Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina. New Orleans, Greenville, Leland, Memphis, Nashville, Sevierville, Gatlinburg and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to write, a good 10 days in fact! We've been doing a lot of travelling, making our way through the deep south whilst trying to avoid floods and tornados. We certainly saw a lot of flooding in Mississippi where the great river had broken through the levy's onto farmland, but thankfully we've seen no signs of tornados and I'd like to keep it that way!
Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to:
New Orleans is one of the most vibrant, diverse, and ‘alive’ places I’ve ever been. From alligator to zydeco, this city is hands down awesome. We ate, we drank and we explored. We listened to the legendary (I found out!) Big Al Carson at the Funky Pirate where we hung out with some pretty groovy new friends; took a tour of the swamps and saw some gators hanging in their hood; ate loads of unhealthy southern food like fried shrimp, fried catfish, po-boys, gator sausages and gumbo (aaahhh, gumbo – not so unhealthy if you don’t add a tonne of buttered bread!); crept around crumbling tombs in the cemeteries (the gravesites are above ground); and drank daiquiris in the streets whilst exploring the French quarter. All five of my senses were alive in New Orleans – and then duly dulled through the consumption of their lethal take on a standard drink. But I loved it, and I’d definitely visit again. It has been my favourite big city in the states so far…hands down. Go there!
Mississippi is the kind of place that I didn't think existed in the US anymore. It is the true deep south. Accents are thick, Ma'am and Sir are mandatory greetings and all the food comes fried (and large!). We travelled the Blues highway to a place called Greenville where we experienced eating in an authentic honky tonk diner that had serviced the town for over 80 years. It was here that we also saw the great Mississippi river cresting only metres from the top of the levy after swallowing a number of jetty's and a couple of large casinos.
The reason for heading towards the unpredictable floodwaters was to see the birthplace of this beautiful little frog:
A tiny town called Leland is the birthplace of Kermit the Frog according to Jim Henson who spent his early years here. A small museum has been constructed which chronicles Henson's childhood in and around this part of Mississippi. It was so quaint and a great reminder of the beauty in imagination. The muppets were such a huge part of my life as a child and being in Leland where it all began was truly special. Jim Henson, I thank you for being such a superb human being!
Speaking of superb human beings, we met another wonderful man in Leland who goes by the name of Pat Thomas. Pat played us some pretty grungy blues guitar inside the local museum and then proceeded to get chatting to Benny (for some reason Pat and I had trouble understanding each other) about his life. And what a life! I could tell you all about it but you wouldn't believe it unless he told you himself. Suffice to say he knows all about the blues. Still, you've never seen a larger smile.
And then there was Memphis. I'll break it down...grimy bars, lots of dirty blues, lots more bourbon and whisky, about 15 new friends, seeing the sunrise on Beale Street, dinner at breakfast-time and a super charged hangover the next day.
Oh, and there was Graceland too, which was something else. Unfortunately I can't share any images or the Graceland image police will sue my poor arse. Think green shag-pile carpet lining the floor, walls and ceiling in the 'jungle' themed recreation room, mirrors on the ceiling in the cream, sunshine yellow and deep blue colour-schemed tv room, dark brown, faux-woodgrain, veneer kitchen cabinetry, and generally just whacked out 70's interior design. It was wild! I was much more interested than I thought I'd be and kind of felt sad for the King by the end of the tour. He lived a pretty bizarre life.
From Memphis we headed towards The Great Smoky Mountains and we only left there today. They were beautiful beyond my wildest imagination. But I'll save all of that for my next post.