About one year later is a good time to write a trip review, right? Well that’s where we’re at, people. This time 12 months ago I had just returned from the ol’ US of A road trip that turned out to be simply the best, most epic holiday ever. It’s possible it’s taken me this long to be able to feel I can adequately convey just how special it truly was. Or I’m just incredibly lazy and the most highly skilled procrastinator out there.
Either way, I couldn’t let any more time slip by without sharing a true highlight of our weird and wonderful Americuh experience. And that highlight was Jackson, Mississippi.
We deliberately chose a few random stops on our road trip that weren’t the usual tourist must-sees. That’s why we ended up in places like Cherokee, NC — a dry county (cue awkward laughter as we realise that the motel receptionist that’s telling us this isn’t kidding). Jackson, we figured, had the whole Civil War, civil rights and gospel music thing going on, which was enough to make us book in for two nights and check out what the great city had to offer.
Not all that much, it turned out. Jackson is no doubt a grand and beautiful city. We just didn’t expect it to be so dead. Granted, it was the middle of summer, on a Monday. But as we wandered around the city streets, passing imposing monuments, historic plaques and column-flanked buildings, there was barely a soul to be seen. Lunch hour came and a smattering of office workers appeared, offering a bit of life for a brief 40 minutes, before disappearing again into their AC-cool hideouts.
And then there were the deserted, dilapidated blocks of abandoned shopfronts and closed-down cafes. Our hotel concierge had helpfully marked out a map of where the best night spots were, and had told us that Farish Street, which runs nine blocks across the city, would be a good place to start with a decent amount of options. Lucky we chose to do a daytime drive-by first, because it fast became apparent it was not a street we’d be keen to stroll down after dark. Unless it was lined with the sort of uber-cool clubs where you had to push the fourth brick to the right and whisper the latest password to make the door magically appear, there really didn’t appear to be much going on in the way of actual, functioning venues.
We soon discovered we weren’t completely alone, on our wanderings. As we hit up Jackson’s attractions one by one, we began to notice the same two girls there as well — just arriving, just leaving each place we checked out as soon as we did. They appeared to be tourists, too, bringing the total count to four of us within the whole city. Finally, that evening, when we headed to what turned out to be the one and only bar with anything going on (ie, staff serving drinks), there they were. It was time, we agreed. The shadowing had to stop.
After semi-awkwardly making a beeline for them at the bar (subtlety isn’t an option when you’re the only four in the joint), we introduced ourselves and proceeded to swap basically identical Jackson tourist stories over reliably potent southern beverages. It was quite hilarious. And somewhat comforting to hear that our weird experience of this city wasn’t unique. “Yeah,” we all asked each other, “what the hell is up with Jackson?”
On our last night in town, we picked an Italian restaurant close to the hotel for dinner. The food was really great and the service was attentive just bordering on smothering. The staff were clearly very pleased to see us. Our waiter, in between generous grindings of pepper and a vigilant determination to never let our wine glasses go empty, attempted to explain the city’s current state — its struggle to rebuild itself, after an attempt at a revitalisation that stalled when investment got pulled.
It seemed strange to us, and sad, that a place full to brim with history and character could be so (unintentionally) unwelcoming to tourists. But it’s something that’s a reliable conversation starter today, recalling just how bizarre our experience was. And it wasn’t all bad — I definitely have a few special memories that I consider Jackson highlights:
- Our beautiful hotel, The Old Capitol Inn, with our lovely room and its juliet balcony overlooking a goldfish pond, and the daily wine and cheese reception in the lobby (mostly the wine and cheese reception)
- The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, and its excellent exhibits and helpful staff
- And McAlisters Deli. I am thankful to Jackson for introducing me to McAlisters Deli and its Harvest Chicken Salad croissant, with a side of potato salad, because chicken salad and potato salad ARE REALLY HEALTHY SEE THE SALAD PART?