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Tourists cross country to see Natchez

Road Scholar program participants tour the inside of Magnolia Hall during Spring Pilgrimage Wednesday. Road Scholar is an educational travel tour organization that is primarily for older adults. The group does tours worldwide.  (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Road Scholar program participants tour the inside of Magnolia Hall during Spring Pilgrimage Wednesday. Road Scholar is an educational travel tour organization that is primarily for older adults. The group does tours worldwide. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Tourists from all across the nation descended on Natchez this week as Spring Pilgrimage kicked off in earnest.

Some of those tourists drove through snowstorms, others inched through the fog to get to Natchez, but all said they greatly enjoyed discovering the city’s charm, history and a few fried foods.

The annual tour of historic houses continues through April 7.

History lessons

New York resident Dan Gorney and his wife drove more than 1,000 miles — sometimes through snowstorms — to reach Natchez.

Although their last day in Natchez is today, they took in as much as possible.

Gorney, a former American history teacher, said he enjoyed learning more about Southern history.

“For someone who has grown up in the north, and lived most of my life there, I’ve enjoyed learning a lot about real old South history and culture, which is something you don’t really get a good understanding of up north,” Gorney said.

Natchez is a great little city, he said, that looks as if it’s still trying to find itself in today’s world, but it’s very enjoyable.

“The knowledge that you get about Natchez, prior to the Civil War and after the war, has been very interesting,” Gorney said.

No skis, please

Although Houston residents Beth, Katherine and Charis Strickland are not new to Natchez, they spent a majority of their time seeking new adventures here.

The Stricklands arrived Monday and chose Weymouth Hall on Cemetery Road as their place of rest, which Charis, 13, said had an exceptional view.

“The river is so misty that it looks like a creepy abyss,” Charis said.

While Charis said her favorite thing about Natchez was its fried food, her mother, Beth, said she loves the distance between the houses and restaurants in the area.

“In 10 minutes we can get anywhere.” Beth said. “I’m used to giving myself 40 minutes when I have to go somewhere.”

Beth said her favorite stop when visiting Natchez is Rosalie.

“I love how it’s a proportional layout as opposed to Stanton Hall,” Beth said. “Even though Stanton Hall is beautiful, it’s just so incredibility beautiful that you would not want to live in it.”

The Strickland family’s original idea was to go on a ski trip, but because of 11-year-old Katherine’s lack of interest in skiing, the family decided to spend spring break in Natchez.

‘Superb’ stay

Greensboro, N.C., resident Anne Jones made Magnolia Hall one of her many stops during her five-day trip with the Road Scholar organization, a non-profit organization that provides educational travel tours geared toward older adults.

“I’ve been on about 20 travels around the world,” Jones said. “But being in Natchez is superb.”

Jones said the Road Scholar organization has listed Natchez as one of its signature cities.

“My time here is just amazing, but I love my stay at the Natchez Grand Hotel and walking around the historical district,” Jones said.

Jones said she had no surprising or disappointing aspects of her visit, but after originally growing up in California she enjoyed seeing the character of Natchez.

Walking through history

Houston residents Barbara and Bill Tanner walked the streets of Natchez all morning taking pictures that they hope to carry home.

“We’ve seen a variety of things including churches, old homes, and we have had lectures about the area,” Jones said. “We got a very good reenactment today at the William Johnson House, which was a very comprehensive program.”

Junkin roots

Brookhaven residents Samantha Junkin and Lexi Nettles decided to travel to Natchez for one day and take in the excitement of Spring Pilgrimage — a task that was not difficult for Junkin. She’s related related to the late Speaker of the House John R. Junkin, who served for many years in the Mississippi Legislature and for whom a section of U.S. 84 is named in Natchez.

“It’s just something I have heard all my life,” Junkin said.

Nettles and Junkin were excited to tour the Texada Tavern on Wall Street, but they did not plan on leaving without paying a visit to Longwood first.

“I once did a report on the mansion so I’m looking forward to see it up close and personal.”