Mississippi. Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida
Southern Plantations and the Beach
10/16/4 - 10/22/

by Paul Ridenour

Saturday October 16

Dottie and I left Dallas at 10:15 AM.  I was surprised on how many cotton fields there are in Louisiana.  Of course, that explains the many plantations.  We arrived 5 PM in Natchez, Mississippi, just in time for the balloon festival.  We ate dinner downtown at the Center City Grill and had shrimp and stuffed potato.  We spent the night at the Comfort Inn.

Natchez Balloon Festival

Sunday October 17

We spent the day touring antebellum homes and plantations.  We took the tour at Dunleith.  Drove by and took a picture of Auburn.   We took the Melrose tour.  Took a picture of Monmouth.  Took the tour of Longwood where President Hayes sent a table.  We drove south to St. Francisville, Louisiana. Visited the Rosedown Plantation.  We took a picture of The Myrtles, a famous haunted house.  Visited the Audubon State Historic Site for the Oakley Plantation.  In the homes and plantations, we learned about China tea bricks which were the tea that was dumped in Boston Harbor.  Learned that people who died were put in a room that was all dark to keep it cool.  Mirrors were covered because it was believed that if the spirit of the dead person sees itself in the mirror, it does not leave the house.  Pregnant women were not allowed for fear that they would have a miscarriage or the spirit of the dead person would enter the womb.  Learned that the flowers around the coffin were to conceal the smell and that a person stayed with the body day and night just in case the person came alive.  We drove to Gonzalez, Louisiana, and stayed at the Holiday Inn.  We ate at the hotel at Mike Anderson’s Seafood.  We had alligator, shrimp, sea food gumbo, catfish, and a stuffed potato.  An excellent restaurant.  The sauce for dipping was fantastic and it was a combination of cocktail sauce and honey mustard.








Longwood - 10,000 square feet finished, 20,000 unfinished

Longwood - desk on right sent by President Hayes


Rosedown - an Oak Alley with Spanish Moss

Rosedown - middle frame with cloth design by chair was sent by Mrs. Martha Washington

The Myrtles - the most haunted house in St. Francisville

Oakley Plantation - Audubon State Historic Site

Monday October 18

We drove down River Road to the Oak Alley Plantation, a sugar plantation where the Oak trees are 300 years old.  We took a picture of Evergreen Plantation.  We left at noon and drove through Biloxi, Mississippi, where we were impressed by the Grand Casino Hotel.  We stopped and took a picture of President Jefferson Davis’ last home and his presidential library.  We called ahead to get reservations at Destin and found out that many of the hotels were closed or full of construction workers.  Our trip was just about three weeks after Hurricane Ivan came through the area.  We did see numerous Pine trees snapped in half.  We saw lots of trash in front of people’s homes including carpet, couches, major appliances, and large cut trees.  We scrambled for hotel reservations and had to stay the first night in Ft. Walton Beach, then a night in Panama City Beach, and two nights in Destin.  We arrived in Destin about 7 PM and ate at The Back Porch.  We had Grouper Florentine stuffed with crab and spinach, calamari, and corn.  We stayed on the fourth floor of the Sheraton on Ft. Walton Beech.  We had a beach view and the price was $110.  The 66 rooms on the first floor got water damage and were completely empty.  A nice hotel!

Oak Alley - 28 Oaks trees that are 300 years old

Oak Alley - sugar plantation

Oak Alley

Oak Alley


President Jefferson Davis - last home
UPDATE - Totally destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Tuesday October 19

We got up early and spent the morning on the beach where we collected about 50 awesome shells, the kind one usually has to buy in the store.  The hurricanes had brought the shells up to the shallow water and shore.  We had breakfast at the hotel.  We ate lunch at The Crab Trap and had crab legs, steak, and fried oysters.  We left after lunch for Panama City Beach.  We shopped in the afternoon in Panama City Beach where Dottie got a bathing suit and we bought several collector spoons for my mom.  Panama City Beach was the place to go to in the 1970s (I was there with Denny Johnson and family in 1976 and met a girl named Sally White), but now it is a dump.  I wrote Sally for many years and have no idea what happened to Denny.  The water and beach were fantastic but I see no reason to ever go there again.  Our room at the Days Inn was facing the beach and was only $62 with a NRA discount.  Our tile floor in the hotel room was wet but we didn’t notice the ceiling was dripping until we were already in bed.  We should have changed rooms but I figured that they had none left.  The hotel room had 1970s décor and mold.  It should be destroyed and re-built from scratch.  Panama City Beach is building a bunch of new high rise buildings but they are all condos.  We ate dinner at Pizza hut.  Getting a little tired of seafood.

Sheraton Inn - Ft. Walton Beach

Ft. Walton Beach

Wednesday October 20

I took a lot of great pictures of the beach and ocean where the sand is white and the water is green, then blue – called the Emerald Coast.  There were no shells in the water.  We left Panama City Beach fairly early and drove to Destin.  We checked in the Holiday Inn in Destin ($95 a night) and spent the day on the beach.  It was great.  Also, no shells there.  I snorkeled because the water was clear for about 20 feet.  The water was cold but you got used to it.  Most of the fish were small.  I got hungry early for lunch and ate at McDonald’s while Dottie ate later at Subway.  We went back to the Sheraton in Ft. Walton Beach in the afternoon to get more shells.  We found another 30 shells in a short period of time.  We ate dinner at Floyd’s Shrimp House in Ft. Walton Beach.  We had steak and shrimp I think.  The hotel was circular and we had a beach view on the 6th floor.  I highly recommend the Holiday Inn in Destin.

Days Inn - Panama City Beach [do not stay there]

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach - the Emerald Coast


Destin - the Emerald Coast

Holiday Inn - Destin

Floyd's Shrimp House - Ft. Walton Beach

Thursday October 21

We had breakfast at the hotel and spent the entire day on the beach.  I snorkeled a lot and got a fairly bad sunburn.  Took lots of pictures.  We had lunch at Subway and dinner at Wendy’s.  No more seafood for a while.


Holiday Inn - Destin

Friday October 22

We shopped and I bought a bunch more spoons for my mom – 15 in all.  We left Destin about 9:30 AM not knowing if we would spend the night somewhere like Natchez again or drive all of the way home.  We drove along the coast on Highway 98 and saw nothing but devastation from west of Ft. Walton Beach to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Most of the street signs were leaning or on the ground.  Most homes in the neighborhoods had blue plastic tarps on their roofs.  Tons and tons of trash were pilled up in front of homes.  Gas stations destroyed, metal buildings trashed, and fast food signs blown out.  We wanted to drive through Pensacola Beach but the authorities stopped us.  The beach was completely shut down except for residents and construction workers.  We then drove to see Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It was not closed down but it may as well have been.  All of the hotels, T-shirt shops, and restaurants were closed.  Sand was covering the parking lots on both sides of the road.  Sand filled hotel swimming pools. Some shops had their windows blown completely out.  Some shops along all of the beaches were just closed for the winter but many were closed due to Ivan and may never open up again.  Trees were down everywhere.  We could not find a decent restaurant that was open in Gulf Shores until we were outside of town.  We ate lunch at Kirk Kirkland’s Hitchin’ Post where we split a shrimp dinner.  We continued the drive and decided to drive home and arrived at our house at 12:45 AM.  I took about 240 pictures.

Gulf Shores - destroyed by Hurricane Ivan

Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores - windows blown out

Saturday October 23

No one uses the phone anymore.  When we got home, we had four phone calls, three that were from telemarketers.  Home emails totaled 143 and work emails totaled 466, with most of it being spam.

Some of the 85 shells we found on Ft. Walton Beach