Sunday, 12 May 2019

Driving Through Mississipi: Jackson, Vicksburg, & Natchez.

I feel as though everywhere we went on our big Chicago to New Orleans roadtrip, was my favourite place. I totally fell in love with so many places we visited. But Mississippi really captured my heart. After driving from Chicago to Nashville to Memphis and seeing not a whole lot on the entire drive, it was magical to suddenly enter Mississippi and be surrounded by lush grass and tall trees! Being around nature again was just the best.


One Night in Jackson Mississippi

We started our Mississippi journey with one night in Jackson Mississippi, which we naturally drove into with 'Uptown Funk' on repeat purely for the line 'Jackson Mississippi', haha. Our first stop in Jackson was Brent's Drugs Soda Fountain, which is a diner that opened in 1946. It's one of the most famous diners in America and was even used in the movie, The Help! It really is an incredible place and they do the best milkshakes!!



We didn't have much time in Jackson, and so we checked into the hotel and got changed, then walked over to Hal & Mal's Blues Club. We were in Jackson on a Monday, and Monday is the only day of the week the famous Hal & Mal's host their Blue Monday nights. 

Unfortunately Jackson celebrated St Patrick's Day a week later than the rest of the World, and so we got to Hal & Mal's to find it all closed up. A man called Donny was smoking outside a small bar across the gravel road, and called out to us, "It's closed! They opened on the weekend for St Patrick's instead!". So we walked over to him to inquire further, and eventually we were persuaded to enter the bar he was sat outside. We had nothing to lose - our destination was closed and we were hungry and thirsty! 

It turned out to be THE BEST decision ever! It was the most American bar I've ever been in. I ordered a club sandwich with fried okra, but I'd never had okra before so I asked the waitress what it was. She said she didn't like it so she yelled out to the rest of the bar, "Hey guys! How would you describe okra? They're not from 'round here!". An older couple sat near us helped describe it "It's goooood! Just don't eat too much or it'll go right through ya!". Anyway, the club sandwich was on brioche bread and it was the best club sandwich I've ever had. The fried okra was pretty yummy too!

We struggled to finish our food as the locals in the bar kept coming up to us and talking to us and asking us where we were from and about our journey. But we loved every second. Donny is a gem stone and rock expert, and drives around the country finding stones and making them into jewellery. He kindly gifted us one each!

After our food we spent the entire evening drinking huge tumblers of fireball with the locals (all Republicans), discussing everything from abortion to guns to racism. They all agreed that Trump wasn't the best, that abortion is a good thing, but what we couldn't budge them on was guns. Tim had three guns in the back of his truck outside...despite the fact he was absolutely off his face drunk and about to drive home with said guns in his truck.

We had the best night. It was an eye-opener. And everyone was so lovely to us and welcomed us into the bar like we were one of them. We literally didn't stop laughing the entire night, and the entire next day after reliving it and going over it all. "Yeeas, Ma'am". 

One Night in Natchez Mississippi

The morning after our wild night out in Jackson, we stopped by the old Art Deco Greyhound Bus Station which was the location were many of the Freedom Riders were arrested. We then headed to iHop and loaded up in dulce de leche pancakes iHop pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns, and then drove down to Natchez via Vicksburg.


Vicksburg is a beautiful old town with a traditional American main street with wooden buildings and adorable coffee shops. There's often a steamboat sat on the river, and it's home to the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum - aka, the place where Coca-Cola was first bottled! Vicksburg is also home to the National Military Park, due to it being one of the most important sites in the Civil War. We started off by driving around the National Military Park - it's honestly just beautiful and we loved how lush and green it was.



After that we went into the town centre, and it was just as I remembered it! Last time I was here everything was closed for some reason and so we couldn't visit the Coca-Cola Museum, but this time I finally got to visit! In case you don't already know, I'm a HUGE Coca-Cola fan and have collected limited edition bottles from around the world since I was 14 and first visited the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

Naturally I bought a new bottle at the Biedenharn Museum (they have commemorative Biedenharn ones), and although the museum is small it's super interesting and there are a couple of original soda fountains you can see!



After Biedenharn we drove down to the riverside to get a closer look at the steamboat, and then down to Natchez along the Natchez Trace Parkway - you need to drive off the highway and follow the signs for the Natchez Trace Parkway. Trucks aren’t allowed onto the road, and it’s practically empty. It’s one of the most beautiful scenic drives and shows you the true Mississippi!



When we arrived in Natchez we checked-in at the stunning Monmouth Historic Inn, and made ourselves comfortable in our cute little Pond Cottage. It was pure bliss sitting on a rocking chair in the late afternoon on the porch with a book, before heading into town for dinner at the popular local riverside restaurant, Magnolia Grill. Magnolia Grill specialise in local fish and seafood, and the staff were so lovely! I had the delicious catfish, with...you guessed it...Pecan Pie for dessert ;)



The next morning we headed to New Orleans via the Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. The plantation is now an organization, and one of the few plantations that actually make an effort to educate visitors on the history of slavery and the actual people who built and maintained the beautiful plantation. We found the ‘slave quarter’ exhibition very informative, and were impressed by the plantation's commitment to educating visitors and giving the slaves a legacy.



For example, did you know that pecans are in commercial production because of a slave named Antoine who lived at Oak Alley and was a talented botanist? He discovered how to make a thin-shelled pecan, as they used to have very hard and thick shells that were impossible to crack! They also have a tribute to the people who lived, worked, and died at the plantation in the form of a wall with all of the names of the slaves on it.

As well as the slave huts, you can also take a tour of the beautiful big house that the slaves built. The craftsmanship is magnificent, and it made me feel really sad to think that those slaves built it by-hand for their 'owners' to live in. Anyhow, the tour is well worth doing and really interesting, and I was in awe of the line of Oak Trees in-front of the building. Now I want a garden filled with old Oak trees haha!



And then it was time to head to New Orleans!! Stay tuned - my final USA Roadtrip post about our few days in NOLA is coming very soon!

Hertz Car Hire Fact Box:

Car hire in Mississippi with hertz.co.uk starts from £23 a day. For further road trip inspiration, head to Hertz American Road Trip Planner and discover iconic and off-the-beaten track routes, downloadable maps and insider guides.

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