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My Southern States Road Trip

by Bianca

After an eight-and-a-half-hour direct flight from Heathrow and a short transfer, we arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville for a two-night stay. The hotel is a resort in itself and is in a terrific location with the famous Grand Ole Opry right on the doorstep and with plenty of restaurants, shops, a huge lagoon pool & slides plus an abundance of room choices, the hotel definitely ticks all the boxes for couples and families.  

Our two days in Nashville meant we were lucky enough to visit all the exciting places synonymous with the Capitol of Country music, including a VIP evening at the Grand Ole Opry – that was an experience not to be missed! Also unmissable was our visit to the famous Country Music Hall of Fame and a private group tour of Studio B – we even got to record our own song! 

We also managed to fit in a few hotels during our visit including the Loews Vanderbilt, a great 4* hotel in a superb location within the city and close by to the famous Vanderbilt University. With modern rooms and a great restaurant, this is a perfect place for couples wanting to be in the heart of it all.  Thompson, Nashville was also another pit-stop and my favourite of all the hotels we saw. Located in the trendy Gulch district, this whole area is exploding with growth in the luxury hotel sector and had a fabulous vibe, with its trendy roof-top bar and sleek modern design, whilst still retaining its cultural roots – definitely a place to be seen.

Next stop – Memphis! 

After collecting our hire car, we had a pleasant three-hour drive to Memphis – another iconic destination. Two night’s staying at the legendary Peabody Hotel famous for the Peabody ducks this hotel did not disappoint. A Memphis landmark, the hotel is listed on the National register of historic places. The vibrant lobby bar had a nonstop buzz and of course the Duck Parade, which takes place daily, is a real hit. 

No trip to Memphis would be complete without visiting ‘Gracelands’, the home of Elvis Presley – such an honour to see where the King lived! The relatively new Graceland Hotel next door to the museum would also be a perfect stopover for any avid Elvis fan. That evening we had dinner at Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous Restaurant – a fabulous basement restaurant serving up Memphis famous ‘Dry Rub Ribs’ for over 70 years – definitely the place to be seen at the weekend!

The next day, a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, established in 1991 and located at the former Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 afforded us a chance to walk through history and learn more about this tumultuous and inspiring period in history. 

On our second night, we had a fantastic evening at BB Kings and Itta Bena’s. The food was fabulous – probably some of the best we had during our week and the atmosphere in BB Kings was electric.  

After an early start, we headed South towards Natchez with a pit stop for lunch at the Mississippi National Civil rights Museum in Jackson. The museum opened in December 2017 and is the only one of its kind in the state. It exhibits the entire Civil Rights Movement, paying particular attention to the murders of Medgar Evers & Emmett Till and their role in bringing the movement to the forefront of American life. It’s somewhere I would love to go back and see in more detail, certainly a real eye-opener.

Our drive then continued South. After a couple more hours of the long country roads we finally arrived in Natchez for a night at the quaint Monmouth House Inn. A lovely, rather quirky historic landmark, built in 1818. The rooms are beautifully appointed with period furnishing and antebellum-era antiques – it’s also thought to be haunted so great for ghost hunters! The centre of Natchez is about a five-minute drive, where we had a lovely afternoon wandering the antique shops, a photo stop of the Mississippi River before dinner at the Pilot House Restaurant. Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River – even older than New Orleans – and offers a great one-night pit stop on the way to New Orleans. 

Our penultimate stop was Baton Rouge and the most beautiful plantation home known as Houmas House Inn. A collection of quaint cottages nestled along an alley of Oak trees and surrounded by lush gardens. The mighty Mississippi is just a few steps away from the property with a peaceful setting. A great place to watch the sun come up or go down! The rooms have a lovely romantic feel, comfortably furnished with old world furnishings and unique artwork. A guided mansion tour is a must when you stop here!

Our final destination – New Orleans! The one place I was most excited about visiting and it did not disappoint! In fact, I could have stayed longer! Bourbon Street is located in the heart of the French Quarter and is famous for its many bars & Jazz clubs. 

The very first cocktail was created here – reflective of the carefree party attitude. A “Hurricane” is a must try – but be careful to drink it slowly!!  We visited some fabulous hotels; the luxury 5* Ritz Carlton, the Monteleone (famous for its historic Carousel Bar), the quirky and trendy Eliza Jane (where we stayed in Magazine Street) and the Royal Sonesta, which lines Bourbon Street and is the perfect location for avid Jazz fans looking to party all night. 

After a lovely afternoon wandering around Canal Street and the French Quarter, exploring lots of the boutique shops, our evening was spent enjoying the city as it comes to life! 

Before our direct flight home the next day, we had a great lunch stop at one of the cities well know jazz brunches, ‘The Court of Two Sisters’, sampling the famous Créole and Cajun cuisine whilst enjoying some authentic Jazz. 

The Southern States has so much to offer and our ‘7-day-whistle-stop-tour’ only touched the surface! I would highly recommend it though and would love to share my experience with anyone who wants to visit!