Walking in the Land of Steel Magnolias at Christmastime

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Jo Ann, Me and Susan

I’m writing to you from the Kingdom of the Steel Magnolias, Natchitoches LA. Interestingly enough, I caught the end of Steel Magnolias a couple of weeks or so ago. Over the years, when people would hear I was from Louisiana, they just knew that I was familiar with the little town that provided a sweet backdrop for the super talents of Dolly, Olympia, Julia, Sally, Shirley and Daryl. I’m sure I must have come here at some point in my childhood, but this is first time I remember being here. Well, we dashed through the downtown area on a business trip awhile back, but I hadn’t actually stepped foot onto the soil of Natchitoches until yesterday.

2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the city of Natchitoches and the 25th anniversary of the movie Steel Magnolias. The city of Natchitoches was the first city founded in the Louisiana Purchase. Yes, it is even older than New Orleans. Natchitoches is translated to mean ‘chinquapin eaters’ according to an article in The Natchitoches Times. A tribe of Chinquapin Indians lived here, so I hate to even speculate as to what that name implies. The article leaves that mystery unaddressed. Whatever it was, I hope it wasn’t nearly as violent and brutal as the movie Unbroken that we saw yesterday.

Apparently we came on the wrong day for the Christmas Festival activities. Although the town was indeed lit up with a fabulous display of Christmas lights, the 26th is not the day to come for festivities. The festival takes place downtown and goes on for at least a month. The lights decorate the main street and the Cane River Lake. Food trucks, bandstands and children’s rides dot the landscape on the sidewalk down by the water. Lat night it was quiet, but I imagine it gets pretty crowded. They had a children’s play fest set up on the river, but no fireworks or music was scheduled for yesterday. We still had a blast shopping and eating at some of the wonderful places in Natchitoches. We had lunch at Mama’s Oyster House. I had a small bowl of shrimp and corn soup which was delicious but not worth the $9.99 price tag. However, Jo Ann and Susan had so much leftover on their plates, I had plenty to eat. I would have been better off just taking their leftovers. And the oysters were divine.

I finally found a hat that I can wear. I’ve been frustrated because my afro looks ridiculous in all of my cute hats that I’ve collected over the years when I had really short hair. Some of them won’t even pull down over my hair. They just sit atop the huge dome of curls like a hat floating in a barrel of water. Others scrunch it down, but the curls bulge out like they are trying to escape. I’ve just skipped hats altogether. But, yesterday, I discovered that I can wear hats that pull down over my ears and only leave the bottom of my prolific curls showing. I was thrilled with my hat purchase and the cute little knitted one my sister gave me for a Christmas present. Yesterday was a banner hat day!

We ate dinner at The Mariners. I have to say that this is one of the best meals I have had since I’ve been down to Louisiana, and Louisiana is known for its food. It’s apparently staffed by students of local Northwestern State University. The restaurant is huge. We drove up, and I asked my sister if the place was big inside. If it wasn’t, we weren’t getting in to eat for awhile. So we parked next to a herd of white pickup trucks and took a chance. We were seated immediately. I had the stuffed flounder, Susan had the seafood pasta, and Jo Ann opted for the crab cakes appetizer and a stuffed potato. It’s a toss-up whether the stuffed potato or the flounder were better, but I tried to eat every bite of both, and I came pretty close.

We went back to the local Hampton Inn for the night and settled in for a little girl talk. Well, Susan went to sleep pretty quickly, but she did enthusiastically wake up to tell us about the Escape from Angola Triathlon. At first I thought she was having a sleep-talking dream especially when she mentioned a triathlon at Angola, a storied prison seated in the middle of a swamp. But, a Google Search revealed that on 3/29 of next year, any adventurous tri-athletes can participate in an event where you can actually spend the night in the prison the night before. Even my friend Jascia said she didn’t know if she wanted to swim with the gators and snakes. I may have to head out that way to watch the race when the time comes.

For today, Jo Ann and I are having a snack before we venture out to The Breakfast Nook, a little restaurant we discovered last night serving up omeletes, bacon and other breakfast fare. I’d love to find a Steel Magnolias landmark. It’s 60 degrees, so my hats will not be worn today. That’s okay. I’m sure we will have lots of girl talk and things to laugh about.

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