Natchez/Vicksburg, MS - May 2005
John Bissell

In May 2005, we took an oft-discussed long weekend trip to Natchez, MS. I had been there in briefly 1992 on a motorcycle trip from Austin to Maine. We booked three nights at The Burn, an antebellum home that has been turned, as so many have, into a B&B. We arrived on Thursday evening and spent Friday and Saturday doing the downtown walking tour and visiting four other antebellum mansions for tours. We had a good time in Natchez but were disappointed that the downtown was rather light on good shops and restaurants.

We saw in the paper that the last segment of the Natchez Trace Parkway was to be dedicated on Saturday afternoon. The Parkway is one of my favorite roads, traversing the path once taken by the Indians and early settlers before the advent of steamboat travel. The Trace runs about 450 miles between Natchez and Nashville but had two gaps, one at the start in Natchez and another missing piece around Jackson. The parkway is now complete the entire distance. We skipped the speeches and ribbon cutting and went directly to the Melrose Plantation where they were holding an open house and also served some cake and punch.

We departed Natchez on Sunday morning and drove northeast about 40 miles on the Trace. It was as nice and relaxing a drive as I remembered and we made several stops at points of interest along the way. Some day we will do the entire Trace, hopefully by motorcycle.

Before reaching Jackson, we left the Trace and headed west to Vicksburg to tour the Vicksburg National Military Park. We bought a cassette for the self-guided driving tour and headed out. Unfortunately, the last third of the park road was closed for major repairs so we were unable to complete the entire tour. Along the way, we saw the Union ironclad, Cairo, which has been raised and restored.

After Vicksburg, we started southwest and stopped for a few hours in Natchitoches (pronounced "Naka' tosh"), LA. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. They have a nice downtown but it was Monday and many of the shops were closed. We did see several nice B&Bs such as the home where the movie Steel Magnolias was filmed and toured a recreation of the French fort that once guarded the town and territory from the Spanish.

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