My favorite way to travel is to go on a long tour. I understand why some people prefer to stay a week or two in one place, but personally I don’t enjoy that nearly as much as getting to see lots of different destinations.
This February I did my first big tour in the US. It all started with me wanting to celebrate Groundhog Day in Punxsytawney and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I kept adding destinations to the itinerary and ended up traveling for almost three weeks and visiting ten different states.
Except for Pennsylvania, all the states I visited were in the South. It was my first visit to Southern US, a region that had fascinated me ever since I saw Gone with the Wind as a kid, and there were loads of places I wanted to see.
The trip was partly for work and partly for fun. I chose all the destinations based on what I wanted to see, but I was able to pitch articles related to some of my destinations to the media companies I write for in Finland. Since I work from home, I was also able to take with me some work that had nothing to do with where I was.
Here are the places I visited:
Punxytawney, Pennsylvania was my first stop. I saw Groundhog Day the movie as a teenager and thought the festival was something Hollywood screen writers had made up. When I found out it was real I immediately knew I wanted to take part. I just love it when lots of people come together to do something weird.
I bought the silliest groundhog hat I could find and wore it the whole time. Thanks to the hat I met a new friend, and together we truly embraced the craziness of the festival. We got up at 2.30 AM and stayed up the rest of the night waiting for Phil the groundhog to appear at sunrise – and had a blast. Groundhod Day was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
I had a few days between Groundhog Day and Mardi Gras, and I decided to spend that time in Memphis. I considered Nashville as an option but thought I’d enjoy Memphis more. I wanted to see the Elvis frenzy of Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum.
I have a thing for trying to visit as many US states as possible. On my way from Punxsytawney to Memphis I changed flights in Charlotte and had just enough time to go and take a look at the city.
Another state I visited very briefly was Arkansas: While in Memphis I crossed the bridge over to West Memphis, Arkansas. Admittedly there was nothing of interest to see in West Memphis.
From Memphis I took the train to New Orleans. Many people had recommended that train journey, but I must say it wasn’t all that special. I sat at the sightseeing car but spent most of the time working on my computer because most of the landscapes looked pretty much the same to me.
The most interesting part of the trip was when the train stopped in Jackson, Mississippi. You can see the dome of the Mississippi State Capitol from the train.
My fiancé Samuli joined me in Louisiana, and even though we met up in New Orleans and it was already Mardi Gras weekend, we headed straight to Lafayette. We had decided we’d get a lot more out of our four days together in Louisiana if we didn’t spend all of them watching Mardi Gras parades.
In Lafayette we did a swamp tour, and that was one of the absolute highlights of our trip together – and of my whole tour. The atmosphere on the swamp was otherworldly and we got really close to two alligators that were above water.
Spending one night in Lafayette and one in Baton Rouge also saved us a lot of money because lodging in New Orleans is expensive during Mardi Gras.
Watching the parades and begging for throws was great fun, but doing that for two days was enough. After a while I’m sure the novelty would wear off.
After Mardi Gras Samuli went back home. I spent some more time exploring New Orleans and took a day trip to Mobile, Alabama. My fellow blogger Jenni of Globe Called Home had recommended the destination, and I’m glad she did. The charming Deep South town was definitely worth a day trip even though I’m not sure there’s enough to do for a longer stay.
My next stop was Houston, Texas. I was working on an article there and interviewed very interesting people, but after my work was done I noticed I was ill at ease and couldn’t wait to move on. I’m not sure why I felt that way. One reason is that I prefer cities that are easily navigated on foot, and Houston is quite the opposite, but that doesn’t explain the strong sentiment.
It Atlanta, Georgia, I had a lot of fun. I only spent a day there, but it gave me enough time to visit three sights I was interested in: Margaret Mitchell House, Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site and World of Coca-Cola. I just loved the tour at Margaret Mitchell House.
Next up was Savannah, Georgia. I just loved the old town with its squares, moss-dripping oak trees and beautiful houses. Of all the cities and towns visited on my tour, Savannah was my favorite. I seldom go back to any destination, because I always seek out new ones, but I’d love to return to Savannah one day.
My last stop was Charleston, South Carolina. It was also a very beautiful city with charm similar to Savannah, but somehow Savannah got under my skin more. The two cities are only a two-hour bus ride or drive away from each other, so I would definitely recommend visiting both on the same trip.
All and all I can say I fell in love with the South.