Beyond the academics and the prestige, one of WashU’s biggest selling points is its location in one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the country, and we, as students, are encouraged to engage with the city during our time at the university. Our campus is amazing, but St. Louis has so many sights to see, activities to do, stories to hear, and if simply stick with the familiarity of campus, your time to do all these things can quickly slip away, keeping your horizons close.
Lucky for me, I have claustrophobia and a healthy craving for adventure.
I am my father’s son and he always taught me a thing or two about free stuff. For example, if you’re given free food, you’d better eat it, and if you’re given free tickets, you’d better use them. So naturally when I got to campus, I devoured all the free food I could find, picked up my U-Pass and rode the MetroLink like a fiend. Within a month I had the basics covered: U-City/Big Bend for home, Richmond Heights and Brentwood for the mall and Target, get off by Laclede’s Landing to stay in Missouri (I learned that the hard way…).
It wasn’t until early November that I actually planned a trip with places that I had researched and wanted to see. The second round of exams were finally done, my homework could wait, and my list was set: coffee and the Basilica in the CWE; snoop around SLU at Grand; walk around by the Cards Stadium; see the Arch and do lunch at Bailey’s Range at 8th and Pine. Standard, no surprises, my kind of trip.
Or so I thought.
I arrived in the CWE around 10 a.m., picked up a coffee on Euclid and trekked out to the Basilica. Behind the heavy wooden doors awaited a scene straight from an art history textbook: ornate chapels, reliquaries on the outskirts, and the breath-taking mosaics above.
Success, I thought to myself. My first stop was a hit. I made my exit and hurried back to catch the next west-bound train.
The rest of the trip was similar: art at a museum on SLU campus, an investigation of Ballpark Village, pictures at the base of the Arch, and finally a juicy burger for lunch. It was all going well, very well. Too well. My itinerary was too effective; it was 1 p.m. and I had run out of sights to see.
I trudged back to 8th and Pine, ready to go home and, what? Study? On my day off? Standing at the top of the stairs, I took one last look around before the descent. A statue, cartoonish in nature, hoisting a hammer above its head caught my eye. I approached it, intrigued, and then looked beyond to see a gigantic head, resting on its side. I heard the sounds of rushing water and followed it around the corner. Everywhere I turned I found another sculpture, different from the rest but ultimately fitting into the landscape and the space as a whole.
Then I found the bunnies.
They stood there at the far corner of the garden. White, rounded, shiny, completely absurd yet defiantly present. I knelt before them, staring into their faces, the rest of the world slipping away as I looked upon them. In that moment, I was completely at peace. I sat for a while with them before looking my watch, which read 2:30. I picked myself up, hugged the bunnies, descended to the station, and by three I was back in my room.
To this day, none of my trips into the city are planned. I find it more enjoyable that way. I’ve found my favorite spots and come back to them if I want, but I always make sure to wander. Even if you go out into the city regularly, you’re missing out if you don’t let yourself explore the unknown. Therein lays the secret of St. Louis: if you let her, she doesn’t just show you what you want, she gives you what you need.