What a beautiful day although the cold front did move in so it was a bit chilly today. The wind probably dropped the temperature about 15 degrees. I didn’t wear a coat, just a vest because I had no idea we would be outside as much.
Our first stop was the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site. We’re going to see a fort – why did I think I wouldn’t be outside? Duh – anyway, back to basics. Natchitoches became the first permanent European settlement in the territory later known as the Louisiana Purchase in 1714. In 1716 Claude-Charles Dutisne was sent to Natchitoches to build and garrison an outpost to prevent Spanish force from crossing into French Louisiana. The outpost was named Fort St. Jean Baptiste. Although in name it was a fort it was mainly used as a trading post.
Upon our arrival our interpreter immediately took us outside on a tour on the fort. The first building we entered was at the guardhouse. Eight men were on duty at all times and if perchance there was trouble there was a jail immediately next to it.
We also saw a recreation of the original chapel which is now The Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception located in Natchitoches. Other buildings included the commandant’s house and the room that housed eight soldiers. There was a slanted wooden structure on each side of the room and that were the eight men slept!
The main building has several different scenes depicting life during that time. They also had a map on the wall that showed the vastness of the Louisiana Purchase. I had no idea that it encompassed such a large area reaching all the way to Canada.
When we left the fort we went in search of the American Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase. Though not a large area it is still in use. We saw markers as late as 2014 and obviously much earlier.
Since it was about noon we decided to have our picnic lunch on the Cane River Lake riverfront. Although it is 36 miles in length and I had assumed it was a river it is actually a lake formed when the Red River jumped its banks. As I said in an earlier blog it is a lovely place and just perfect for a picnic.
Just down from where we had our in the car picnic was the beautiful Beau Jardin which features a garden area with a lovely waterfall and bridge. It must be a favorite place to take pictures because not only were we taking pictures but there were others there as well trying to capture the beauty.
Our next stop was the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The bottom floor is dedicated to the inductees into the Hall of Fame and included such renowned people as Archie Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Pete Maravich and of course Shack. The second floor covered the history of Louisiana as well as all of the sports played in Louisiana including pro, college, high schools as well as other teams. I was amazed at the number of sports included. Of course one always thinks of football, basketball and baseball but they included horse racing, bowling, hunting, tennis, golf, car racing, and boxing – if a sport was played in Louisiana it was covered in this display!
Next we just wandered around the town going in and out of shops visiting with the various shop owners. One lady we talked to use to be a full-timer until her father got sick and she went to Natchitoches to care for him.
After a trip to the grocery store we headed back to the coach. We’ve been in the area long enough that we no longer have to use the GPS (fortunately because Gypsy gets turned around a lot) but today as we were leaving the city we ran into a detour. I have no idea what was going on but police were blocking our route so we did rely on Gypsy once again.
This has been a lovely, quiet visit to a beautiful town. It reminds me so much of Niagara on the Lake with its quaint shops, hanging baskets and lanterns. As we rode around I continued to be amazed at the number of B&B’s located in the town. I realize that it is a college town so that could account for some of them.
On our rides from the campground in Colfax to Natchitoches we have seen many cows, many pecan trees along with dead animals on the side of the road. Today we saw a skunk (have never seen one of those on the side of the road in NC) and a coyote.
A quiet night getting things ready to pull out in the morning and head to Vidalia for the last leg of our journey into Louisiana.