This time last week, Dearly Beloved and I were high-tailing it to Oxford, Mississippi–a nine to ten-hour drive, depending on traffic and my bladder. We made it a two-day trip and planned to stay at a B&B along the way.
If you’re interested in trying a new career, look into opening a B&B in western Alabama or eastern Mississippi because you certainly won’t find much competition. The problem is, you won’t find many towns along that route, either.
Charlotte’s ambient lights make this a tough place for stargazing, but let me tell you–nights on rural Alabama secondary roads are DARK! That night, there was only a sliver of moon and few houses on our route, so we kept an eye out for deer or Bigfoot. When we reached the small town B&B where I’d made a reservation, I learned that the one I’d chosen was on this bucket list!
I’m not sure I’ll make the other 99, but The B&B, a historic home built in 1870, happened to be serving their signature dish (in the lower left corner of the list)–a strawberry/almond Belgian waffle, not to mention bacon, fruit cup, and a giant chocolate chip/pecan muffin.
I-85 through the Carolinas and Georgia is not a pretty route. NC’s billboard lobbyists have won free reign at the expense of the trees and natural beauty. South Carolina is even worse–it has seedy buildings intermixed with one giant billboard after another; one advertises Jesus and the next one an Adult Toy Store (perhaps an unfortunate order.) I must say, KUDOS to Alabama and Mississippi for their highways and byways. Their senators have done them proud securing federal road funds. We’ve been in that area before, but this was our first time on the Natchez Trace Parkway or crossing the Ten-Tom Waterway. Lovely!
My cousin had sent excellent directions, so we found the condo in plenty of time to visit before our lunch reservation: a window table at City Grocery. Since their food is to die for, it should top any list of 100 Places to Eat in Mississippi Before You Die. The chocolate bacon bread pudding is certainly list-worthy.
I think I could live in Oxford, Mississippi and love it. (That sound you heard was my cousin gasping in alarm.) It is a beautiful old town with wonderful architecture, large trees, nice restaurants and shopping, the best independent bookstore in the country, and right in the middle of it all is (drumroll, please…) Ole Miss.
(Photos of the campus and Saturday’s game in a later post. It was quite a spectacle and even though I usually read during football games, I loved every minute of this one.)
Right after our City Grocery lunch on Friday, we headed downtown and our first stop was Square Books. I could spend days…years… in there. I’ve never seen so many signed books in my life!
Next stop was their second store just up the block where I didn’t buy a cookbook because I couldn’t decide between…oh, 50 or so… that looked wonderful. Garden & Gun magazine was hosting a book launch, so we browsed with their wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand. A third store, filled with children’s books was in another block.
Square Books was the first bookstore to host a book signing for (then) local resident John Grisham’s books back when he was peddling his book out of the trunk of his car and he still shows his appreciation by signing his books for the store whenever he writes a new one. Pat Conroy had been recently and signed books, as had authors like Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch.)
The bookstore specializes in southern books, especially ones by Mississippi authors. (Think William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and a host of newer ones like Kathryn Stockett–The Help) Even DB commented that there was something about the area that made one want to sit down and write.
That probably makes you wonder why it took me a week to write this post.
Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in mississippi. – Oprah Winfrey