Posted by Porcshe Moran
Recently, I accepted an assignment with Missouri Life magazine that gave me the opportunity to travel to southeast Missouri. The majority of my stories are usually focused on happenings in the central part of the state, so I was excited about the chance to go someplace that is new to me. To add to the fun, my fiancé decided to join me on my work adventure.
My assignment was to review Dhafer's Mediterranean Steakhouse in the town of Dexter. It was about a five hour drive to Dexter from our home in mid-Missouri. After dinner at Dhafer's (I'll post my review when it is published) we drove around the city to see the sights. Our first stop was a full-service gas station. The experience of having an attendant pump your gas and wash your windows is something that most people don't get anymore. It felt like we had gone back in time. Next, we checked out some of the murals that are painted on various walls in the downtown area. Dexter has a population of 7,864 which explains why most of the businesses were closed early in the evening. Despite being such a small town, there were a few antique stores, galleries and boutiques that I would have liked to visit.
We spent the night at Auburn Place Hotel & Suites in Cape Girardeau, about 60 miles northeast of Dexter. I would recommend this place to anyone traveling to the area who wants a great hotel at an affordable price. It is clean, modern and has many amenities such as a fitness center, indoor pool, arcade, guest laundry facility, free Wi-Fi access and complementary continental breakfast with hot and cold food items. The staff was extremely friendly and professional. Another highlight is the cookies and milk that are available in the lobby every evening. Also, the hotel is conveniently located next to the interstate with dining and shopping in close proximity.
Our plan was to spend the next day touring the city before heading home. I had a whole list of places that I wanted to visit, but the rain put a wrench in my itinerary. Instead of going to the outdoor attractions such as Bollinger Mill State Historic Site, Fort D and the Trail of Tears State Park, we opted to drive around downtown and check out some of the murals. The most interesting ones were the "Mississippi River Tales" and the "Missouri Wall of Fame" which are painted on the floodwall in the Old Town Cape riverfront district. "Mississippi River Tales" contains more than 24-panels that depict historic Cape Girardeau events such as the Battle of Cape Girardeau during the Civil War, President Taft's visit to the city in 1909 and Lewis' and Clark's visit in 1803. The mural was completed by artist Thomas Melvin in 2004. The "Missouri Wall of Fame" is 500-feet long and honors 45 noteworthy Missourians such as Mark Twain, Josephine Baker, President Harry S. Truman and Yogi Berra.
It was still raining by the time we finished looking at the murals which meant that we needed another indoor activity. As we were driving down the street, I noticed a large, coral-colored house. It turned out to be Annie Laurie's Antiques, a 6,000 square-ft treasure trove. There was everything from furniture and housewares to clothing, jewelry and books. I have visited other antique shops in Missouri, but this was by far the most unique one. It was a lot of fun to explore.
Another building that will definitely catch your eye from the street is the office of the Southeast Missourian newspaper. The two-story building has a beautiful exterior made of brick, stucco and ornate Spanish tiles. The rain prevented me from getting a photo of the front of the structure, but I was able to capture the signage and a couple of the tile murals on the side of the building. We inquired about getting a tour of the presses and found out that they have to scheduled in advance.
While we were browsing the antiques, I worked up an appetite. I used my phone to search for good restaurants in the area and came across Broussard's Cajun Cuisine. It had stellar online reviews and the lunch menu was reasonably priced, so we decided to give it a try. I was in the mood for a shrimp po'boy, but when I saw that the lunch special for that day was a catfish po'boy, I opted for that instead. My fiancé ordered the crawfish etouffee. My po'boy was very good. The catfish was well seasoned and fried crispy just the way I like it. The etouffee was outstanding. It was flavored with Cajun spices that gave it the perfect amount of heat. I couldn't resist trying the homemade bread pudding with rum sauce, and I'm glad I gave into temptation. It was literally and figuratively a sweet ending to a mouthwatering meal. My dad's side of the family is from Louisiana, and I grew up eating these classic Cajun/Creole dishes. In my opinion, the food at Broussard's is as good as anything you'd find in the French Quarter.
Once our bellies were full, we headed over to the Cape River Heritage Museum. There were displays on the history of Cape Girardeau as well as the history of Missouri. I learned that the woman who designed the Missouri state flag, Marie Watkins Oliver, was a native of Cape Girardeau. I was also intrigued to find out about the luxurious passenger steamboats, like the American Queen, that dock in Cape Girardeau in the summer on their way up and down the Mississipi River. There is even a Dixieland band that greets the travelers when they depart the vessel! The museum is small, but worth a visit.
The museum docents suggested we go check out the Crisp Museum, which showcases exhibits related to fine art, history and archaeology, before leaving town. We drove over to Southwest Missouri State University's River Campus where the museum is located, but couldn't find a place to park. It was getting later in the afternoon, and we still had a four hour drive ahead of us, so we decided to save the museum tour for another time. Before leaving campus, we did manage to find the perfect spot to get a view of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. The $100 million cable-stay bridge is 4,000-feet long and 100- feet wide. It connects Cape Giradeau, Mo. with East Cape Girardeau, Illinois across the Mississippi River. It is a magnificent piece of architecture during the day, but it becomes even more stunning at night when it is illuminated by 140 lights.
My trip to southeast Missouri was brief, but enjoyable. There was plenty to see and do that far exceeded my limited timetable. I can't wait for the chance to take another road trip to this part of the Show Me State.
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Hello! I am Porcshe N. Moran. My nearly two decades of professional experience covers print and digital journalism as well as strategic communications, content marketing and copywriting.