When you think of Little Rock, Arkansas, it’s likely that the first thing that pops up in your mind is ‘Bill Clinton’. Not surprising when you consider that LR was where the former President of the United States was born, and grew up. In fact, both Bill and Hilary have deep ties to this charming Southern city.
Last weekend, my husband and I visited LR. It was nothing to do with the Clintons however! Our daughter Ritika (www.randmcooks.com) has made a home with our son-in-law in this city. Their first year of married life began in this city, and consequently, our whole family has a special interest in LR.
Our trip began with a visit to the 2,356-acre Pinnacle Mountain State Park, which is just outside of the main city. Jagged peaks of sandstone and shale, towering trees, and the Big and Little Maumelle rivers characterize this wonderful park. We heard lots of birdcall amid the whispering wind in the trees. We spotted a wild vulture surveying his kingdom atop a tall pine. The state park has many trails leading upwards to the eponymous Pinnacle mountain, its unique plateau-like top, a magnet for hikers.
We drove by the Clinton Presidential Centre housing the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and the Clinton School of Public Service.
But it was mid-morning, and downtown, the River Market District offered a haven of delights to suit everyone’s tastes. Shops, boutiques and eateries line the area, and you can be sure to find something you like – be it a small Nepali pop-up selling momos and noodles, or the staple Mexican charmers, ‘guac and chips’. The pace of life is slow and unhurried, giving you time to appreciate the good things in life. No frenetic big-city rush here. I noticed that everywhere people took the time to smile and greet you. We sat for a while in the covered area which hosts a farmer’s market every Saturday. It was a pleasant spot beside the river. Naturally that brought to mind the craving for something cold and delicious.
You guessed it – ice cream!
A neighbourhood called SouthMain, SoMa for short, boasts the best ice-cream shop in LR. Loblolly sells ice cream, macarons and all sorts of pure goodness. Sunday morning, and families with cute kids were lining up for the array of flavours – lavender and honey, butterscotch and pecans, triple berry and peanut butter! ‘Loblolly’ is actually a kind of pine tree native to the area. SoMa also has the Bernice garden, a community space where activities and events to celebrate the community are regularly hosted. It seems to be a place to celebrate sustainably raised fruit, vegetables, nuts, berries, flowers, and herbs, as well as cheeses.
We could not leave LR without a meal at Cajun’s Wharf, a popular seafood restaurant with stunning views of the Arkansas river, an open deck with live music, and a sunset view to die for. Next time, I’m going to sample the crabcakes!
Walking off the amazing dinner seemed imperative and so we took a trip to Two Rivers Bridge and Park. This 1,368 feet long bridge is a pedestrian and bike bridge surrounded by superb views. The Two Rivers Park offers 450 acres of wooded wetlands and open fields. We watched a spectacular sunset there, and I silently promised myself another trip here next time around.
Through downtown towards the apartment, our last stop was the neo-classical State Capitol Building, a replica of the US Capitol. Constructed with Arkansas granite, its dome boasts a 24-karat gold plated cupola.
But best of all the sights and views in LR, what we enjoyed most was the company of the two young people who are embarking on their lives together with such dedication and love. Saying goodbye is always hard, and more so for a mother whose little ones have flown the nest. No wonder the bard said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow/That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”