Take it from a travel junkie whose monkey on the back are roadtrips, that there are only few peers to this genre of wanderings. And it becomes even more endearing when the roads take us down the southern scenes of Mississippi.
Carrying on from our series of the Greatest Road-trips, driving across the Australian Outback and South West Scotland, we now trace the route from Memphis to New Orleans. We might as well dub it the Blues roadtrip. We will be doing Memphis –> Greenwood –> Natchez –> New Orleans.
View Memphis to New Orleans Road Trip in a larger map
Since I dig wheels, a good idea would be to grab something out of the usual SUV or compact. There are some really gorgeous ones at Exotic Car Rentals (3254 Elvis Presley Blvd Memphis) and TCB Dream Rentals (251 Union Ave, Memphis). Maybe Elanor?
Stop-overs and sleep-overs
From Memphis, we will be heading down south along Route 61, then cross-over due east on Route 49 (about 135 miles total) towards Greenwood, Mississippi. For a sleep over, it is well worth considering Alluvianhere. A place that welcomes anomaly: boutique hotel in the middle of a sleepy town, which was once the cotton capital of the world.
Next stop; three hours farther south, Natchez, Mississippi. Temptation is to splurge a little in a totally deserving Monmouth Plantation. A beautiful Greek-revival-style mansion, it hugs modern day with wireless Internet and Jacuzzi tubs while keeping those wrought-iron and wood fireplaces working. A more humble but at the same time, more intimate alternative is Joseph Newman Stone House; a rebuilt billiard hall built from the 1850s. Post Natchez, is a slower but certainly more scenic Route 61 onward to New Orleans.
Before heading out on the drive, a must-do is Rendezvous, just a few blocks from the Madison. By far, one of the best dry rubs out of all the barbecue joints in Memphis.
On the first stop, in Greenwood, Crystal Grill (423 Carrollton Ave, Greenwood)is a definitely must-stop. Fantastic tamales with fried pickles. The proportions overflow and is completely the dime’s worth. Tamales are packed with beef.
Even if we decide to give the Monmouth Plantation in Natchez a pass, there’s the five-course dinners for a change of scene. It is formal, though. The menu changes daily but usually includes seafood gumbo, Louisiana redfish, or a thick filet.
On our way out of town, there’s the Donut Shop (501 John R. Junkin Dr.). Essentially a drive-in dishing out Big Poppa’s hot tamales wrapped in corn husks, wrapped in aluminum foil, wrapped in newspaper. And of course, those killer glazed doughnuts.
Once in New Orleans, revel is the good news that the Nawlins foodies are loving: many of the oldest and most revered joints have reopened, and quite a few new entrants are trickling in quite fast. Café du Monde in the French Quarter is a rage. For lunch, there is no competition to R&O’s (216 Metairie Hammond Hwy) on Lake Pontchartrain. They serve brilliant crawfish (heads and all) here along with some fried-oyster po’boys.
As for watering holes, John Besh’s new brasserie, Lüke, serves delectable seafood along with his massive selection of Belgian, German and French beers.
What’s to Do
Route 61 is the Blues Highway. A stop at Ground Zero Blues Club (352 Delta Avenue, Clarksdale) to hear some authentic vibes is a religious must. After that, is a roll on to 49 East towards Greenwood. Vikingcalls it their headquarter town. It is the birthplace of Muddy Waters, also the childhood home of Sam Cooke. There’s more; Bessie Smith drew her last breath here.
The New Delta Blues Museum (1 Blues Alley, Clarksdale) has a new location – the old train station, and that life-size remake of Muddy Waters is a sight.
In Natchez, the list of things to do is a longer one. There’s Stone House Concerts (804 Washington Street, Natchez). The owner chimes:
Enjoy sipping complimentary wine while relaxing to music of the Masters, played on a 1903 Steinway grand piano in the Stone House Music Room. Hear this private classical piano performance by a graduate of two prominent American conservatories, along with complimentary wine, followed by a tour of the unique Stone House
Old South Winery (65 Concord Ave, Natchez) produces 12 table wines and it also offers some amazing tours and tastings.
Once in New Orleans, we might as well give the sloppy Bourbon Street a pass and instead, stroll down through the many galleries and antique stores of Chartres and Royal Streets. There is a sweaty night offered at Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St.), a smashing live music venue.
Selling the Soul and Catching the Blues
A home-truth – for all those in hunt for the crossroads where Johnson sold his soul to the devil – there’s no one crossroad! Perhaps it is the single most inquired question at every information center and blues museum along the Mississippi.
However, because of the constant pressure, out of the hundreds of crossroads in the Delta region, the Mississippi Visitors Bureau has finally given in and has marked the “official” crossroads location. The grail is at the intersection of Highway 61 and 49
In order to catch some contemporary and recurring classic blues, there’s a thing – once you are outside of Memphis, and if you do not find yourself in Jackson or New Orleans, you will be hard pressed to find live music during the week. It is recommended to travel during the weekends to find some tunes in the Delta region.