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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wheels Down...

...Over Fly-Over Country
By Harriet Eser Phillips
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Kansas City, Missouri
Listen up, you habitual "fly-over zone" travelers from the East to the West Coasts.  It's time to have wheels-down in Kansas City.  You are cheating yourselves out of a terrific time.  There is life -- prosperity, entertainment, beauty, culture, yummy and varied eats, and, yes, general bonhomie Everywhere. This is The Heartland, folks.  Where darn near everybody chats with you, smiles at you, and only infrequently does not hold a door open or stop the car to let you cross.  How exciting an idea is this? 
      The Greater Kansas City area consists of over two million souls, hardly a back-water. Founded in 1838 at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, where Lewis and his pal Clark stopped in 1804, deciding it's a perfect place for a fort. In 2012, Forbes Magazine declared Kansas City's downtown as one of America's finest.  Did you know that?  Of course not. 
      Having slogged through museums, parks, town squares, zoos and bars in Europe, it's amazing to discover that KC ranks second only to Rome in the number of fountains in the city and second to Paris in the boulevard count contest.  And it's so easy to access as the Kansas City Airport is modern, efficient, and only twenty minutes from downtown.   
     A short synopsis of must-sees: The City Market, established in 1857, offers all that a farmer's market should and then some, restaurants, specialty foods, flowers.
* The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Kansas City Philharmonic under the direction of none other than Isaac Stern's son, Michael, is a glorious new building in the architectural vein of Frank Gehry. It opened in 2011.
* The Country Club Plaza, known as "The Plaza," is an upscale shopping and dining, entertainment area, designed in the Spanish style.It was the first "suburban shopping district" in a US city accessible by car.
* The amazing relics from the steamboat "Arabia" recovered in 1987 from a corn field under four stories of river mud after sinking in 1856. Found were thousands of perfectly preserved items destined to stock a general store on the prairie.  A most amazing exhibit indeed.
* Kansas City Zoo, with that most adorable of exhibitionists, the polar bear cub, and all his other well-maintained animal friends. 
* Crown Center, home of Hallmark Cards, with a museum of how it was before e-cards.
And, not to forget world-class art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, renowned for its Asian collection and the wonderful neo-classical architecture of the Bloch building. In 2007, Time magazine named it one of the ten most beautiful in the world.  It also features a courtyard in the Italian palazzo style with a superb chef creating wonderful menus.  Did I mention admission to the museum is free? But be sure to offer a donation.
Can't omit the IRS, in 1.4 million square feet of edifice to process paper tax returns, one of only two such facilities in the United States.  And just when you were thinking Kansas City is perfect!
Just one more thing.  Ft. Leavenworth.  Beautifully located on the Missouri River, a short distance from Kansas City, with rolling hills, lovely old trees and historical buildings galore.  The Fort has been an Army Post for 180 years.  It is the home of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and Foreign Military Studies Office.  Modern five star generals, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and more, have passed through the college doors.  Ft. Leavenworth is truly the "intellectual center"  of the Army. Not to mention, of course, it is the site of the Department of Defense's only maximum security prison.