Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lions, Tigers and...Groupon, oh my!

We are big fans of Groupon.  Over the past year, we have used it to:
  • Get a nice hair cut and color (for me)
  • Eaten several times at this great restaurant
  • Seen a movie with 2 for 1 movie tickets
  • Eaten fresh Creole food here
  • Got an eyebrow wax and conditioning treatment for $13 (again for me)
Yesterday we added one more to the list: Dinner, drinks and a tour at Tiger Ridge Restaurant and Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary!  Hence the tiger reference in my last post.  This was by far the best Groupon we have used so far and made for a wonderful date night!

J has been busy with the end of the semester and finals quickly approaching.  It was great for us to be able to take the afternoon off and spend time together exploring a new place, learning new things and eating great food!

Crown Ridge is located in Ste. Genevieve, which was approximately 1 hour and 20 minute drive for us.  Nestled in the heart of Crown Valley, an area rich with wine, produce and livestock including bison, Crown Ridge is a fifty-five acre facility that features a restaurant, Bed and Breakfast, and most importantly (at least to us) a tiger sanctuary, which is currently home to five tigers and one lioness.

When we arrived at the grounds, we were welcomed by the hostess and ushered into a dark wood library and bar while we waited for our 4:30 tour.  J and I sampled the beer on tap: Crown Valley wheat beer, which was very refreshing.  Other Crown Valley varieties, including a root beer named after one of the tigers, Fizzy Izzy, were available in bottle form.  Wine from Crown Valley Winery was also available.

Soon it was time for our tour, which was conducted by the sanctuary's intern.  She explained that Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary is an USDA approved big cat sanctuary whose funding comes from a 501(c)(3) foundation.  All of the cats in the sanctuary had been rescued and had come from bad situations.  Because they had all been bred by exotic animal traders and many are of mixed breed or inbred, zoos do not/are not able to take these cats when they are seized by animal control.  Crown Ridge is able to offer some of these cats, who would otherwise be euthanized, a home.

The cat houses are double fenced with a sidewalk nearby, which allowed us to get very close to the cats but still maintain a safe distance.  Most of them were sleeping as it was early evening.  We learned that tigers can sleep anywhere between 18 to 20 hours a day, which I could verify anecdotally by how much our "tiger" Woods sleeps.  He's sleeping next to me as I write this actually.

The lioness, Alexis, did come out and greet us, however. At one point she and the white tiger, Mohan, got into a shouting match.  The intern explained that Alexis always has to get in the last word with the other tigers, which she did while we were there! 

Each tiger is housed in their own enclosure, since in the wild tigers are solitary animals.  The only exception to this are Thor and Gracie.  Gracie is 90 to 95 percent blind due to previous neglect.  Thor and Gracie lived together in their previous home.  When they were rescued, the caretakers noticed that Thor was giving Gracie some of her meager share of her food.  This behavior continued at the sanctuary for several months, until Thor learned that there was enough food to go around!  It was obvious from that moment that Thor cared deeply for Gracie, which is why they still live together today.

J and I had a lot of fun learning about the tigers and laughed out loud several times when the big cats exhibited mannerisms we recognized in Woods.  From the way they lie down to the way they clean their paws, it was just like Woods, only they were 200 or so times his size!

Yes, I have caught Woods sleeping like this.  This is their youngest cat, Izzy.

After the tour, we were taken into the dining room, where we were greeted with fresh bread and herb butter.  At the restaurant, as many of the ingredients as possible are locally sourced.  I ordered a Bison Stroganoff and J ordered a roasted duck.  We split a wedge salad that had local blue cheese and pecans.  The food was delicious and filing--we didn't even have room for dessert, although if they are anything like the food we had there, it would have been delicious! Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of the dining room or our food before we gobbled it up!

Overall, J and I had a wonderful time with those exotic and majestic creatures.  We hope to return soon, perhaps to spend the weekend exploring Ste. Genevieve and some of the local wineries while we are at it.  Sounds like a good Valentine's Day or anniversary trip to me!

If anyone in the St. Louis area is looking for a little getaway, I definitely recommend Tiger Ridge!

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