Two-hour change of scenery

September had been a most unpleasant month for me, trying to exist without cable, internet and phone service. Our chamber office is closed due to Ida damages, and I have been bored to pieces.

I’m out of crossword puzzles, I’ve read as much as I possibly can, and my dear sweet Rocco is in Italy. I had gotten desperate when my other sweet darling, Lilith, offered to take me away for a day or so. I chose Natchez.

Totally unaware the Grand Fall Natchez Pilgrimage was in progress, I had simply read somewhere, certainly not on the internet, that the Hallmark Channel was filming a holiday movie there, and the downtown was all decorated for Christmas. I am a Christmas décor fanatic.

When we checked into the Hampton Inn after our two-hour drive through the backroad of Mississippi, never travel somewhere like that on the interstate, the clerk asked if we were there for the festival, as she handed us a brochure.

In the room, Lili went online and found there was one tour left for the day. She clicked it, and we hit the road.

It was only seven minutes to arrive at the richly detailed Greek revival house, Green Leaves, dating to 1849, occupied still today by the descendants of the Koontz-Beltzhoover family.

First sight was the lush gardens and gigantic legendary live oaks, surrounded by magnolias, camellias, and azaleas. Green Leaves is famous for its collection of original furnishings and family memorabilia. We learned about the history of the families and saw the collection of beautiful antiques and photographs of the family throughout the years. Hundreds of weddings took place in the stately living rooms with their ornate golden mirrors and gorgeous Persian rugs over solid oak floors.

Our tour was directed by three members of the fifth and sixth generations who were so proud of their family. I’ve toured homes before, but this was Lili’s first and she was fascinated by the collections of dishes and silver and handmade pieces. I loved the original 1904 Teddy Bears, and their first indoor bathroom from 1910. They even have a swimming pool, not in use now, from 1905.

Two hours of intense touring left us starving. We had missed lunch to get to the tour on time, so we headed under the hill to the place that at least five people had recommended each time we said, “Where should we eat?”

Overlooking the mighty Mississippi at Natchez Under-the-Hill, Magnolia Grill offered a menu with a wide array of entrees to satisfy nearly every palate. They claim if you are lucky enough to get a corner table on the sun porch at dinner time, you may be treated to a spectacular sunset while you dine. Lili and I did and were. What an amazing sight, and the river was absolutely beautiful

Built in 1990 the grill was constructed to look like the old saloon that originally occupied the same spot, and has been locally owned and operated ever since. Our waiter (who I believe had to be the owner) was so caring, just fantastic.

He laughed when I asked for an apple martini with a lot of apple and just a whiff of martini, and smiled at Lili’s order of gluten-free crackers for her charbroiled shrimp salad and dip. Every single thing was perfect! The spinach and artichoke dip was the creamiest and cheesiest I have ever tasted. I almost overate and couldn’t finished my seafood platter.

Our waiter continued to check on us and could not believe we would pass on Aunt Edna’s coconut buttermilk pie. I was overstuffed, and Lili also declined, but he just smiled. When we got back to the hotel we noted in our to-go bag he had added Aunt Edna’s delightful dessert anyway.

The tour was fun, the dining experience was terrific, and I loved spending time with my granddaughter. And only two hours away.

Natchez Pilgrimage continues through Sunday, Oct. 24. See www.natcheztourism.com

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