Monday, June 05, 2006

Day One: Belmont Hotel

Em eye crooked-letter crooked-letter eye, crooked-letter crooked-letter eye, humpback humpback eye...

Took a short road trip this weekend. Spent the night in Mississippi Friday night, then drove up about 140 miles of the Natchez Trace on Saturday.

This post was basically lifted directly from the pages of my spiral notebook, since I am one of twelve people in the United States with no laptop. It seemed interesting at midnight Friday night as I was lying alone in a hotel bed in a small town in Mississippi. Then again, a spider on the wall would have probably seemed interesting at that point in time.

I really have no idea how to describe the furniture and decor, as my descriptive furniture adjectives are limited to "pretty," "old-lookin," and the colors in the 16 count Crayola box. Perhaps some of you would like to take a shot.

Spending the night at the "historical" Belmont Hotel, advertised as the oldest hotel in Mississippi. It was built in 1924. There just feels like a lot of history here. Best I can tell, it's the only hotel in this town of 1900-plus people. Actually, I would say it's more of a bed and breakfast.

I searched online for hotels or hostels near the Natchez Trace. The website where I found this one said a room would be $55-$60 per night. But when I called ahead to see if there were any rooms available, I was told it would only be $35 plus tax. Decision made.

I arrived sometime after 9:00 tonight. The drive over was uneventful. The Belmont is a block off the main road thru town. The street was completely dead, and rather dark, when I arrived. There were only two cars parked out front. And I didn't see a sign that said hotel. But I was fairly certain this was the building, from the picture I'd seen on the internet.

Approaching the front door, I noticed a for sale sign in the window. As I was already a bit hesitant about staying at any hotel for only $35 a night, I thought to myself that might be a bad sign. But while it's obviously an old building, and looks it, from the outside. Upon entering, it quickly becomes clear that the place has been well taken care of and refurbished.

There's a staircase along the left wall of the lobby. The front desk is located on the right side of the room, about even with the foot of the stairs. I pressed a buzzer on the front desk and within seconds the innkeeper appeared. He was a shorter gentleman, wearing a black shirt and black pants, who looked to be in his fifties. He had closely-cropped grayish-white hair and a kind voice. I paid for one night and was given a key to my room, and another key to the hotel's front door. Apparently it is locked overnight. One of many charming peculiarities about the hotel.

Behind the front desk and thru a doorway I saw what appeared to be a dining room. I thought it to be almost elegant, with chandeliers and solid wood tables. I really liked all the furniture in the lobby and dining room. As well as the rugs, curtains, mirrors, wallpaper--everything.

After showing me to my room, the innkeeper said they would put out breakfast in the dining room in the morning. He also pointed to a door off the left side of the dining room and said that I could find ice and "cold drinks" there.

I assumed my room would be upstairs. It's not. The door to my room is underneath the staircase. The first thing I noticed about the room were the high ceilings. I'd guess they are at least fourteen feet high. I could have jumped on the bed and never once come close to hitting my head on the ceiling. Not that I did.

I imagine this whole place--guest rooms, lobby, dining room, decor--looks similar to what it might have looked like seventy, eighty years ago. It's wonderfully quiet and homey. I love it! It's quaint. That's what it is. And quaint is good.

After I brought my bags in and got settled, I decided to go get something to drink from the "ice and cold drinks" room. I found the ice dispenser and filled a bucket with ice, but couldn't find the drink machine. I was about to give up when I saw a mini-fridge in the corner. I opened it and found it stocked full of can Cokes, Diet Cokes, and Dr. Peppers. On top of the refrigerator was a box with a slot in the top, labeled "Drinks 50 ¢ each." The honor system!

I couldn't help but smile as I put a dollar in the box and took two Dr. Peppers. And even now, I'm smiling as I write about it. So much about this hotel and town brings to mind an earlier time. With a slower pace. Like somehow the world has mostly passed it by. And no one here seems to mind. It almost feels like I've gone back in time. And I almost wish I didn't have to leave. I love this place.

It's midnight now. Planning to get up tomorrow, have breakfast, and start up the Trace, which is only five or six miles from here. Gonna finish my Dr. Pepper and go to sleep. Until tomorrow...

"Today I took a detour down a back road, thru a little town whose name I can't recall. There were old men on benches playin' checkers. Children playin' hopscotch on the square. And high above a statue of an unknown soldier, Old Glory was waving in the air..."


  1. wow, Bone, this is really beautiful. Just your thoughts about the place and the pics to back it up.. I wanna visit there too! Again, wow.

  2. Good story. I'm going to compliment you so save this. Why don't you write for magazine or newspaper?! The people who definitely remember a time like that would greatly adore your story. AAAAAAAAANNND maybe even *I* liked it. Ya never know!!

  3. American colonial? That's what my parents called all the furniture in our house that wasn't French Provincial or Italian Provincial--was very confusing

    So the Trace is a National Park? It does get terrorist funding?

  4. Now that sounds like a fun place. Isn't it refreshing to find that there are still places like this? I'm kind of shocked that the oldest hotel in the state was built in 1924. I would have expected something much older.

    Ask for a laptop for Xmas. But, I don't have one either. So, I'm just sayin'.

  5. Groovie: Thanks. Did I mention I loved that place? :)

    Dea: Um, I would love to write for a magazine or newspaper. Know any editors or publishers? ;-)

    PS: Someone has evidently hacked into your blogger account and is leaving compliments for me. You'll probably want to change your password.

    Pia: I think that fits! American Colonial. See, now why can't I think of words like that?

    I will be writing about the Trace tomorrow. I thought of you everytime I saw a sign that said "Historical landmark 0.5 miles." :)

    Carnealian: It was refreshing. And I don't know for a fact about it being the oldest hotel, but that's what the website said.

  6. Lovely post. I look forward to reading the next one.

    And I'm one of the 12 folks who doesn't have a laptop either.

  7. Bone,
    I can make the drive to go to this place...was it kid friendly? :)

    I love old places. I love trying to feel what it was like to live back then. Our pace today is too fast.

    There are some places in the world (not in the US I fear) that when it rains, everyone stays home. Sounds crazy? No...actually, when you think about it--on those days when the thunder is booming and it's raining buckets, and we are running around like the nuts we are trying to get kids off to school, or get to our jobs, or do the blasted grocery shopping AND STAY DRY...
    The people I met in Africa who lay low until the storm passes seem to be far wiser than us!

    I have a laptop...but I still write in my spiral bound note book, almost everyday! I like my handwriting, I like my pens, I like the paper :)

  8. sounds like a great trip to embark on. i love the honor system. it's sad that that wouldn't fly in so many places nowadays. $35 a night! what a steal!

  9. What a charming place! I'd have to agree with you completely, the way that old place is decorated makes it so homey and welcoming.

    I loooooooove that they use the 'honor system' with their sodas.... that's so horribly sweet. There's nothing... and by the word 'nothing' I do mean NOTHING... like that out here in California. What a treat.

    Glad you loved it.

  10. Darned Blogger! I posted a really nice comment this morning or at least I tried to and now it is lost forever! boo hoo

    It looks like a really nice hotel and you can't beat the price. I'm not quite sure that Darly would be all that happy there...she's not so much into historical stuff, but soon she'll be there.

    Way back when I was in 6th grade we had a class trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi. We visited the McRaven Tour Home. I really loved the home and wanted to live in it. I was also really impressed with getting to be the model for how tall (um...make that short) people were back when the house was built. I had finished growing up back then and was at my present 5'2". I love that old stuff.

  11. Xinh: Thanks. Alright, well that's three of us who don't have a laptop already. Counting me.

    Cora: I have no idea if it's kid-friendly :) I guess the Trace is sort of kid-friendly. Lots of places to stop and walk and picnic and such.

    My handwriting always starts out really neat but by the end it's such a mess that I can barely make out what it says when I read back over it.

    Ms. Sizzle: It's definitely rare. I think it's like anything, most people would be fine on the honor system. But a few bad ones ruin it for everyone.

    Anonymous: What's a soda? ;-)

    I'm almost surprised newspaper machines still work as well as they do. Trusting each person to just take one paper.

    Renee: Blogger was having some major problems this morning.

    As I was leaving and saw the for sale sign again, part of me wanted to buy the hotel and run it.

  12. We'd say you left a dollar and got some "pop". :) I'm just glad to know that the honor system still exists somewhere. :) Sounds like you had a good start to the weekend, looking forward to the rest of the story.

  13. I am getting out my map and looking up Natchez Trace to see how far away I am from it. The way you described the hotel made me feel I was right there. :)

  14. From the pictures that place looks beautiful... I live in MS but yet I have never been to Natchez. I may just have to go now lol. I have been all over the south, but MS has been the only place where I have seen the "honor" system used..there's a tomato greenhouse close to where I live and they use the "honor" system when they are closed. I am constantly reminded of why I love this state :). (Of course I love Alabama too :-D)

  15. I love those places! Nick and I stayed at a B&B once where the owner was out of town. She had another guy come to the B&B to let us in and run our card. They gave us the key to the B&B and our room. There was no one else there, so we had the run of the place! Of course, the other bedrooms were locked, but it was still cool to think we were the only ones there. Sounds like lots of fun!

  16. Nice. Sounds like a good place to check out.

    BTW: Soon I'll be posting my story about my trip to Asheville last fall. I'd like to hear your thoughts if you get a chance.

  17. Carmen: You really say pop? lol Everyone around here just says Coke, no matter what brand of soft drink it is. They're all cokes.

    Linda: Thanks. It can't be too awfully far from you. Makes a great day trip.

    Nikki: In the town where I used to live, there was a putt-putt course that used the honor system during the day. But after awhile, it went out of business.

    Lass: Yeah, this guy seemed really trusting, too. When I turned in my key to leave, he was way at the other end of the dining room and didn't even check to see if I'd left both keys or anything.

    Big Man: Thanks, bro. I'll definitely check it out.