Sunday, 20 May 2012

USA Trip - Beginning on the Mississippi River

We arrived – finally – in the USA. Three flights – the first from Melbourne to Sydney, then Sydney to Dallas, Texas which took fifteen and a half bottom-numbing hours and finally a short flight on to Memphis, Tennessee arriving at our hotel about 7 in the evening.  After stashing our cases, we headed down to the hotel’s restaurant for an evening meal before bed. First lesson we learnt was that ‘Entrée’ on American menus does not mean what it does in Australia or the UK.  Entrée means the main course. This is going to be a really interesting trip!

Next morning, after breakfast and, later, registering for our American Queen paddlesteamer cruise, we ventured out onto the streets of Memphis. With a complimentary pass for the trolley cars, this was something we had to try with hop-on/hop-off stops around the city centre. We had a stop at the Cotton Museum which was very well set up with audio and visual information about the early days of cotton growing and export from this area.
Mid-afternoon saw approximately 450 passengers boarding a coach for the short trip to the Mississippi River and the stunningly beautiful “American Queen” steamboat which is to be our home for the next week.  If you go to, you’ll find out more about this amazing vessel.

I think that 95% of the passengers are – not surprisingly – American with a few English and (I think) 8 Australian couples. We have only met a few of the Aussies, but the Americans are very friendly and most interested in Australia. We have tuned into their accent and I think we are even speaking more slowly and drawing out our vowels as well!

Stops have been to – Helena – a small town very much reduced in size and prosperity from its heyday due we are told to the loss about 50 years ago to several local industries folding. The next town – Vicksburg was a little better although it, too, was not in its prime. Seems many of the riverside towns from Memphis down towards New Orleans have suffered decline. There’s still some very large southern mansions well maintained and open to tourists (mainly in Natchez), and there’s some wealthy people living there also, however much is poor housing which we didn’t really expect to see.
This part of the Mississippi is very thickly wooded with cottonwood trees lining very close to the river. We’re told that further up towards Minnesota, there is much more industry and more population living alongside the river. Here in the delta area where it is inclined to flood, levies protect each small isolated town (or attempts to!)  

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