In our hunt to find a small village/town that retains its character and has somewhere local to eat etc, instead of busy highways where a ‘high street’ is basically a strip of highway with big chain restaurants all over the place, where you cant walk and have to drive, we found Tallapoosa! Now, don’t get me wrong, there are surely lots of lovely little towns and villages, (we saw many in Louisiana) but we struggled to find them along our route and were very surprised that we were told on more than one occasion that the high street was effectively just a strip of the main road with McDonalds, Sonic, Cracker Barrel and a gazillion other chains, where you cannot park and walk along but have to drive (there are no pathways). So by this time we were craving a walk around a cute little town and looking in little local shops, galleries, restaurants/cafes etc. Tallapoosa is one of those places, albeit somewhat smaller than we may have intended lol. It was such a cute little village with lots of historic houses and was established around 1860 on land that was previously inhabited by the Creek Indians. In fact, Tallapoosa is a Creek Indian word which means the golden river (which gives you a clue why people started settling here), also known as Possum Snout (after a Creek Indian with that name). The town/village centre itself has a railway right through the middle, raised slightly, which separates one side of the street from the other. With a gallery showcasing local artists (some of the items in there were great, including a little turtle i fell in love with made from i think walnut, alabaster and a bit of copper and a huge frog), a few little trinket shops and a cute little cafe (where i had a root beer float yay!!! So much better than a cream soda float i had as a child which was super sickly) there wasnt really much here but it really was a beautiful spot. We drove around for a while just exploring and spying on some of the houses. We drove down one little land and got stopped by a random horse just standing in the middle of the road. We edged our way past him and stopped so i could dash up to a house to let them know that one of their horses had escaped. Turns out Baxter (i cant remember his real name but Glen is convinced this is it, its not but lets just pacify him :p) is an old boy who regularly prowls the lane cos his field mates bully him a bit and stop him getting to the food. He is a poorly boy, very old and basically they let him do what he wants now. Incidentally, the people that own the horse also own the two dogs that just sit in the middle of the road and refuse to move for anyone lol. The lady who i spoke to was not the owner but frequently returns home and has to try and maneuver her car around them. She also just shouted to me to come in when i knocked on her front door, such lovely people, very trusting, i could have been anyone. Anyway, we had a lazy and rather lovely day just prowling around and enjoying the scenery and the beautiful village before we had to leave and get a little closer to Atlanta to find a hotel before our flight home tomorrow (boo!).
PS STILL have not seen a single (live) armadillo or possum and apparently the locals think it makes me a little crazy to want to see one. Actually, they laugh when you ask about it. Pft.
Today we decided to visit two places in Birmingham, Alabama. The first was Rickwood Field. This is proven to be the oldest ball park (baseball) in America and it opened in 1910. Many baseball stars have played here over the years (including Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson) and while it is no longer the home of the Birmingham Barons (they moved to a newer, larger stadium some time ago), it is still in use regularly for local leagues, high schools, colleges, charity matches etc. The interesting thing about this park (aside from the fact it is indeed the oldest park) is that the Friends of Rickwood have worked hard to keep this ball park looking as it did in the 1940’s. Where possible the original artifacts are still there, including the wooden flooring in the dug outs and the entrance way etc. I believe they told us that it is the only (or one of very few) that still has real grass. Having never seen a baseball park before this was a really interesting trip for us and Vernon, the man who worked there and patiently answered all our questions, was super helpful and rightly proud of all the work they do here. If you are in the area, this is definitely worth a visit (and im sure a small donation would be much appreciated too!). 😀
The second stop of the day was Sloss Furnaces which is a national historic landmark. Basically, these furnaces are the start of Birmingham!
Pig Iron production began in 1882 and continued for almost 90 years when environmental pressures mounted and it finally closed.
Today we visited Tupelo and the tiny house which was the birth place of Elvis Presley. Back when he was born this was a tiny village really but it’s a pretty large place now although you can still get the country feel around the house. Elvis’ father, grandfather and uncle built this house although Elvis only lived here until he was 3 when his father was arrested for cheque fraud and they lost the house. It was really the only place that was actually theirs until many years later as they moved around a lot after here. The Tupelo house is what’s known as a shotgun house which means the rooms follow on from each other, you have to walk through one room to get to the next. It’s a pretty common type of house at this time but this was just a two room house. The first room being a lounge and bedroom and the other a kitchen diner. There was a little film that gave you an idea of Elvis’ life here (they stayed in Tupleo until he was 13 so it covers up to then) as well as stories from people who knew the family etc. You can visit the chapel Elvis went to and where he started singing (it has been moved a couple of streets and is now next to the house) and they have a presentation there to give you an idea of what a service was like. Loud is the answer. It was lovely here too, really gave you a feeling of what life had been like for the Presley family. You can even go into town and see the shop (still running) where Elvis got his first guitar, although stories seem to differ on whether it was his mum or dad that took him for it. He wanted a gun or a bike but his mum said both were too dangerous so he ended up with a guitar lol.
After lunch (including an amazing watermelon water!) and a wander round town we had to get back on the road again heading in the direction of Birmingham, Alabama (cue more singing!). We found a hotel just outside the city, nothing special but we have a couple of things nearby planned for tomorrow. Tomorrow is Rickwood and Shloss.
Today was Elvis day baby!!!! We arrived at Graceland at about 10 am and surprisingly there really wasn’t much of a queue! We had a bit of a wait until the next tour at 11, so we went to look around the cars first. Yeah, he certainly had a few. I’m not really a car person so I can’t really remember what most of them were but he certainly like his bright colours, think purple cars or I think I saw one with red leather seats lol. Not exactly a wallflower was he, but you only need to see his costumes later on to know that! He also had a lot of golf carts and snow mobiles which he had converted to run on grass (cos there isn’t much snow in Memphis :p). Elvis, his family and friends used to race them all over the place and Elvis would often lead them off the property and onto the main road lol. He wouldn’t be able to do that today, far too busy :p
We went round one or two other collections too before the tour of the house, one of which contained some of Elvis’ costumes as well as bits and pieces of memorabilia. The best thing was in all of the different displays they had videos. In the car display they had video clips of either films he was in or home movies with him driving different vehicles, in the costumes place they had different videos showing Elvis wearing the costumes on display. It was cleverly worked really. So much to see. Later there was a Hawaii presentation where they showed clips of Elvis in the big Hawaii concert as well as clips of him filming there etc. I found it so amusing that his mum had made him promise he would never fly unless he had to so he took a boat all the way to Hawaii because if that promise lol. Amusing that he had his own planes too when he had made this promise lol.
Then it was time for the house itself! Upon stepping through the door I have to admit it was not what I expected. It get much smaller than it looks in pictures, from the hallway anyway because I guess I was expecting a big hallway and there really wasn’t one. It was kind of open plan into the lounge and dining area which was a surprise. It’s only when you walk further back in the house to the extensions they added that you see that it’s larger. There is a large basement as well as the famous jungle room at the back of the house. Elvis never allowed anyone other than the people that lived in the house to go upstairs, apparently the minute he walked downstairs he was in showman mode even if it was just his friends there, so we were not allowed upstairs. They had lots of grounds and outside buildings too each with other displays happening. I could have sat and watched the videos all day but we had other plans before moving on for the night so Glen basically had to drag me away. It was amazing, something I have wanted to do for so long and I’m so happy I finally got there. Oh, incidentally, don’t eat there. Meatloaf may well have been one of Elvis’ favourite meals but I’m pretty sure that would not have been the case if he had eaten in that restaurant! The others might be better, idk.
After Graceland we went to a huge local cemetery called Elmwood. We hired a CD to do a drive round tour which covered all sorts, including one woman who killed all of her husband’s, at least 5 I think. But still people kept marrying her lol! Busy day, tomorrow off to Tupelo to see where Elvis was born 🙂
We spent the morning prowling around Clarksdale, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Then we headed over to Memphis. We had a bit of a drive around Memphis City centre and took a look at Beale Street. It reminded us of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, full of drunken youngsters wobbling around even though it was only about 3/4pm lol. We decided it was too early for that and besides Glen was driving, as you seem to have to do everywhere over here lol. There are even drive through ATM machines!! We had lunch in a chain (which we usually try to avoid but we were so hungry and it amused us) called Sonic, which is a drive in where you park up in a car space, place your order and the servers come out on roller skates to deliver it lol. Our waitress looked kinda wobbly, I almost ran across to take the food off her in case she splattered my milkshake everywhere lol. The milkshake survived, fortunately for here :p
Later we went for dinner at The Memphis Bbq Co which was amazing. The have won awards for their ribs and I totally see why, they were divine! Now they need to open a Skegby Bbq Co, not quite as catchy though I fear. Early night tonight, I need time to beautify myself for the King tomorrow. Xxx
Photos are from Clarksdale.
Today was the day of the longest drive of the holiday. We set out along a road called the Natchez Trace which was the old travelling route used by the local Natchez Indians and later by everyone else travelling between Natchez and Nashville. It’s a scenic route and therefore a slower road but there are lots of historic places to stop and its a rather beautiful drive. We stopped briefly at an old wooden inn (Locust Inn, see pic) which is I think the only one still remaining, it was someone’s home that was also used as an inn for travellers who had taken their boats down river but had to walk back because the boats couldn’t go up river. We saw the odd random tortoise walking along the road lol along with a few deer and different birds etc.
First stop was a ghost town called Rodney, which contained many abandoned buildings and churches. We think there was perhaps one house there that is still lived in but for some reason the rest of the town/village was simply abandoned when the Mississippi river changed course and left to rot pretty much. Rather eerie and awkward to get to. Actually I think they abandoned it cos the road into town was such a nightmare :p
Lunch today was at the unique and delightful Old Country Store. It was a buffet style lunch, as much as you can eat and gave us the chance to try their gorgeous fried chicken, corn, mustard greens, okra, black eyed peas, corn bread, candied yam and then an amazing peach cobbler for desert, all washed down with sweet tea. Super delish, if ever you are passing you have to stop by. The owners son just randomly breaks into song whenever he feels like it and even chose to sing a song for me lol. Super friendly people and great food. We were seriously stuffed!
Back on the road again for the most monotonous drive. Flat Mississippi countryside, thousands upon thousands of acres of flat farmland and straight, never ending roads. Very depressing lol, I guess they are lucky they don’t have cliffs here cos people would be flinging themselves off :p
Finally we arrived in Clarksdale which is a very unusual place. Very rundown and a bit intimidating for me really but we heard such good things about it since its the home of Blues really. We went to Ground Zero Blues Club which is part owned by Mogan Freeman. Again a very rustic place, pretty rundown but meant to look this way. We stayed for an hour or so to listen to a local blues band. I think this would be an amazing place to visit if you are a huge Blues fan, since all the greats seem to have been here but it just wasn’t what we expected.
Tomorrow we are onwards to Memphis, here we come Elvis!!!
Today we did some more exploring around Natchez. It really does have some beautiful historical buildings interspersed by less impressive structures. Natchez felt like a real town of opposites, some wonderfully well preserved antebellum properties often right next door to a place that was literally falling apart.
We decided to walk along a couple of the trails advertised, starting with the nature trail. Yeah, don’t bother, there is more nature in our postage stamp of a garden. Although this trail ran along the Mississippi river there were trees on that side so you couldn’t see the river, just trees and the other side was a huge concrete wall. Worst nature walk ever lol although there were plenty of mozzies so maybe that’s what they were referring to lol. After lunch we went to the huge local cemetery and had a drive and walk around there, it was 100 acres, so huge and very quirky in layout with different areas (in no particular place or order lol) for different religions.
After that some cake and tea (or in Glens case coffee) was called for. Luckily Glen had done his research and found the Steampunkmobile in Natchez town, which was a really cool coffee shop, small old building with a porch outside with rocking chairs that were currently hosting two men and their guitar, that sold any kind of coffee you can think of made in a beautiful big copper coffee maker thingy (that’s the technical term) and served some proper tea for me 🙂 With a homemade large banana and pecan muffin (which was super beautiful made using local pecans), it really was just what the doctor ordered since it was raining off and on today.
In the evening we went to try our first ever tamales at Fat Mamas Tamales (see pic, very orange lol) which I was really excited about. Unfortunately they were a bit spicy for me and Glen wasn’t impressed either. Ah well, can’t win em all. Last night in Natchez tonight. Tomorrow we are off to Clarksdale to ‘meet’ Morgan Freeman. Xxxx
Today we had a visit to Angola Penitentiary planned. When we turned up we found out that we couldn’t join that mornings tour because it was for basically naughty children who had been sent there as a deterrent to future bad behaviour and the insurance wouldn’t allow us to go too. So we ended up having a personal chauffeur who was the Director of the museum lol. This had both good and bad points for us. The good thing was that we got personal service and the freedom to ask all the questions we wanted. We were driven around parts of the 18000 acre site, which holds over 6000 prisoners, the majority of whom will never be released. They also have approx 60 prisoners on death row there. Other than the death row prisoners, the others have the chance to earn some kinds of freedom within the prison, so all of them have to serve at least 10 years working in the fields and then, if they have behaved well they have t the chance to apply for different jobs. They have a huge variety of jobs available depending on your skills or desires so there are cowboys that take care of the cattle, people that take care of the horses or other animals, people who train the dogs to be drug dogs etc (and some of those get to live in separate houses near their dogs), carpenters, groundwork, basically any trade you can think of they have here. They have a rodeo every year where the public are allowed in and the prisoners take part in the rodeo and sell their crafts, foods etc. Some of the prisoners run cafes etc on site which the people who work there use. Some of the people that work there live on site with their families too, it’s basically a huge, pretty much self sustaining city in its own right, with its own postcode etc. Many people that work and live here have never lived anywhere else and come from generations of people who have worked there. Unfortunately we didn’t get to try the prison food since we weren’t on the proper tour and I think the visit was tailored to show it in as good a light as possible really. For a prison it really was a beautiful place and many of the prisoners had a lot of freedom but it is still a prison and some people, who weren’t able to adapt to their situation still live behind bars. It was a really interesting and eye opening visit for us though.
After the prison visit we made our way up to Natchez. Stopped in at Mammys Cupboard and tried a Reuben sandwich, without the sauerkraut, which we both loved, with blueberry lemonade followed by a banana caramel cream pie, also yummy! Natchez is full of old buildings and a lot of antebellum houses so we had a little look around those and went to a bar for another daquiru before an early night.
No photo’s today from inside the prison 🙁 but we have some from the museum, the hearse was made by prison inmates and is used even now at the funerals of inmates, the wooden coffins are also made by the inmates as previous to the present prison govenor, cardboard coffins where used and one unfortunate inmate fell through the bottom of a damp cardboard coffin.
Tomorrow, more exploring of Natchez. Until then, later gators. Ps root beer, daquiru and laffy taffy are now my new favourite things, oh and ruebens and crawfish…. there could be a long list here soon.
Vewier discretion is advised!
The day started with a breakfast of boudin (a kind of spicy pork sausage), crackling, hogs head cheese (which is NOT cheeses, it’s basically the pigs head boiled and made into a kind of pate with the gelatinous from the pigs head, I did NOT know this when I ordered it lol), scrambled egg and toast. Glen went safe with ham and eggs, wuss.
Then it was sign out time from our cutesy cabin and off to the Swamp Tour baby!!! We had the best time ever with Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tour, we saw loads of gators, loads of turtles and birds including an osprey with a fish in its mouth. The swamps are just so beautiful and serene, we could have stayed there for hours but unfortunately it was only a two hour tour. The sun was beating down (don’t wear black if you go there lol doh!) and there were at least 3 gators just sitting waiting before we even got on the boat! Best day ever, even though i am burned again lol, we had a super great day.
Now we are holed up in St Francisville in a beautiful old B&B, we think it’s a kind of colonial style and there are loads of plantation houses around here. We went to one for dinner, in the carriage house, where I ate a crawfish ettouffe (a tomato based roux kind of sauce) with rice and Glen had fried catfish. Off to sleep now. Angola State Penitentiary visit tomorrow. Love to all. Xxx