the Catskill Mountain resorts I stayed at growing up.

Our rooms were not ready, but that was fine because we were more than ready for lunch. Lance Utley, the hotel’s director of marketing, joined us at the Rafferty Restaurant on the property for a wonderful chicken salad with grapes and pecans.

During lunch, Lance gave us some basic information about the area he knew well. It was obvious that he was passionate about Lake of the Ozarks and we were soon to see why.

We hopped in the car for a quick trip to the Tan-Tar-A Resort. It was here that we were to meet the boat for the Tropic Island Cruise.

It was a bit windy so we stayed inside most of the time. On the 90 minute ride we learned a lot about the lake.

It all started with an idea in 1912, but the actual dam off the Osage River didn’t begin until investigation and funding was received in 1929. It was considered the largest construction project in the country at that time so there was no problem getting people to work on it.

In February of 1931, the water began to fill the lake. It would be finished with a shoreline of over 1,300 miles, but the Truman Dam (built in the 1970s) would lessen that amount to 1,100 miles, an amount still more than the coastline of California.

It was fascinating to see the variety of houses, restaurants, and boats along the shore of this massive lake. Since the lake does not freeze, many people don’t even realize that Lake of the Ozarks is a year round destination. I knew this was the first, but not the last, time I would visit.

We were back at the hotellate afternoon. We each had a junior suite which was quite spacious and included a kitchenette.

Dinner was quite an adventure as we took a Water Taxi.
Unfortunately, I can’t relay my experience at The Duck, a fine dining experience accessible by boat, at this time. Look for my story in the summer issue of Midwest Living Magazine.

I do have a lot more to say about Lake of the Ozarks, where we still had another day to eat, drink, spa and explore after a good night’s sleep.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Missouri Road Trip Begins in Maryland Heights

I had finally made it to St. Louis (twice) after a decades long absence, but I knew there was a lot more of Missouri for me to see. I decided to cross some of it off my list with a week long road trip through the state, and I brought my friend Jaimee along for most of the fun.

Jaimee was flying into St. Louis and wasn’t able to meet me until very late the first night. I thought it would be a great opportunity to check out a suburban hotel, and meet my cousin Linda for dinner.

As soon as I saw the photos of the Sheraton Westport Chalet, I knew it was what I was looking for. It was near the airport and referred to as in St. Louis, but it’s actually in the suburb of Maryland Heights.

The hotel did not let me down. The perfectly landscaped property with the European shutters and balconies were beautiful.

As soon as I arrived, I couldn’t help but explore the adjacent pedestrian plaza. It was a quaint little village with tiled walkways that definitely didn’t make you feel like you were anywhere near a big city, even though it was attached to a building with a jazz club, sports bar, and comedy shop.

The staff at the Westport Sheraton Chalet couldn’t have been more friendly. If I even looked like I had a question they were there with an answer. 

I was also more than happy with my room, which had a large work area, plenty of outlets, and a pull out couch. My room also overlooked a sprawling fountain outside.

Linda met me at the hotel and we walked over to the Westport Plaza next door. She had been coming here for years and enjoyed reminiscing.

The ball player in front of Patrick’s Sports Bar paid homage to the importance of sports to this Cardinal Nation. Family Nuts sells candy, trail mixes, and any kind of nut or chocolate you desire, and the Trainwreck Saloon seemed quite popular judging by the crowd.

We decided to have dinner at Paul Mineo’s Trattoria and we weren’t disappointed. We both ordered the pasta primavera, and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was filled with fresh asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, and eggplant.

I was asleep before Jaimee came in and we were both up fairly early. We had access to the executive lounge and it’s an upgrade I definitely recommend.

The executive club lounge at the Westport Sheraton Chalet was one of the best I’ve seen, especially in the U.S. Like the chalet, the breakfast was very European, with platters of cheese and fruit, as well as yogurt, muffins, eggs, and an espresso machine.

They even had a fully stocked refrigerator with soda, juice, and bottled water. We took some water for our road trip.

Before we hit the road, we walked around the property a bit. They have a nice pool area as well as a courtyard, where many guests gathered in the morning and evening. 

We then packed up and got in the car for our next stop, Jefferson City. We were only stopping there to meet the representative from Lake of the Ozarks to pick up some materials.

It looked like a town I would return to, but we were anxious to get going to the Ozarks.