In case anyone wasn’t aware, James is a Spurs fan. A big one. To clarify, I mean Tottenham Hotspur (UK Football), not San Antonio Spurs (Basketball)! A few months ago he found out they would be playing a match against Man City in Nashville which we deemed was worth a week-long road trip. I have decided to break the blog up into 3 parts as otherwise one entry will be unbearably long. Don’t worry, it won’t include a match report – despite James’ eagerness to write one. So here we go, Part 1: Austin to Nashville!
We decided to hire a car for the trip and the people at Budget very kindly ‘upgraded’ us but upon reflection I’d say it was a tad unnecessary! We stopped off for a quick taco at our favourite local hangout ‘Radio‘ and were soon on our way.
We stopped after about 3 hours in Houston at H.E.B (supermarket) to get a quick drink. Everyone talks about the heat and humidity in Houston being insane but it is hard to appreciate until you experience it in person; the 30 second walk from the car to the supermarket was almost too much. We hopped back in and ploughed on, eventually reaching the Texas border.
Hello Louisiana! Fun facts: Louisiana was named in honour of French King Louis XIV. In 1803 the US purchased it from France for $15M, nearly doubling the size of the country. There are almost half as many alligators here as there are people, but we didn’t see any. It is also where they make Tabasco!
We didn’t really stop in Louisiana but the change in landscape from Texas was quite distinct: a lot more green and more churches than you can shake a stick at. I’d heard of the “Bible Belt” but it is quite something to behold throughout the South. After 8ish hours, 450 miles and several true crime podcasts we crossed the Mississippi River and the state border.
Hello Mississippi! We were staying the night in Natchez which is right on the state border, the oldest (300yrs) continuous settlement along the Mississippi River. We stayed in a big old Victorian guest house that was styled beautifully and felt like a step back in time as we entered. The streets and neighbourhood felt very Gone-With-The-Wind and as I found out later, the door way of another local guesthouse was copied for the frontage of ‘Tara’.
Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the US before the Civil War. The road we stayed on, Linton Avenue, is famous for these large Victorian homes that once served as residences for wealthy ‘Carpetbagger’ cotton merchants in the 1880s.
After checking in we went for a quick walk along the Bluff Path – it was a beautiful time of evening as the sun was setting. The river felt truly majestic, around 1.2 miles wide and there was hardly anyone about so we just stood and took it all in. Then we took a selfie.
We went to Natchez Under-The-Hill for dinner, which in it’s heyday was the most notorious river landing on the entire Mississippi river. Described as a “gambler’s paradise, sinkhole of iniquity, and a resort of the damned,” the area was filled with saloons, brothels, and casinos. Knife fights and killings were a part of everyday life – right up our alley(!) These days it is hard to imagine any of that going on – simply a quiet strip with a couple of restaurants, bars and shops with a few people meandering around, taking pictures of the sunset. The night ended with dancing fireflies which was ridiculously exciting for me; so much so that I made James drive round the block 3 (possibly 4?) times to keep seeing them. Of course a phone camera does them no justice but it was pretty magical.
After an obligatory breakfast of French Toast we hit the road – headed for Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis! A quick stop for petrol and somehow the nozzle got itself stuck behind the ‘flap’ inside the petrol ‘hole’ (I am sure these have technical terms but I have no idea what they are!) A friendly guy appears behind James with a fine set of gold teeth and kindly offers assistance with the opening line “I ain’t tryin’a rob y’all or nuttin” – good to know! He then held up a wad of cash to prove he wasn’t going to rob us, cranked open his trunk and pulled out a screwdriver. He had the flap situation fixed in a jiffy, much to our gratitude as I am not quite sure what we would have done otherwise. After exchanging thanks and bants he told us he was a rapper and to make sure we looked up his music on iTunes. His name is ‘Lil Half Ounce’ – possibly explaining the wad of cash, who knows. So if anyone is curious and into rap music (or narcotics?) – look him up!
We took a slightly longer course along the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is a quiet, forest-lined road with beautiful scenery and less intense than the direct freeway route. The road commemorates the original 440 mile trail created by Native Americans linking the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers. It was later used by early European and American explorers, traders, and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I did a bit of driving here (probably because the road was empty and James felt confident enough that I was unlikely to crash into anything).
After around 5 hours we arrived in Tupelo – not much to see in the town of an evening so we ended up in this cool bar with live music, drinking cocktails that tasted like bubblegum and eating buffalo chicken. Winning.
In the morning we stopped by Elvis’ birthplace – wasn’t sure what to expect here but it was a very unassuming attraction with no where near as many people as you would imagine. The wooden house (built by his father) still stands in it’s original spot across the street from the family’s original chapel. The operation seems to be run mostly by local elderly ladies with the most amazing Southern accents, beaming with pride at their connection to the late legend.
So that is it for part 1. Now you see why I am splitting this into 3 sections! I took quite a few little videos (inside Elvis’ house and the guesthouse in Natchez) which I can’t upload to the blog so if you want to see them follow us on Instagram (@adventures.in.austin) and I will add them to our ‘story’ over the next day or so.
Part II is Nashville – coming soon! 🙂 J&T