Last week I had the privilege to travel to Union Station in St. Louis, Missouri. The main hub of the building is now a seductive hotel under the Hilton/Doubletree umbrella. For being 120 years old, the girl is looking pretty feisty and sexy. It has gone under various stages of renovations in recent years to bring it back and beyond to its glory days. Where once people lined up to board trains bound for war, families and business opportunities, now houses boutiques, restaurants and the best hotel in St. Louis. To top it off they now have the honor of serving the best French Toast in the city. I can attest to the truth in that fact. The chef came to my table and wanted to make sure he could still hold the title and I announced it to be the best in the world. I’m still savoring the thought of each delicious bite.
I’m working on another novel which takes place at Union Station. A big chunk centers around a coffee shop inside the building. Up close and personal experiences helped me to get the feel of the ebb and flow of the work day. With a fire going and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, I curled up in an overstuffed chair to sip a caramel latte. All in the name of research, of course.
From maintenance crew to valet parking, to assistant manager and bellman, I was treated like a queen. Early one morning some of the staff was painting a pillar and took the time to talk with me. They didn't know I was a writer or would probably end up in my novel. Combing the bowels of Union Station to see what makes things tick and run like a well-oiled machine gave me an appreciation of the army it takes to run such a grand old lady.
Starting at five each evening a light show spreads across the ceiling of the Grand Hall. At the top of each hour until eleven each evening, I made my way there to see the next show. Sometimes it was a history lesson, a sports collage of what makes St. Louis great, an underwater story with sharks, whales and sea turtles swimming along the cavernous barrel-shaped ceiling or explosions of flowers followed by ancient ruins. Just listening to the music is inspiring that paces through the show with flawless precision. You can’t help but be inspired and romanced after ten minutes of this. Afterward you can meander over to the expansive bar for a nightcap or retrieve another warm chocolate chip cookie at the check-in desk.
Thanks to a tremendous staff and the incredible atmosphere, I was able to get a great deal done on my research and writing. I’ll tell you more about that later. What I will say is that this is something out of the ordinary for me.