“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Native American Proverb
After an informative lecture about the Mississippi and a special presentation by special guest, Barbara Barnes Sims, called “Sun Records and the Birth of Rock and Roll," we disembarked and boarded a bus to the Nottoway Plantation, the largest and grandest plantation home in the South. It was completed in 1859 and is known for surviving the Civil War. The 53,000 square foot antebellum mansion was built by sugarcane magnate John Hampden Randolph for his wife and 11 children. Due to it’s elaborate Italianate design it was nicknamed The White Castle of Louisiana. We were greeted by a guide in a Victorian period piece dress who took us through the home. We then headed to the historic Laura Plantation where we learned about the fascinating world of true Louisiana Creoles who lived apart from the American mainstream for over 200 years. Our docent guide, Kati was one of the most prolific guides I have ever experienced during my years of travel. She was so emotive and passionate I felt like we were watching a one woman theatrical performance. She really brought the dark history of slavery to life in a way that would make any credentialed black history professor take notice.
On the way back to the American Queen, Theron, our 50 year old tour bus guide who reminded me of actor Terence Howard who stars in the hit series “Empire,” regaled us with stories like how he met Fats Domino who dated his father’s sister Josephine and how she broke his heart. Domino wrote a song about her called “My Girl Josephine.” Theron’s family has been here for 300 years. He speaks French and Spanish. “Louisiana was exploited by the Spanish and colonized by the French,” he said. At the same time, he told us hostile or not, many countries contributed to Louisiana's culture, especially in the area of cuisine. His parting words before we headed back to our boat was, “Kick back and relax and enjoy life in the Big Easy, and never let your journey end because it’s just the beginning.” When we exited the bus I told him he was a master storyteller. We took a photo together and exchanged contact information.
After a wonderful dinner on the boat with friends Susan and Nelson Bye, we walked around and decided to visit the engine room. Though it was humid it turned out to be a very interesting experience. I introduced myself to one of the crew members named Mark. He told me he was from Minneapolis, MN., works 20 days on and has 20 days off. He has two kids 9 & 5 and was hoping to take his family on a riverboat cruise. He was monitoring a terminal that had a lot of pressure gauge readings. I asked him if the steam engine for a boat is similar to a steam engine train. He said, yes, the only difference is that a steam engine on a boat is like a train engine on steroids.
After watching a “Southern Celebration” show put on by the American Queen Ensemble and the back up band performing some of the best music of the South, we headed to our cabin to relax, and get ready for the next days's adventure.