But, with a shortage of days and some unbelievably good weather, we decided to at least brave the historic St. Charles shopping district on Friday. The area is a little water-front stretch of colonial homes and cobblestone roads that sports numerous accessories, home decor, Christmas, fudge and candy shops as well as a handful of nice restaurants. I've always loved the area so when the thermometer read 65 degrees, we headed towards the potential shopping hazard.
Despite the street being left open, the occasional overly crowded store and not actually making any purchases, we had a good time. Bill was VERY tolerant- especially for a man still in pain- and walked with us the entire way. We finished early with some standard American fare for dinner but not before I grabbed a few pics of the experience...
The next day we also headed out shopping to a "flea market" on the Illinois side of the river. My mom's boss, who has seemingly good taste, recommended it. However, when we pulled up to the Belleville Flea Market and Craft Fair and saw it was being held at dirt track racing grounds, we knew we might have overestimated Southern Illinois's ability to host anything decent.
Inside didn't disappoint- about 8,000 square feet of country decor, doilies, tie dyed hoodies, homemade baby clothes, marshmallow guns, hillbilly Christmas items, and hot glue-decorated liquor bottles. We walked around with a bag of kettle corn and a ziploc of fudge for all of 15 minutes before we decided the trip was entertainment-only.
A marshmallow gun- this was actually for sale
Later that night my dad was feeling a little better so after stuffing our face with pretzels and dip we had bought in St. Charles we headed to the movies to see Hugo.
A pretty decent family flick, the film seemed to provide a cinematographic wonderland for kids while offering an interesting tribute-to-film for older audiences. The movie has a star-studded cast (Emily Mortimer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, and Jude Law to name a few) but didn't use this as a crutch. In fact, most of them have very minute roles. While certainly no Take Shelter or Martha Marcy May Marlene that we've seen recently, it proved to be a good choice for a family outing.
Our last day, Sunday, was relatively quite. My dad was feeling a little better so we were able to grab breakfast at an old favorite in Highland (my high school town). Afterwards, I met up with my best friend from college, Leah, who happened to be in town when we were. I haven't seen her in two years so it was really great to squeeze in a coffee and meet-and-greet with Bill and her significant other, Jacob.
Leah and I at a college costume party as Wayne and Garth.
The trip back on Monday was a relief- which was extremely helpful after staying the night at a Days Inn that had seen better, and probably cleaner, days. We had sun and clear skies for most of the drive, making it possible for me to take the wheel for a good 6 or 7 hours. We also were able to shave 2 hours off our drive which made us happy, though weary, campers.
I'm really glad to have had the chance to go home for the holidays. It had honestly been way too long. It will be impossible to make that trip every year but until I can convince/brainwash my parents into believing they need to move out here, its a trip I need to make with great frequency -despite the 886 miles.