Paris, Texas, USA.

Texas is not, in itself, an unusual destination – how can it be with such well-known cities as Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio? – but there are countless relatively small settlements that people from outside the United States are unlikely to visit. One such settlement is Paris, which does not even feature in the usually very dependable Moon Handbooks (the Moon Handbooks are the USA’s answer to Lonely Planet or Rough Guide). As I hope the following makes clear, Paris made a very positive impression when we visited in April 2013.

Downtown Paris has many landmark buildings, especially in the area where Grand Avenue and Main Street intersect. A few town centre churches, the old Sears Building, the Sam Bell Maxey House, the Scott Roden Home and Paris Union Station Railroad Depot are all worth tracking down, as is the Eiffel Tower located in the south-east corner of the city next to a well-designed war memorial. The Eiffel Tower stands 65 feet tall and was constructed utilising materials, plant space and employee time by the Babcock and Wilcox Company. The tower was “Texanised” in 1998 with the addition of a cowboy’s hat set jauntily on its highest point.

Of the town centre churches, two should not be missed. One of the churches is a Baptist church and the other a Methodist church. The Methodist church is conceived on a much grander scale than most such churches in the UK.

Although Paris has a more thriving downtown than, say, Texarkana (which, as its name implies, straddles the border with Arkansas), we were keen to eat barbecue, which meant driving to one of the suburbs. We had been advised that Paris’s best smokehouse is Scholl Brothers at 1528 Lamar Avenue, so we drove there as the shadows were lengthening toward nightfall. Hilary ordered ribs with two sides and I had a super sampler of four meats with three sides. In total, my meat weighed a pound. Alcohol is not served, but the iced tea went down a treat. Moreover, the house sauce tastes excellent. The meats themselves were, up to that point at least, the best we had ever had in an American barbecue. In the car park after eating, we chatted with three regular customers. One customer said that Scholl Brothers is always voted one of the ten best barbecue restaurants in Texas. We could understand why.

The shack-like corrugated iron exterior of the smokehouse, and the cluttered interior of the dining area, suggest that the business has been running for a few years. However, staff were polite and patient as we placed our order, and someone came to our table twice to ensure we had everything we wanted and were satisfied with the food. Everywhere was spotlessly clean. And the bill with the tip? $30. Even with the dire exchange rate at the time, this was about only £20. The meal was outstanding value.

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