From the Trip Report Archives: Natchez, Mississippi

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.

Louisiana-Mississippi-map

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.

cattle-on-levee

Louisiana to Mississippi rural highways, byways, and parkways give credence to the travel credo always take the scenic route.

cows on levee

Cell phone images of interest along country roads less traveled capture the scene and the herd.

Louisiana-back-roads

Lost is the actual count of times we traveled to Natchez for a festival, pilgrimage, celebration of a milestone, or just to getaway.

However, some trips do stand out more than others for one reason or another.

old river bridge

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.

Vidalia-to-Natchez

Natchez gifts the eye with stunning views of the swift and sprawling Mississippi River and contrasting elevation levels.

Natchez–Vidalia Mississippi River Bridge

Natchez–Vidalia Mississippi River Bridge

Crossing over the Natchez-Vidalia bridge is its own we’re not in Louisiana anymore moment.

Longwood-Columns-Natchez

Longwood

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.

Guest house options work best for us.  Included is the bed and breakfast experience with the extra added bonus of privacy.

Ravennaside

Ravennaside at that time was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Van Hook. Important to the Van Hooks was honoring 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.

Funny how a quick elbow nudge to the ribs from your seatmate can get your attention. Delivered to my ear almost as quick as the nudge was the scoop Karen discovered while engaged in casual cocktail chitchat.

Turns out our fellow day drinkers happened to be a group of senior editors from Southern Living magazine.

southern living magazine 1984

Thirty+ years later and a boatload of real life erases the recall of a single name of the three ladies and single gentleman in the group.

That late Saturday afternoon spent Southern sippin’ is by far one of the best travel memories in our Natchez, Mississippi travel repertoire.

Around Town

Longwood-Natchez-Mississippi

Longwood

Longwood Rotunda

Longwood Rotunda – Flickr

Springtime-in-Natchez

The Parsonage

St. Mary Basilica

St. Mary Basilica

ceiling-medallion-Natchez

Front Parlor of Rosalie Mansion

streets in Natchez

Sights, Streets, and Sidewalks

Natchez Brewing Company

Natchez Brewing Company

Natchez-brewing-company-pizza

Natchez Brewing CompanyPizza Lab–  Photo by G. Douglas Adams

Natchez claims a spirited aura when people, places, and things get to stirring after dark.

Natchez Ms sunset

Sunset in Natchez

Under-the-Hill-Saloon

Under-the-Hill-Saloon

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.

King's Tavern

King’s Tavern

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.

King's Tavern historical marker

King’s Tavern Historical Marker

Storied is a 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.

Madeline

King’s Tavern 

Upon the discovery of a dagger in a fireplace located in another room of the tavern the plot began to thicken.

Post House Menu

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.

Stanton Hall Entrance Natchez

Stanton Hall

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.

twin-oaks

Photo courtesy of Peter W. Patel

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.

Twin-Oaks-Natchez

Photo courtesy of Peter W. Patel

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.

Homochitto Street

Photo courtesy of Peter W. Patel

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.

twin-oaks-chapel

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.

canopy-bed

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.

candlelight-yellow-Glidden

Candlelight Yellow by Glidden

Couple that together with the Southern Antebellum theme, and a yellow and green color palette it is.

Tranquil Light Green Glidden

Tranquil Light Green by Glidden

Modern remodels of the bathroom suite and kitchen struck the right balance between old and new.

What’s for breakfast issue was addressed by the fully stocked fridge, and musical entertainment was delivered by the stereo system churning out the contemporary music of the day.

On top of all that, there was a large working fireplace and a private courtyard providing the comforts of home and them some.

Twin-Oaks-Natchez-grounds

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.

Double-Eagle-Coffee

Double Eagle Coffee

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.

fika

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.

twin-oaks-bamboo

Parking areas for visitors 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.

In our comings and goings neither one of us had noticed the large concrete garden statue standing at the far end of the courtyard.

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 when I was finished getting ready 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 a whiter shade of pale in color and frantic in his locking the door behind him maneuvers.

Immediately I ask, “What’s wrong?”

“There’s a headless something or someone standing in front of the car.”

Normally being the calm, cool, and collected (and sober) one in our party of two, my initial reaction was to diffuse the situation without discounting Dave’s fear.

“Okay.  Why don’t you share with me exactly what you think you saw.”

His recounting goes a little something like this:

Walking up the stairs to the driveway, David 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 no one was in the study, so Dave continued on down the driveway to the parking area.

Proceeding with the details, he tells me the birds roosting in the bamboo trees is deafening loud this evening, and the aforementioned fall winds have begun to pick up.

Setting the scene is even more precise detail, Dave explains the closer he gets to the guest parking area the more he is 100% percent certain he sees a headless figure standing in front of the car

Now remember, neither one of us has noticed the garden statue prior to this sighting, so my look of sure you do, the look I’ve perfected over the years, stands accurate.

Louisiana Girl T shirt

“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.

Upon opening the door, a strong gust of wind coupled with the sounds of  birds roosting in the bamboo trees played a sinister melody.

Doo-doo-doo-doo, Doo-doo-doo-doo

twilight zone

Looking down the courtyard through overly caffeinated eyes, I too believe that I see a headless figure standing in front of the car

Lightening bolt fast sums up the speed in which I shut and locked the front door.

Dave shot me a I told you so look; his perfected signature look.

Regardless of what or who is standing by the car, I was determined we were going to The Post House for dinner.

After a bit of deliberation, we jointly opened the door for a second look, and yep, he-she-it is still there.

Dave devises a game plan of how to both get to the car and defend ourselves from the forces of headless evil lurking in the night.

“Grab that pair of candlesticks off the mantle.  You take one, and I’ll take the other, and it’ll be two against one.”

silver plated candlesticks

Dave addressed my concerns over the post battle condition of the candlesticks.

They weren’t antiques, and being familiar with the brand and the retail store where a replacement pair could be purchased from offered the solution.

Dave concluded if the decorative accents fell victim to battle and replacement eluded us, we would throw a Ben Franklin Dr. Whittington’s way upon checkout.

With adrenaline at peak levels, a fierce craving for Post House Chicken Cordon Bleu present, and a battle defense consisting of liquid courage and decorative accents we were let’s do this ready.

Slow walking the inevitable was useless, so we picked up the pace and the candlesticks prepared to beat our way into the car.

Roosting birds, swirling winds, and building fear further set the scene. As we got closer to the car, reality offered a 20/20 view to what we were working with.

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 the previously unnoticed life size concrete garden statue complete with missing head

Myddelton_House_garden,_Enfield,_London___Pedestal_headless_sculpture

Myddelton House Garden
A Dead Ringer!

Failure on our part in noticing the statue from the get-go resulted in two complete idiots 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.

Dave wasted no time looking around to see if anyone witnessed our pre-dinner show spectacle. The man does have his priorities.

Fortunately, no one had and our reputations remained intact.

Waiting until we pulled out of the main driveway to comment, 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 that was not to be the case.

In record post-trip return time, Dave 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.

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 Mississippi River, the days and nights are never dull, and that’s why we consider Natchez a favorite getaway destination.

Darleen-signature-love

Show & Tell

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