Sunday, 30 November 2014

Saturday 29 November 2014

NI woke up at 6am, looked outside my window and there were shops!! And it was 12C! We haven't had double digit weather in the morning since we left LA! So off to our last breakfast, which haven't been too shabby either...freshly made waffles to order, eggs to order, French toast, beautiful fresh fruit and Danishes. Not doing any good for the waistline!
When we got off the boat, we walked through the outlet mall -eyes straight ahead- and took a taxi to our Bed and Breakfast Auld Sweet Olive.
After we met our hostess and off loaded our luggage we headed into New Orleans. First stop, coffee at  Who Dat, a cute little place around the corner.

We walked through the French Quarter, through the markets down to the riverfront, 
Saw a statue to Joan of Arc
 Watched some kids entertain the crowds (hopping backwards down the stairs)
Bought some hot sauce for Matt then went over to Algiers on the ferry, wandered around there for awhile and then headed back on the ferry. Bought an apple in a little corner shop for $1.24 as I was hungry but $1.24!!! I couldn't believe that one apple could cost so much!
We then walked through Harrads the casino and were quit surprised that you could still smoke in the casino. I've actually noticed lots more people smoke in the US than at home.
Walked through the outlet stores but couldn't find anything as there was all winter clothes and I didn't need any! 
Headed back to the B & B and stopped at the Praline Connection for tea. Rob had Jumbalaya as he wanted to taste a local dish (sausage, rice, cheese and meat). He quite liked it and I had a very delicious baked chicken!
At the B&B Nancy, the owner, was having a tree trimming party. Having never been to a tree trimming party, we decided to pop in and see what it was all about. The idea is that each person must put at least one decoration on the tree. There were hundreds to put up! And the tree was so big!! There was wine and cheese, dips and veges, and nibbles for about 50 people. The tree looked amazing!

Friday 28 November, 2014

Last night we had a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner! There were many choices but most of us had the turkey with cornbread stuffing, mashed potato, marshmallow sweet potato, green bean almandine and cranberry relish with individual pumpkin pies! 
After dinner they had a Bonfire. I don't know if it is a tradition in the South but I have never heard 

While waiting to see the bonfire I took some night photos of the Nottoway Plantation.

This morning we boarded buses and headed to Baton Rouge. We chose to take a tour of the USS Kidd (rather than see another plantation). One of the gentlemen actually served on this destroyer (he was 87) when it went to Guam. 
The river is extremely low which is why it looks like it is out of the water.
The USS Kidd was named after Rear Admiral Kidd Sr. Who was killed aboard his flagship the Arizona during the bombing of Pearl Harbour. This was the first destroyer to be named after Kidd, two more have since been named after him, one still on active duty and based in San Diego.
This destroyer has been authentically restored and has her wartime camouflage paint as it was for the invasion of Japan.

The ship was launched in 1943, served 20 years and earned 12 battle stars.

We then did a quick city tour before heading back to the boat. 
Packed up as we had to be off early in the morning. We have has some fantastic dinners on board. Wed night we had the most delicious lobster dinner and tonight we had baked halibut. We got to know our servers quite well as we had the same table for dinner each night! They were excellent, nothing too much for them and got to know what we liked (we were always given ice cream with our desserts). It will be sad to leave them but we have invited both of them to Australia so we hope we see them!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Wednesday 26 November, 2014

St Francisville is the oldest town in the Florida Parishes of Louisiana. It is 2 miles long and 2 yards wide. Again, a very small town and probably the smallest on this trip, population of 1500. It lies on a ridge formed by dust storms in the Glacial period.
It has many antebellum homes and we think we've seen enough of these!
It had a shopping centre and we did get a bit excited until we saw only a grocery store and dollar shop! Walked around town, found a lovely coffee shop and then headed back to the boat.
We saw many of these beautiful trees with lots of Spanish Moss hanging from them.

This afternoon we headed to the Angola Prison. 18,000acres and close to being self sufficient in growing wheat, corn and soybeans (4 million pounds of vegetables). They also raise cattle, train bloodhounds and drug dogs and refurbish wheelchairs to send to underprivileged areas. All physically abled inmates work at some job. Sadly 90 % of the crimes committed by the inmates were done under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  The better their behavior the more privileges they have. Many of them mentor others, including the "at risk" kids who are brought to the prison to try to rehabilitate them early.

In the past this prison has been known as America's most dangerous penitentiary.  Today it is known as a model facility and takes great pride in its faith based rehabilitation of its 6000 inmates 83 of whom are on Death Row. Louisiana has mandatory sentencing, if you receive a life sentence, you serve life. The average sentence in Angola is 92 years.

The change has been attributed to the new warden. He had trained as a teacher, taught 3 months and didn't like it so applied for a job in a correctional facility. It is said he thinks outside the box and because he had a teaching background had a different skill set.
One difference is that each year they have a series of rodeos in which the inmates participate in the events. The rodeos sell out more quickly each year and has resulted in huge expansion to the grandstands! About 15,000 people attend the rodeo!

An area of the prison that is no longer used is the solitary confinement
Warden Cain has begun a theology school at the prison, ensures all inmates are literate and healthy. Many other states are now following the programs that Angola has implemented with great success!

Tuesday 25 November, 2014

Natchez today! Can't believe what people did in the 1700's. The flatboat men brought goods downriver to the city of Natchez for further transport to New Orleans then they walked home...444miles, now known as the Natchez Trace to Nashville!
Natchez was made wealthy by Cotton. In 1860 it was the richest city in the US as so many plantation owners lived here.
Most of these towns are very small and easy to walk around, however the Hop on Hop off busses are great as they give you the history of the town.
Can't see this ever happening in Brisbane! They have erected a Christmas Tree in the middle of an intersection and people have to drive around it! Amazing!!!
This is the home of Regina Carboneau, who is the Culinary Director and Chef de Cuisine of the American Queen. 
Not a lot to do in this town so we just walked around, had a coffee and visited Stanton Hall, built by a cotton broker, Frederick Stanton, on an entire city block. It is an Antebellum Classical Revival Mansion and was bought by the Pilgrimage Garden Club to preserve its historic significance.
Lovely view of the sunset on the river
And before we sailed

And of the calliope as we leave Natchez.


Thanksgiving, Thusday 27 November, 2014

We are docked in front of Nottoway Plantation, the most magnificent remaining antebellum mansion. Believe it or not, now owned by an Australian, Paul Ramsey! Nottoway was built by John Hampden Randolph in the mid 1850's for his wife and 11 children. When he married his wife, her dowery was $22,000 and 25 slaves ($250,000) in today's money! He used this money to buy further properties for cotton.
This place was stunning and so much ahead of its time. It took 6 years in the planning, cutting down the cypress trees from their other property, curing the timber and soaking it in water to curve it and making all the bricks on site. It was designed in Greek Revival and Italianate style.
The ceilings are 15 feet and doors 11 feet tall. There are 64 rooms in this mansion including 165 doors and 200 windows!
In the entry the handmade moldings all had significances: the very top portrayed hands praying to show that the family was a religious one, the eggs meant life, the arrows death.
This house had three things that were not in any other house at the time: flush toilets, hot and cold running water and gas lights. Randolph had one of his slaves make the gas from the waste of the sugar cane (bagasse), water and calcium carbide. The chandeliers were Baccarat Chrystal!
And hand painted porcelain doorknobs
The dining room table sat 16 and had beautiful China.

The white room was as it names implies all white. Randolph wanted it this way so it would show off the colours and lavishness of the women's gowns.
It even had a mirror that was curved so the parents could see their children in any corner of the room without making it obvious that they were keeping an eye on their behaviour!
At the age of 13, the boys had to move into another part of the house that was still connected but more remote so that the boy's friends would not be able to associate with the girls of the house.
It was rude in those days to even speak about ankles! They were called limbs and were not to be seen. They even had a mirror in the entry for the girls to check the length of their dress to make sure that their ankles did not show. As this view was so forbidden, boys had to walk up the right set of entry stairs while the girls walked up the left so the boys would not see the girls ankles as they walked up the stairs!
The ladies parkour was on one side of the entry 

and the men's on the other. No female was allowed in the men's room, not even to clean!

During this era, to "brag" unobtrusively that you paid off your house, a hole was drilled in the stair bannister and the deeds to the house put in then sealed with a porcelain knob! As Randolph had paid $80,000 cash (in 1959) upon the completion of his house, he did not "brag" but certainly the size of the house showed everyone that he had money. He had started in cotton but then realized that the future was in sugar cane. After changing over, he tripled his money. During the civil war, he could not do anything as the Union had stopped all the river traffic and had stolen their cattle and horses, so he took his slaves and all his valuables, left his wife in charge of the house and went to Texas to continue growing sugar cane.
The home is now a resort after Ramsey invested $14million to refurbish the entire plantation. You can stay, eat or book rooms for functions and weddings!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Monday 24 November, 2014

Many of the trees look so lovely when they change colour! It has been a strange season this year...winter chills coming much earlier than normal. The states are due for their third winter storm in the last two weeks. Buffalo New York had over 2 metres  of snow in a few days.

Today we are in Vicksburg, settled by the French in 1719. Many of its citizens were wiped out by Yellow Fever in 1819. 
We stopped at the Old Depot Museum, where they had a video and diorama about the Civil War (siege of Vicksburg) and many model trains, boats and houses. The museum has the worlds largest collection of ship models.

We then walked to the Anchuca (Happy home) Mansion which was an antebellum home. An antebellum home was built before the Civil War...this one in 1819.

We also stopped at the Coca Cola Museum as Vicksburg was where Coco Cola was developed by a man named Pemberton, in his backyard! It was named by the bookkeeper, Robinson, who designed the script. Pemberton died and left the business to Chandler who felt advertising was the key to selling. Coca cola sold at the soda fountain for 5cents a glass. It was first bottled in 1894 in the below machine.

Rob then went to the Old Court House Museum while I went to the doll museum. Was an amazing display of dolls of all years since the 1800's!
The levy built to protect the city has a wonderful series of 32 murals that depict the history of the city. Amazing that there was no graffiti on them nor in any part of the city for that matter. Each mural had a plaque explaining the artwork.
In the afternoon we took the optional tour "On the Front Lines of the Civil War". It was an excellent way to learn about the Civil War. We started with a video and then hopped on busses to tour the National Military Park, a 16 mile road that travels through the 1300 markers and monuments that mark important victories or milestones. We saw the Confederate and Union lines...they were so close together (less than a mile apart). The Civil War was between the Northern and Southert States over the issue of slavery. The South wanted slavery and was ready to form the Southern Union of states, while the Noth wanted to free the slaves. Over 700,000 men died during the 4 year war, a real tragedy. Only the Unionists killed in the Battle were allowed to be buried in the Military Park. 17,000 are buried but only 4,000 were ever identified. The Confederate men were buried in town ... About 28,000 of them. Such a sad loss to the communities.The Battle of Vicksburg, won by the Unionists was key to shaping the country.
This was a view of one area of the battlefield.
Illinois built this monument in memorial of the 36,000 men from this state that fought and died in the Civil War at Vicksburg.
The Cairo was an iron clad gun boat that sunk in 12 minutes but all the men were rescued.
The boat was ready to leave Vicksburg but had to lower the stacks to go under the bridge. Was that amazing to watch!