01 January 2009

Happy January First

on the corner of Market and Main

We rang in the new year - and celebrated our sixth anniversary - in Weston, Missouri, a historic town north of here that is very charming indeed. Situated in the remarkably hilly terrain of the bluffs above the Missouri River, Weston was a bustling place 150 years ago. It used to be one of the western most towns in the US, was a port for western-bound wagon trains, and for many years, was the only major tobacco market west of the Mississippi. Now it is a hub of history and tourism, hosting festivals year round, and housing visitors in many of its quaint B&Bs.

We stayed in the Benner House Bed and Breakfast, a 114 year old "painted lady" (do two shades of purple count as a painted lady?) that was originally built by an owner of the McCormick Distillery in Weston (oldest continuously operating distillery in the U.S.!). Our hostess at the B&B started out the New Year's Evening with a champagne toast to the New Year ... and to us. (I pretend that all the celebrations are also in honor of our anniversary.)

The Benner House is replete with decor, Victorian and otherwise. Creaking floors and twisting staircase, antiquarian furniture, wallpapers galore, the yellowed sheet music of "I Love You, Truly" open on an antique "peerless" organ ... right next to a Panasonic laser jet printer ... on a doily. A modem blinking in the corner behind an antique wooden stool; a grand piano, two guitars, a Christmas tree, and a remote control fireplace in the solarium. It was our first foray into the world of B&Bs and we were fascinated by every tiny bit of it. We stayed in the Rose room which - as you might imagine - has a floral motif. We had a view of the neighbor's "widow's walk" and the wide-stretching fields on the horizon, which looked beautiful at dusk. Everything is dormant as this is the deep sleep of winter. But there are fields, foliage, and rolling hills all around Weston. We have vowed to return in the spring.

For dinner we headed down the street (past "Old Geezer's Mantiques") to Avalon Cafe for the New Year's Eve Wine Dinner, all five courses of which were delicious. After that we stepped out into the biting cold where the Main Street sidewalks were completely empty. Not a creature was stirring except us, standing on the corner, discussing how much brighter and more numerous were the stars here than at home. We walked a block down the hill and turned down Short street to find the pub that Sergio remembers from his first visit to Weston 10 years ago - O'Malley's. We stepped inside the very plain looking building, paid the cover, and descended into the subterranean former wine cellars that make up O'Malley's Irish pub which is where everyone in Weston was last night. Cavernous and smoky and deep beneath the surface of the earth, all kinds of people had gathered to celebrate loudly - young and old and middle-aged; singles and couples, big groups and small; people dressed up and sparkly, people dressed down and dull; two men in utilikilts; one red head in a red satin strapless dress; lots of singing; cigars, pipes, cigarettes, kazoos, and hats shining "Happy New Year," all the revelry enhanced by booze, bright stage lights and a band with guitar, fiddle, and hammer dulcimer.

underground at O'Malley's

We stayed just long enough for one beer and then headed out, through the upper room of the bar, still subterranean, where a cozy subset of people were belting out limericks of the sort that could only be sung so loudly in a bar beneath the ground. We climbed our way up and out and into the freezing cold again and on the street above O'Malley's you could hear positively nothing. We tiptoed back up the hill to our B&B and counted down the new year - and our anniversary.

After breakfast this morning we drove in and out of the 22 block historic district of Weston, ooh-ing and ah-ing at the charm. We hit the road early and were home in time to spend the rest of the day without a care in the world, before heading out again tonight for dinner and a movie, the cap on our New Year's anniversary celebration. Every bit of which was perfect.

(Oh! And the person who planned this entire outing for us while I was so busy with school I couldn't see straight? Sergio. To whom I am very grateful.)

The Weston Depot (1922), now the Weston City Hall, is in the same spot where Lewis and Clark's Corp of Discovery camped out in 1804. The land where Weston is was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

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