Ste Genevieve, Missouri, the oldest town west of the Mississippi River

About an hour south of the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis along the banks of the Mississippi is the small town of Ste Genevieve. It was named for the Patron Saint of Paris by the French Canadians who settled there in 1730’s. This town is older than New Orleans and the town citizens are proud to tell you that. The homes built in the Normandy French architecture style with vertical log walls and Norman truss roofs are an uncommon site. There are only five such homes left in the United States and three are in this town. There are also many homes and buildings of brick or stone. A visit to the memorial cemetery was unusual. The French, then Spanish ruled land was filled with ornate gravestones marking the dates and stating that the family members were emigrants from the United States. I had never seen that before. 

We took a bike ride on the Great River Road along the mighty Mississippi River. The bucolic farms and wineries that edge the river made for a nice ride. We were unable to cross to Illinois and continue to ride along the levee due to the ferry schedule and the weather conditions (it was a bit too windy.)  We were however able to purchase a bottle of dry white wine from the Ste Genevieve Winery. No drinking and pedaling…it was enjoyed later.   Our bed and breakfast location, The Southern Hotel, is quite unique. It dates back to 1790 and has been lovingly restored. Instead of signing a guest book, we added our names to a quilt. There are no showers, only hand painted cast iron claw foot tubs. Our room had an interesting headboard created by the owner. It is an homage to the painter Wysocki. By far, the best breakfast to date. We had cream cheese filled blueberry French toast, pears with cinnamon ice cream and a cream muffin. Now you understand why the bike ride was so necessary.      There is a nice art community in the town. Current artists’ work ranges from textiles and jewelry to fine art and diorama-making. Crossing into both time periods is a pewter smith shop. They make their own pewter and use molds that date back to the 17th century. They also have 21st century designed items. There are signs that the art community dates back several generations. The post office has a mural in the lobby which was painted by a local artist Martyl. And more murals on the brick wall of another town building.        Ste Genevieve is a charming town which offers a glimpse of history and a taste of today. 

We departed passing more farms and wineries and crossed the river heading east into Chester, Illinois. This was purely an indulgent stop at the town welcome center. Chester, IL is where Popeye the sailor man is from. There is a statue there. “I yam what I yam”.      

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