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Archive for the ‘Missouri’ Category

I had intended to drive through Illinois and into Indiana the following day, but stalled when I reached Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

Research shows that this quaint town, located on the west bank of the MIssissippi River, was founded by French colonists sometime between 1722 and 1749, though on record the town marks 1735 as its birthdate. It has a picturesque downtown Historic District, which is designated a National Landmark. Especially interesting are several vertical log houses, which are carefully preserved to show their French Colonial style. Three such structures are open to the public.

Ste. Genevieve was originally built about two miles south of its present location, on low land adjoining the river. However, it moved north to higher ground after a terrible flood in 1785. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it saw many new inhabitants arrive, bringing along families, businesses and varying building styles. However, it managed to maintain its original character and is now considered by many to be the best example of French Colonial architecture in the nation.

I hadn’t been driving long, but the town seemed worth exploring. It wasn’t difficult to find a parking place, so I grabbed my camera and journal and started to wander. I decided to start by getting something to eat at the Old Brick House, the oldest brick building west of the Mississippi, built in 1790. One of several historic eateries in town, there was a buffet set up of what I call “good ol’ home-cooked food.” Nothing fancy, but generous trays of fried chicken, pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn and assorted other calorie-packed items. It took care of the hunger pangs and weighed me down enough that I started toying with the idea of hanging out in Missouri one more night.

And so I arrived at The Inn St. Gemme Beauvais, a bed and breakfast housed in an impressive brick building dating back to 1848. I sauntered in, looking for a brochure, and was greeted by owners Jan (pronounced “Yon”) and Cathy Brans. There were plenty of open rooms, as it was not a weekend night, so I took one on the first floor, close enough to the office to pick up the wireless connection. (OK, I admit it, I love these old buildings, but I love modern amenities, too.)

Had I arrived on a Fri. or Sat., I would have been able to enjoy a meal in the inn’s dining room, where classic french cuisine is offered each weekend. Instead, I rested up a bit, headed down to the Great River Road Interpretive Center for some information and later picked up a salad at The Anvil Saloon, which has been in operation since 1855, not counting five previous years when it housed a hardware store.

Rates at this inn are reasonable, starting at $89., with higher priced suites also available. They offer a full gourmet breakfast, with a choice of entrees, served at a candlelit table in the same dining room that serves as a restaurant on weekend nights. (I went for the Quiche Lorraine and a dish of fresh strawberries and blueberries, though it would have been easy to succumb to other choices, such as stuffed french toast or beignets.) Fresh flowers decorate both the dining tables and rooms. Mid-afternoon tea and late afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres are also included, though I managed to miss both of those.

I also missed meeting the regular innkeeper, Janet Joggerst, who has been with the Inn St. Gemme Beauvais for over 25 years and is said to be gracious, knowledgeable and a fabulous cook.

All in all, Ste. Genevieve was an intriguing town and the inn provided a good, modestly priced place to add to my recommended lodging list. I’d advise visitors to take the time to tour the local historic houses and to venture out into the wine country. A Fri. or Sat. night stay would be a plus, too, in order to enjoy a nice, French meal.

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From Wichita, I headed up the Kansas Turnpike, through Kansas City and continued east. I had thought I might end up in Hermann, Missouri, a 19th century German settlement in the heart of Missouri wine country. But when I arrived, the pieces just didn’t come together.

Although Hermann is home to dozens of B&Bs, the ones I checked were completely booked. The historic district was filled with amazing red brick architecture, yet many structures stood empty with “For Sale” signs in their windows. Driving through the streets, there was restoration under way in more than half of the buildings, leaving them unoccupied by shops or cafes that might otherwise be there. The main street was partially dug up and flanked with road work signs. There were very few people around, though I didn’t stop in at any wineries on the outskirts of town.

Gorgeoue buildings, massive restoration, B&Bs booked and the streets deserted? I didn’t know quite what to make of it all, so I just explored a little while, took a few pictures and decided to drive on. To where? I didn’t know.

Somehow, in trying to get back to the Interstate, I made a wrong turn and ended up on a back road that ran through the wine country. It was still light and the scenery was beautiful. I knew I wasn’t too far from St. Louis, so I decided to continue on and see where the road led, (Note: In spite of the fact it appears I wander aimlessly on these trips, I never go too far from a major city or Interstate during the later hours of the day, in case I need to just grab a basic motel room for the night.)

It was in this manner that I stumbled upon Washington, Missouri, another wine country town alongside the Missouri River. As opposed to Hermann, Washington did not appear to be half restoration project, half ghost town. There was activity along the waterfront, shops and cafes open along the main streets and a general sense of livelihood. I decided to park the car and explore.

While driving in, I had noticed a small winery/cafe with outdoor tables occupied by customers who looked quite content. After walking a few blocks to seek out other spots of activity, I circled back for a better look. And so I came to find La Dolce Vita Winery and Cafe, which conveniently had a small B&B sign.

I arrived just in time to see two employees taking in a sidewalk “Open” sign for the night. Checking my watch, I was surprised to see it was already 8:00 PM. I caught up with them and asked about the B&B and soon found myself in a conversation with the very accommodating owners, Donna and Bob. As luck would have it, the B&B suite above the winery/cafe was not occupied. I promptly took it for the night.

La Dolce Vita is located in the Zachariah Foss house, built in 1846 and the oldest wood framed house in Washington, MO. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is restored authentically, allowing a look at wood construction of the 19th century. Though the accommodations are large enough to hold a family, they are rented as one unit, so I had two spacious bedrooms, a quaint sitting room and a full bath with garden decor and two claw foot tubs – the sweet life, indeed.

To top all this off, the building is located directly across from the riverfront. From a comfortable deck on the lower level, I was able to watch boats passing by and people strolling through the riverfront park. To add a soundtrack to the scene, trains rolled through the Amtrak station periodically, which was located directly across the street. Though not a quiet getaway, between trains, cars, people and a busy boat ramp, it provided a wonderful feeling of being dropped inside the activity and ambiance of this small town. I loved it.

Once the restaurant closed, Donna and Bob left for their own off-site home, leaving me with chocolate chip cookies and muffins, plus a fruit plate and quiche for the morning. I had not only the B&B suite, but the entire building to myself.

I had missed the hours of La Dolce Vita’s restaurant, so I took a walk along the main street and grabbed a bite at Marquardt Landing – sports bar inside, patio dining outside. Casual, comfortable, clean and good food.

I slept well and had time in the morning to sit on the deck with a fresh mug of coffee, writing in my journal and considering options for that day’s travel. This is one of the things I love most about traveling with flexible plans, being able to fall into unexpected adventures. As the owners and employees arrived to start another busy day, I thanked them, packed my car and headed on down the road.

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