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Paris, Anyone?

Written by Marty Lange.

Photo by Stan WilliamsYou’re gonna love it in Lamar County. Très magnifique!

Ever see the gigantic postcard-styled billboards on Interstate 30 that recommend you visit Paris, Texas? Recently, I accepted the colorful invitations and reacquainted myself with this historic northeast Texas community. If you haven’t been there lately, or never at all, it’s time to check out this appealing crossroads in the heart of the Red River Valley. The Texas city with the French connection offers a multitude of sweet sightseeing and travel discoveries. The Lamar County seat and state’s Crape Myrtle Capital, Paris maintains a gracious, Southern-small-town feel.

One of my favorite highlights during two recent visits, the 65-foot tall (plus cowboy hat on top) Eiffel Tower replica stands at Love Civic Center (it’s de rigueur). The charming little Paris Bakery (yes, you can order a perfect croissant or brioche) fits the bill, too, with a bounty of artisan breads, pastries, soups, and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. And I enjoyed driving by dozens of beautiful, historic homes, including the 1867 Sam Bell Maxey House (take the guided tour) and the tastefully restored Kaufman Terrace, a 19th-Century home built by Virginian-turned-Parisian James Daniel. Daniel was a Civil War captain who helped design Paris’ original water, sewer, and street systems; he once owned the town’s street railway. While seeking out famous cattle baron John Chisum’s monument and gravesite, I also discovered the 1889 Wise House (a three-story, red-brick Victorian Queen Anne mansion built for a prominent English cotton merchant).

Impressive only begins to describe the Hayden Collection of American Art & Furniture at Belle Cheniere (by appointment only), where Dr. William and Elizabeth Hayden have thoughtfully and passionately provided a concise, yet encompassing gallery of treasures, including works by American masters Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Hart Benton, and many more.

But you can see other Paris nods to art, culture, and architecture without making an appointment. Noteworthy paintings by Paris native Jerry Bywaters grace the foyer of the public library. Across the street from the library stands the Grecian Peristyle in Bywaters Park, host to the Paris Municipal Band’s summer concert series. Travel columnist Mary Walker Clark (www.thetravelinggene.com) calls the band one of Paris’ top hidden gems.

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