Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Road Warrior Returns

Last year at Christmas my sister and I decided instead of exchanging presents, we would promise to take two trips together this year. We'd done a girls' trip to Nashville a few years ago and had a blast, so we knew traveling together was a good thing. In June, I spent a week at her home on the coast of Georgia. She lives in a resort area so why go somewhere else during the summer?

Last Saturday she arrived at my home and got to see our new house for the first time. Then on Sunday we drove to Birmingham so that Great Auntie Bev could meet Baby O for the first time. Then on Monday morning we headed out to travel the Natchez Trace Parkway.

En route to the Trace, we stopped in Tuscumbia, Alabama to see Ivy Green, the childhood home of Helen Keller. And as an added treat, we had lunch with Beverly Barton.

We ended our day in Tupelo, Mississippi in a wonderful bed and breakfast across from Elvis's elementary school. Sadly, we missed fellow Heart of Dixie member Peggy Webb's booksigning by a day.

The Natchez Trace was a 440 mile trail used by Native Americans and early explorers as both a trade and transit route as well as a post road for mail delivery by Pony Express riders. The Parkway follows the general path of the original trace. In some spots you can visit the original trace as shown in the photo below.

The Trace Parkway ends in Natchez, Mississippi, which sits on the mighty Mississippi River. At this time of year, the camellias are in bloom and grace the city with their vibrant color.

Natchez is also home to a number of antebellum mansions, which are open for tour. Stanton Hall is shown below. It covers an entire city block.

Rosalie, which sits at the site of the old French Fort Rosalie, has extensive gardens and sits on a bluff overlooking the river.

The best part of our trip was our night at Bluff Top, an old Victorian house, which has been lovingly restored and turned into a B&B. Our host, Neil Varnell, creates such an atmosphere of warmth and welcome and treated us (and the other couple staying there) to an elegant breakfast in the house's beautifully furnished dining room. The pièce de résistance was the view from the balcony. You just can't help but relax watching the river flow by.

The big surprise of the trip was a little detour off the Trace to a place called the Ruins of Windsor. This home was built by a wealthy planter and is considered by some historians to be the largest and finest antebellum mansion built in Mississippi. An artist rendering of the mansion is shown below.

The house survived the War Between the States but burned to the ground in 1890 when a party guest threw a cigarette into a wastebasket. Twenty-three columns and some sections of brass balustrade are all that remain today of Windsor. We traveled about ten miles off the main road and then turned onto a gravel path to reach the ruins. As we rounded a curve, the columns appeared before us and both of us said "Wow!" I was reminded of the ruins in Rome and Athens -- columns standing like quiet sentinels as a reminder of another time and way of life.

Sadly, however, someone in the department of transportation failed spelling.

Our trip came to an end yesterday (we did get to visit Baby O again!) and my sister left this morning to make her way back to the coast via Atlanta where my nephew is a student at Georgia Tech. Now I get to deal with the tons of emails, stack of laundry and empty fridge and pantry.

Life must go on but it was sure nice to take the break for a few days and see a new part of the country. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll do this again next year. But where???

What's been your favorite road trip?


Tessa Radley said...

Lovely photos, Marilyn. Gosh, you made me wish I'd been there at those ruins. Years ago I visited the ruins at Tintern Abbey

Best road trip? Hmmm...maybe the almost 6 months my husband, I and two boys spent exploring Australia. We'd travel a little each day and pitch camp each night. We started at Cairns and drove all the way down the East Coast then looped up to Adelaide, Uluru and back to Sydney through Broken Hill. The experience of a lifetime!

Problem Child said...

Welcome back, PM. Things have been quiet around here in your absence.

Best road trip? Hmm...The Playfriends go to (insert destination here) would always rank high.

One of my favorites was when DG took Counselor Shelley and me on a 3-day driving tour of the Scottish Highlands. We were very young--adventures were different back then. (I now have a credit card with a high limit and a complete aversion to crappy hotels and barracks-style youth hostels.)

LouAnn said...

Ah...the road not taken! My favorite road trip had the PC, her Mom and I in the Highlands of Scotland. We took a detour from the map that DG had provided and discovered an interesting road sign that had been altered by some imaginative soul, and a really cool inn set by a sea loch. The pub was frequented by locals with their dogs. Breakfast included haggis and blood pudding...can life get any better??? LOL
"Mind the left!"

Problem Child said...

Aaahh, LouAnn, that trip has many fond memories for me. Abbott and Costello could use parts of it for a movie!

(Blog readers will have to understand that the women in our family are very similar. PC x 3 on the road. Snort!)

blueberri said...

As I read this I couldn't help thinking what a great travel magazine story this would be! Awesome job of description, Marilyn! Great photos!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Seems like an awesome trip.

Playground Monitor said...

My sister and I had a few Abbott and Costello moments on our trip too, most notably the one where I learned how to operate the delay on my digital camera and we tried to get a photo of us standing on an old section of the Trace.

Then there was the couple we kept running into over and over. We were at the same B&B in Tupelo the first night. We'd see them at different points of interest along the Trace. And the next morning at breakfast, who walks into the restaurant at the Comfort Inn in Vidalia, Louisiana but them! And in talking to them, we learned he had retired from Delta Airlines and was now the estate manager for Travis Tritt.

Smarty Pants said...

My favorite road trip happened when I was about 13 or 14, I guess. My mom and I drove from Las Vegas to a campsite near Sholo, Arizona where a friend owned a share. After a few days there, we headed back, taking the scenic route. We intended to go to the Grand Canyon, but on the way, we stopped at every silly roadside attraction. We saw "The Thing", drank cherry cider at Jackrabbits, visited Bedrock outside of the GC and ate lunch with Fred and Barney...pure silliness. There's even a picture of me somewhere riding on a six foot jackrabbit outside of that roadside stop. Won't be posted here, of course, but it exists... :)


Kathy said...

Great pictures, PM! Now I want to tour the Natchez Trace. Haven't done that yet.

Great to have you back!


MaryKate said...

Marilyn - It sounds like a terrific trip. I would love to do something like that with my sister. What gorgeous pix!

Welcome home!

bamabelle said...

Those photos are gorgeous! I'm so glad you had a good time!

My hubby and I love to go to Memphis if we have a day or two to ourselves. If we are taking the kids on a road trip heading down to Orange Beach/ Gulf Shores is fun in warm weather. My favorite trip was our honeymoon trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I would love to go back again! :)

Rhonda said...

PM, I have road trip envy! Sounds like you all had a wonderful time. (And drove right by my house coming in to Tuscumbia.:-)