River routeWe pass through/between Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee on the 640 river miles to Memphis. We'll be on board for seven nights, plus two more nights in Memphis doing a music tour extension.
American QueenThe AQ was built in 1995 and is powered by a two-piston steam engine recovered from a 1932 US Army dredge. The paddle wheeler accommodates about 380 passengers. We are comfortably in cabin 204 which has a bay window but no balcony. The furnishings and fittings throughout the ship are opulent but are starting to look just a little dated in our cabin. There are two sittings for dinner, and there is the buffet-style Front Porch Cafe if you want to eat casually outside sitting times.
RiverboatSo far we have seen 6+ metre levees alongside the river. The tinkering with the river flows over the decades has caused many unintended consequences with silting and scouring. The river no longer spreads its sediment (436,000 tons per day) over the river flats, and that fertile loess now flushes out into the Gulf.
Nottoway PlantationBuilt in 1859, this was the largest sugar plantation in the region. 7,100 acres and about 200 field and house slaves. The house has 64 rooms but only three bathrooms. The ground floor was open for viewing and they demonstrated some ballroom dancing with six dancers in period costume. Surprisingly, since 1985 it has been owned by an Australian - Paul Ramsay, CEO of Ramsay Health Care and Prime Television.
Plantation CabinsNottoway is operated as an event and function centre, and a hotel. These reconstructed 'slave cabins' accommodate guests. We had a southern dinner (unidentified foods, grits and spicy sauces; mostly good) in a large dining room. We had a fascinating discussion with a couple from Iowa. They are staunch Christians (maybe fundamentalist) and they freely talked about their charitable work, politics and values. Afterward we walked back to the boat and paused at the massive bonfires built on the levee.
Swamp tourIn the afternoon we bussed half way back to New Orleans to join the Cajun Pride Swamp Tour in the bayou beside Lake Ponchantrain. We saw a few alligators sunning themselves and the operator had this calm two-year old to pass around. A good talk and very educational.