|Monroe Co, Missouri||North America||1,220||English||39.481/-92.001||4,418 miles|
Ah Paris, the city of love, right! Technically no. It’s actually the city of light – a nickname that originated in the 18th century when Paris was recognized in the Age of Enlightenment as a center of education and ideas. Afterward the name stuck even tighter when Paris adopted electric lighting throughout the city.
As the largest city in France, Paris is one of the largest population centers in Europe and one of the world’s leading business and cultural centers, influencing everything from politics and education, to entertainment, and of course, fashion.
As one of the world’s leading tourism destinations (who doesn’t want to go to Paris?!), the city is also considered “green” and highly livable.
Famous sites in Paris France include: the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Notre Dame and the Louvre (which incidentally is not only known for the Mona Lisa, but also as the location that helped Tom Hanks solve the Da Vinci Code.
Famous Parisians include: Claude Monet, artist and a founder of impressionism and Charles Pierre Baudelaire, poet. But Paris has also always had the distinction of being a second home for famous writers and painters, such as American Ernest Hemingway and Spaniard Salvador Dalí.
Paul and I have actually been to Paris, France – back when the dollar was worth about four francs. Obviously it was a while ago. It’s a bit more expensive to travel there now. Which is why our trip to Paris this time is a bit closer to home.
Today we head north on highway 63. Although a major north-south thoroughfare here in Missouri, 63 actually originates in Ruston, LA and ends in Benoit WI. That’s 1286 miles of asphalt for those who are counting! Its only been in the last 10-15 years or so that 63 has been a four-lane highway in most of the Show-Me State. Once you hit Iowa, I think it sort of jumps around from two to four lane pretty much on a whim. (But I could be wrong – I don’t get to Iowa much).
Our destination today is twofold: Paris and Cairo – just a stone’s throw apart in this neck of the woods. For this post, I’m going to talk about Paris, which settled in 1831, is several centuries younger than it’s oh-la-la cousin.
First off, it’s important to mention, that like Paris, France, Paris Missouri also has a nickname. In this case: “The Friendliest Town In Little Dixie!”
Mark Twain Lake near Paris, MO.
For those who don’t know (like me – I had to look it up) what Little Dixie refers to: it’s a grouping of over a dozen counties that lie along the Missouri River in Missouri that were once big into hemp and tobacco trade. But because they were settled primarily by southerners pre-Civil War, at one time they were quite sympathetic to slavery. Naturally, I was surprised (and a bit embarrassed) to discover our dear own Boone county was on that not-so-flattering list. But, then again, most places have come a long way since the Civil War (or we can only hope).
It takes about an hour or so to get from Columbia to Paris. We took 63 all the way to Moberly, and then turned east on 24. Along the way I discovered another wonderful mailbox, this time shaped like a John Deere vehicle. Awesome! At this time of year, in early spring, the fields in Missouri are mostly but corn stubble. This area is no exception. It is also a bit lonely out here and the roads are called nothing but numbers – no cute names, no names at all.
We see a car pulled over to the side; it’s hood is up and a couple of overall-clad men huddle over the engine. We slow down and Paul asks them if they’re okay. One of the them (perhaps both) say “yep” – so we keep moving. We’re looking for the covered bridge that Paul recalls from his youth.
We discover it about 5 miles west of Paris. And it’s a beaut!
After a bit of research we discover that this bridge has a bit of history (even apart from the love notes written on the interior walls).
Called the Union Covered Bridge State Historic Site, it’s the only surviving example in the state of the Burr-arch truss system, designed by Theodore Burr in 1804 and patented in 1817. This particular bridge was built in 1871 to span the Elk Fork of the Salt River. And for 99 years, it did a pretty good getting people back and forth from Paris-to-Fayette. And it’s worth the drive a hundred fold.
In the river on the left side of the bridge, there’s a slab of concrete that spans from bank to bank for locals, and I would assume adventurous sorts to cross the river.
But we head back to Paris.
So what does this city with such a famous name offer travelers? Well, there’s a pretty impressive Monroe County CO-Op Grainery, and not far from that, a very nice IGA Grocery Store that was hopping on this Saturday in spring. They also have the required Casey’s General Store, Subway, and Shell station.
The Courthouse is pretty fine.
The courthouse hosts a fountain featuring a child, and what I can only describe as a “droopy elf” – which is interesting to say the least.
But perhaps the most thought-provoking items in the courthouse square are two stones that speak volumes. The first is the “Trail of Death” stone. It commemorates the forced relocation of the Potawatomi Indians from Indiana to Kansas, a journey of 660 miles, which resulted in dozens of deaths, mostly children.
Not far away is another stone; this one dedicated to the first white settler in Monroe County. I can’t think of anything to add to this.
In regards to famous Missouri Parisians, there’s Mary Margaret McBride, American interviewer and writer, often known as “The First Lady of Radio.”
Ah, Paris Missouri. I’m sure you have many more hidden treasures that this traveling duo neglected to discover. But I have to say, our eyes were opened just a bit by your frank portrayal of your history; we also enjoyed seeing so many beautiful houses on Locust street – especially those with the widows walks – can’t get enough of that architecture.
But for now, we bid you adieu!
Next stop: Cairo, Sans the Sphinx