I was completely delighted to see the inside and lugged my suitcase--way too big for just a one night stay--in behind me. I was met with what felt like time travel--the most charming, and English kind.
I was about to board a nonstop flight in April 2016 from San Francisco to St. Louis, when I got a call from my mom.
She was thinking about heading back to work on a project an hour south of St. Louis that we had been working on together for several months. She wanted me to come back with her--the next day. At that point I had been gone for 13 days. Before I made it to the Bay Area, I was at a wedding in Chicago, and before the wedding in Chicago, I was working with her on the project. My largest suitcase was packed for cold and warm weather, and with formal, beach and business clothing.
‘We both know I never want to come home’
So, the first question she asked me was would I be willing to be away from home even longer? “We both know I never want to come home,” I answered. Not because I don’t love our house but because I feel most at “home” when I’m seeing new things. I connect with the bird and its wings, not the plant and its roots.
I’d been wanting to try a hotel near the southwest corner of Forest Park called The Cheshire. It looks like a 16th century inn somewhere in England, and I’d heard the food was amazing. Always on the search for beautiful spaces, I had mentioned this property a few times before as one we should explore. Seconds before the flight attendant walked by for a final check of seat belts and electronics (guilty), I said to my mom, “See if The Cheshire has any availability tonight, you know, in case you decide you’re coming up.”
“I’m still thinking it through,” she said, right as the plane began to taxi away from the gate. We got off the phone, I quickly switched it to airplane mode, and settled down for the three and a half hour ride before I would know what the next few days would hold.
I didn’t go home that night.
I was met with what felt like time travel--the most charming, and English kind.
When I got to baggage claim, my phone had finally loaded the texts it’d missed, and my new destination was clear: into the city, and straight to The Cheshire. The friend I was traveling with was nice enough to drive me into town and drop me off. She pulled us up under the canopy of the hotel’s front entrance. Together we lifted my massive suitcase from the trunk, hugged, and she was off.
I was left by myself to take in the Tudor-style architecture that didn’t break character anywhere on the property. I was completely delighted to see the inside and lugged my suitcase--way too big for just a one night stay--in behind me. I was met with what felt like time travel--the most charming, and English kind. A long hall stretched out in front of the doors I had just walked through. The front desk sat to the left and was made completely of rich wood. Behind the front desk there were a slew of little key card slots, each holding keys with room numbers. Beneath my feet (and my massive suitcase) there was a thick red rug, and beneath that, a floor of brick.
The kind, upbeat front desk staff handed me the room key and explained that each room is named after an author and that a book written by that author is inside each room. I received Aldous Huxley. Intrigued, I thanked the staff members and headed further down the hall. Past the front desk, also on the left, I saw what appeared to be a tiny pub entrance. But I kept walking--I smelled coffee.
I passed George Orwell, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, J. R. R. Tolkien; they went on and on.
Sure enough, a few feet in front of me to the right, was the end of the rectangular breakfast area that sat opposite of the front desk. A large built-in hutch finished off this end of the space. On the hutch sat freshly-brewed coffee from Kaldi’s (a local coffee shop), cream, sugar, hot water, assorted teas, cups and saucers, and to-go cups. I grabbed two to-go cups-- both black and both for me--and headed down the hall into the next room, beyond which were the elevators.
This room was the epitome of the words “British,” “lodge,” and “cozy.” I had walked off of the brick flooring, and onto rich hard wood. There were stained-glass windows along the entire wall to the right, and a fireplace flanked by two plush couches on the left. A few tables set with jigsaw puzzles and chess boards dotted the rest of the room. This was a true sitting-room, a den. The rich wood floors and the rich colors in the woven cushions made the whole room inviting. It wasn’t particularly cold outside, but the warmth of the room convinced you that it was likely snowing and you were in the perfect spot.
After taking it all in, I walked up to the elevators, at the far end of the den, convinced that if this was what the downstairs looked like, the guest rooms were probably just as charming. Off the elevators, and onto my guest floor, I started down the white-walled hallway, with red Persian carpet. As I continued on, looking at the room numbers beside the doors, I noticed that every door had a plaque, labeling each room. I passed George Orwell, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, J. R. R. Tolkien; they went on and on. Finally I arrived at my room number which was titled, of course, Aldous Huxley.
But as I got into bed, I noticed that it wasn’t just comfortable because I was tired.
When I opened the door to our room, the first thing that struck me was the natural light streaming through our very own set of stained glass windows. The beds were made up perfectly of crisp white linens, and a small duvet with matching woven pillows of a red and brown pattern sat on top. On a side table sat a copy of “Brave New World.”
I changed out my creased-from-sitting plane clothes and almost immediately following, I heard a knock at the door. Mom and I exchanged excited hugs and after pulling her much smaller, unobtrusive suitcase into the room, we headed downstairs. She wanted to check her email first, so we found the business center, which was decorated with bright Andy Warhol-like pictures of Queen Elizabeth II.
Next, we had a tough decision: which restaurant to try? There are three on-site, not including the Starbucks. So, naturally, we decided on all three. Small bites in one, dinner in the second, and dessert in the last (see The Cheshire Taste).
When we got back to the room, I realized how tired I was from jet lag in the afternoon and eating more than my fair share tonight. But as I got into bed, I noticed that it wasn’t just comfortable because I was tired. I don’t know what kind of mattress you like, but I want to sink into mine, like I’m on a soft cloud. I like my pillows to be more firm. And this ensemble fit the ticket.
Tables with umbrellas sat waiting beside live green shrubbery and a wrought iron fence that encased the courtyard.
Like normal, only one thing got me out of bed in the morning: the need for coffee. Downstairs, a nice spread was laid out in the quaint breakfast area where I had found coffee the evening before. This time there were scrambled eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, pastries, fruit, milk, orange juice, tea and coffee. The back patio was opened for guests to dine outside in a courtyard that I hadn’t yet seen. Tables with umbrellas sat waiting beside live green shrubbery and a wrought iron fence that encased the courtyard. Looking back, we saw the north side of the hotel and it’s Tudor-style facing that so easily could make one believe that they are not, in fact, in St. Louis in 2016.
After finishing breakfast, and getting to-go cups of coffee and a newspaper, we walked further down through the courtyard, trying out the different benches. We concluded that this courtyard would be perfect in the warmer months for a long afternoon of reading a Jane Austen novel or Hemingway’s short stories, fully transporting you to a different time.
We went back up to the room to grab our bags, both large and small, to head to our project south of the city. But, as we got off the elevators, ready to walk out the door, we noticed another space we had missed. It was a long boardroom that was covered on two of its four walls with stained glass. The lights had just been turned on as a staff member prepared the room for a meeting. We were happy to see additional space and knew we wanted to see more another time. We left feeling caught up, rested and excited about this little gem of England we’d found in the middle of the city.
Although the smoke itself moved up and out of the chimney, the slight scent of burning wood gave the space the atmospheric whisp I imagined when I walked in that first April day
Last week we had the pleasure of returning to this boutique spot and learned even more about the space within The Cheshire. When we arrived, this time in January, the fire was roaring in the fireplace. Although the smoke itself moved up and out of the chimney, the slight scent of burning wood gave the space the atmospheric whisp I imagined when I walked in that first April day. It completed the word “cozy.”
On this visit, we also discovered that there aren’t only author rooms, but also novelty suites decorated with their own specific theme. A “James Bond” suite pays homage to Ian Fleming’s 1960 novels with bright 60s themed decor. The “Passage to India” suite derives its name from E. M. Forster’s 1924 novel and features Far East decor, including a pedestal soaking tub.During our latest visit, I chronicled the delicious and artful food we enjoyed from the different restaurants and just how much more we came to love the entire Cheshire experience, fully recognizing the hard work and love that Chef Rex Hale and his culinary staff has put into the art that is “Taste.”
A circle, completed.
The Boardroom: 18
Red Room: 75
Fireplace Room: 77
Kitchen Room: 110
Vaulted Dining Room: 123
Read the rest of the story on The Cheshire Tastes here.
Want to learn even more about what The Cheshire has to offer? Go visit them.