ANOTHER REASON to love St. Louis is that it's easy to get around. Neighborhoods are close and traffic light. So when I pick a restaurant in the South Grand area, it's only a 10-minute drive to morning coffee, just the sort of weak joe you'd expect from a diner. We join sleepy medical residents and early-bird families for eggs and toast at the retro City Diner, home to Formica tables, framed Elvis albums, and, with meals at $2.95, retro prices. In neighboring Tower Grove Park, a Victorian greensward of towering pin oaks and spreading elms that shelter a series of elaborate 1870s-era picnic pavilions, we walk it off with the joggers and dog walkers.

Next, I talk Dave, a builder, into visiting the Contemporary Art Museum and the Pul­itzer Foundation for the Arts, the two adjacent museums, on the basis of their modern, mint-new architecture. Brad Cloepfil did the former, and the more well-known Tadao Ando the latter, making St. Louis progressive - don't forget that Arch - in design circles. At the compact Contemporary, huge concrete slabs protrude over the entrance, mysteriously defying gravity. It's more fascinating than an artist's bellybutton on video inside.

Next door, the Pulitzer is serenity embodied in glass and stone. But the art is sparse and stark and there are docents every­where who make us feel felon, until we stumble into the courtyard and enter the massive sculpture Joe, by Richard Serra, which winds through a spiraling passage of rusty steel sheets until you reach the open center, a manmade canyon encircling the blue sky. Across the courtyard, planted in a field of grass, is a torso of Venus. Again, all is right with modern art.