Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations: Storytellers of the South

On a journey through the American South with Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations, Kristin Kent uncovered the stories that helped define Southern culture.

“Yoo-hoo, Miss Kristin, over here!”

I couldn’t help but smile at the distinctively Southern twang coming from Miss Anne, our traveling concierge. She sounded as if she was straight from the set of “Steel Magnolias.”

That film and others had long fueled my fascination of the American South, but it was the local storytellers who brought this vivid region to life on my escorted journey with Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations.

First stop, Nashville, a city where aspiring musicians belt tunes in local honky tonks, hoping to follow in the paths of legends performing in venues like the Grand Ole Opry. Just ask Richard Leigh, a Grammy-nominated composer who arrived in Nashville some 40 years ago, who told us the art of a good country tune is simple: “For every broken heart in Nashville, you get two hit songs,” he explained at the Country Music Hall of Fame. We then gathered at Studio B to create our own epic memory: recording a track in the same space as Elvis Presley.

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, best known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974.
Photo: Eric Barnes of Anywhere Anytime Journeys

The tribute continued in Memphis, the birthplace of blue suede shoes and Tennessee barbecue — both of which I discovered after-hours at Graceland. Accompanied by George Klein, Elvis’ best friend from boyhood, we dined in the Elvis Presley Car Museum — surrounded by a collection of vintage muscle cars, roadsters, and elegant limousines. Klein regaled us with tales of their friendship that began in eighth grade and lasted a lifetime (The King was even best man at his wedding!).

Since Memphis is renowned for its pit-smoked barbecue, I decided to find the city’s finest offerings: within a short distance of our hotel, the Western Memphis Beale Street, Central BBQ was the clear champion because of its no-sauce-needed dry ribs. Its perfect location next door to the National Civil Rights Museum segued into a meaningful perspective of the American South’s complex history, which remained a continuing theme as we traveled through Mississippi.

Statue Rosa Parks in the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee.
By Lieske Leunissen-Ritzen via Wikimedia Commons.

On board our spacious motorcoach, our local expert revealed that the next destination — Natchez, Mississippi — once housed half of all American millionaires. Today, plantations open their doors to travelers seeking a taste of Southern hospitality. At Frogmore Plantation, we learned how to make mint juleps before white-gloved waiters served velvety soups, grilled tenderloins, and sumptuous desserts.

Yet no sweet would prove as decadent as the humble praline, a staple in New Orleans. This city was bursting with culinary musts: cocktails at the spinning Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, sweet beignets and chicory-infused café au lait at Café du Monde and a festive gathering at Arnaud’s were essential elements in my stay.

Crawfish etouffee.
By jeffreyw via Wikimedia Commons.

Yet for me, the real essence of this eclectic city shined through its cultural influences — Creole, Cajun, Afro-Caribbean, French, Spanish and others — which I explored through seasonings and sounds both with my expert-led group and on my own. I tasted etouffee, boudin, andouille, and grillades. I hunted down muffuletta, jambalaya, and po-boys. At the New Orleans School of Cooking, a chef cooked up a gumbo so delicious it went down in my personal history books — its flavors as deliciously layered as the sounds of old-world jazz emanating from Preservation Hall on my final solo outing.

Preservation Hall – New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo: Jeff Turner / Flickr

Thanks to these once-in-a-lifetime experiences enhanced by the stories of music, food and personal anecdotes, I gained insight into the American South in ways I never could have anticipated.

Kristin Kent is a Canadian journalist who contributes to the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail.


We Recommend:


SOUTHERN GRACE

Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations – Guided Vacation

Nashville and Memphis offer exceptional opportunities to immerse yourself in their heritage, from reserved seats at the world-famous Grand Ole Opry to the Jungle room at Graceland. Visit the multicultural melting pot of New Orleans, renowned for its unparalleled cuisine.

8 NIGHTS from $3675

Select travel dates 9/15 – 10/27/17

OFFER 1245802


SOUTHERN GLAMOUR

Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations – Guided Vacation

Enjoy a stylish perspective on the sights, sounds, and flavors of the South — oaks draped in veils of Spanish moss, antebellum plantations, exclusive island resorts and the romance of Savannah. In Charleston, sample the culinary charms of celebrated chef and accomplished jazz vocalist Annie Mayo.

7 NIGHTS from $3475

Departs 9/8 and 9/29/17

OFFER 1246941


THE SUMPTUOUS SOUL OF AMERICA

Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations – Guided Vacation

Music and food are at the forefront of this journey through the American heartland. Start in Chicago, then move south to the musical meccas of Nashville and Memphis. Then head down through the Mississippi Delta and to New Orleans.

13 NIGHTS from $5462

Select travel dates 9/3 – 10/22/17

OFFER 1250030


[Cover Photo: Book concept: Beautiful golden Autumn tree lit by sunlight in a landscape. © Can Stock Photo / Veneratio]


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