Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
Trip End Nov 19, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , Mississippi
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From Memphis (or rather Marianna), we journeyed down the Mississippi, reading to one another occasionally from Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi" for a touch of culture. For much of the way, we knew that the great river was somewhere to our left, but sadly out of site. The need for levees, protecting property and farmland along the river banks is obviously greater than the need to satisfy tourists with a grand view as they travel southwards. Still, the farmland  is a glorious site in itself: field upon field full of corn, wheat or cotton; the broad, blue sky stretching out above us with just a small, tasteful scattering of fluffy white clouds; and the occasional exciting sighting of a crop-dusting plane, drawing dangerous patterns in the air.

We arrived at Vicksburg at the end of the afternoon and followed the visitor centre's recommendation of a bargain place to stay: the Horizon Hotel and Casino on the waterfront, just on the edge of the downtown area. The Hotel is cheap and luxy, to attract gamblers, so you can't beat the price or location. The Casino part is in an "old riverboat" (not sure if it is genuinely old) that is "moored" on the riverbank next to the hotel. To test our luck before we hit Vegas in a few week's time, we each threw a dollar into a fruit machine and Laura was immediately rewarded, turning one dollar into five. Of course, a few more pulls of the lever and these winnings quickly evaporated, but it felt good while it lasted.

In the morning, we headed up the hill and across the road to the Biedenheim Coca-Cola Memorabelia Museum. The Biedenheims ran a "candy store" in the building and one of their main attractions at the time (late 1800s) was a "soda fountain" where sugary syrups were mixed with cold - carbonated or flat - water to make tasty drinks. One of the flavours was Coca-Cola, which was invented in 1880-something in Atlanta. The Biedenheims' claim to fame then is not the invention of the stuff, but the eureka-like idea of bottling the stuff so that it could be enjoyed at home or by people out in the country. Until then, customers could only get it and drink it somewhere with a soda fountain. So, the Biedenheims bottled it up the same way as they were already bottling soda water and started Coca-Cola on its bid for world domination. The museum explains all this and shows some of the equipment used to bottle coke back then as well as a lot of the different advertising materials used by Coca-Cola through the years. And, of course, you can enjoy a classic coke or coke float (coke with a scoop of icecream in it, yum-yum) in the little shop at the front of the museum.

When we finished our coke float, we walked down Vicksburg's quaint main street and stopped for a look in a fabulous dress shop - Laura is still trying to find that perfect little party number for the big event in November. No luck, but plenty of fun trying stuff on! As we left Vicksburg, we drove out through the "Historic Battlefield Park" where one of the most important battles of the American Civil War was fought. Vicksburg was the last town on the river that had to be won by the Union army in order to control the Mississippi and split the confederate states down the middle. The confederate army did a good job of holding them at bay and it was only after a 47-day seige that the city surrendered. An interesting story, but sadly - and understandably - the historic battlefield is now no more than a series of rolling grassy hills and tree-lined ditches. Oh yes, and quite a few memorials. But not a soldier in sight.
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