Sunday, April 7, 2013

Take A Springtime Drive Down the Cane River Heritage Trail

It was a beautiful, clear spring day today so for the first time in months Steve and I took the top down on the Jeep and headed down to Natchitoches for the day.  Natchitoches is simply beautiful in the spring.

We didn't have a solid plan but we did want to eat at our favorite, the Pioneer Pub, and we wanted to drive down the River Road, aka Highway 119.  That's the Natchitoches Heritage Trail and it's a beautiful drive tracking along both sides of the Cane River.

When we arrived we found that the Cane River Thunder Full Throttle Biker Rally was in progress and there were bikes parked all along the river!

I'm not a biker but I can't imagine a more beautiful day for a ride.  They had a really nice turnout it looked like.  

There was live music all day from a variety of bands:

And there were the usual vendors set up selling their leather and accessories.  It looked like most people were sitting by the river enjoying the sun or walking around looking at the bikes:

We went back up the levee to Front Street to see what's new since our last trip in December and found a new antique shop now open.  It's in the same building where The Book Merchant used to be.  It's called, naturally, Front Street Antiques & Collectibles.  Clay Mayeaux is the proprietor there and it's a really nice shop.

When we walked in a couple of guys were playing a quick hand of cards at this table:

I loved these windows:

And I think this sign is awesome:

I wish I knew which property the sign referred to!

We went to Kaffie-Frederick Hardware Store, as we always do.  Kaffie-Frederick is the oldest general store in the state of Louisiana and they have everything, just about.  I've posted pictured from inside the store often; there is always something wonderful to find in there.

I loved these hand made birdhouses with the metal roofs:

They sell those white oyster boots in there, too, which Steve secretly covets.  I know he's going to buy some one of these days.

We were getting hungry so we turned toward The Pioneer Pub for lunch.  In my mind, there is no place better to eat in Natchitoches. The food at The Pub is fresh, consistently good, and it's where the locals hang out.  You can pull up to the bar and choose from a variety of burgers or sandwiches, nachos, a fabulous ribeye steak, fried catfish, freshly made pizza with a variety of toppings, a large selection of po-boys (including their well known brisket po-boy); there are a large number of beers on tap and plenty of bottled beer.  

I usually go for the alligator.  

And if you don't get a side order of pub fries, you're missing the best, fresh cut, home made fries you've ever had.  Period.  I had fried alligator bites for supper and blackened alligator bites for lunch.  Gator all day long.

Next door to The Pub is the Louisiana Hall of Fame Sports Museum.  I know that there are two sides to this issue and the locals either love this thing or hate it.  I'm on the side of hate it.  It just doesn't fit in with the historic look of Front Street.  I'm no architectural design expert, but I think it's hideous.  I might like it better in another setting.  It just doesn't fit in with the historic district.  I took this picture because I thought the tacky limo was just perfect in front of the building.  

Godawful.  The museum towers over the Pub, which is one of the historic buildings in the district, and completely blocks any view that would be had from the balcony space.  

Meh.  Not a fan.

Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at The Pub as did many of the bikers in town and the locals who straggled in through the day:

We piled back into the Jeep and drove the Cane River Heritage Trail, which meanders and curves along with the Cane River for about 35 miles.  You can see the river most of the way.  This is the road to take if you want to visit most of the plantations; we toured Oakland plantation about three years ago and we toured Melrose plantation about two years ago.  Today we were just driving.

We stopped at Melrose, though, and walked around a bit.  We went in the gift shop and I bought a couple of things.  It's just a beautiful, peaceful place to stop, sit in a rocking chair, listen to the cows in the pasture or to the birds.  Steve found a rocking chair outside the gift shop, alongside a lady from Texas,  and settled in:

I walked around taking pictures.  

This was the weaving cottage on Melrose:

If you peek in the windows you can see the looms and tools inside.  

Note the construction:

A nice place to sit and take a break and listen to nature:

There was a chattering squirrel in that larger tree who we saw a few minutes later moving her babies to another tree.

The big house itself is beautiful:

And I took pictures from a couple of angles:

I thought this was interesting; it's a concrete slab leaning against one of the live-oak trees.  It's got shards of pottery, dishes and plates in it.  Was it a bench?  I don't know.  It's just sitting there.

The trees on the property are fabulous:

And most of them support an army of ferns:

This picture is the back side of the house and if the ground looks purple that's because it was covered with wisteria petals:

This is the famous Africa House where the Clementine Hunter murals are.

I love the two iron crosses on the back of the big house; I think that's the kitchen area, if memory serves me correctly.

Originally, of course, kitchens were not part of the actual house in plantation homes, but were separate buildings in case of fire.  Melrose has been added to and updated through the years; for example, Cammie Henry added the two hexagonal garconierres and the kitchen wing.

Here is the blog from Melrose; you can see that they are very active in conservation there and have done fabulous work in preserving historic book collections, not only those in the Melrose library, but those from the burned Bayou Folk Museum (aka Kate Chopin house).

When we left Melrose we continued on down the River Road which eventually doubles back around and takes you back into Natchitoches.  Steve and I were both particularly enchanted by this island house in the middle of the river:

Is it a camp?  A home?  I don't know.  But I like it.

I love just driving through the Louisiana landscape.  Today we saw a little of what makes this state so beautiful.  We saw:

Five men parked by the side of Hwy 1 crawfishing in a ditch
Teenaged girls in fussy dresses of hot pink or purple satin, turquoise and silver, and pale yellow having prom pictures made on the scenic banks of the Cane River on Front Street
A wedding about to begin on the lawn of the Steel Magnolia house, music playing and people finding seats
A bride walking down the street fussing with her bouquet, bridesmaids trailing behind her.
A lawn party way down in the country on the river behind a white picket fence with tables and chairs in the yard, crawfish pots and BBQ grills going.  Nicely dressed people were clustered in groups having drinks, laughing and talking enjoying the breeze coming off the water.  They waved as we drove by.
We saw a tiny cemetery just north of Coushatta in the middle of nowhere, and we saw an old, old cemetery near Melrose behind a church where many of the grave stones are written in French.
An abandoned Hanna School with broken windows and walls falling in leaving me to wonder what the inside looks like.
I saw a guy sitting by the side of the river all alone playing his guitar as dusk fell
I saw a squirrel moving her babies to a safer tree; I saw red-wing blackbirds near the bank of the river, and yellow water iris in full bloom.
I saw at least three plantation homes, most within a stones throw of mobile homes or fishing camps.
Guys on riding lawmowers, cutting grass, doing chores, living life.
I saw an old man of the church in a bar drinking juice wearing what looked like monks robes and sandals, a wide brimmed hat on a cord hanging down his back.
A festival in progress, a card game in an antique shop with the door propped open to the day, a cool, quiet church open to anyone who wants to slip in and say a quiet prayer.
I saw an elderly man painting pictures with coffee as paint, and watercolors.
I saw history, the past, the present, and the future.  

I saw all of those things today in just six hours.  How can anyone ever be bored if you just open your eyes to your own backyard?  There is so much to see.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Oktoberfest at BAFB

1 comment:

Tina said...

I saw history, the past, the present, and the future.
I saw all of those things today in just six hours. How can anyone ever be bored if you just open your eyes to your own backyard? There is so much to see.

So good! I took a few minutes recently and read a few of your old "Take a Trip" posts, which I had not read in a while. Enjoyed them so much, it is like a little retreat. :-)