Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oldest ______ West of the Mississippi

A refrain we've heard repeated almost everywhere we've stopped in Missouri. Seems every little town in this state has its claim on something being the oldest of its kind "west of the Mississippi," whether it's the oldest "continously running" hotel, bar, plank road, school, or restaurant (which leaves you wondering where the oldest non-continously running versions are scattered and what the heck all the other western states were doing in the meantime besides watching now extinct prairie grasses grow). On Friday morning, in anticipation of our upcoming tenth anniversary, I shoved a cup of the freshest coffee west of the Mississippi under my husband's sleeping nose and shouted, "Pack yer bags! We're off to the oldest town west of the Mississippi!"

And so we rambled down the road to St. Louis where we took a hard right and ended up in St. Gennevieve which was, by US of A standards west of the Mississippi, very old (1740's). Almost a hundred years older than our own little old Rocheport. We stayed in the cozy and romantic carriage house of the Inn St. Gemme Beauvais (circa 1848) and from there wandered historic streets settled by the French. Although the town was/is? French, the restaurant offerings were reminiscent of Boston diners I've declined so we resorted to bread, cheese and fruit in front the glow of our little fireplace and, as the town shut down at 5, an assortment of videos from the authentically antique front desk.

The shops (apart from the lovely one pictured above) held more promise, mostly "antique" shops that we poked and scavenged for usable junk. I have started a collection of what I've learned are "Frozen Charlottes" which I picked up for 2 to 10 bucks when I was lucky. I passed on them in other places that charged 15 or 20.

Also of interest was the museum, where all information was hand written or hand typed and attributed to this citizen or that, so that the articles described felt like they had actually been used by real people as opposed to having been made for museum exhibits. One of the things I found strangely fascinating were the intricate "hair wreaths" and "hair jewelry", (yes, items made from human hair though you would not guess it) which are now, sadly, a lost art form. The town was surprisingly devoid of Christmas (or any, for that matter) shoppers which made for pleasant browsing and strolling about.

On our way back to Rocheport, we spent another day in St. Charles (left of St. Louis) which was settled by the British and is also old, but not as old, and tres charming. There were plently of shops here and we walked the brick streets till I got shin splints. It was all lit for Christmas, carollers strolled, costumed Christmas characters (the Town Crier, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Father Christmas, etc.) spread good cheer. A lovely winter weekend away, west of the Mississippi.


Jenni said...

St. Gennevieve! The namesake of my future daughter. Your trip sounds lovely.

Anonymous said...

Ste. Genevieve**