Before continuing northward on the Natchez Trace, I decided to check out some cool stuff in and around downtown Jackson. The first experience was at the coffee shop when a local drove up with his windows down, a cigar in hand and smiling in a very nice vintage 1957 Chevrolet Nomad.
Azaleas were in full bloom and the smell of sweet flower and pine was thick in the air.
Exiting interstate 55, the Governors Mansion was an amazing site to see with its Mississippi State flag waving in the wind…
I’d never seen church service on a street before and watched in awe as a group of faithful followers sang and rejoiced at a major intersection downtown.
And, Mardi Gras beads from an earlier celebration glistened below a historic clock that loomed over their heads.
The Civil War destroyed most of the old homes in the area but, I did find some very interesting signs…
On the outskirts near the capitol building was a dilapidated part of town that use to be a thriving area back in the day.
Snapping a few photos inside one of the run down shops, I couldn’t help but notice a pair of shoes next to one of many beer bottles and thinking, “What would drive someone to leave them?”
Wall art and old shops where some people still dream of better…
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Following the old trail, memories of my childhood began to play back right in front of my eyes. A freckled-faced kid hiking through the bottom land of a swamp as thousands of crickets chirped in harmony…
This use to be Choctaw Indian territory…
Winding through fertile land near the Mississippi River, I began to imagine how they lived in those days, how they prepared their meals, the language they spoke and what it was like to be a kid.
The indians lived a rather simple life, until the white man rolled in and destroyed it all.
Countless lives were lost in battle to protect what they held precious for so many years as well disease that men from other countries brought to their land…
And, even after the indians were pushed out and stripped of their soul the white man continued to wage war and battle amongst his own kind for control.
Stopping at historic markers along the way and reading about the past and the many lives affected for me, was unfathomable how difficult life must have been during this time.
Yet, fascination with the Natchez Trace continued and helped propel me along further and further North…
Then, without the slightest warning, I began to sneeze and sneeze some more. Wild flowers were everywhere and so was the pollen! Pulling to the side of the road with itching eyes, rain began pouring down and realized it was time to shorten this road trip and pick back up where I left off next week.
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If there’s one thing I missed being away for so many years, its Southern hospitality. And, yesterday, two friendly young ladies helped bring back some of that by guiding me to a place I’d never been before: The Babalu Tacos & Tapas restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi.
I was told the crab cakes and margaritas are “to die for” and that the restaurants located in a super hip area called the Fondren District with lots of creative people, a place that I’d definitely fall in love with and feel at home again.
So, away I went bouncing down the pothole-ridden streets of Jackson like on some kind of special mission to “find my people” or something…
A few minutes later I was smack dab in the heart of Jackson in the Fondren. One of several historic areas in the US that’s made a major come back from earlier days of roaming streetwalkers, drug dealers and thugs, the Fondren District is special. It’s an artsy-tartsy-creative place that’s alive, full of soul and deep-rooted with history. An area where voices of the past can be heard once again through the hard work of dedicated citizens with a cause to revitalize what once was.
The Babalu is located in an old school building, its façade overflowing with character. Approaching the entrance I thought to myself, “I’m hungry and this could be the perfect medicine to ease my suffering”.
As soon as the door opened, I was greeted by Ms. Kila Mae, her friendly personality gleaming through a Southern “twang.”
And, while still holding a straight face from the humbleness of it all, my eyes began to scan the open air layout of this cool and unusual place, taking it all in…
With a light industrial ambience, a friendly staff and aromatics from the kitchen that would get anyones attention, I just had a gut feeling that this would be a memory of a lifetime.
From the moment the waiter placed the scrumptious Crab Cakes and Margarita on the table, I realized that Babalu is an institution of originality with a passion of excellence that Chef Ferris and owners Bill Latham & Al Roberts have created from their love of food, one that will hopefully continue for generations to come.
During the week from 4:00-6:00 pm is happy hour, so I sampled the Pescado of the day, a grilled black drum with smoked corn & black bean salsa, poblano vinaigrette and radish…
And, I also sampled the Barbacoa, a braised beef short rib, horseradish crema with pickled red onion and micro-cilantro. In my little heaven floating above the table in Babalu Utopia, I silently thanked the two strangers whom guided me here.
Distinct flavors from each item, pared with a tasty hand-made margarita, simply complimented what already existed: An original, healthy-creative awesome meal that will absolutely keep me coming back for more and telling the world about!
Check out Babalu for daily specials Monday-Friday 4:00-6:00 pm-$2.00 tacos & $5.00 house margaritas
622 Duling Ave Jackson, MS 39216
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