When Vertis and I started talking about a long weekend getaway trip, several Mississippi towns became part of the conversation. We quickly narrowed it down, first to Greenwood, and then we added Vicksburg.
Greenwood is really an undiscovered southern gem less than a three-hour drive from El Dorado. The Viking Corporation (think kitchen appliances) is primarily responsible for giving Greenwood a “Worth a Journey” title. Of course, Vicksburg, with its Civil War battlefield along with several exceptional historic Bed and Breakfast accommodations, made for a good second stop on our trip.
The drive from El Dorado to our first stop on the trip, which was Greenwood, starts out on Highway 82 and ends on Highway 82. As you drive west from El Dorado passing through Crossett and Lake Village, you approach one of the truly unsung features of North America: the Delta of the Mississippi River.
The Delta varies in width along its route to as wide as 70 miles. It is 200 miles long. As you drive across the miles and miles of almost tabletop-flat, very fertile land, it’s hard to visualize the land was once part of an inland flooded area caused by melting glaciers, which released torrents of water south down the Mississippi Embayment. These glacial waters were carrying soil debris, which formed the Delta. That debris is called alluvium, and that is the soil that makes up the Delta. The definition of alluvium is “loose, unconsolidated soil.”
Greenwood is on the eastern edge of the Delta, and our destination there was the Alluvium Hotel. Well, the reason Greenwood and the Alluvium Hotel are destinations is because of the extraordinary amenities the Hotel and the nearby buildings offer.
I’ll start with the hotel itself. Just imagine an exceptionally high-quality hotel encased in an old building attached to one of the best southern restaurants I have ever enjoyed — but first the hotel. The rooms, amenities and bedding are all first class. When I opened the closet in the hotel, and hanging there was a robe for me to wear, I knew I was in an extremely high-quality establishment. But the hotel itself, while it is exceptional, has more to offer, and if a full spa is a feature you enjoy, the Alluvium has a great one. It a full service spa with massages, etc.
However, there’s more. The connection to the next door Glardina’s Restaurant is a rather small, but very special little bar. There is something neat about this little bar that draws you in to sip something before you walk another 15-feet into the foyer of the Restaurant.
The restaurant has developed a concept that I have never seen in a restaurant. The story is, the restaurant was active during prohibition, and instead of just having tables placed in the dining area, the restaurant enclosed each table with its own private room. The restaurant has a hallway running through the center and ending at the kitchen, and on either side down the hallway there are totally enclosed rooms. The entrance to each room is covered by a curtain, which is closed during your visit, so during the meal you never see anyone but your server. I guess, if you are someone who doesn’t want to be bothered, or during Prohibition a customer who might want to sip something illegal, Glardina’s would fit your bill. It certainly does give you a special feeling when you sit down not just at your own table, but in your private room. I guess if you were going to propose to your future wife, it would be the perfect spot.
Vertis and I, from our living a dozen years on the Gulf Coast, have developed a discerning taste for fresh, high quality Gulf seafood. Over the years, outside of New Orleans, we have found the best and freshest seafood very difficult to find. However, Glardina’s fills the bill, but there is more to the restaurant than fresh seafood. The restaurant founder was an immigrant from Sicily. Some of his original recipes are still on the menu, but we didn’t try those. Our first course was fresh Gulf oysters prepared three ways. They were great! However, the entree was what we were waiting for. We ordered a large, grilled pompano. To me, for a restaurant away from the coast to offer not just fresh Gulf seafood, but pompano, the top of my fish food chain, is remarkable.
But there’s more, and it’s just across the street: the home of the Viking Cooking School. Viking Corporation, which owns the hotel, restaurant and cooking school, along with a stove appliance manufacturing facility, is a key player in the Greenwood economy. The Cooking School has been called the most enjoyable school on earth, and the store that goes with it has every kitchen item you can imagine. I noted eight of my Facebook friends have given it a thumbs up. The Viking Cooking School attracts cooking enthusiasts from all over the country, and I’m aware of an El Dorado couple who attended the school and were so impressed they considered opening a similar cooking school in El Dorado.
Of course, the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce would probably say I’m selling Greenwood short, and point out The Museum of the Delta, etc. However, outside of admiring how they didn’t chop off their crepe myrtle and checking out some of the best small southern town historical residential architecture, we ran out of time to completely take in Greenwood.
The next morning it was on to Vicksburg. The center of town is on the low ridges and hills of loess. Of course, as any geologist will tell you, loess is windblown dirt and sand from the delta. These features were formed when the area was a barren desert. Yes, at one time, after the glacial age up north, the area was a dessert.
Okay, enough geology!
The town is probable the most noted historical town in the state, and as any history buff will tell you, when the siege of Vicksburg by Northern troops ended on the Fourth of July with the surrender of the Confederate forces, it was a major turning point in the Civil War. For years, many of the citizens of Vicksburg refused to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The battlefield’s many trenches are still intact, as are the gun emplacements along the ridge overlooking the Mississippi River still visible. The battlefield park has numerous monuments to the various regiments from states whose troops fought in the siege. That combination makes for a great history tour.
We stayed at a historic pre-Civil War Bed and Breakfast, the Corner House, which overlooks the Mississippi River. The authentic décor of the interior gives you the feel of stepping back in time, and the courtyard, which has the largest crepe myrtle tree I have ever seen, amplifies the feel. The Corner House has an outstanding breakfast to go with our quality room. That stay wrapped up our Mississippi getaway, and three and a half hours later, we pulled into our driveway on Calion Road.
Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email [email protected]