Think Outside the State

American Tale: My 50-state Adventure

Category: Spring Break 2015

Oxford, How I Miss(issippi) You

It has been entirely too long since this trip, but I’ve been putting off writing this post in particular. One of the biggest loves in my life is my home town, and this is the only place that I’ve ever been that has made me question where I want to live long term.

 

Oxford Mississippi is a gem in the south that few people seem to appreciate. Of course, it’s well-known for being home to Ole Miss herself, but beyond that, it is SO much more.

 

When we first started planning our trip, I told mom we had to stop in this town for at least the night, and by the end of the trip, she agreed that it was completely necessary. When we first arrived though, she wasn’t so sure.

 

I had read online about the various hotels in the area, but I wanted to stay somewhere cost efficient and rooted in Oxford. There was no better place to fulfill these request than: The Ole Miss Motel

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This beauty may not look like much, but for a comfy and inexpensive night, it was (slightly) outdated, but very clean. It was also walking distance to the little downtown square area, and where else could you want to be! When we first pulled up, mom wasn’t so sure. But after I pushed her to live on the edge (and told her the price…) she was game to give it a shot. After we paid for our room, we went into the square for lunch. We found something that had been suggested online, and was also mentioned to us by locals, Ajax Diner. My pimento cheese burger was DELICIOUS, and it takes a lot to impress me on pimento cheese.  Mom had “The Big Easy” a divine example of comfort food on a bun.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and calm, definitely a place you could meet with friends, get a bite of food, and socialize.

 

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Next, we walked around the square, and went to one of my favorite book stores I’ve ever been in, Square Books.

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dsc_0699My souvenir from this state turned out to be a Faulkner collections book.  Being his home-town, I felt that it was fitting. As was our next stop:

 

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We had to stop and pay our respects to this great word-crafter, and we had to search for a minute before we found it, but look for the large plaques telling the history of the spot, and walk to the right of it, into the graveyard.

It was strange to stop first at his final resting place, a little backwards maybe, but we continued on to Rowan Oaks, and never in my life have I felt more at home anywhere besides home.

 

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It was gorgeous, inside and out, and has a very mysterious past. It’s currently under the management of the college’s southern history program, and we met a lovely guide who was in the program herself. She talked to us a while about their preservation/restoration projects that they were constantly working on.

The amount of artifacts and the set up of the home was excellent, making you feel as though you were walking through the home in its hayday. The outside grounds were gorgeous as well, and we spent hours exploring.

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dsc_0101After experiencing the house, I felt it was appropriate to drive around Ole Miss’s dsc_0430campus, and walk around their campus. We found the Southern History department (my academic love) and I accidentally interrupted a class…but besides that, we enjoyed looking around the various collections they had on display in the lobby at the time.

 

After a great nights sleep, photo-ops, and checking out, we went to the Bottletree Bakery!

This place is a beloved choice of many, including Oprah (no, I didn’t make that up!). It’s of the side of the town square, and attracts quite a crowd.  The coffee was a hit with both of us, and their treats were HUGE.  I personally loved the cinnamon bun, and we enjoyed a danish to split.  We had left overs, which made for a treat on the drive to Alabama.

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After breakfast, we drove around a bit more, and headed on our way.

Oxford will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I have my sights on visiting again, for a longer period, as soon as I can find the time. It’s a lovely little place, with a big personality. So, go, drink the coffee, eat the food, and breath in the beauty of the gem of Mississippi (in my humble opinion).

This (finally) wraps up my blogs on Mom-Daughter Spring Break 2015.  I just recently returned from Texas, but I have definitely held off on blogging many of my adventures, so who knows which one will come next!

 

Happy trails.

 

(P.s. If you’re planning your own Oxford outing, I highly suggest stopping in at the welcome center to load up on brochures and advice from the lovely locals who work there. They made great suggestions regarding our short trip and the “must-sees”. You can find them, and more information on things to do and places to stay in oxford at Visit Oxford MS.

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Helena, Arkansas: Downtown on the Mississippi

For the second stop on our Spring Break adventure, we headed down the river to Helena, Arkansas.  We stayed at the Best Western in West Helena, then drove into town the next morning.welcome to arkansas The very first thing Mom and I both noticed were how nice and welcoming everyone is!  Our first stop was the visitor’s center, were we met Gloria and Dawna (hey y’all!).  They gave me the low down on EVERYTHING that could be done in Helena.  One of my big planning mistakes, it seems, was coming on a Monday: ALMOST everything was closed.  No matter, we found a whole bunch of things to do, and we had a great time.

mainmain street garden blog malco The town itself is filled with history, from being a stop on the Underground Railroad, to being home to a major Civil War battle.  They are the only downtown on the Mississippi for 300 miles, and they are working hard on restoration/preservation of the beautiful historic buildings they have.  We drove downtown, and were lucky to find The Delta Gypsy!

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They have high-end, beautiful products, from many different suppliers.  We were greeted immediately, and after talking to the owners for a short time, found out that they are opening a bed and breakfast this summer in Helena Arkansas, the Allin House.  Mom and I drove by the building they are renovating for it, and I have to say, It’s going to be gorgeous!  I will definitely be revisiting Helena in the future, and giving them a call! After our little stop shop, we started to hit some of the important sites of the town.  From the Levee walk (with it’s beautiful mural of influential people) to the River Park (where you can watch tug-boats pushing their barges up and down the river), the impact that being on the Mississippi has had on this town is evident.

river park boards6 After spending time on the river, we drove to the Confederate Cemetery.  It was breathe-taking, and I know I speak for my mom and myself when I say that the unknown soldier’s graves broke our heart.  Cemeteries are a place where time stands still, and this beautiful hill on the edge of Helena really created that atmosphere.  The Confederate Memorial was at the very back of the plots, and up on a hill, separated.  The drive is beautiful, the stonework of the graves is amazing, and the history itself if thought-provoking.  Mom took a specific liking to two of the grand angels, in the lower section of the cemetery.

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We stopped by the Pillow-Thompson House (which, of course, was closed on a Monday), Battery C, and then Fort Curtis.

pillow thompsonfort curtis battery c Though this isnt a picture of the “actual” battery, my favorite thing about this site was the view of the town, and the Mississippi River.  Of course, mom and I took a TON of pictures up here.  It was a major site of a very important battle in the Civil War, and the victory won Eastern Arkansas for the Union.  There are a lot of different information podiums and replications on the battery itself. After visiting these sites, our last stop was to talk with the Dana Chadwich, who owns and runs the Edwardian Inn, a gorgeous bed and breakfast that has been in Helena for many years.  The house was built in 1904 by a successful business man, and has been a private family home, an apartment building, an alcoholic rehabilitation center, among other things.  It has been wonderfully preserved, and walking the halls seems to take you back in time. edwardian Helena is a small, history-rich town, filled with wonderful people and wonderful sites.  It may not be your first destination idea for Arkansas, but you wont be disappointed if you choose to visit!  This stop was Mom’s favorite, and it has definitely made it high on my list. Up next is Oxford, MS, coming to you soon!