We moved on from White City to Natchez today, travelling up the river road and crossing the mighty Mississippi at Baton Rouge. The river road cannot be described as a scenic highway. The sugar cane plantations and cotton farms that used to flank the banks of the snaking river river were gradually replaced by metro chemical plants – this has always been a working river.
What’s on my playlist – it has to be Lucinda Williams – all the way. She was born around here, in Lake Charles and the drive brings her songs to life. I’d always wanted to see the Baton Rouge she sings about – it was something of a disappointment when I got there, although not really a surprise,
A few more twists and turns in the road and an unintentional detour brought us to a dead end in Angola – slap bang at the entrance of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Well this wasn’t part of the plan! “Tim’s Tours” saved the day by discovering a little museum at the entrance which actually proved to be quite fascinating. This place had the unenviable reputation of being THE worst prison in the US. I suppose the middle of an alligator infested swamp is the perfect place for a high security prison. In 1951, conditions were so bad that 8 inmates participated in what became known as the heel stringing incident – they cut their achilles tendons as a protest against the squalor and brutality in the prison. Thankfully, prison reform gradually improved conditions here from then on. They have some interesting exhibits:
- An electric chair – the death sentence is still applicable in Louisiana State. It was reintroduced in 1979.
- An elaborate coffin and hearse – made by inmates for inmates. Many prisoners were here for life their crimes were so serious.
- Lots of photos of the inmates participating in an annual rodeo show – it became known as the Wildest Show in the South.
We stopped for a bite to eat in downtown Woodville. It didn’t look like it had much to offer at first sight, but calling in at the antique shop on the corner yielded a great jug of freshly brewed coffee, the discovery of Gator Tators, a recipe for pecan brittle and a new book for my reading list. Not bad for a quick pit stop!
Pretty Natchez was quite a contrast to the scenery we had seen en route. If you fancied a place here, you could by a 4 bed mansion house in the middle of town for $299,000. Fancy something a tad larger? You could have bought the whole of Nottoway Plantation for $3.1 million last year. Compare that to the cost of a shoebox flat in London! The hotel we are staying in here was bought from a bank as a result of a bankruptcy – times are getting tight around here.
The café in Woodville was all out of Ooey Gooey, so I never got to see or taste it – it’s still on my wish list though.
Missing out on seeing Whitney Plantation is still bugging me as it might have helped answer some of the question I still have about slavery. I have a real need to establish the accurate historical facts here without any form of sugar coating – some research needed when I have time back home …
Gator Tator chips – finger licking’ good!
What I’m reading (thanks to the pit stop):
Coming of Age in Mississippi – Ann Moody