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Wednesday, September 2, 2009
We checked out of Hermann Hill – a little sadly. We really enjoyed our time in the area and were glad we had chosen to stay three nights. We programmed our next destination into our trusty GPS: Mark Twain’s Birthplace, which was located at 37352 Shrine Road in Florida, MO. This is located within the confines of Mark Twain State Park, which has 2,775 acres and includes Mark Twain Lake (do you see a theme here?). It took us a couple hours to drive there from Hermann. The cabin where Mark Twain was born and spent his first few years has been moved from its original spot and is actually contained within a building, which also has interesting displays of Mark Twain items and history and offers a short film on his life. There are first editions of Mark Twain’s works, and hand-written manuscript of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and furnishings from his Hartford, CT home. We felt it was worth the stop, especially since we were headed to Hannibal. When we left the museum we saw a sign that pointed to the “historic village of Florida” and we decided to check it out. There were perhaps two buildings and a marker showing where the Twain cabin originally stood. We could certainly understand why they chose to move to a town along the Mississippi River where there were more opportunities!
After a stop for lunch at a small local place, we continued on towards Hannibal. We stopped at the Mark Twain Cave Complex. Samuel Clemens played in the cave as a boy and the cave was featured in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” The cave complex is located on Highway 79 South in Hannibal. Here is some advice: we couldn’t find it with the GPS so if you’re going, you may want to print out the page on the website that has a map and directions. We finally got lucky and saw a sign on a highway we went under that was for the cave complex. We really enjoyed the cave tour. It was only us and one other couple and the tour director John took his time. The cave is very walkable – there are no steps. But it’s a good idea to wear good walking shoes with a tread and take a jacket as it is 52 degrees in there year-round. The cave was first shown in 1886 and we were fascinated with all the names and dates scribbled on the walls before it became a Registered Natural Landmark in the early 1970s and graffiti was forbidden. This is definitely worthwhile (and we’ve seen our share of caves).
After our cave tour, we checked into Garth Woodside Mansion. Look here for our writeup on the Garth Woodside Mansion. We soaked in the hot tub on the deck of our cottage and then had dinner at the inn’s restaurant. Afterwards we returned to our cottage and soaked in the corner whirlpool in the bathroom across from the gas fireplace, which we lit.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
We had breakfast in our cottage and then set off for downtown Hannibal. Of course our first stop was the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, which is located at 120 North Main in Hannibal (you can’t miss it – the whole town is about Twain). It is actually an interpretive center (don’t skip it – there was some interesting stuff in there) and a series of historic buildings that you can walk through. It’s a self-guided tour. Included with the price of admission is the museum, which is a couple blocks away. We enjoyed the museum. There are plenty of interactive displays on the first floor – particularly good for kids. The second floor had a lot of interesting things as well, including numerous old newspaper clippings.
We had lunch at a place along the main drag of Hannibal that was the local version of Subway. Then we went down along the river to Center Street Landing, where we took a riverboat cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat. OK, this was decidedly a bit tacky, but seeing as how all the Mississippi River cruises had gone out of business, this was our only choice in the area. Warning: you are subjected to banjo music the entire time but we each had a glass of wine to help with that. The boat left at 1:30 for a one-hour tour. It’s not exactly whitewater rafting, but it seemed like something we just had to do while we were in Hannibal getting a feel for what it was like in the 1800s. Obviously Mark Twain saw enough magic in the area to base several stories there.
After the cruise we went back to the inn and relaxed in our hot tub on the deck. That night we had dinner at Lulabelle’s restaurant, a former brothel in Hannibal. We had a great dinner and afterwards we headed back to the inn for a soak in the indoor whirlpool.