Saturday, March 26, 2011

Take a Trip to DeSoto Parish

To kick off Spring Break, Steve and I took a day trip to DeSoto parish today and visited Grand Cane and then the Rock Chapel in Carmel, Louisiana.   We were inspired to visit Grand Cane by this article in the Shreveport Times which ran last month.  Grand Cane has a grand population of about 200 people but the Haynesville Shale has turned it into a little boomtown!

The strip of shops is comprised of at least six buildings all of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

We arrived around lunch time so we decided to eat before exploring so we headed to the Village of Grand Cane restaurant which was recommended in the Times article.  The article also said it was open on Saturday.  It isn't.

If you want to sample one of their famous chicken fried steaks or jalapeno burgers, you'll have to go Monday through Friday.  They close at 2:30 except on Friday when they stay open until 8:30.  It sure looks like a good place to eat, but we didn't get to today.

We went to the other end of the street and ate at Village Cuisine instead.

There are about ten tables inside and we were greeted quickly by a pleasant young lady who told us about the specials.  There also is outside seating but I didn't see anyone out there today:

Today's special included a grilled chicken sandwich on a croissant and a chicken pasta picante.  I think they were caught off guard by the influx of customers today, and one of the local shopkeepers told me they were short of help today.  It took a little bit for our food to come out but everyone was nice and friendly about it.

We both had the chicken sandwich which was basically a processed chicken breast on a croissant with fresh tomatoes and greens.  Potato chips on the side.

We're anxious to try the Village Restaurant next time!

Our next stop was Village Creations which is owned by the very personable Suzanne Brossette.

Suzanne told us when she moved into the building it was basically walls and part of a roof.  Her husband helped her with restoration and this is her retirement dream.  It's a wonderful shop and is filled with gorgeous antique furniture, stained glass, and gifts.

Suzanne has creatively displayed her wares on old freestanding screen doors and hardwood doors mounted on the walls.  I loved this stained glass piece:

I also was really tempted by these adorable wooden, carved finger puppets:

We made a couple of small purchases, visited with Suzanne for a while and then moved on.  Her place is definitely worth a return visit!  Outside we found some folks from Shreveport who had driven over for the day just like us, also prompted by the article in The Times.  They, too, were disappointed that the Village Restaurant wasn't open, but we had a nice time visiting with them outside.  There are benches in front of most of the shops and awnings to shelter you from the sun.

There are little trees and flowers and in most of the trees are these cute gourd birdhouses:

We headed to quilt store which is in the Hicks and Richardson building.  The building is dated from 1902 and housed a "general merchandise and plantation supplies store."  Today the building houses Quilts 'n More, The DeSoto Art Council Art Gallery, DeSoto Life Magazine, and The Raven Bookstore in a sort of mall layout.

The quilt place is upstairs and we were greeted by owner Patty Stringer.  Patty used to be an engineer at a paper mill and this shop is her retirement dream.  She knows quilts!  I don't know much about quilts except that they are beautiful.  I really admired this one - love the colors:

Patty has several rooms and houses cross stitch materials, walls of threads, patterns and another room filled with quilting supplies, patterns, fabrics and more.  She had a huge work table with a lovely quilt in progress that she is piecing.  She told me it was about two days from completion before she will then be ready to do the batting and quilting.  I asked if she quilts by hand and that's when she took us to her quilting machine:

She said she drove to Pascagoula with a trailer, bought the machine, loaded it up and here she is.  That window at the back end of the room?  It looks out over the main street and there's an ironing board set up there where she can watch the barn swallows while she works.

The machine, as most quilting people will already know, will stitch in patterns over the new quilt from whatever your imagination tells it to do.  The quilt I admired (above) has leaf patters in it, for example.  This flag  quilt has a pattern of stars and hearts:

We loved the visit and I really learned a lot from Patty.  I told her I really admired her courage in opening a shop in this kind of economy.  She told me that things really aren't as bad around there as in most parts of the country because of the Haynesville Shale; the oil and gas industry is booming around there right now.  Lots of these shopkeepers are reaping benefit from that.  I hope she does well  - she's a nice lady and it was a neat shop!

Next we headed to the Art Council Gallery.  The only picture I took turned out blurry but it was filled with photography, paintings, carvings, jewelry and other items.  It's a definite stop-again place.

In the same building is The Raven Bookstore and everyone knows Steve and I are going to stop in a bookstore.  My first stop is always the local section.

Owner Vanessa Efferson moved her shop to Grand Cane from Homer, Louisiana when her husband was transferred.  The move shrunk her space significantly but she's made the most of her shop!  It's clever and filled with surprises at every turn.

Since it's called The Raven, you know there will be candelabras around:

Steve bought a book and I got a bookmark.  Steve read Llama Llama Mad at Mama to me from the childrens section; it's adorable.  There are tables for resting and Starbucks coffee and cocoa to encourage your browsing.  We told Vanessa that her shop reminded us a lot of J. Michael Kinney's store in Natchitoches, The Book Merchant.  Regular readers will remember it's a favorite stop of ours when we go to Natchitoches.  Her face lit up and she said she loved that shop and it was part of her inspiration for her own shop.  It shows - it's a cute, well stocked store.  She said she can tell that local history is going to be a big seller for her because she's constantly restocking it.

After we exhausted the shops we drove around a little.  There's a lot of new home construction going on and even more renovation of older homes.  We liked this picturesque Methodist church:

Our next destination was through DeSoto parish to the Rock Chapel at Carmel, Louisiana.  We drove the long way, down scenic state road 3015, through Mansfield and then on to Carmel off 509.

We'd heard about the Rock Chapel there for years and never gone in search of it.  We finally did, and it wasn't nearly as hard to find as we thought.

The chapel was built in 1891 by some monks from the Carmelite monastery in DeSoto parish.  Rick Rowe from KTBS did a piece on it and here is a link to a Flickr photograph that has more information.  Note one of the comments under the picture - the frescoes inside were restored by locals which I understand had been destroyed by vandals with sledgehammers back in the 80s.  That's when the doors and locks were added.

At any rate, we parked at the locked gate and walked about a quarter mile through the woods to get to the chapel.  You can stop at Lafitte's Store and get the key, but it was closed.

It's a lovely walk though the woods and after a few slight turns the chapel appears before you  We started here:

 After a while we saw this:

You see it way back there?  Let's get closer:

It's a beautiful scene and all I could think of was how gorgeous it would be in the fall with all the hardwoods showing color.  Then Steve said, "I bet it's gorgeous after a snowfall!"   In the spring, the bridal wreath is blooming white everywhere and on this side of the footbridge are two red camellias still in bloom.  There isn't much water in the creek right now and it's kind of swampy looking, but I'm sure it's higher at various times.

What a lovely place to just sit and reflect, though:

This is the road with the chapel behind you:

What's a chapel without a graveyard:

Here's the backside:

When we left we passed Lafitte's store and happened to catch the owner's dad there.  He offered to let us take the key and go back up so we could see inside, but we'll save that for another trip.  I'd love to see the frescoes and the sun coming through those stained glass windows.  And check out this fabulous shot of the interior on Flickr.

They hold Easter services there and I understand many a wedding has been held there.  All I know is that it's a gorgeous spot in the woods.

By the way, here is Lafitte's store:

See those gas pumps?  Closer?  Okay:

Yeah, they haven't been used in a while.  That's $1.59 for Super Unleaded.

We had a wonderful day.  It all took about six hours and every single person we met along the way was friendly and pleasant.  It's definitely another stop on our day trip rotation!

One last look at that chapel:

Take a trip to DeSoto parish!

Related:  More of the "Take a Trip..." series

Update:  The Historic Village of Grand Cane has a Facebook page.

Here is more info on the Rock Chapel and its restoration.


robot said...

Very nice. Looks like a very relaxing way to spend the day.

sheryl said...

wish i was on your road trip w/ you. i would have loved it!