Operation Caracal, Part 4
Days 9-10, December 29-30
I’ve been saying that this trip was largely free form, and with no advance planning. That isn’t entirely true. Lisa and I have been wanting to have a weekend away, as a belated anniversary celebration. The opportunity to set up such a trip didn’t present itself until now. After discussing it with Lisa’s parents, we arranged to leave Caitlin and Michael with them, so Lisa and I could spend an overnight at a regional hotel, inn, or bed & breakfast.
After doing some research, we settled on the Michabelle Inn, a historic house within Hammond. This was perfect, because we didn’t want a long drive. We already had another one of those approaching, and didn’t need another.
Our little getaway started on the afternoon of December 29, when we went to lunch at a local restaurant, Café Nola. We were advised to not let the appearance of the place fool us. We had passed this place earlier in the week, and from the outside it doesn’t look like much. On the inside it looks like a sports bar. But the smell of food was enticing, so we ordered. Lisa had the grilled shrimp Alfredo, and I had the pasta fazula. The food was great, and even the lunch sized portions were generous. If you’re ever in this area, check this place out. Trust me.
After lunch, we did some sight seeing around Ponchatoula. It was a cloudy day, but the temperature was pleasant, and we took some photos of the historic buildings.
We were surprised to see a statue of G. K. Chesterton, because as far as we know the man had no connection to this area. This little mystery warrants further investigation.
Ponchatoula was an important railroad town in the past. If you look at a map of the area, you’ll see that many of the major streets run parallel to the railroad tracks. Today, the railroad is still an important freight handler. But for passenger and other commercial traffic, it is now second fiddle to the regional Interstate highways (I-12 and I-55). Even so, the earlier importance of the railroad is evident.
In the photo below is Old Hardhide, an alligator that lives in an enclosure near the Ponchatoula country market building. He is sort of the town mascot. Apparently he “writes” a column for one of the local newspapers. I would hate to be his stenographer.
After this, we ran a few short errands, then headed back to Hammond to check into Michabelle.
This place was built in 1907 as a private home, and was converted into an inn in 1998. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982, and is often referred to as “McGehee House” after the original residents. The current owners include a descendant of this family.
The main building is where the restaurant is located, so when we went to breakfast the next morning we explored this historic house. We also had a nice chat with the chef, Chef Michel. He mentioned seeing our Virginia license plate, so he asked what area we were from. Not only had he heard of Culpeper County, but he has visited the place a few times. He still has an investment is some property in nearby Madison, and has done business with the Meander Inn and Plantation, which we have also visited.
Surrounding the fireplace in the lobby are framed photographs of some famous guests who have visited in the past. These have include statesmen, writers, businessmen, and entertainers. Chef Michel shared an amusing story about actress Gillian Anderson coming to breakfast wearing flannel pajamas and fluffy slippers, without a care in the world. Anderson enjoyed that she had been at the inn for the better part of a week before anyone recognized her.
We stayed in the Venetian Suite, which is in a third building on the property, hidden behind a bamboo grove. As the name suggests, the decor has an Italian flare to it.
Our visit to Michabelle, a “vacation with a vacation,” was less than one day, but it was worth every minute. We’re keeping further details about this part of the trip to ourselves. This was a romantic getaway after all…
To be continued.