"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
J and I got back from our trip to the South a week ago. I say “the South” because we traipsed through 6 states in about 9 days. We saw so much, ate some incredible food, soaked up precious time with family, and filled our days with adventure. And we came home refreshed, rejuvenated, and revived.
After flying into Atlanta, with Georgia on our minds, we stopped in to visit my aunt and her beautiful family. A quick visit and an early morning put us on the road, through Georgia, Alabama, and into southwest Mississippi – Natchez, to be exact. Natchez is a little town with a big history. It borders the mighty Mississippi River and is just a bridge away from Vidalia, Louisiana.
My grandmother has lived there for nearly 20 years now and my dad recently moved down there to care for her. Our visit with them was short but so sweet. Grandma pulled out album after album of family photos, told me stories from her childhood, and reminisced on bygone days. I love hearing about her memories of growing up, about my grandfather (who passed away before I was born), and about my dad’s childhood.
We got to spend a full day with my dad playing tourists in Natchez. The city has dozens of antebellum homes (pre-Civil War era) that are open to tour. My dad first took us to Rosalie, a home built along the river, used as Confederate headquarters during the war, and now kept up by the Daughters of the American Revolution society.
Our next stop was St. Mary’s Cathedral – a pre-Civil War church of gothic design. The spire couldn’t be missed as we drove through the downtown area and once inside we weren’t disappointed. A stunning, vaulted ceiling of flying buttresses rose above us, beautiful stained glass windows sent tinted light all about, and a beautiful pipe organ filled the back of the sanctuary.
Then we were off to Longwood, another antebellum home and the largest octagonal home in the U.S. It’s truly an incredible building, with 6 floors and surrounded by beautiful Mississippi flora. Kudzu dripped from the trees on the sprawling grounds and we spotted some turtles warming themselves on a log when we drove up. The home itself is a testament to the rise and fall of the Confederacy. Built on the backs of slaves of a wealthy plantation owner, the basement was completed before the Civil War halted further construction efforts. As the family grew more poor, they made the basement their living quarters and could never afford to complete the remaining five floors. The design of the home was brilliant and had it been completed, would truly have been a sight to behold.
After that we made our way out to the Natchez Trace. This is the original Oregon Trail, used by early settlers to travel from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez and the Mississippi River. Parts of the Trace are so sunken in from the decades of foot traffic that banks of 20 – 30 feet have formed on either side in places. The Trace has been turned into a winding highway now that can be driven all the way from Natchez to Nashville. And ironically, Nashville area was our next destination.
The time spent with my dad was so precious. We share a love of history, an anthropologist’s eye for the culture of the south, and a passion for excellent food. We talked about the issue of slavery as we walked through these impressive homes, we talked about honor and loyalty for Confederate soldiers, we played board games late into the night, and he took us to enjoy some amazing southern eats! J got to try fried dill pickles, catfish, and alligator for the first time. I dined on some unforgettable seafood gumbo.
And in too short a time we were back on the road and headed north through Tennessee to Fort Campbell in Kentucky to see my brother and his family.