There are scores of well-preserved ante-bellum buildings; a number are open to the public Natchez is also a contender for the B&B capital of America. There are lush flower gardens that drip with humidity, elegant high- ceiling rooms, broad verandahs and views over the Mississippi. One of the best rooms is in a former stable where the owners, Bettye and Cliff Whitney, have paid an incredible amount of attention to period detail.Downstream, Natchez is a treasure chest of old houses. It was built as a wedding gift to a favourite daughter but today is a relaxing B&B. One of the buildings that went up was The Corners ($105) in 1872.
There are still Confederate die- hards who refuse to celebrate Independence Day because it falls on the same day Vicksburg was taken by the Yankees.Shortly after the Civil War swept through here the town rebuilt itself. Major-General Ulysses S Grant's victory over the Confederate forces was the turning point in the war and gave the Union control over the all-important Father of the Waters (Mississippi) from the north to the Gulf of Mexico. "The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket." On 4 July 1863 Lincoln was handed that key as Vicksburg surrendered after a valiant defence and a month's siege which brought the population to its knees. You hit Vicksburg first, a long, thin town strung out along its bluff overlooking the river."Vicksburg is the key," said President Abraham Lincoln. From here it winds south across the Delta to Greenville and on to two of the most important Civil War towns. There is a snug with tartan-draped, sleep-inducing chairs and a pot of coffee always on the go.Back on the Mississippi side of the river you can pick up the Great River Road, which has travelled down the banks of the great river from its source near the Canadian border in Minnesota.
The Edwardian Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is not prominent in guides.Guests are left to do their own thing which means you can sneak in a second helping of scrambled egg souffle at breakfast without being frowned at. Upstairs are cosy rooms and suites ($50-69) named after Civil War Confederate generals (Helena was home to no fewer than seven), and on the porch guests can relax on after-dinner rocking chairs.A consortium of three women recently completed a painstaking renovation of this 1904 colonial revival house near the banks of Ol' Miss, breathing life into its magnificent oak beams. The centrepiece of this B&B is a wide, creaking staircase down which you expect Scarlett O'Hara to glide at any moment. Each September in Greenville, Mississippians celebrate their musical heritage with a day-long festival.Across the river from Clarksdale and the casinos that have transformed Mississippi's Tunica County from the poorest in the nation to one with an annual turnover of $1bn (pounds 615m) stands the historic town of Helena, Arkansas, and The Edwardian Inn guesthouse. The walls are lined with black and white prints of performers stirring up the juke joint crowds while showcases around the room hold original song-sheets and other archive material. "Yep, they sure can breed 'em good down here," said Johnnie Billington.So prolific is the talent that the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale has a job containing all the memorabilia. There are hundreds of references to the Blues all over the region.