Laurel -- just pulled it up. it's just a fluffy travel piece about Greenwood, MS. if you can afford it, you've got to check it out -- I haven't been to too many spas, but this place was nirvana...
WHOEVER coined the line about finding paradise in your own backyard must've known about Greenwood, Mississippi, located just 135 miles south of Memphis. Formerly a sleepy hamlet that served as town for dozens of outlying plantations, over the last five years, Greenwood has transformed itself into a high-end tourist destination. The catalyst? Fred Carl's Viking Range Corporation, which, in this part of Mississippi at least, has superseded cotton as king.
The manufacturer of must-have kitchen accoutrements for the affluent (ranges start at $3500), Viking has become an unexpected savior for Greenwood, on the decline since the bottom fell out of the cotton market shortly after WWII. First, Carl built the Viking factory, employing nearly 500 workers who send 300 stoves down the assembly line every week. Next, he erected the Alluvian Hotel, utilized by visiting Viking dealers and savvy tourists alike. Last year, the Alluvian Spa and the Mockingbird Bakery opened, and with stories in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and Gourmet, the secret got out: Greenwood is a getaway that's not to be missed.
Come for the weekend, and you could easily spend all your time on the block of Howard Street between Washington and Church, reveling in all the good-for-the-body and good-for-the-soul delights that Viking has to offer. Check into a room at the Alluvian, billed as a "cosmopolitan boutique hotel" that's housed in a circa-1917 downtown building. A hybrid of big-city feel and opulent Southern charm, it boasts flat screen TVs, granite countertops, and giant featherbeds in its rooms, while guests can enjoy iced tea and fresh fruit in the lobby, served on couches beneath William Dunlap's gargantuan painting, Landscape Askew – Delta Dog Trot, one of the hundreds of examples of Mississippi art on the premises.
Make dinner reservations for Giardina's, the hotel's steak and seafood restaurant, which was originally established in 1936. (The clever cloth partitions, a necessity for liquor-serving Delta restaurants during Prohibition, make for an especially romantic meal.) Then head across the street to the Alluvian Spa, where you'll exchange your street garb for sandals and robes before journeying to the Tranquility Room for restorative facials and rubdowns from the likes of esthetician Angie Richardson. Call ahead to schedule the couple's suite, where you can order custom dual massages and sweet tea soaks in the river bath. Or go solo with detoxifying body masques, an exfoliating Deep South cleanse, and a Sweet Magnolia collagen hydration treatment at this breathtakingly beautiful facility, certainly the best spa south of the Mason-Dixon line.
You'll gently float back down to earth via the stairs that take guests from the Alluvian Spa to the Mockingbird Bakery, owned by Martha Foose and her husband Donald Bender, who commute from nearby Tchula daily. Grab a fresh-baked croissant or a peanut butter cheesecake bar to hold you over, then amble through the antique stores and boutiques which line Howard Street while you wait for the daily lunchtime demonstration at the Viking Cooking School, where you'll get to gnosh as you learn new recipes.
At Lunch and Learn, a mix of planter's wives, local businessmen, and out-of-town visitors gather their galvanized stools around a gleaming granite-and-stainless steel island to watch and listen as Foose and other local chefs share their kitchen know-how while serving up lunch. Expect a light, yet utterly indulgent three-course meal – green salad and a big bowl of creamy soup, followed by chocolate ambrosia pie is a favorite in the winter months.
Dinner at Giardina's presents a much more difficult proposition: Faced with endless choices of oysters, pasta, fish, steak and veal, it's nearly impossible to decide on a single entrée. Start with a cup of seafood gumbo or a half-dozen oysters Bienville, then go for the whole broiled pompano, which arrives with its tail nearly hanging off the plate. Cajole your partner into ordering the $30 porterhouse and a plate of tamales, a Mississippi Delta staple, and share.
Back at the hotel, a granite-topped Jacuzzi bath is waiting. Be sure to peruse the offered reading materials, again all Mississippi-centric – copies of magazines like the Oxford American share coffee table space along with Eudora Welty novels and oversized photography books by Maude Schuyler Clay (you've likely spotted her work hanging throughout the hotel and spa) and William Eggleston. Crawl into bed for a midnight snack from the minibar and a pass at Faulkner's short story "A Justice," which tells of Ikkemotubbe, an Indian chief who used cypress rollers to move a beached steamboat across twelve miles of land. When you close your eyes, you'll dream of Leflore County plantations like Equen and Four Fifths, as well as the Indian mounds which rise like mysterious landmarks alongside the highway.
Want to escape the luxury of Howard Street for a few hours? Venture out for a tour of the Viking factory, located on the edge of town, or drop into the Crystal Grill for a slice of lemon meringue pie. Spooney's, a down home BBQ joint, has chicken wings and pork ribs on the menu daily. This is blues country: load your car's CD player with plenty of Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Elmore James, then head to nearby Tutwiler, where, as legend has it, W.C. Handy first heard the blues, or to the Club Ebony juke joint, located 30 miles west in Indianola, Mississippi.
IF YOU GO:
The Alluvian Hotel, 318 Howard Street, 866-600-5201 or www.thealluvian.com.
The Alluvian Spa, 325D Howard Street, 866-728-6700.
Mockingbird Bakery, 325B Howard Street, 662-453-9927
Viking Cooking School, 325C Howard Street, 662-451-6750
Giardina's, 314 Howard Street, 662-455-4227
Only caveat: The cosmopolitan Alluvian Hotel is located in a rural area, so cell phone service is limited. We think this is a good thing.