Meet the latest travellers in our series Interviews on Off the Radar Travel Destinations!
This week, we have with us Jennifer Campbell, who, along with husband, Mark, runs the travel blog www.JustChasingRabbits.com. Jennifer and Mark are part-time travelers from Mississippi. They have been married and traveling together since 2004 and live with their doggie-daughter, Gizmo. They have also lived temporarily in Kentucky, Texas, and Japan, but always go back home to North Mississippi.
While they love traveling to new countries and have spent a lot of time exploring the Caribbean, they have learned to appreciate their home state as well, which is why they chose to visit the Mississippi city of Natchez for their anniversary trip this year.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your travels.
Soon after we got married, we took a few short trips together and learned very quickly that we love exploring new places together. We compliment each other perfectly as travel companions.
We both love truly authentic and unique experiences when traveling. We talk to locals, we shop for locally made items, and we search for adventures that will make great stories and memories.
Because we love to go and see BUT we also use our vacation time to relax, we have found that we love cruising. It’s probably our favorite form of travel at the moment because it perfectly balances seeing new places and having adventures with down time.
We have visited 13 countries together, and Mark has visited Canada on his own. This year, we have visited Kentucky, the islands of Hawaii, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Turk, Cozumel (Mexico), Disney World in Florida, Disneyland and Southern California, and the city of Natchez here in our home state of Mississippi together. Jenni has also visited the Mississippi Delta with her mom and sister and Mark visited Japan and Canada. We are definitely traveling more and more each year!
Why did you choose to travel to Natchez, Mississippi?
We wanted to visit the most historic area of our home state and really experience it with the eyes of travelers. Most people don’t see their home area as “special,” but we want to change this about ourselves and appreciate Mississippi with open eyes and minds.
Natchez really spoke to us as a standout place to visit. It is home to numerous antebellum homes, beautiful views of the Mississippi River, amazing Southern food, stories of the South’s history, and plenty of spooky stories!
Where did you stay?
While Natchez is famous for its numerous bed and breakfasts, we stayed at a chain hotel for budget purposes. We also knew that we would be so busy with our sight-seeing that we wouldn’t fully appreciate staying in one of the beautiful homes. We pretty much just needed a place to sleep.
After seeing many of the homes and taking tours, I would highly recommend staying at one of the beautiful bed and breakfasts to anyone IF it makes sense time- and budget-wise. Plus, you can’t beat Southern hospitality!
What were some of the interesting parts in this place?
Natchez is a great place to visit for anyone who wants to get a real feel for Mississippi or “the South” in general without being kitschy or touristy. When you think of Mississippi, you most likely think of things like the Mississippi River, cotton fields, and the Civil War era. Natchez is a great place to experience all of these things!
Visiting the area was just like stepping back in time. On the way, we traveled the Natchez Trace, which winds from Natchez, Mississippi up to Nashville, Tennessee, and was originally used by Native Americans tracking animals. We saw several Native American burial mounds along this route, now maintained by the National Park Service.
The Windsor Ruins and the Ghost Town of Rodney were two must-see spots for us on the way to Natchez. The antebellum mansion, known as Windsor, burned to the ground in 1890 leaving behind nothing but the elegant columns, which still stand today. The size of the columns is incredible.
Driving into the Ghost Town of Rodney on one of the few dirt roads left in Mississippi, we knew we were in for a treat. The area consisted of two churches and two buildings which looked like general stores. As we explored the empty, crumbling buildings, we were visited by several deer. The area was so peaceful.
The afternoon that we arrived in Natchez, we watched a beautiful sunset over the Mississippi River. Just across the river from Natchez, in Louisiana, we visited a working cotton plantation, known as Frogmore (http://www.
Natchez is probably best known for its numerous antebellum homes open for tours, which always include stories of wartime in the South. Most of the homes do not have original furniture because it was taken as “souvenirs” by soldiers or destroyed.
Rosalie is the most complete home with furniture still intact. Longwood is probably the most interesting home open for tours because it is very odd; It’s shape is octagonal, and only one of its three floors was completed before the Civil War began. The home was passed down through the family, who lived in it completed basement, but no other floors were ever completed.
Because we are interested in ruins, ghost towns, and all things historic, we also made our way to the historic Natchez City Cemetery where we found some of the most unusual graves including the cemetery’s most famous statue, “The Turning Angel,” whose gaze seems to follow cars as they pass by at night. We have a full post about the unique graves on the blog.
What are the highlights (and difficulties, if any) of your stay?
Our only difficulty that we faced on this trip was running out of time. Even though we thought we had planned PLENTY of time for all of our exploring, we kept meeting the most amazing people. That meant that we’d start talking and talking and talking. However, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
We learned so much and were so moved by the hospitality and kindness that we were shown. The people were eager to tell their stories and the history of their city. We heard ghost stories, got food recommendations and directions MANY times, and even heard the childhood story of Jerry Lee Lewis from his sister!
We actually spent the day of our anniversary at the childhood home of Jerry Lee Lewis just across the river in Ferriday, Lousiana, which is now a museum run by his sister Frankie Jean. She truly made us feel right at home and told us numerous stories about their childhood. When she found out it was our anniversary, she gave us a CD by her sister, Linda Gail, a postcard, and a sticker for the museum that she signed for us. We will FOREVER treasure these items!!!
King’s Tavern was one of our favorite stops in Natchez because it is the oldest building in the city and probably the entire state AND because it was featured on one of my favorite TV shows, Ghost Adventures. The owners and employees were happy to share their spooky stories, their love of the building, and we even toured their award-winning distillery next door. It was an amazing stop for great stories, great drinks, and great people.
The people of Natchez will prove to anyone that meeting and talking to people can make any destination amazingly special. We will forevermore talk to people wherever we go!
What were some of your favourite dishes there?
One of the highlights of growing up in Mississippi is that we have been raised on Southern comfort food! Hallelujah! Not so great for the waistline, but awesome for the taste buds!
The Southern food in Natchez is amazing. If you want a true taste of Southern food, we definitely recommend tamales (they are famous all along the Mississippi Delta), especially from Fat Mama’s Tamales, any home cooked meal from Mammy’s Cupboard, barbecue from The Pig Out Inn, the fresh farm-raised catfish from Jughead’s Fish Fry and fried chicken at The Old Country Store in nearby Lorman, Mississippi. If you ever visit The Old Country Store, be extra sure you talk to Mr. D himself and hear about his grandmother being the “Cornbread Cookin’ Queen.”
Would you recommend Natchez to other people?
I would say that Natchez is great for couples, solo travelers, or families with older children. I don’t think younger kids would appreciate the history and the stories. They’d get too bored too quick.
Adults who enjoy history will LOVE this area, and it has a very romantic feel for couples. The homes and the views are very picturesque. Like being in a Gone With the Wind postcard.
For more information on what to do in Natchez, Mississippi, check out our post 30 Things To Do in Natchez, Mississippi– A Natchez Bucket List. We will be writing more Natchez posts in the near future as well, so keep an eye on the blog!
What’s next on the horizon for your travels?
We have booked an Alaskan cruise for 2016, but that’s it so far! We are really good at traveling at the last minute, so there’s always the possibility for a trip!
You can see more stories from Jennifer and Mark at the following below:
Travel Blog: www.JustChasingRabbits.com