Category Archives: Travels

Oxford, Mississippi

Joe and I took a brief fall break trip to Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend.  That little town has become one of our favorite places in the world, for reasons neither of us can clearly articulate.  It’s a beautiful place, for one, and a friendly community.  We always check out Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s old home, with its stately, tree-lined drive and tall white columns, the room that has one of his novels outlined on the wall, and the walls that smell and look slightly like what I remember from Granny’s old house.  We love the food–Taylor Grocery is a must at some point for anyone who loves southern food, and while I know it’s just a little greasy spoon, I’ve never had better coffee anywhere in the world than at the Beacon.  It eases me slowly into my day and makes me a happier, better person.  Then there’s the shopping.  I always spend hours wandering the shops on the square, dragging Joe in and out of dress shops, stationery shops, and bath shops, trying on sunglasses and bracelets and buying oversized bags.  No trip is complete without multiple trips to Square Books and Off Square Books, which may be my two favorite bookstores in the world.  I could sit all day on the balcony at Square Books, reading and writing, watching and listening.  It’s a gorgeous, relaxing, calming place for us to be, and I love it more than I can say.

This time, we started our trip with a visit to the Thacker Mountain Radio Show.  Joe saw an episode of the program on his first trip to Oxford, and he’s been anxious to get me to it ever since.  Basically, on Thursday nights, Off Square Books clears its floors of books and sets up 200 folding chairs so the audience can watch a live, literary radio show.  A house band plays a few songs, and then artists come in and read from their books, or play some of their music, or just talk about whatever they do.  It was beyond cool–so interesting, and then the artists relate to and react very well with the audience.  I wish I could be there every week, but since I can’t, I will just have to pick up the live feed on their website.

On Saturday, we went to an Ole Miss football game.  Joe was pretty fired up about it, and I have to admit that I was excited too, because I’d heard a lot about Ole Miss school spirit, and tailgating in the Grove, and all that.  We were not disappointed.  It was homecoming, and we couldn’t even get a room in Oxford that night, or in any of the surrounding towns, so we ended up 50 miles away, in Tupelo, driving back in for the game.  Oxford was packed.  I wondered if it could have possibly been more crowded the week before when the first presidential debates were held in town.  We parked at the town’s decrepit mall (it always makes Joe gleeful that this town has a thriving downtown and a falling-apart mall) and joined the throngs headed through campus toward the Grove. 

It was amazing.  I knew going in that I would be massively underdressed in my jeans, Chucks, and Ole Miss t-shirt, but I had a long drive home that night and really didn’t care.  Even so, I was awed at the extent to which people dress up for football there.  Everywhere we looked, there was a girl in a sundress.  Red, white, and blue tents stretched as far as the eye could see.  Beneath the tents, southern women put on a spread that put my church’s homecoming banquets to shame.  Like I said, I knew going in that tailgating was serious there, but since the only live football I’d ever really watched before was at Western Kentucky and UK, I was kind of blown away.  I wanted to pull up a blue Ole Miss chair, grab a red plastic cup, and join in the party.

The game itself was pretty cool.  The stadium is a little bit crummy, and our seats were in the end zone, but they were low enough to have an awesome view of players coming in for a touchdown, and the football whizzed over our heads every time an extra point or a field goal were kicked.  Fans were spirited and fun.  I got a monstrous sunburn and look a little like an alien today, but it was worth it.

Every time I go to Oxford, I watch “For Sale” signs, idly dreaming of packing it all up and moving down there, studying southern culture at Ole Miss, writing and reading and drinking a lot of sweet tea.  People always look at me oddly when I say that this town tops the list of places I would be willing to retire too.  I tell them, go there sometime.  Then you’ll understand.

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GO CATS!

I never would have guessed it in a hundred million years, but I really like football.  When Joe and I first started dating, I made fun of him for his slavish devotion to the Kentucky Wildcats.  I was incredulous that his idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon involved sitting in front of a TV with a pizza.  And yet, somehow, slowly, I have been converted.  I realized on Thursday night, when I hurried home from parent-teacher conferences so I could watch the South Carolina game with him, that the SEC has thorougly sucked me in.  There’s still a ton about football I don’t understand, so no way am I going to make a big commentary about it here, but it’s by far my favorite sport to watch and talk about and learn about.  I’d much rather watch UK than anyone else, but any SEC team will do.  So I’m pretty fired up today, after going to Louisville yesterday to watch the Cats beat UofL.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.  Go Cats!

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The aftermath

The worst part about going on vacation is unpacking when you get home.  It takes forever, and with me anyway, it always seems to lead to more problems.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to dump the damp bathing suits out on the laundry room floor.  Despite brushing my feet off every time I leave, I am pretty sure I have managed to track sand into every corner of my house now.  I see little white gleaming particles everywhere.  Guess I’m going to have to vacuum too.  There is no food to eat in my house, but, inexplicably, there is a bag of leftover snacks on my front porch.  I have no idea how it got there.  I know we brought everything in last night.  I’m leaving it there until Joe gets home–maybe he can explain it.

The trips are always worth it though, even if I can only get away for a long weekend.  And while I love to fly, I think my preference will always be driving.  I’m not a morning person, but I love getting up just before daylight to load up the car with beach towels and bathing suits, toss a bag of ice in the cooler, and pile in my favorite snacks.  Joe and I generally make road trip CDs, trying to outdo each other with a cool mix of fun songs to sing along with and a few guilty pleasures to make each other crazy.  I usually do better with the latter–I have a huge collection of crappy country and pop that makes him want to cut off his own ears.  For this trip, though, I listened to Springsteen albums on my iPod as we rolled through Tennessee and Georgia.  You get a totally different perspective on the Boss when you listen to him while driving through this gorgeous countryside rather than while sprawling on the couch browsing websites.

I’ve always loved long-distance car trips, although my husband says it’s because I’m generally not the one driving and have time to enjoy it.  I disagree.  After I graduated from high school, my family and I took an epic road trip out west, to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone, and then down to Las Vegas and over to the Grand Canyon.  I’m not going to claim that I drove a ton, but I have fond memories of speeding through Montanna with everyone else in the van asleep.  We were in the middle of nowhere, so I couldn’t pick up a thing on the radio.  I simply drove and drank in the scenery.  It was awesome.  You can’t get that feeling hundreds of feet overhead in a plane, where the clouds are lovely, but they block out everything else.

I just got home last night, but I’m ready for the next trip, where and whenever it may be.  But I have to stop for now.  This load of laundry has just finished, and I guess it’s time to start cleaning up the sand.  (Sigh.)

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Home again

I haven’t posted in a few days because I’ve been out of town.  My parents and hubby and I took a long weekend in St. Augustine, Florida.  It was wonderful.  St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States.  When Joe and I went to England a couple of years ago, I was fascinated by all the history that people just take for granted.  I loved seeing a little of that in America too. 

My mom went to St. Augustine when she was a little girl with her parents, and she says the town hasn’t changed that much.  We drove past the old jail and briefly visited the Castillo de San Marcos.  The old downtown is so cute–lots of adorable little shops and places to eat terrific seafood.  We stayed near the beach for a couple of nights and got up early to walk on the sand.   It’s a beautiful beach.  The waves were high and, judging from the number of people attempting it, perfect for surfing.  I didn’t do anything more than use a boogie board, and nearly drowned doing that.  The waves had me doing underwater somersaults and scraping up my knees, and they swallowed my sunglasses.  But it was so much fun!

Besides the beach, my favorite stops were the Fountain of Youth and the old lighthouse.  Much of the Fountain of Youth tour was hilarious to me–the two-story globe and the planetarium show are very much relics of my mom’s youth.  But the grounds are pretty and the tour guide told us a lot of stuff I never learned in school.  For instance, after finding the Fountain, Ponce de Leon drank barrels of water from it, and bathed in it, and he ended up living around 30 years longer than other Spaniards of his era.  He died when he was shot in the leg with an arrow in a fight with natives.  He wore armor to protect his head and chest, but nothing to cover his lower body because his high rank allowed him to wear a very short skirt which he didn’t want to cover up.  Ah, vanity.  Maybe if he would have worn a longer skirt he would have lived forever.  We also got to drink water from the Fountain of Youth.  It’s disgusting–smells and tastes like old eggs.  I could only manage a sip, but the tour guide said that should get me thirty extra years.  We’ll see.

I would write more, but I have to unpack and do laundry.  I’ll be back with more tomorrow!

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