There are run of the mill hotels and motels. And then there is the Shack Up Inn. Just out of Clarksdale – home of the Blues in the Mississippi delta, is this old cotton plantation that has been turned into quirky, comfortable and fascinating accommodation. We were on a road trip through the south and loved the oddness and authenticity of the Shack Up Inn (the night before we’d stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis. Our tastes are broad, obviously). We knew we were onto a winner when we read the FAQ’s on their website (especially the bit about the thread count of the sheets. Hilarious). Anyone with that sort of sense of humour is alright by me.
They’ve done a great job of preserving the old Hopson Plantation (this was a sharecroppers’ plantation, by the way. They’re not slave quarters. They are quite quick to point this out). Each of the “shotgun” shacks has been renovated so that they have all the modern comforts without compromising the character. They’re called shotgun shacks because you could fire a gun from the front door right through the shack and out the back door. Presumably, this wasn’t common practice, but hey, this is America. Anything is possible. The old cotton gin has been rather impressively converted into rooms as well. We stayed in this part, and we found the rooms to be incredibly comfortable, with heaps of character touches. There’s a lot of corrugated iron, for starters. And the blizzardly cold air conditioning was an absolute godsend, as the weather outside was stinking hot. The staff cleared out the mosquitoes for us while we were out for dinner. Quite the service.
The place oozes history and half the fun of staying here is just having a good poke around. There are old cars and pick ups in the yard, and the juke joint (our biggest regret is that there was no live music on the night we were staying here) was filled with old treasures, including a bunch of vintage typewriters, for which I have a distinct weakness.
But the real strength of the Shack Up Inn is the owners. They are incredibly welcoming and entertaining. A sense of humour is obviously a great asset in these parts. There is enough of the “quirk” factor to keep people like me happy! Also, they gave great advice about where to go in town, pointing us to the truly delightful Ramon’s, a family run outfit that specialises in deep fried everything, but particularly catfish and shrimp (it was fairly evident that we weren’t the fancy fine dining types). We were rather honoured to meet the owner of Ramon’s, the lovely Beverley, who regaled us with stories of her life. It’s these meetings with bona fide local characters that truly makes travel worthwhile for me (I’m a romantic like that!).