Along the Natchez Parkway
You know, everything has been so good so far, at some point there was bound to be disappointment!
We left Jackson early this morning, before breakfast, because we wanted to spend most of the day in Natchez, reputedly the most beautiful Antebellum town in the region. Several people had said that we “must see” it and as there was a National Scenic Drive on the way there, our expectations were high.
As we left Jackson, we reflected on what was the most un-capital like of state capitals, but acknowledged that we’d enjoyed our stay here, the people had been simply lovely and the food delicious. We were glad we’d spent time here.
Feeling peckish, we pulled into a Waffle House, scene of happy breakfasts from earlier road trips, most particularly in Kentucky, a couple of years ago. The friendly crew there were working hard, calling to one another in their broad Mississippi accents but there were one or two dodgy looking characters about. Never mind – our breakfast was good!
Out on the open road again, we didn’t have far to go before the Parkway entrance.
I had the map but the satnav knew the way.
OK, so we had 82 miles to drive along it and looked forward to a scenic drive.
Except that for most of the way, both sides of the road were tree-lined and there was no view whatsoever.
From time to time there was an information post and we stopped at some, including this one at Lower Choctaw Boundary.
Both boards made for interesting reading.
We were indeed driving along an old, old route. How many people had passed this way, I wondered?
For a short time the view opened up and we drove through cornfields, but before long, we were back amongst the trees.
We were glad of another exhibit and a chance to stretch our legs. We were the only car on the road for most of the time too, so those 82 miles were starting to drag a bit.
Of course, we wanted to see what lay behind us and were curious about the old route, but where was it?
We reached the conclusion it was this grassy, tree covered pathway leading through the forest, but might have been mistaken!
Before long, we were in Natchez and headed straight for the Visitor Centre.
There on the wall was a “Great River Road” sign, part of the same route we travelled last year as we drove from Little Rock to Chicago. It’s always fun to come across such things in unexpected places!
We were glad to arrive here, feeling a little disappointed by the “scenic drive” and maybe it was this disappointment which affected our experience here. For the first time, the Mississippi magic wasn’t there. The staff member who offered us advice simply handed over the leaflet and made two recommendations – no social extension, none of that delightfully charming chitchat that we’ve become used to here and I took refuge in the National Parks store at the end of the exhibit.
Here, I had an interesting and enjoyable conversation with a 1st grade teacher and was delighted to come across a kit for a “Pine Needle Basket”. I had no intention of buying the kit really, but years ago I was asked for advice about how to make a traditional pine needle basket (or rather, how to judge such a thing in a county show) and I had to admit, I had no idea. After all this time, I now see what a pine needle basket looks like! Hooray!
Natchez is all about Antebellum Mansions, so off we set to the first recommendation we’d been given: Stanton Hall. Our first surprise was the $19 per person ticket price. Wow… But there was a guided tour, and this had come highly recommended, so there we were, on the 12 noon tour.
We rolled up to the front door as instructed a good five minutes early, only to find the door locked closed and the tour already started! Excuse me… The door was opened and we were slightly grudgingly welcomed to the group. The tour was interesting, the house lovely – but 30 minutes later the tour was over – someone had to leave early and so the guide made sure we finished in time. Hmmm.
No photographs inside either. Double hmmm.
Now feeling a bit grumpy about Natchez, this antebellum gem, we wanted to go down to the river to see if any steamboats were tied up there, since they feature large in publicity images of the town. Needless to say, today there were none, but we enjoyed gazing over the Mississippi towards Louisiana and watching the huge barge struggle to motor upstream against the current.
What to do now, then? We couldn’t decide whether we’d had enough of Natchez and ought to quit whilst we were behind, or…
go and see another Mansion?!
We knew we’d made the right decision when Barney, the National Parks Ranger showed up and began his performance. Because yes, this was indeed more than just a guided tour!
The house was great, too. Similar in style to Stanton Hall, it was Barney’s lively commentary which made the difference.
The floors here were covered in painted oilcloths, beautifully preserved.
There were interesting features like this punkah (or shoo fly), too.
Upstairs, there were interesting wallpapers; this one had been chosen for a newly married couple’s bedroom
and this one for little sister’s room next door. I’m not sure I’d have chosen either, but as wallpaper designs, they were pretty stunning.
We were glad we’d decided to finish our Natchez visit with a look around Melrose with Barney. Once again, the National Parks turn up trumps! But it was time to go: Sorry Natchez, we just couldn’t see what the fuss was about.
So back we drove in a northerly direction, heading to Vicksburg for a couple of nights.
It’s been another hot day – 95F – but I’m hoping we don’t have to check the veracity of this claim whilst we are here. The Civil War Trail tomorrow will probably provide all the excitement we need