Honey and Elvis Presley. That is what Tupelo Mississippi is known for, and even then I'm not sure how much one can say this sleepy little town in the northern part of he state can be said to be "known." the honey connection isn't and Elvis is associated with Memphis more than Tupelo. Yet this was a town worth seeing.
I will say the drive from Oxford to Tupelo was divine, on a winding wooded road that had me wondering where I'd left my Bonneville. The road dipped and twisted, a perfectly smooth ribbon of black asphalt through the trees, across fields and farms and of course eventually it dead ended into a bland wide straight four lane highway that led directly to La Quinta on the outskirts of Tupelo.
Tupelo is actually a pepperidge tree (whatever that is) and the town is apparently named for that. 35,000 people live there and the big claim to fame is that Elvis Prelsey was born here and survived a tornado that killed 240 other people.
The architecture is firmly rooted in the past, Palladian public buildings and a nod to the angelic on the front lawn seems to go down a treat in a state where constitutional law is a nuisance imposed by "big government." I also found a monument embossed with a high falutin' sentiment that made no sense to me when put into context.
The cupola of the Lee County Courthouse suddenly looked as though I was transplanted to Florence in Italy. Elegance is a lovely thing, and honestly I wouldnt mind seeing a little bit of it on the streets of Key West.
The British and the French fought over this spot in 1763 and Americans killed Americans here in 1864 when it was called Gum Pond supposedly for the gum trees (tupelos) in the area. The civil war battle of Tupelo gave the city it's modern name. Machine Gun Kelly robbed his last bank here in 1932, an even that brings to mind the Bonnie and Clyde myth making of the era. The brick buildings look like they were here when the bank robbers were in town.
You can see Tupelo had money in the early ears of the last century, the signs were everywhere, just like this entrance to a dust catcher shop celebrating earlier glory days:
The whole Johnny Reb thing is a weird holdover that doesn't mix well with the modern preoccupation with nationalism in the face of some supposed need to fight foreign wars. Around the corner we read of the "right principle" of secession to preserve slavery and here we see appeals to patriotism that in 1864 would have won you no Tupelo friends. So why I ask myself do they keep harking back?
It was a hot muggy day when we visited, the La Quinta was new and we were greeted as though old friends, which sounds corny but was delightful. We went into town to walk around and see what was what. It's less than two hours by car meandering from Oxford so we were well in time for lunch.
My wife had been consulting the entrails in her iPhone and TripAdvisor and Urban Spoon agreed: Tea For T'Arts. I love tea so a tearoom sounded perfect. I ended up feeling chronically underdressed as we greeted by dresses and doilies and mercifully, ample air conditioning.
Lunch was a series of sandwiches, cream cheese and pineapple, chicken salad, hot ham and Swiss cheese and so forth. It was great fun and I sucked down the China Oolong till I started to begin to feel revived. I captioned this picture in my mind as "a bull in a china shop":
Their conversation was a revelation because in their youth they certainly had stepped outside their comfort zones, and we heard it all. The one on the left started out by admiring the jewelry of the one on the right and it turns out it was an Egyptian cartouche which she had picked up on a trip down the Nile. She quite liked Luxor too it turned out.
I want to go back to Tupelo.