Friday, May 6, 2016

Playing in Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris Texas
I love Paris, France and I’m always ready to return to this great city, but we have a Paris in Texas that I’d never really visited, so it was time for some exploration. Situated on the West Gulf Coastal Plain just about 100 miles northeast of the DFW Metroplex is the seat of Lamar County: Paris, Texas. Lamar County was first settled by Anglos in the 1800s, hosting at least five communities before George W. Wright bought 1,000 acres of unoccupied land, started his farm and opened a general store. The county was established in 1844 and named after Mirabeau B. Lamar, the President of the Republic of Texas. Although Texas became a state in 1845, the county retained its name. Along with the creation of the county, came the founding of a town that was named Paris. The city was destroyed by fire three times, forcing citizens to rebuild the central business areas, and in some instances residential areas, as well. However, the town has prospered, and the county seat has remained in Paris. As with all cities in the US named ‘Paris’, it has an Eiffel Tower. This one is about 65 feet tall and, to differentiate it from the one in Paris, Tennessee, it is topped by a giant red cowboy hat; the hat also makes the tower five feet taller than its counterpart in Tennessee.

Next to the Eiffel Tower is a new construction, the Red River Valley Veterans’ Memorial. Members of the US Armed forces or its Allies who have served at any time from the Texas Revolutionary War to
Top L to R: Entrance, marker, standing stones
Bottom L to R: Cold war, Civil War, Texas Revolution
the present are remembered here. The purpose of the memorial is to honor all veterans, reminding visitors that ‘this freedom that we enjoy is not free.’ Paving stones are engraved with the veteran’s name, the branch of service, and the conflict in which he/she served; if the veteran served in peace time, then the years of service are listed. As we wandered through this memorial, we saw names of veterans from many contemporary wars, as well as those who fought on both sides of the Civil War and a few who were in the Texas Revolutionary War. It’s a lovely spot and a moving remembrance of those who have served.

There are several historic buildings to see around the downtown square in Paris, but what
Culbertson Fountain
that caught my eye was the J. J. Culbertson Fountain.  Completed in 1927, this Italian-marble fountain was donated to the city by Culbertson to commemorate the reconstruction of Paris after the 1916 fire. The fountain was designed by J. L. Wees, a St. Louis architect, and sits in the center of the World War I era plaza. It’s a nice place to go for an al fresco lunch or to spend time outside reading. Near the plaza is a period clock that seems to keep accurate time, as well as buildings from the 1900s that have been repurposed for current use.

Evergreen Cemetery is the largest in Lamar County, dating to 1866. There are about 40,000 graves here, including more than 400 unknown or unmarked graves. The lack of information
Jesus in cowboy boots
is because many graves were moved from the old City Cemetery when Evergreen was created, making it difficult to determine the earliest actual burial. I’ve grown to enjoy old cemeteries for their sculptural art; the new cemeteries require flat markers so it’s easier to mow the grass. I am decidedly irritated by this practice that puts 
ease of care above artistic remembrances. While the earliest known burial appears to be 1842, we were here to admire the headstone of Willet Babcock.  Babcock was a furniture dealer who ran the Paris opera house from above his store. He was planning ahead when commissioned a stonecutter to create a monument to be used as the marker for his grave. The memorial shows a nearly life-size, robed figure situated on a plinth; but rather than the traditional sandals, the statue sports what look like cowboy boots. Perhaps the stone cutter couldn’t do toes.

After having lots of fun wandering around the city, we decided it was time for something to eat. While there are lots of places to eat, we chose a small café that had been voted the best place to eat in Paris in 2016. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

What we ate:
Two and one-half carrots
Nancy’s Café (329 N Main St, Paris, TX 75460, 903-783-9220) serves ‘home cooking’ with
Top L to R: Bread, Salmon
Middle L to R: Menu, Chicken fingers
Bottom L to R: Pudding, Chicken fried steak
a daily special that includes bread, an entrée, three sides, a drink and a dessert. We all really enjoyed the school-cafeteria style rolls; they were warm and yeasty. However the cornbread was dry; the waitress told us that this was the only bit of cornbread left. Vince had a chicken fried steak that he said was good but had a lot of breading. He also had very good hominy and fried okra, but said that the mashed potatoes were only okay. Dave had a salmon patty with okra, potatoes and beans. He said that the salmon was canned but tasted fine; he really liked the okra, but the beans and potatoes were only okay. I had the chicken strips, hominy, okra and beans. The chicken was fairly dry, but the okra and hominy were good. The beans tasted like canned beans. I was supposed to get potatoes, but got the beans instead. We all had a serving of instant banana pudding; it was all right but not wonderful. The waitress appeared to be harried, although the lunch rush was over; she got our orders wrong, then came back to get corrections. My order still wasn’t correct. Vince got his gravy, but Dave and I shared a side of it since our waitress never returned with my portion. There seemed to be no one to bus dirty tables; customers chose tables then the waitresses cleaned that particular one. I really don’t believe that this is the best restaurant in Paris.

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