NATCHEZ, Miss. --
Mention traditional cultures and the worlds most remote realms
spring to mind.
need not roam so far afield. Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez
introduces a culture thats as traditional as it gets.
Between March 12
and April 16, more than 30 antebellum mansions will be open to the
public, following a custom dating to 1931.
A number of tour
operators, including Collette, Expo Garden Tours, Globus, Cosmos,
Tauck and Trafalgar, offer multidestination packages with the
Natchez segment timed for Pilgrimage.
paddlewheelers, Mississippi Queen, Delta Queen and American Queen,
all operated by Delta Queen Steamboat Co., have multiple departures
that include Natchez during Pilgrimage.
journeys range from three to seven days, with per-person rates
ranging from $1,100 for the lowest-priced stateroom on the
three-day program to $5,800 for the top-category stateroom on the
run six to 13 nights, with per-person, land-only rates ranging from
$1,069 (Collette) to $2,863 (Expo Garden Tours). A typical
itinerary includes two nights in Natchez, plus New Orleans and
sites in Mississippi and Louisiana.
exception of Connecticut-based Expo Garden Tours, which has only
one departure that includes Natchez, the above companies operate
similar itineraries from March through October.
representative said the towns rich history and wealth of grand old
homes have proven popular with clients. A unique feature of the
companys Antebellum South trip ($1,770 per person, land only) is
the opportunity for tour members to choose between two historic
mansions, now B&Bs -- the Briars and Monmouth Plantation -- for
their Natchez overnights.
traveling independently may purchase color-coded tickets for visits
to three or four historic homes ($21 and $28). Eight different
programs are available. Tickets are not sold at individual mansions
but must be purchased at Pilgrimage headquarters.
At each house, gowned hostesses lead
guests from one elegantly furnished room to another, regaling them
with facts and trivia about architecture, furnishings, objects dart
and the families who once lived there.
Plantation, Monmouth and Stanton Hall exemplify the grand, white
multi-columned dwellings of Old South imagery, surrounded by
sweeping verandas and gardens abloom with azaleas, dogwood, crepe
myrtle, magnolia and redbud trees.
A reminder that
not every place fits into a stereotype, Longwood presents a quite
different picture. For one thing, the interior was never completed,
as workmen, caught behind enemy lines at the outbreak of the Civil
Said to be the
largest octagonal house in the U.S., its 30,000-square-foot
exterior features a rooftop cupola topped by a dome and
fortune decimated by the war, he and his family resided in the
nine-room basement, the only interior section completed.
Rosalie is a
mansion replete with tales, such as that of its builder, who came
to Natchez at age 17, made a fortune, commissioned Rosalie and
became guardian as well as husband to Eliza, the orphaned
13-year-old daughter of a ferryman. Yellow fever claimed Eliza,
just as it had her parents.
After a few home
visits, certain elements become familiar.
Typically, a long
drawing room is divided into separate parlors to which gentlemen
and ladies segregated themselves after dinner.
Blue or red silk
proved the fabric of choice for the formal and perhaps somewhat
uncomfortable chairs, and a pocket door that can slide shut to
separate the two sections. In most rooms, elaborate gasoliers hang
from equally ornate moldings.
bedrooms feature a youth bed, somewhere between a crib and a
full-sized bed, with low, vertical railings and mosquito netting
cascading from a high, carved panel.
display glass both above and below a cabinet or shelf so ladies
could ensure no shameful ankles were exposed while the proper
amount of bosom was.
immersion into Old South culture, several evening programs take
place during Pilgrimage.
Natchez Pageant showcases locals in period dress as they enact
skits and sing old Southern melodies.
In Southern Road
to Freedom, a gospel choir chronicles the African-American
experience from the colonial period to the present day, while Songs
of the South, performed by the Natchez Opera Festival, highlights
Stephen Foster and George Gershwin melodies.
both spring and fall (Oct. 22 to Nov. 5) pilgrimages is Natchez
Pilgrimage Tours, (601) 446-6631 or (800) 647-6742. The Web site is
located at www.natchezpilgrimage.com.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].