History, food and places of our South

Sweet tea, Dr. Pepper, crawfish, barbecue, oysters on the half sheet, popcorn shrimp, grits … all pictures of the South. What a wonderful area of the United States, and someplace we in the North need to know more about.  We hear about Katrina, Issac and so many other horrible storms, but have no real feeling about it because we are so unfamiliar with the area.

A group of us flew into Atlanta, Ga. and immediately traveled deeper into the south for a night in Montgomery, the state capitol. After a good night’s sleep, we really started the trip. Our first stop was the Rosa Parks Museum. This courageous lady basically started the civil rights movement.  We up north have no idea what is was like to have separate white and black facilities. How humiliating it was to have to give up your seat on the bus just because a person of another color was “better” than you. Rosa was tired of it all and held her spot even though it was against the rules. The bus boycott caught on and thus began a new revolution.

Lunch took us to Mobile and the Dew Drop Inn, the oldest continuously working eating establishment in the area.  Opened in 1857 and famous for its hot dogs, this is the restaurant where Jimmy Buffet wrote “Cheeseburger In Paradise.”

It wasn’t far from the Dew Drop to the Carnival Museum. What a fascinating place. Here was the birth of Mardi Gras in the U.S. Depictions of floats from the early 1900s until today, lavish costumes weighted down with amazing bead work, and music that made the body want to move.

A quick drive then took us to Biloxi, Miss. We were now in the heart of where there has been so much hurricane devastation. A beach area where there had been 15 casinos now has five. Building is in progress and things are coming back. The cleanup has been done, but you can tell where there must have been beautiful homes and many trees. It is unbelievable how resilient these people are. Miles of beautiful beach will help them grow the tourist economy once again.

Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library (former president of the Confederacy), was built in 1852 and was purchased in 1878 by Davis. Despite hurricane damage and lucrative offers to purchase the estate, it remained with the family until 1903 when it was sold to the Mississippi Division of the United Sons of the Confederate Veterans under the condition that it remain a memorial toDavis.  The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home was opened the same year. It is now a marvelous museum carefully restored to its original grandeur.

A stop at The Shed in Gulfport (seen on the Food Channel) gave us all a perfect taste of southern barbecue. Huge portions covered in flavorful sauce meant we probably wouldn’t want dinner, but then, we were headed to New Orleans. And how can you not eat in New Orleans?

There isn’t enough room in this column to tell you all the wonders this city has to offer. Our hotel was just off Bourbon Street with its music, restaurants and theatrics. A place that jumps long into the night and early morning with some of the most interesting people, food and shopping. We toured the city and the cemeteries (there are so many and they are so interesting), visited the garden district and the Superdome, even took in the Sculpture Garden. It is so hard to believe that these areas were under eight feet of water during Hurricane Katrina. Hard work and devotion has given this beautiful city back to the people. There is much more to be done, but the people will never give up.

Plans are underway for a November cruise to Hawaii; a March cruise out of Galveston to Belieze and Roratan; April for two weeks in Hawaii; Portugal and the Duro River Valley in June; Normandy and Paris in October. For further information, contact me at 253-927-8207 or linda.finch@gmail.com.

Linda Finch outside The Shed in Gulfport, Miss., a barbecue place that’s been featured on cable television’s Food Channel.
Linda Finch outside The Shed in Gulfport, Miss., a barbecue place that’s been featured on cable television’s Food Channel.