Around the World in Two Days
Visiting Athens, Paris, Naples, Geneva, and Moscow in the Upper East Side of Texas
Paris, Texas, features a 65-foot-tall Eiffel Tower topped with a Texas-size red cowboy hat. Adjacent to the tower is the impressive Red River Valley Veterans Memorial. Be sure to drive three miles to the downtown square for great shopping.
Photos by Tracy Torma
County Line took to the road for a world-wind trip throughout the region to cities with famous European names. What unfolds is a beautiful drive with some fun attractions, interesting history, great shopping, and delicious food and drink options along the way.
We started our journey from Palestine (Texas, that is) and traveled in a large circle to Moscow, Geneva, Naples, Paris, and Athens. While it was fun going “around the world” in two days (plus, it makes for a great headline), the journey can also break into a few day trips to adequately enjoy the sights and scenery these Texas towns with European names offer.
Big Jake’s on U.S. 59 in Moscow is known for its chicken-fried steak (that’s the small portion below) and its chargrilled ribeyes.
At the junction of U.S. Highway 59 and FM Road 350, 90 miles north of Houston, the community was named for the distant city of Moscow, Russia, after postal authorities refused to accept the townspeople’s first choice of Greenville, after the founder David Green. (Another post office in the state claimed that name.)
Moscow incorporated in 1856 and became a trading center for Polk County farmers during the latter 1850s, with cotton gins, sawmills, and various businesses and shops. Today, Moscow offers a brief respite for travelers on the Interstate 59 corridor to Houston. The town consists of a post office next to a convenience store and service station and a lovely community park dedicated to William P. Hobby, publisher of the Houston Post and the 27th governor of the State of Texas (1917 to 1920).
Those visiting Wednesday through Saturday, be sure to eat at the popular local restaurant, Big Jake’s Western Dive. It’s a classic Texas diner, with framed local rodeo pictures on the wall. Big Jake’s gets rave reviews for its burgers, chicken-fried steak, and chargrilled ribeyes. They serve down-home cooking at its finest that’s definitely worth the drive.
The City of Geneva is noted by two roadside markers, one as a location on the El Camino Real and the other a Texas Historical Commission marker commemorating El Lobanillo, a ranch established during the mid 1700s by Antonio Gil Ibarvo.
If you enjoy Texas history and driving beautiful less-traveled back roads, journey to Geneva in Sabine County. Located at the intersection of El Camino Real (Texas Highway 21) and Farm Road 330 in northwestern Sabine County, the site is considered to be the oldest one continuously occupied in East Texas.
Today, Geneva is just a spot in the road marked by a Texas Historical Commission marker that commemorates El Lobanillo, a ranch established during the mid 1700s by Antonio Gil Ibarvo. When Spain evacuated colonists from western Louisiana and East Texas in 1773, Gil Ibarvo’s mother and other refugees remained at the ranch. In 1794, it was granted to Juan Ignacio Pifermo and was later inherited by John Maximillian in the early 1800s.
The drive through Sabine County features a wealth of other historical markers, including one honoring Mial Scurlock, an early Texas settler who was killed in the Battle of the Alamo; the County Line Baptist Church and Cemetery, which began soon after the end of the Civil War; and the site of the Battle of Fredonia, the first Anglo American rebellion in East Texas in 1826.
Established along the railroad tracks in the 1880s, today Naples offers visitors several places to shop and eat (below: pizza and Mexican food) on one side of the tracks and taste local Northeast Texas wine from Red Road Vineyard and Winery on the other side. Plus, the quiet drive to Naples on Texas Farm 67 features beautiful back-road scenery.
Located in northeast Morris County, Naples developed around a railroad station on the Texas and St. Louis Railway, which built through the area in 1880. The town grew to become an important shipping point and supply center in the late 1880s. During the early 1900s, when it was incorporated, lumber became an important local industry. By the late 1920s, the town had grown to 1,500 people.
Today, the city stretches for several blocks on one side of the railroad tracks, with several shops, a local pizza place, and Don Juan’s, a popular family-owned Mexican restaurant chain. The city hosts an annual Watermelon Festival the last weekend in July.
If visiting on a Saturday, see the Red Road Vineyard and Winery for a wine tasting and plate of cheese and crackers. The winery is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday at 105 W. Front St. on the other side of the train tracks across from downtown.
The 13-mile drive on Texas Farm 67 from Hughes Springs to Naples is one of the prettiest winding country roads around, offering the finest of East Texas rolling hills, woods, and farmlands. And not one car was encountered on the drive. Nice.
County seat of Lamar County
No visit to Paris is complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower. And visitors to Paris, Texas, won’t be disappointed as France’s Texas counterpart has its own 65-foot-tall Eiffel Tower, topped with a 10-gallon red cowboy hat.
Start your tour by visiting the impressive Red River Valley Veterans Memorial, located next to the Eiffel Tower. The memorial features a “Ring of Honor” – a circle of granite walls with the names of the veterans from the Red River Valley area (Lamar, Fannin, Red River, and Delta counties in Texas and Choctaw, County in Oklahoma) who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country in a war zone.
Visit the Lamar County Historical Museum, which features artifacts, photography, and re-creations detailing life in the town over the years, including a blacksmith shop and pioneer kitchen. Other key attractions include the Santa Fe Depot, built in 1914, which features the Lamar County Genealogical Society Library and the Valley of the Caddo Museum and Cultural Center.
Paris has many historic structures, including the Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site, a 19th century Victorian-style home, which is open for tours.
In 1916, a fire fanned by high winds almost destroyed the city. In the town center is a plaza with a marble fountain dedicated to those who rebuilt the town. Then on April 2, 1982, Paris was hit by a tornado that destroyed more than 1,500 homes and left eight dead and 3,000 homeless. Since then, local businesses have invested nearly $7 million to renovate and revitalize the downtown area, which features the historic town square surrounded by great shopping in specialty shops and antique stores.
County seat of Henderson County
Visitors to Athens can enjoy a beverage in the outdoor courtyard at the Athens Brewing Company (above).
On weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., enjoy lunch at the Railway Cafe, featuring soups, salads and sandwiches.
Athens was established in 1850 on a one-square-mile site of land. The town was named in honor of Athens, Greece, by Dulcinea Averiette, who felt the town would become the cultural center of the county.
The city boasts such famous citizens as Clint W. Murchison Jr., businessman and founder of the Dallas Cowboys football team; William Wayne Justice, former U.S. District Court judge; and former pro athletes Pete Donohue, Major League Baseball pitcher, and Terrence McGee, NFL cornerback for the Buffalo Bills.
Athens is nationally acknowledged as “Home of the Original Hamburger” and hosts the Uncle Fletch Davis Hamburger Festival in September. It also welcomes the annual Athens Old Fiddlers Contest and Reunion each May, the oldest such event in the U.S., now in its 87th year.
Popular visitors’ attractions include the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, which provides an educational experience with a production fish hatchery. Each year, more than 500 kids catch their “first fish” at the center. Downtown, visit the Henderson County Historical Museum, which features a turn-of-the-century dry goods store on the first floor and a re-creation of an early law office, parlor, bedroom, bath, kitchen, and school room on the second floor.
Year-round, people can enjoy two miles of nature trails at the East Texas Arboretum & Botanical Society, located on 100 wooded acres. The arboretum is home to the historic Wofford House Museum, built in 1851 and open on weekdays.
To whet your whistle, Athens has several local wineries and a brewery downtown, the Athens Brewing Company. Visitors can buy fine wines at local wineries, including Tara Vineyard & Winery, 3 P’s in a Vine Winery and Vineyard, and Castle Oaks Vineyard and Winery.
And Dulcinea Averiette would be proud of the active arts culture in Athens today, including 211 Gallery, open every Thursday through Saturday featuring the works of many local fine artists for sale and in exhibits throughout the year.
Unique Places to Stay Along the Route
The Geranium House Bed & Breakfast.Experience an atmosphere of nostalgia from a by-gone era at this historic 2,240-square foot home on three acres. 600 Wood Street, 903.675.6895. thegeraniumhouse.com
Meadowlark Fields Country House. Located on 50 pastoral acres about four miles south of Athens, the Country House was built in 1913. 7185 FM 1615. 903.677.1117. meadowlarkfields.com
Tara Vineyard and Winery. The Tara Inn overlooks acres of vibrant vineyards. This turn-of-the-century house consists of four large guest rooms, a special spa bathroom with a large Jacuzzi tub, a huge wrap-around porch, and terraces surrounding the entire second story. 8603 County Road 3914. 903.675.7023. tarawinery.com
Old Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast. A two-story Victorian home built in 1871 near downtown, this B&B offers a Southern gourmet breakfast every morning. 731 Clarksville Street. 903.739.8600. oldmagnoliahousebandb.com
Wildernest Ranch Bed & Breakfast. A lovely, quaint log cabin perfect for honeymooners, a getaway, or a writer’s retreat. 325 County Road 2512. 469.585.109. facebook.com/wildernestbb
Mission Dolores State Historic Site. Camp at this former site of a Spanish mission built in 1721. The property offers overnight camping, featuring full hook-up and paved sites. 701 South Broadway Street. 936.275.3815. email@example.com