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Walking the steps at the Illinois State Memorial in Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
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Memorial wall at the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi
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Scenic view of Illinois State Memorial in Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
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Military cannon at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
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Sign at Elvis Presley Museum in Tupelo, Mississippi
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USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum in Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
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Dining in Jackson, Mississippi
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Views of the Mississippi River from the Natchez Trace Parkway
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Mississippi is known for many things, including blues music, US historical sites and Southern cooking.

It’s also the home of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a lush part of the state that I was fortunate to stumble across recently.

Beautiful Mississippi Countryside

Running parallel alongside the “Old Trace,” the parkway begins in Natchez, in the southwest region of the state, and continues north for 715 kilometers to Nashville, Tennessee.

The surrounding countryside was green, the trees well established and the undergrowth plentiful. The two-lane road was flanked on either side by densely wooded areas. Originally a series of pathways for Native Americans, hunters and traders, the Old Trace was simply the best way for people to make their way from one place to another.

The town of Natchez, the parkway’s origination point, is believed to be the oldest European settlement on the Mississippi River.

History Galore along the Old Trace

Heading north, I came across numerous historical sites, including the Shaifer House, where the first shots of the Battle of Port Gibson during the American Civil War were fired; Grand Gulf Military Park, with its two fortifications; and Vicksburg National Military Park, where you can see the ironclad gunboat USS Cairo, the last one remaining of its kind.

Before leaving the area, I stopped by Windsor Ruins near Port Gibson. No doubt once a very grand mansion, its days came to an end when a house guest accidentally dropped a burning cigarette and the whole place went up in a puff of smoke. All that remains are the majestic columns. 

Old Meets New Southern Cuisine

Back on the road, I picked up some special fried chicken from The Old Country Store Restaurant in Lorman. Since 1875, travelers from The Trace have come here to stock up and trade. Today, it’s a place to find good Southern cooking and a gift shop of full of trinkets available for purchase. When I apologized for having my food packaged up "to go,” the owner, Mr. D., said, “I got no worries about you coming back. I put my secret ‘Come Back Baby Sauce’ on it." There was certainly something fabulous in it all right. By the time I reached my next stop, everything was devoured and I was ready for more.

It’s a good job I was in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, and also the epicenter of Southern culinary delights. A delicious lunch of tuna ceviche, followed by encrusted red snapper awaited me at 1908 Provisions and sent my taste buds turning.

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Birthplace of the King of Rock 'n' Roll

My final stop along the Natchez Trace Parkway was the town of Tupelo, known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley.

Tupelo is where Elvis made his first radio broadcast at age 10. The tiny house where he was born was built by his father after obtaining a $180 loan from his boss. It had no indoor plumbing.

The Elvis Presley Museum, the statue of The King, as well as the church and chapel on site, all pay homage to the legendary rock 'n' roll singer. Outside of the museum sits a 1939 Green Plymouth, a replica of the car the family drove to Memphis in search of a better life when Elvis was 13.

All in all, my trip took me through some wonderful places that will surely please history and music buffs alike. Be sure to include the Natchez Trace Parkway on your next US-bound itinerary.

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