Ste. Genevieve… relaxing in the old country

So I was bad and didn’t write up what we did yesterday…  which was visit Ste. Genevieve.  So I’m making up for it today.

We took the leisurely drive from Farmington to Ste. Genevieve with no preconceived expectations.  I knew a little about Ste. Genevieve from reading about it online, but that didn’t really prepare me for the reality.  First, Ste. Genevieve claims to be the oldest French settlement in America… older than St. Louis to the north and New Orleans to the south.  Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but the locals believe it and take it to heart.  Ste. Genevieve is far more “French” than New Orleans.  The Catholic Church in town claims to be original parish west of the Mississippi… the Mother Church of the West.  The building to the left was built in 1880… literally on top of the old church.  While being built, the old church (built around 1800) was still used.  As they finished the new church, they dismantled the old one and took it out the front doors.

We walked around this small and exceptionally quiet town, home to the first brick building west of the Mississippi.  (The Old Brick House, still standing and currently a restaurant.)  You can not help but notice that this is a town acutely aware of the potential to floods…  the original Ste. Genevieve was moved in the late 1700s because of them.  In 1993, the year of the massive flooding along the Mississippi, Ste. Genevieve was nearly destroyed along with several example of American Architecture found no where else.  If you look at the picture to the right, you can see the historically significant floods of the past 100 years or so.  The line right through my daughter’s head is from 1950.  The line almost even with the brown Ste. Genevieve History of Flood Events was from 1995.  But if you look way up at the top of the picture, above the outline of the State of Missouri, you’ll see the 1993 crest point.

That placed most of main street under water… had it not been for some rather heroic sandbagging not occurred.  Included in the threatened zone were three vertical log cabin homes all built prior to 1800.  Those three homes represent 60% of the still standing vertical log cabins in the entire USA.  (Most log cabins are built horizontal, the French built vertical.)

Now this visit wasn’t just about history.  No, it was also about shopping and eating.  We did plenty of both.  We ate a picnic lunch in a park that had been designated a park since the turn of the century, we had dessert at a quaint little place named “Stella and Me Cafe” that served the best Peanut Butter Pie in the world.  (My claim, not theirs)  We strolled up market and down main and toured the city museum.  We peeked into the church and saw the acolytes training.  We wandered down to the Mississippi, through the newly installed levee and its massive steel doors, and watched one of the oldest working ferries on the Mississippi ply its trade.

After our time in Ste. Genevieve, we wandered into the beautiful Missouri countryside and found a small little winery, The Cave Vineyard, and on an impulse decided to stop in.  Inside we met a young lady, who’s name I should have gotten but didn’t, who knew more about the local wine scene than should have been humanly possible.  She let us taste five of the 15 wines bottled at The Cave, and I enjoyed them all.  My favorite was the Norton, a deep dry red with musky overtones and a near chocolate afterbite made from the state grape.  But I walked out with a bottle of the Cave Rock White.  It is a bit sweeter than my tastes, but will appeal to more people back home when I open it with friends.  We also strolled down to the cave that gives this winery its name, a beautiful place with plenty of seating and tables for an exceptional party.  To bad we didn’t have a party to bring, but we still had a good time.

The rugrats, left out of the “adult” talk about wine, including the insane laws of Alabama concerning Alcohol, found themselves a friend…  Norton the Winery Dog.  Yes, Norton is named after the Norton Grape grown in abundance in the area, and friendly as the day was long.  The rugrats did everything they could to convince Norton to get in the car with us… but really?  You have the run of your own winery… do you run off with a couple of brats from Alabama?  I don’t think so.

We ended the day back in Farmington with a meal at Casa Sol, a locally owned fine Mexican restaurant in The Factory.

Another relaxing and restful day accomplished.  Vacation is simply the best, isn’t it?  And this laid back pace has us all recharging and enjoying the trip.


2 thoughts on “Ste. Genevieve… relaxing in the old country

  1. Now that you have found the Norton grape/wine, why not find the book The Wild Vine by Todd Kliman. A book that follows the biography of the Norton grape with interesting characters, dead or alive. There are 218 Norton wineries today in 23 states. There are some real jewels out there in the world of Norton if you can find the time to meander in and out of these vineyards. Most Norton wines need to age a bit, plus breathe for no less than 40 minutes before consuming.

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