Natchez, Mississippi is a pack a bag, set the GPS, and let’s get out of town for a day or weekend destination that offers everything from festivals to shopping to art to dining to distinctive mixology to antiquing to gourmet cooking classes.
Jaunting over to this small Mississippi town for a quick getaway from it all is right up our alley.
With a few months still to go until vacation time, reaching back into the trip report archives is my tried and true cure for the are we there yet? blues.
Impressive architecture, antiques shops, mint julep and tiny biscuit lunches at the Carriage House, refreshing cocktail hours, and laid back evenings seal the travel to Natchez deal.
Louisiana to Mississippi rural highways, byways, and parkways give credence to the travel credo always take the scenic route.
Cell phone images of interest along country roads less traveled capture the scene and the herd.
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve gone to Natchez for a festival, a pilgrimage, to celebrate a milestone, or simply to getaway.
However, some trips do stand out more than others for one reason or another.
Photos from our past Natchez trips will not be appearing in this post due to the following:
It’s 98 degrees in the shade here in Central Louisiana.
Rooting around in a climate controlled storage unit to locate the box they may be in is not my idea of hot fun in the summertime, n’est-ce pas?
I’ll do my best to make this an easy follow with the help of borrowed, credited, courtesy of, and sourced photos rich in travel detail.
Natchez gifts the eye with stunning views of the swift and sprawling Mississippi River and contrasting elevation levels.
Crossing over the Natchez-Vidalia bridge is its own we’re not in Louisiana anymore moment.
Our self-guided driving, riding, and walking tours of Natchez have resulted in the discovery of impressive architecture, outstanding architectural details, off the beaten path and under-the-hill gems, and fascinating people.
Speaking of off the beaten path gems and fascinating people, let’s take a travel show and tell detour for a few paragraphs for the simple reason I like telling this story.
Friends of ours invited us to join them in Natchez for the 1984 Spring Pilgrimage. We booked the guest house at Ravennaside for our party of four, packed our bags, and headed east.
The guest house option works best for us.
You get the bed and breakfast experience with the extra added bonus of privacy.
The owners of Ravennaside at the time, Mr. and Mrs. John Van Hook, kept with the vision and intent of the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. James Fleming, for Ravennaside to be a home for entertaining.
Upon check- in, Mr. Van Hook gave our group a tour of the house and a rundown of the schedule of events planned for that evening and the next morning.
Guests were invited to mix and mingle on the veranda over cocktails and appetizers beginning promptly at 5: 00 pm.
Everyone was encouraged to introduce themselves and indulge in lively conversation and strong libations.
My friend and I took a seat on the large rattan couch, exchanging hellos with our fellow seat mates.
Karen immediately struck up a conversation with the group sitting next to us.
I, on the other hand, was taking a moment to study the interiors, the architectural details of the space, and the cast of characters in attendance at this rather unique gathering.
A quick elbow nudge from Karen brought me back to reality. She leaned in to tell me the scoop discovered while engaged in casual cocktail chitchat.
Turns out our fellow day drinkers happened to be a group of editors from Southern Living magazine.
Thirty-five years later and I can’t for the life of me remember a single name of the three ladies or the single gentleman in their group.
Time has a way of doing that.
That late Saturday afternoon spent Southern sippin’ is by far one of the best travel memories in our Natchez, Mississippi travel repertoire.
Natchez claims a spirited aura when people, places, and things get to stirring after dark.
King’s Tavern, circa 1789, is the oldest standing building in Natchez. The tavern is believed to be haunted after an expansion to the original building in 1930 revealed the skeletal remains of two men and one woman hidden in a wall behind the main fireplace.
As the story goes, Richard King, the founder of the tavern, had a mistress named Madeline. Madeline disappeared without a Natchez trace soon after Mrs. King learned of the illicit affair between Mr. King and Madeline.
The finger of speculation pointed straight in the direction of Mrs. King when it was learned she had hired two men from the under-the-hill area of town to murder Madeline.
The plot thickened upon the discovery of a dagger in a fireplace located in another room of the tavern.
Madeline’s true fate remains a mystery, and although based strictly on legend and folklore, it is widely believed the ghost of Madeline resides at 613 Jefferson Street.
My first trip to Natchez was in the summer of 1982, and I knew when I left I would be back for more sooner than later.
Fall’s crisp temps and seasonal colors on parade frame the scene for a made-to-order getaway, so back to Natchez we went in early November.
When I learned you could tour and bed & breakfast in many of the historic antebellum homes throughout Natchez my curiosity was piqued.
I booked a block of two night stays at Linden, Stanton Hall, and Twin Oaks, and we were off to the races.
Linden and Stanton Hall hit the hospitality high note, but Twin Oaks, circa 1832, was the property we absolutely fell in love with all those years ago.
To say the charm quotient overfloweth at 71 Homochitto Street is an understatement.
Our host for many visits over the years was Dr. Homer A. Whittington, a true Southern gentleman if there ever was one.
Ever the gracious host, Dr. Whittington had a distinct and memorable way of making you realize you were experiencing the very best of what Southern hospitality is all about.
We fell in love with the guest house at Twin Oaks. What we would do or where we would dine when we were in Natchez may have been up for debate, but there was never any question as to where where we would stay.
Dr. Whittington joked he ought to just give us our own key to the guest house.
We always felt right at home and a part of the Twin Oaks family.
Unfortunately, the guest house did not age well through the years, and was torn down when Twin Oaks was sold.
The present owner, Regina Charboneau, puts her own unique spin on private accommodations and Southern hospitality as well.
I’ll elaborate more on this in an upcoming blog post.
Back in its B&B heyday, the guest house at Twin Oaks was located at the far end of the gardens just past the staircase to the left of the chapel.
Packed with period antiques and oodles of privacy, the guest house at Twin Oaks was our kind of bed & breakfast.
I’d say the square footage of the guest house came in around 1000 square feet under roof.
This is not an interior photo of the guest house master bedroom, but I wanted to use it to give you a visual idea of the period furnishings.
Light paint colors complemented the dark brown finishes of the period pieces.
Now remember decoristas, this was 1982.
Couple that together with the Southern Antebellum theme, and a yellow and green color palette it is.
A modern bathroom suite and kitchen struck the right balance between old and new.
The full kitchen and fully stocked fridge addressed the what’s for breakfast issue, and the entertainment center churned out the contemporary music of the day.
On top of all that, there was a large working fireplace and a private courtyard that provided all the comforts of home and them some.
On the last day of the trip, we stayed around the guest house for most of the afternoon. The plan was to go to the Post House (currently King’s Tavern) for a farewell to Natchez dinner later in the evening.
Coffee and chicory pairs well with a brisk fall afternoon, serving as the beverage of choice at the guest house coffee and cocktail hour. Dave added a generous pour of Bailey’s to his coffee to spike up the flavor and warm the bones.
Celebrating the moments of our lives in fika fashion over several cups of strong coffee, we found ourselves slightly buzzing from the combination of caffeine, Bailey’s, and the pure excitement of being out of town.
The parking area for guests was at the opposite end of the courtyard. The roosting of what seemed to be thousands of birds in the bamboo trees lining the entire back of the courtyard produced a loud and eerie soundtrack.
One would think in our comings and goings that at least one of us would have noticed the large garden statue standing at the far end of the courtyard.
You would think, but we did not.
With a brisk breeze kicking up and the gift of dipping fall temps, Dave thought moving the car closer to the guest house a good idea. I told him I was almost finished getting ready, and I would meet him at the top of the stairs.
The front door of the guest house was made of solid wood, and was as wide as it was tall. A high pitch squeak at mid open (or close) let you know someone was coming in or going out.
Between the squeak and a strategically positioned full length mirror serving as my make-up mirror, I had both an audible and visual heads up of who was coming in and out of the guest house.
Call it a prehistoric version of the Ring doorbell.
All of a sudden the door swings open so fast it doesn’t even have time to squeak. Dave is in a whiter shade of pale frantically locking the door behind him.
I immediately ask him, “what’s wrong?”
“There’s a headless something or someone standing in front of the car.”
I recall his exact words at this point in the conversation were “I’m not sh#&!ing you.”
Normally the calm, cool,
sober and collected one in our party of two, my initial reaction was to diffuse without discounting Dave’s fear.
“Tell me exactly what you think you saw.”
The story goes like this:
When Dave walked up the stairs to the driveway he saw what he thought was Dr. Whittington sitting in his study. He decided to walk by the study window and wave good evening to Dr. Whittington. Turns out there was no one in the study, so Dave continued on down the driveway to the parking area.
He describes the details, telling me the birds roosting in the bamboo trees is deafening loud this evening, and the previously mentioned fall winds had really began to pick up.
He proceeds to further set the scene. The closer he gets to the guest parking area, he is 100% percent sure he sees the aforementioned headless something or someone standing in front of the car
I give him a look of sure you do.
It’s the look I’ve perfected over the years.
“Do you think perhaps the Bailey’s infused coffees are having their way with your eyes, Dave?”
“I know what I saw, Darleen.”
Facing your fear is the only way to conquer it. Taking these words into account, I decide to see what we’re working with here.
Much to Dave’s “don’t open that door” objections, I opened the front door to better assess the situation.
About the time I opened the door the wind gusted and the sound of the birds roosting in the bamboo hit a crescendo.
Looking down the courtyard through over caffeinated eyes, I too see a headless something or someone standing in front of the car
I couldn’t shut and lock the front door fast enough.
Dave gave me his I told you so look- the look he’s perfected over the years.
There was no two ways about it- we were going to dinner regardless of what or who was standing by the car.
We both opened the door for a second look, and yep, it was still there.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson analyze the situation, and devise a game plan of how to get to the car and defend ourselves from the forces of headless evil lurking in the night.
Dave comes up with the plan. He told me to grab the pair of candlesticks on the mantle. “You take one, and I’ll take the other, and it’ll be two against one.”
Dave addressed my concerns over the post battle condition of the candlesticks. They were not antiques, and I was familiar with the brand and the retail store where a replacement pair could be purchased from.
Dave concluded we would simply replace them and throw a Ben Franklin Dr. Whittington’s way if the candlesticks fell victim to battle.
The adrenaline was flowing, we were both armed with decorative accents, and I had a fierce craving for Post House Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Let’s do this.
We carefully locked up the guest house and headed up the stairs. There was no point in slow walking the inevitable, so we picked up the pace and our candlesticks prepared to beat our way into the car.
Cue the roosting birds, the swirling winds, and the building fear.
The closer we got to the figure, reality came into clear view.
Oh, there was definitely a headless figure at the end of the driveway.
At least we got that part right.
There, standing in front of us in all its courtyard art glory, was a life size concrete garden statue.
Without a head.
Myddelton House Garden
A Dead Ringer!
Failure on our part to notice the statue from the get-go resulted in two complete dumb asses spending the last hour plotting a defense that entailed beating the living daylights out of an inanimate objet d’art with a pair of decorative candlesticks.
It took a second to catch our breath and process what just happened. Dave wasted no time looking around to see if anyone saw us.
The man does have his priorities.
Fortunately for us our reputations remained intact.
I waited to comment until we pulled out of the driveway. I didn’t get an entire word out of my mouth before Dave shut it down with an overly emphasized three word reply.
You. Did. Too.
Goodness knows I would have loved for this to have been kept just between the two of us, but nooooo, Dave. In record post-trip return time, you could not wait to turn our antics into an amateur stand-up comedy show and tell complete with animated gestures and language, exposing our self-humiliation for all the world (well, our family and friends) to know.
We’re all about the show and tell.
One thing is for sure, there’s never been a dull moment in our Natchez, Mississippi travels.
Even when we opt to slow down the pace, enjoy the moment, and roll with the flow of the river, the days and nights are never dull, and that’s why we consider Natchez a favorite getaway destination.