So, I have been travelin’ new territory, Friends.
Yesterday, I left the Delta and drove I55 south, straight into Louisana, to Hammond about 55 miles north of New Orleans, where I spent the night at The Historic Michabelle Inn, built at the turn of the 20th century. My host has been running this inn since 2001 when he moved there from Charlottesville, VA. Here are some photos of the amazing hospitality I experienced and for a very reasonable amount. The bed was fantastic, the breakfast, delicious, and, although I planned on paying for a bottle of wine (which I did not finish!), this morning, Innkeeper just waved me off. I hope you’ll consider this place if you are ever traveling this way.
I stopped there because this morning, I had a 10 am reservation to tour the the Whitney Plantation museum, once called Habituation Haydel, in Wallace, on the west bank of the Mississippi River where hundreds…hundreds of plantations existed. (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about this tour.)
I have never been to this corner of the US; in fact, I decided not to stop in New Orleans (this trip) because I don’t want to do that city alone.
I’ve been through the Ozarks, all around central Mississippi, Memphis, but never south to the Gulf Coast.
OK, that’s not actually true. Some of you might remember this: when I was a senior in high school, I competed as Miss Maryland in the America’s Junior Miss pageant in Mobile, Alabama. I flew into Mobile for the two-week affair. It was mind-blowing. Really. I remember feeling I was so different from my southern counterparts. (Even though Maryland, as many folks like to remind me, is often considered “southern”.) I couldn’t get used to the delicacy of these gorgeous young women, the protectiveness of our host families and all the women volunteers who looked after us during our stay.
Andy Gibb and Ed McMahon emceed the live broadcast, and people tell me (I’ve only ever seen the footage once) that I squealed maniacally when I won the Talent Award, was called on stage during the live telecast, and kissed by Mr. Gibb and Mr. McMahon. Ah, well, so long ago.
Anyway, my host family, whom I remember as perfectly genteel and lovely, took me and Ms. North Dakota, my roommate, to the coast one evening after we’d had a dinner out. I put my foot in the Gulf of Mexico. I remember my host “mom” talking about storms and hurricanes; this was a forever distance before Katrina.
But as I drove south this morning, I wasn’t thinking about Jr. Miss; indeed, had not thought of it until just now as I type. I was thinking about the swamp to my left, the tall, still-winter trees, the Bald Cypress, green coming from vegetation at their feet, but otherwise, empty and gray and seemingly lichen-covered, or colored. I think about alligators, about runaway slaves, native american enslaved peoples and how they hid, lived, built small communities in these swamps. How when you are able to look long enough, there is a beauty in the stand of cypress rooted in water, muck, swamp. I thought about my mother making this trek many many years ago, that I am beginning to understand how she saw beauty in this slant of south, and how limited–no, occluded–my view still can be.