BUMMING AROUND BURLINGTON

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I liked the historic feel of Burlington, which was quite different from where I grew up in Southern California.  Several of the downtown Burlington buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was great to see the care taken to preserve these old buildings.

Take the Capitol Theater, for example.  Dating back to 1937, the 700-seat theater had been closed since 1977; however, a foundation of passionate citizens was formed to raise the money needed to restore the theater back to its 1937 splendor– with some modern additions.  Such painstaking care was taken in the restoration that the new seats and carpet were reproduced to look like the originals, and a boatload of money was spent to restore the marquee to exactly as it looked in its heyday.

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We took a guided tour, one of the included attractions for the day.  I especially liked the art deco-style lighting throughout the theater, and the old projector was a classic!

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The hop on-hop off bus also made stops at the top of Heritage Hill, a beautiful neighborhood of lovely old homes and Snake Alley.

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Constructed in 1894, Snake Alley was once known as the crookedest alley in the world.  It was built to create a short cut from the top of the hill to the business district below.  Needing to accommodate horses, the mode of transportation at the time, the bricks were tilted higher on the upper edges, making it easier for the horse’s hooves to catch on the raised edge making the ascent easier and the descent a lot safer.

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We didn’t have access to a horse, so we hoofed the 275 feet of Snake Alley carefully on foot to the street below.

While bumming around Burlington, we had a quick look at St. Paul’s Catholic Church:

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In all, it was a pleasant little historic city of 25,000-26,000 people, and we enjoyed having a look around.

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It was another beautiful sail-away highlighted by an entertaining calliope concert!

 

 

 

 

 

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A typical river barge on the Mississippi River

 

Coming up next:  HANGIN’ IN HANNIBAL

The American Queen Experience: “A” for Excellent!

How would I rate our overall experience aboard the American Queen? In one word: Excellent!

One of my favorite things about this cruise was the friendly and efficient hop-on/hop-off bus service at each port. American Queen Steamboat Company owns four tour buses that look like our ship on wheels; very cute! And, they are driven by four of the friendliest and helpful bus drivers I have ever met. The buses followed us the entire way, driving on to the next port while we cruised during the night. The drivers would stay at hotels and meet us the next morning.

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Abe and Mark, pictured below, were my favorite staff members of all the AQ staff I encountered.
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The bus system was very efficient. The night before our port, we could pick up color-coded boarding passes that were in 15 minute increments. And, the wheels on our designated bus would roll at exactly that time. This arrangement meant not having to wait in any lines- nice!

We were also given maps with the stops labeled, including attractions that we could visit that were pre-paid by the ship. Other points of interest were also labeled, as well as banks, pharmacies, and our bus stops. It was so easy and efficient, making it very relaxing and stress-free at each port. The buses would even do final sweeps around the circuit if people were missing at the designated all-aboard time. Nobody was ever left behind.

At sail away from each port, the captain would blow the steam whistle, followed by the pianist playing a calliope concert on the aft deck.

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During one of the concerts, I noticed one of the steam pipes wasn’t working too well, so an otherwise perfectly sounding song medley was punctuated with weak/sour notes every once in a while. It was good for a lot of laughs from everybody on deck! And, there was something quite charming about that experience that I will always remember.

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Another advantage of being on a riverboat rather than a huge cruise ship is the opportunity to learn about how the boat works. The engine room was open for viewing and there was always somebody available to answer questions. They even had an information sheet explaining how it all worked.

The Riverlorian also conducted tours of the pilot house each day, so we learned about the navigational system, as well.

The entertainment on board was also terrific. The staff orchestra and singers produced cruise ship quality shows and the guest entertainers were wonderful. We heard a jug band from Louisville, Kentucky, as well as a Blues Brothers tribute band and a New Orleans jazz band. It was a great variety of good ol’ Southern music. And, we especially enjoyed one of those shows by bringing our complimentary bottle of Champagne with us.

So, what about that good ol’ Southern cooking? Fabulous! Our waiter was quite good about explaining the dishes in detail and making recommendations; all which were spot-on. But, I really couldn’t imagine anything being bad, because it all looked and tasted so good! Even the assortment of rolls at dinner was too good to pass up; especially the pretzel rolls. And, don’t even get me started on dessert…

I will include a picture of one of our dinner menus, but you will need to click on it to see it enlarged. It’s worth a read; it will make your mouth water…

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The service was friendly and efficient; especially the complimentary wine service. Those gals came around with wine constantly, so our glasses were never allowed to run dry. In my opinion, the dining room experience was a cut above most of the cruise ships I had previously sailed on.

Overall, the staff on board the American Queen was very friendly and accommodating. It was a nice surprise, given the fact it is an all-American staff that works 14-15 hour days; something most Americans are not used to doing.

Would I recommend the American Queen to my family and friends? Most definitely!