Continue to the intersection of Ferdinand and Royal, and turn left on Royal. This is mostly a residential street, so you'll see a great collection of private homes. One of the few shops on Royal is Grandmother's Buttons. Whether or not you're into antiques, it's fun to see the jewelry created from vintage buttons. While you're there, take a peek at the Button Museum.
With your walking tour complete, hop in the car and drive down to the Bayou Sara Market at 11427 Ferdinand Street. Opened last November, it's home to nearly 6,000 square feet of antiques, jewelry, accessories, and gifts. You'll need the car to tote all the bargains you find back to the hotel.
The more adventuresome can hike, bike, ride horses, or bird-watch in the hills and woods around St. Francisville. Rather than start in town, go just 20 minutes northwest and visit Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area. Here you can mountain bike the trails or stop by Cross Creek Stables for horses to take you down a section of the Old Tunica Trace. The byway has been used for so long that the roadbed is worn 10 feet below the surrounding hillside in some places.
On the way back from Tunica Hills, stop at the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. Open to the public for a little more than two years, it's great for bird watching, hiking, and seeing "the big tree," a bald cypress that's 83 feet tall and estimated to be 800 years old. Cat Island is open every day, but the river sometimes limits automobile access. Be sure to check at the refuge office before going.
Where To Sleep and Eat
One thing that makes St. Francisville a delightful trip is the wealth of affordable bed-and-breakfasts and unique inns. You can stay in anything from an authentic antebellum house to a rustic cabin in the woods.
Shadetree Inn, perched on a hill at the corner of Ferdinand and Royal, is a great spot for a romantic weekend. The three suites are spacious with private porches and kitchenettes; two even have whirlpool tubs. Proprietor K. W. Kennon asks for drink preferences ahead of time, so the room will be perfect upon your arrival.
For the hip at heart, try the newly renovated 3-V Tourist Court. Rumored to be the oldest motor lodge still operating in the South, the 3-V is tucked behind the Magnolia Café. Innkeeper Kevin Ford did most of the outstanding renovation himself. He has created an eclectic atmosphere with easy access to a coffeehouse, music at the Magnolia Café, and downtown St. Francisville.
If being out in the country is your style, try the Green Springs Inn. You can stay in either the main house or one of the six themed cottages. Owner Madeline Nevill will make your stay memorable. Make sure you save room for her homemade country breakfast.
As for where to eat, you've got several good choices. There's the Magnolia Café with po'boys, burgers, salads, and sandwiches. The restaurant features national touring bands weekly. To see a schedule of acts and a menu, visit their Web site at www.themagnoliacafe.com. For a fine-dining experience, don't miss The OxBow Carriage House Restaurant at The Myrtles Plantation. This is the place in town, with a great wine list and everything from Angus beef steaks to crawfish étouffée. Be sure to sample the Peach and Pecan Bread Pudding served with Jamaican rum sauce ($4.95) for dessert. The menu changes daily, so you'll have new choices every time you visit. Another good eatery is Roadside Bar-B-Que. Sure, they serve the prerequisite pork, but they also have catfish and shrimp. It's a great place to call ahead for takeout if you want to picnic in the Tunica Hills.
Save the best for last. On the way out of town, visit Afton Villa Gardens. This is the site of a 19th-century home that burnt to the ground in 1963. The current owners have restored the spot and created a sunken garden in the basement of the old house. It is well worth a quick trip during your splendid spring visit to St. Francisville.
Insider Advice for St. Francisville
- Keep in mind that operating hours are not always posted or observed, so check with businesses, especially the restaurants, before visiting. It will make planning your itinerary easier.
- Three days in St. Francisville is enough time to see the town at a relaxed pace. More ambitious travelers can get a good feel for the place in an overnight stay with a day to tour the sites.