Follow the Music; from New Orleans to Memphis and Nashville Via Jazz, Blues and Country, Judith Chalmers and Neil Durden-Smith

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 25, 2019 | Go to article overview

Follow the Music; from New Orleans to Memphis and Nashville Via Jazz, Blues and Country, Judith Chalmers and Neil Durden-Smith


Byline: Judith Chalmers and Neil Durden-Smith

New Orleans is a small city with a large heart, parts of which have been rebuilt or restored since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On a twoweek tour of the Deep South of America by plane, train and bus, we started our first day with beignets, Louisiana doughnuts, at the Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter, a buzzy meeting place that gave us a good feel for this colourful city.

Another must is a cruise down the Mississippi on the Natchez, the last authentic steamboat on the river. Purely by chance, we met John and Katie Plews on board, who live ten minutes away from us in London, and together we enjoyed a lunch of creole jambalaya and southernfried fish as we watched the local life on both banks of the river while being serenaded by a jazz band. The rain came down for a while but as our steward said: 'If you don't like the weather, don't worry. It will change in ten minutes.' It did!

A walking tour through the streets of the French Quarter gives you a chance to see the French and Spanish architecture.

It ended in Jackson Square, where musicians, palm readers, contortionists and tattooists ply their trades. Go for brunch (or dinner) at Brennan's, a New Orleans tradition since 1946. It has outstanding food, Old World elegance and great service.

Similarly, we enjoyed two fine dinners at Broussard's and GW Fins, and overall, we thought the food in the Deep South was first class.

Jazz is the soul of New Orleans and although Bour-bon Street is world renowned, Frenchmen Street is taking over as the top jazz area. We went to Bamboula's and the Blue Nile Balcony Room and The Preservation Hall, in the heart of the French Quarter. We then travelled to Memphis by train in a Superliner roomette - a grand name for a sleeper.

There is a diner and an observation car from which to watch the scenery slip by. We had one stop in Jackson, Mississippi, crossed the Tennessee River and arrived in Memphis ten hours later, where we stayed at the Guest House at Graceland. We had imagined this would be rather intimate and cosy, but it turned out to be a large hotel with about 150 bedrooms. …

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