Wish you were here in The Deep South
Not sure if many of you saw it, but Trevor MacDonald’s documentary on ‘The Mighty Mississippi’ was certainly an eye-opening educational voyage for me. You’re taken on a fascinating journey through the Deep South, experiencing a Jazz Funeral, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, discovering the world of Elvis Presley and other Rock & Roll greats in Memphis, the power of gospel music and the emotionally draining subject of slavery and segregation that occupies a huge chunk of American history. As the series came to a conclusion last night, we thought it only right to feature escorted tours to The Deep South in our ‘Wishlist Wednesday’ and hopefully with this mini guide, you’ll soon be wishing you were there instead of sat at your desk…
The Magnificent Mississippi
Ever wanted to experience life as Mark Twain? Well you can with a relaxing cruise by paddle-steamer along this mighty river. The
Mississippi begins at Lake Itasca, Minnesota and ends at the Gulf of Mexico carrying with it water from 31 states so no wonder it is known as ‘The Mighty Mississippi’, the 9th largest body of water in the world! The battle for Civil Rights over 50 years ago still blots the landscape of the Mississippi and is etched on the minds of families who now live here. But as ever, the phoenix soon rises from the ashes and as a result there are now more African-American elected officials than any other state in the USA. Don’t let the past dampen your views of the Mississippi, immerse yourself in its native American world by experiencing the Choctaw Indian Fair, visit Rowan Oak the home of best-selling writer William Faulkner or explore the campus of the University Mississippi (affectionately known as “Ole Miss”). So much to do in so little time!
Quite simply the home of Jazz, gumbo and soulful rhythm – New Orleans certainly has it all! It’s difficult not to realise
that this beautiful state of America is steeped in varied history and a combination of influences from Europe, Caribbean, Africa and more. There’s so much to discover in terms of fascinating culture, food and music that your toes will find it tough ignoring the beat! Spend late nights in jazz clubs, stroll through neighbourhoods filled with history and experience the world famous festivals including the Mardi Gras. But along with the good comes the bad as no one could forget the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and you can’t fail to see the effects that Mother Nature had on the area with some finding it very difficult to recover but don’t let this put you off as New Orleans certainly has plenty to offer the visitor!
If you’re a fan of Rock & Roll or Blues, then no visit to The Deep South would be
complete without spending time in marvellous Memphis. It’s believed by many that this is where Rock & Roll was born with artists such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recording their hits in the Sun Studios. If you take the Main Street Trolley, you’ll get to have a bite at The Arcade Restaurant which has featured as a backdrop in many movies and was a popular hangout for Elvis Presley. Make the most of your time here by visiting Graceland, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. At night, take a walk along Beale Street and listen to the live music that Memphis makes today – it will certainly take you back in time to where it all began, that’s for sure! Although as with all places, Memphis also holds a dark side as it is here where Martin Luther King was assassinated and riots began with many parts of the city not being able to fully recover from the impact of segregation.
On your travels to The Deep South, go off the beaten track and visit the picturesque town of Hannibal that lies on the
banks of the Mississippi. The town is best known as being the childhood home of American author Samuel Langhorne Clemens otherwise known as Mark Twain. Many of the attractions featured in Hannibal are linked to the famous author and two of his popular novels ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Not only can you visit his home but also learn more about the author at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, the Becky Thatcher House and Grant’s Drug Store where Twain once lived. Make sure you pay a visit to Mark Twain’s Cave as this has served as a hideout for many Native Americans, fur trappers, Jesse James and slaves following the Underground Railroad. Fans of all things train-related will love Hannibal as it is also known as a railroad town because the Hannibal & St Joseph Railroad was the first to cross the state of Missouri. No trip to Hannibal would be complete without an authentic riverboat ride along the Mississippi on-board paddle wheelers the Delta Queen or Mississippi Queen.
If you’ve been watching “The Mighty Mississippi” on ITV1, you’ll know that Clarksdale is the childhood home of popular
actor Morgan Freeman. At the time of the Great Migration, Clarksdale was also the first to welcome Delta farmhands on their plight out of the oppressive sharecropping system of the rural plantations and farmlands. During the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, the town became home to the likes of Charlie Patton, Bukka White, John Lee Hooker and Ike Turner to name but a few. As a result, Clarksdale became the first urban centre of the Blues and the Delta Blues Museum is dedicated to this and well worth a visit. You can’t fail to be immersed in the power of the Blues with a visit to Morgan Freeman’s & Bill Luckett’s Ground Zero nightclub where this music is played many nights. If you have time, see if you can complete the Walk Of Fame in downtown Clarksdale spotting the many bronze plaques left dedicated to local persons who have gone on to national or international fame.
So who has been to The Deep South and what made you visit? Would you go back and if so, what would you recommend as ‘Must-sees and Do’s’ for the first-time visitor?