Vicksburg, Mississippi Monday, May 29 2017 

John A. Logan

John A. Logan

On July 4, 1863, General John C. Pemberton surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant after a siege that started on May 18th. This important victory gave the North control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two. Located on the bluffs some 300 feet above the river, Vicksburg defended itself well and made it a difficult city to attack. In 1868, while commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, Major Genera, John A. Logan issued an order that fixed May 30 as “Decoration Day,” a day to decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers and flags. This practice is now observed nationwide as Memorial Day. In 1899, Congress established the Vicksburg National Military Park to commemorate the campaign, siege, and defense of Vicksburg during the Civil War with more than 1,300 monuments located on some 1,800 acres.

Museum of Coca-Cola

Museum of Coca-Cola

We learned more about this city’s unique history with a visit to the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals painted on the city’s floodwall. Accordingly, the city was founded in 1819 by Newit Vicks, a Methodist minister. In 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt chose not to kill a treed bear 25 miles north of the city, this incident became the basis for “Teddy’s Bears” or simply ‘teddy bears.” The Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant, started in 1934, was held in various cities until 1958 and since then only in Vicksburg. In the summer of 1894 Joseph Biedenharm, a candy merchant and soda fountain operator, was the first to sell bottled Coca-Cola.  We visited the museum featuring the history of Coca-Cola along with equipment of the type Mr. Biedenharm used to bottle the first Coca-Cola. A wide variety of original Coca-Cola advertising and memorabilia is on display. It was interesting to see the company’s slogans listed by year of use. On Saturday night, we experienced Mississippi blues firsthand at the Bottleneck Blues Bar within the Ameristar Casino where Eddie Cotton, Jr. and his five musicians shared earthy, funky, soulful music. Vicksburg,under the shadow of John A. Logan, was a stimulating stop for Memorial Day weekend.

New Orleans, Louisiana (part 4) Sunday, May 28 2017 

My Gal Sal

My Gal Sal

On the Friday beginning the Memorial Day weekend we visited the National World War II Museum that “tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.” We started with the powerful 4-D “Beyond All Boundaries” narrated by Tom Hanks shown on the 120-feet wide screen in the Solomon Victory Theater using nine digital cinema DLP projectors with 27 speakers. The theater seats vibrate when tanks are shown. Different objects are used effectively on stage at appropriate times such as a B-17 nose cone, a guard tower, an anti-aircraft gun, and “Dragons Teeth” tank traps. We also took advantage of the unique “Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience” where visitors are assigned a section within this recreated submarine. We were stationed on the Hull Opening Indicator Panel while we participated in this submarine’s last mission. The Museum offers another unique way to learn by assigning each guest a dog tag. Within the Museum’s Union Pacific Foundation Train Station, we registered for our Dog Tag Experience. My luck of the draw assigned me Paul Tibbets, who joined the Army Air Corps in 1937, became the personal pilot for his skeet-shooting buddy, George S. Patton, was the pilot that took Dwight Eisenhower to a secret meeting, and flew the Enolay Gay, the B-29 that dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. We passed through immersive galleries on two different floors, one devoted to the European Theater, the other to the Pacific. This Museum, associated with the Smithsonian Institution, is an instructive way to learn about the price of freedom from America’s involvement in World War II.

New Orleans, Louisiana (part 3) Friday, May 26 2017 

Ann Rice's Former Home

Ann Rice’s Former Home

On Wednesday, we drove to the edge of New Orleans and boarded a street car. We got off in the Garden District and followed a self-guided tour recommended in the Louisiana AAA Tour Book. The following information comes from that tour. The Bradish Johnson House is identified as a Second Empire-style mansion erected in 1872 by New Orleans architect James Feret for a wealthy sugar planter. Toby’s Corner, a Greek Revival dating from 1838, is the district’s oldest house. Two Italianate mansions built simultaneously in 1869 by architect Samuel Johnson have identical ironwork. We saw Anne Rice’s former home, an 1857 combination of Greek Revival and Italianate styles noted for its cast-iron adornments. The guardian oaks’ gnarly roots have corrupted the sidewalk. The Payne House, a Greek Revival, was the home where Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, died in 1869. Sugar broker Samuel Delgado’s frame Italianate was occupied by his nephew Isaac, who donated his art collection to form the basis of the New Orleans Museum of Art. We passed a series of eight shotgun houses including one camelback (having a second story atop the rear section). The Michel Musson House, built around 1853, was the home of a Creole cotton magnate and maternal uncle of the artist Edgar Degas. The Robinson House is one of the area’s largest residences. Its architect was Henry Howard, designer of Nottoway Plantation and several other Garden District homes. The gables, ironwork galleries, and gingerbread trim on the chalet-style Koch mansion make for an interesting contrast to the other classic Garden District homes. Lafayette Cemetery, established in 1833, was going to close at 3 p.m., the time when we passed by so we only briefly entered it. We stopped for a few minutes in the former Rink, an 1884 skating rink, which now contains upscale shops and an active Garden District real estate agent. Col. Short’s Villa is an 1859 Italianate residence designed by Henry Howard. Despite the heat and humidity, we enjoyed an interesting walk about this historic area.

We then used our Jazzy pass, which allows unlimited transfers on the streetcars for a 24-hour period, to visit the French Quarter, some 90 blocks that represents the heart of the city. Interestingly, the architecture is Spanish, not French. We found an air-conditioned spot on Bourbon Street for a beer and tasty form of nachos. A line of tourists lined up outside Preservation Hall. Music could be heard pulsating from several venues and we enjoyed listening to street performers. As a local might say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll).

New Orleans, Louisiana (part 2) Friday, May 26 2017 

Henry Moore Sculpture

Henry Moore Sculpture

On Tuesday, we visited the Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, located on five acres, that displays more than 60 sculptures. We enjoyed meandering along the footpaths shaded by Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oaks. Some of the sculptures we particularly enjoyed were the following: Henry Moore’s “Reclining Mother and Child,” Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ “Diana,” Do-Ho Suh’s “Karma,” Leandro Erlich’s “Window with Ladder – Too Late for Help,” Gaston Lachaise’s “Heroic Man,” Elisabeth Frink’s “Riace Warriors,” Robert Graham’s “Source Figure,” Audrey Flack’s “Civitas,” William Zorach’s “Future Generations, and Michael Sandle’s “The Drummer.”

The Sculpture Garden is adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art, known for its strengths in French and American art, and African and Japanese works. Our walk through started on the third floor in a special exhibit devoted to local artist Regina Scully, “Japanese Landscape: Inner Journeys.” Several of her pieces use one color. The juxtaposition of her work with traditional Japanese landscapes encouraged reflection on imaginary journeys. Another special exhibit focuses on local artist Jim Steg. He used many media, especially print-making. I liked the colors painted on wood in Alessandro Mendini’s “Proust Armchair.” The museum includes “Woman in an Armchair” by Pablo Picasso. The most unusual piece for me was Will Ryman’s “America.” He gold-plated a log cabin with access to various materials composing the interior.

Sunflower

Sunflower

The entrance to the New Orleans Botanical Garden is also located in City Park, a half-mile from the Museum of Art. The Garden contains several sculptures by Enrique Alferez and a Hellis Foundation exhibit that celebrates the life and work of this artist. The Rose Parterre features several colorful roses such as “Winter Sun” and “Coretta Scott King.” The Lily Pond showcases several varieties of water lilies. The Japanese Garden Society of New Orleans needs to take better care of the Yakumo Nihon Telen Japanese Garden. I especially liked the sunflowers in the Plano Demonstration Garden. We enjoyed our walk through the Garden.

Orangutan

Orangutan

The Audubon Zoo, named after local ornithologist John James Audubon, has an interesting collection of animals with generally large exhibits and much shadier walkways than anticipated. We saw several animals that I have not previously seen such as a babirua, capybara, and nutria. Many animals were active like a sun bear, a Sumatran orangutan, the Asian elephants, and giraffes. A peacock honored us with a full view of its plumage. One emu, separated from another, kept trying to position itself to see its mate. One spider monkey demonstrated its ability to hang by its tail. We got a closeup view of an anteater and several African painted dogs. The alligators in the Louisiana Swamp display were scary. Not the ones sunning on a dock, but those showing only their eyes in the water covered with green growth. We also admired a rare white alligator.

New Orleans, Louisiana (part 1) Friday, May 26 2017 

Natchez

Natchez

On Monday, we took a shuttle that dropped us off in the French Quarter of New Orleans. We walked to Jackson Square where we saw a statue of Andrew Jackson atop a horse. Across the street, we entered the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States dated from 1718. The present church, built and enlarged over the Spanish foundations, was completed in 1851. We then cruised on the Mississippi River aboard the Natchez paddlewheel. Before boarding we listened to calliope music. Once on board we listened to jazz while enjoying a buffet lunch. Shortly after the boat trip, we boarded a “Super City” Gray Line bus tour for an excellent overview of New Orleans. We learned about the distinctions between Cajun and Creole. We were introduced to the unique architecture of this historic city. We visited a cemetery where we learned about the city’s traditions with the dead. We also had an opportunity to try beignets.

Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana Friday, May 26 2017 

Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation

We left Galveston Island via the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula. On Saturday, we took a test drive on the ferry. We were amazed at the number of jeeps thronging to Crystal Beach and the surrounding area. On our return the line in Galveston waiting for the ferry stretched more than two miles. We avoided any such line on Sunday with an early start. We drove through sporadic rainfall to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I believe this is my first visit to this state. From the Baton Rouge KOA RV Park, we drove to the Oak Alley Plantation which is on the Mississippi River about half-way between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. This Greek Revival mansion was named for the two rows of live oaks, planted in the early 1700s, that form a quarter-mile alley from the Mississippi River to the house. Built 1837-1839 by the Creole aristocrat Jacques T. Roman, 600 of Oak Alley’s 1200 acres were in sugar cane maintained by some 80 field slaves who were tasked with planting, tending and harvesting the crop. Between 1836 and the Civil War more than 220 men, women, and children were enslaved at Oak Alley. After the Civil War the property passed through several hands until purchased by the Stewarts in 1925. Mrs. Stewart, who died in 1972, was responsible for creating a Foundation to make 25 acres of the larger estate available for public exhibition. This plantation is a popular one for film and TV shows. 300-year-old Virginia Live Oaks line a pathway from the house toward the Mississippi. Six recreated structures share information about the slave quarters. We enjoyed mint juleps and Cajun food at the related restaurant.

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