CRUISING TO CAPE GIRARDEAU

Following our visit to Chester, the American Queen Steamboat paddle wheeler steamed on down to the sleepy river town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Founded in 1733 by a French soldier as a trading post, it is now home to around 38,000 residents.

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The American Queen is on the right.

As we had typically done previously during the cruise, we took American Queen’s included hop on-hop off bus for a narrated tour of the town to get a good overview, before hoofing it around on foot.

The historic Glenn House was located in a lovely neighborhood situated on a hill overlooking the river, so we opted to head back up to take the included tour of the lovely 1800’s home.

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Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home was built in 1883.  I especially liked these beautiful stained-glass windows in the foyer:

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Across from the home, we thought this was quite the curious sight:

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This was the original bridge that crossed the river; however, it was ultimately replaced by a new, modern one.  Instead of completely tearing the old bridge down, they kept the beginning of the bridge intact as a river and riverfront park viewpoint.  Clever!

Back in town, the downtown streets were pleasant to meander and photograph.

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One of my favorite buildings that added a bit of charm to the town was this Spanish-style home to Southern Missourian, the local newspaper.  These murals on the side of the building depict the history of the town and newspaper print:

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The highlights of Cape Girardeau, in my opinion, were the fabulous river wall murals.  What started as a necessary—but ugly—barrier to protect the town from flooding, was morphed into attractive and informative works of art.

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“Mississippi River Tales” is an 18,000 square feet mural that covers the 15-foot high wall with 24 panels of history, beginning with the Native Americans who inhabited the area between 900 and 1200, long before our “founding fathers” stepped foot on American soil.  Informative plaques describe each panel that tells the history of the area in chronological order.  Painted by Chicago artist Thomas Melvin, in collaboration with several local artists, the mural has graced Cape Girardeau’s flood wall since 2005.

These were some of the panels of interest to me:

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Immediately following “Mississippi River Tales” was the “Missouri Wall of Fame,” spanning 500 feet of the flood wall.  Depicting 45 people who were born in the state or achieved fame while living in Missouri, this mural included some of our baseball favorites, including Yogi Berra, the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher who had, let’s say, an interesting way with words!

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Unfortunately, the mural also included Cape Girardeau’s very own Rush Limbaugh, who also has a way with words…

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Next up:  PATCHWORK PADUCAH:  HOME OF THE NATIONAL QUILT MUSEUM

 

 

 

HANGIN’ IN HANNIBAL

It had been years since I had read a book by Samuel Langhorne Clemens; however, memories of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Flinn came back to me during our visit to Hannibal, Missouri.

Hannibal was the boyhood home of Clemens (aka Mark Twain), and it inspired the setting for those two novels.  Many of Twain’s haunts have been restored to their historical accuracy, so the entire town has a Mark Twain feel to it.

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Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) visited with the passengers one evening aboard the American Queen.  He never broke character, even during the Q&A session after his monologue!

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Hannibal, Missouri

It’s a picturesque little town with houses dotting the bluffs that border the river, and attractive 1800’s-era businesses that quaint and well-maintained to attract the tourists.  The shops and restaurants are even named after Mark Twain characters.

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We enjoyed our tour of Mark Twain’s childhood home and the Mark Twain Museum—both well worth the visit, especially the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the museum.  They thought of everything, even making the famous fence a tourist destination, complete with paint brush and bucket!

Have you ever wondered how the name “Mark Twain” was chosen by Clemens?  If you remember back to Clemens’ novels, Mark Twain was fascinated by the Mississippi River and wanted to become a river pilot.  Back in the 1850’s, river pilots didn’t have modern navigational aids.  When entering shallow water, a man was sent to the front of the boat with a lead weight tied to a rope.  He tossed the rope out in front and let it sink to measure how deep the water was.  A series of knots were tied in the rope at measured distances.  A “mark” was the distance of six feet (the same as a fathom in the ocean), and “twain” meant two; so, the knot at “mark twain” meant the water was twelve feet deep.  For river boats, twelve feet was safe water and mark twain meant “safe water ahead”, so Clemens like the way that sounded!

The Unsinkable Molly Brown was another famous character from Hannibal.  Remember her?  She was the Titanic survivor who heroically helped rescue many women and children during the disaster.  She was a distant relative of Mark Twain’s, and Hanibal was her home as well.  (Her home was open for touring as well; however, we didn’t visit it.)

We found Hannibal to be quite a charming town and well worth hangin’ out in for a day along our Mississippi River voyage.

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Meanwhile, back on the American Queen Steamboat, the evening entertainment aboard the paddle wheeler took an entertaining turn in a more personal way.  Check back for more details in my next post!