When I married my present wife I wanted to show her the United States. Betty had come to the U.S. from Ecuador about ten years prior to when we met and had not yet seen much of the country that I love and that she had grown to love. What better way to see the country than with road trips?
By 2007 we had crisscrossed the country a few times. Most typically we would travel during the Christmas holidays so we could go visit my family in Tennessee or Arizona with a few side trips thrown in the schedule. Then in 2007 after Betty had recently purchased a new Nissan Maxima we decided to take a truly epic road trip for the holiday.
We took five days to drive to Washington, D.C., making a few stops along the way to visit sites and a couple of my family members. We then went to Maryville, Tennessee to stay a few days with my mother and visit with my kids and siblings.
On the return trip back to Los Angeles we planned to stop in Houston to meet up with Betty's daughter and her fiance. Since my daughters wanted to get back to New Jersey for New Years and they had left a couple days before hand, I decided to leave as well and take a couple of leisurely days to make it to Houston for New Year's Day.
I made the decision to spend New Year's Eve in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I think I'd been there many years before, but I didn't remember much about it. One thing I did know was that they were supposed to have a pretty amazing Christmas light display there.
We weren't disappointed. The town has a quaint look not unlike New Orleans except without the sleaze factor and the big city busyness. We got into town early and spent time in the afternoon strolling about and looking through the shops. Then as evening neared we went to have dinner at a restaurant along the river.
After dinner, darkness had set in and the main street had taken a more festive atmosphere. The crowds--at least crowded in a small town sense--had begun hitting the main street and the walk along the river. The decorative lights along the street were shining Christmas cheer as horse-drawn carriages ambled up and down the brick street carrying tourists.
The real attraction however was the river walk that paralleled the main street. Vendors were selling kettle corn, Louisiana link sandwiches, hot cider and other goodies from stands that created a carnival-like effect. Christmas music played over loudspeakers to set the Yuletide mood.
Across the river and on the bridges were colorful displays of lights as boats likewise decorated with lights cruised up and down the river. There was a chill in the air that suggested winter, but not cold enough to be uncomfortable to us since we were wearing coats. This was a happy place. Not big city gaudy, but simple small town Christmas charm. We could have imagined ourselves to have been in a Thomas Kinkade painting.
Perhaps there may have been fireworks at midnight to usher in the New Year, but we didn't stay to find out. It had been a busy day driving down the Natchez Trace and visiting the historic Natchez, Mississippi river district. We were planning an early start the next morning. We went back to our motel room to watch the ball drop in Times Square. We were asleep before midnight arrived in Natchitoches.