Younger son surprised us the week before Christmas by flying home from Ireland, where he has lived the past 10-plus years. He has been home before, but such trips are rare -- and wonderful.
While he was here, we participated in a flurry of sightseeing and dining out at some of his favorite restaurants, particularly those that serve the kind of food we Americans take for granted but are not readily available if you live in Dublin.
Which, it turns out, is just about all of our favorite places to eat.
In addition to eating, we tried to see as many interesting things as possible. Guess what. There are lots of things to see and do in Cape Girardeau or within an easy drive.
I have mentioned some of these from time to time. My wife and I enjoy what we call our magical mystery tours. Sometimes we don't know where we're going or why. We are rarely disappointed.
Here are some of our favorites we revisited while younger son was here.
A trip to Carbondale to look at a computer not available closer to home took us through Jonesboro, Ill. (site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates), past Giant City State Park (beautiful any time of the year), and past the roads that go to Cobden (fast becoming an art colony) and Alto Pass (orchards and vineyards).
The next day we headed for Murphysboro, Ill., home of the museum honoring John Alexander Logan, a Civil War general credited with making Memorial Day a national holiday and many other significant achievements. It's well worth a visit.
Since we were that far north we headed up Highway 3 to one of my favorite spots, Prairie du Rocher, a town settled by the French in the early 1700s. Nearby is Fort du Chartres, a rebuilt stone fort first erected by the French, used by the British and ceded to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Coming home we took the Mississippi River ferry across to Ste. Genevieve -- a great way to experience our river.
Another outing took us to the old courthouse at Thebes, Ill., where Dred Scott was jailed and on to Cairo to the much neglected state park at the tip of Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers join. Across the Ohio are the prehistoric burial mounds at Wycliffe, Ky.
A tour of Cape Girardeau took us to the floodwall murals and Fort D, among other places.
Another outing was to Altenburg and Frohna in Perry County to see experience the rich Lutheran heritage of those towns. We went by way of Trail of Tears State Park and Neely's Landing.
Yet another trip took us to the mill and covered bridge at Burfordville (where, by chance, a pair of magnificent bald eagles were keeping watch) and on to Marble Hill to see the outstanding natural history museum.
Food stops included Cajun, Mexican, Chinese, local diners and barbecue (several locations, all excellent), not to mention the workout our grill received at home.
Our Christmas present is gone, but the memories we made in the past two weeks will last forever. Thanks, son.
Joe Sullivan is the former editor of the Southeast Missourian.