Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Welcome to Jackson, Mississippi.

Mississippi is rich in literary history. We start with the greats like William Faulkner and Eudora Welty, and move on to modern writers like John Grisham and Matthew Guin. So we’ll begin your virtual tour at my favorite place in Jackson, Lemuria Bookstore.

The warm smell of ink-coated pages greets you at the bright red doors, and the stacks of books surrounding you threaten to topple over with every step. Once you enter, it feels like time stands still, reminiscent of its namesake—Lemuria, the mythical lost continent filled with the most brilliant civilizations ever known. I often go to the bakery and cafĂ© beneath the bookstore and study over coffee, with the reward of a leisurely stroll through Lemuria in mind.

Just minutes from the cozy bookstore is Eudora Welty’s house and gardens. If you haven’t gotten enough of books yet, you can make a stop at the lending library outside her house; a cute little encased bookshelf where the community can pick up a book and leave one for another. The famed author wrote some of America’s best works, and she wrote most of it from her darling cottage in the heart of my city. The house is open to the public, and her gardens host events for book-lovers year round. One of my personal favorites was the Jane Austen film series. My mom, sister, and I gathered with other Austen fans one sticky September night, spread out our blankets, and oohed and ahhed over all of our favorite parts of Pride and Prejudice beside the author’s azalea bushes. It was a night to remember.

Mississippi College

Mississippi is faithful to continue this tradition of well-read students, and it does so at its many universities. My brothers go to the schools Belhaven University and Millsaps College. All of our schools are close, with Belhaven right across from Eudora Welty’s house, Millsaps just blocks away, and my school, Mississippi College, fifteen to twenty minutes from theirs. I may be biased, but I think my school is the most beautiful—big brick buildings, towering trees, and stone statues depicting Biblical scenes dotting our campus.

Mississippi College isn’t all there is to see, though. The historical brick streets are just a few feet from my school’s limits, and they have something for everyone: from the antique stores and used bookstore to the southern dining options, local bakery, and coffee shop, the brick streets are a popular hang-out spot for all of MC’s students.

For as many learning opportunities as there are in Jackson, there are an equal amount of culinary experiences. Mississippi is home to good, old fashioned comfort food, and there is no shortage of fried, battered, and breaded chicken, catfish, and dough balls called “hush-puppies.” Jackson is also host to a variety of Greek restaurants—Keifer’s, Krilaki’s, Kristo’s, Vasilio’s; all offer authentic flavor and delicious variations of the incredible cuisine. Be careful when planning a visit to Vasilio’s, though; they close for the whole month of July while their family travels back to Greece! My family and I are constantly in wonder at the number of great Greek restaurants in Mississippi. Who knew? One of our all-time favorite places to take guests, though, is Brent’s Diner.

Brent’s opened in 1946 as a pharmacy, and its interior has remained largely unchanged, with the soda counter and bar stools still in their original places. It is still so charmingly 1950’s that it was actually featured in the 2011 film The Help. Our friends and family from out of town are always impressed that they get to sit at the same table Emma Stone did while filming! My go-to meal at Brent’s is always a burger, their famous fries, and a Nutella milkshake. To die for.

Brent’s is located in a hip inner-city area, Fondren. The city has been slowly refurbishing this area into a cultural arts and foodie hub, bringing in more revenue to a low-income city that desperately needs it. Fondren is a favorite spot for college students and families alike. I love going salsa dancing at Salsa Mississippi on Saturday nights, where students can dance until early morning for $5.00. People from all over the world gather into the vibrant, sweaty dance club and for a few hours you forget you’re in Mississippi. It’s incredible. My family and I also love to go to Fondren’s First Thursday, a street event that offers samples of nearly every culinary, music, and art attraction Jackson has to offer.

Jackson has held onto the Southern hospitality and kindness Mississippi is famous for, while also working to eradicate the state of the prejudices that have held us back. Jackson mesmerizes me. Perhaps after reading this it will you, too. Ms. Welty seems to think so, “Writers and travelers are mesmerized alike by knowing of their destinations.”

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