Published: August 16th 2012July 3rd 2012
Reluctantly, we left Winter Park, by far our most comfortable stop, both in terms of the weather and luxurious accommodations, and descended the mountains heading east. To give Adina a feel of Colorado's biggest city, we stopped for a walk through Confluence Park and Denver's downtown area before picking up a late morning meal and continuing on our way.
Our forthcoming plans were entirely up in the air. Originally we had thought we would attempt to drive to Oklahoma City on this day, but our unanticipated time in Denver put OKC beyond our reach. Instead we drove all day across the parched Great Plains of eastern Colorado and Kansas and called it a night at a motel in Wichita. I'll just say, driving on the interstate in Kansas was frightening. You couldn't help but notice there was nowhere to hide if the weather happened to be bad. Exit after exit was nothing more than a county road stretching into the flat horizon through farm lands. We were thankful to have only sun in the sky.
The next day, we immediately continued towards Dallas. Kansas had been such a topographically mundane and colorless setting that we genuinely thought Oklahoma was
a gorgeous stretch of road by comparison. We crossed north-south through Oklahoma and into northern Texas. After a nearly full day on the road, we arrived in Dallas, where until earlier that day we had intended to couchsurf for two nights so as to spend a day exploring this city. Somewhere along the way, we came up with a new plan that we felt great about. We would stop in Dallas only for dinner and continue driving a few hours into the night. The next morning, instead of a day in Dallas, we drove across eastern Texas and Louisiana to Natchez, Mississippi.
We arrived around noon in this old southern city on the Mississippi River, originally settled by the French and the former capital of Mississippi before Jackson even existed. We heard about Natchez from a friend in Hawaii, and after meeting a random stranger from New Orleans who mentioned the name Natchez again, we decided to go and check it out for ourselves. We prefer the small towns to the big cities anyway. We pulled up at the Natchez Grand Hotel, and decided to splurge on the luxurious, riverfront accommodation to make the most of our short time
For both Adina and I, it was our first time in the deep south, and Natchez was unquestionably the deep south. Antebellum (pre-civil war) plantation homes throughout the small city stood tall and scattered around a petite and quiet downtown area. Each antebellum home had perfectly manicured landscaping and tall trees dangling with spanish moss creating a eerie, yet beautiful atmosphere. Most of the houses were painted white and featured huge columns adorning the front entrance. Nearly all the antebellum homes are operated as bed and breakfasts, and inside they are decorated with ornate furniture and elaborate decor. Set menu meals can be purchased in opulent dining halls hanging frightening portraits of the plantation owner's family dating back to the pre-Civil War era. Beyond the ante-bellum homes, Natchez had a residential area that surrounded its small downtown of strictly privately owned businesses. The city had a ban on franchises; what a delight. A small walkway and park ran along the bluff above the Mississippi River, and off to the left, on the eastern shore of the river, a riverboat casino floated in the brown flowing waters.
After our brief walking and driving tours of Natchez, we enjoyed
the rest of our short stay with our first tastes of southern food, cajun crawfish toast and catfish and fries. After dinner, and with red wine in hand, we walked to the riverfront bluff where we leaned over the guard a rail, gazing at a hazy, burnt orange sunset over Louisiana and the Mississippi. We had only been in Natchez for a little more than half the day, but the time we spent there was somehow so removing from the real world, and simultaneously, so immersing in some southern fairytale. On a road trip like this, I don't know what makes some spots differ from others in the sense that they feel like more or less of an escape from reality, but Natchez was truly an escape for us. We savored every second of this experience, one which was not so profound or beautiful in any particular way, but an extremely special stop on our trip nonetheless.
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