Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monmouth is Featured in the August Issue of Luxury Experience Magazine

Written by Debra C. Argen

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to stay at an antebellum mansion? Look no further than the stately built in 1818 in Natchez, Mississippi, for a luxury experience. Once the home of General John Anthony Quitman, a Mississippi governor and a Mexican War hero, Monmouth Plantation provides a unique experience for its guests.

Edward F. Nesta and I stayed at the 30 rooms and suites Monmouth Plantation in July 2007, owned and painstakingly and lovingly restored by Ron and Lani Riches who purchased the historic property on Valentine's Day in 1978. We felt like we were a world removed from every day life the moment we drove up the sweeping driveway, past the towering trees laden with hanging moss, and the stunning Greek Revival mansion came into view.

Southern hospitality began at Monmouth Plantation at the reception desk where we were warmly greeted by Front Desk Manager, Carol Jones, and by our bellman, Hal, who escorted us to our suite, Live Oaks, located in the Plantation Suites building and gorgeously furnished with antiques.

We entered the hardwood floor foyer of the Live Oaks suite where there was a half round table with a rectangular gold mirror hanging above it, and a coat closet. The bedroom located to the left of the foyer was a vision with a four-poster king bed lavishly dressed in blue and salmon fabric with a matching canopy. Brass lamps on marble topped nightstands graced either side of the bed, blue and salmon elaborate draperies framed the two windows, a mirror and skirted vanity table with chair was placed in the corner of the room, and paintings hung from blue and salmon ribbons. The large walk-in closet offered us ample space, and held three bathrobes, as well as an iron and ironing board. Attention to small details included having a rechargeable flashlight plugged into an outlet in the bedroom.

There was a sitting room off the foyer that featured an ornate daybed with a Temperpedic mattress that could accommodate a third guest, a painting hung over the brick fireplace adding a bit of romance, a wood armoire hid a Sanyo flat screen television and a mini-bar, and most appreciated was the desk and chair where we could sit with our laptop and use the complimentary WIFI Internet access, which is available in all of the buildings. French doors covered with blue Roman shades led out to a verandah furnished with white wicker rocking chairs and tables, where we enjoyed taking a moment to relax.

The large bathroom featured a Jacuzzi surrounded with marble, a separate walk-in shower, an enclosed toilet, a vanity/shaving mirror, hairdryer, and a host of Lady Primrose amenities. We loved strolling through the historic property and the 26 park-like acres, stopping occasionally to admire the gardens, the gazebo filled with white wrought chairs and a glass topped table, and walk over the wooden bridge to watch the ducks playing in the two ponds. Looking for a little exercise, we played a game of croquet, and heard that there is even fishing for guests in their ponds, or for guests just looking to relax, there are hammocks beckoning from under the shade of trees, and chairs placed at just the right intervals throughout the property.

There is even a historic private cemetery and a small chapel at Monmouth Plantation. There are several angel statues located throughout the gardens, and we attempted to count them on our walks, with the first angel sighted to the left of the gift shop, and another angel sighted in the herb garden. Strolling down the old brick walkway, we found a fountain featuring three lion spouts that was filled with goldfish and lily pads, and stopped to relax on a black wrought iron bench under a tree with exotic hanging moss. We continued down the steps to the rose garden where we were rewarded with another angel standing amidst the roses with their heavenly perfume gently scenting the air, and found two more angels at either end of the pretty pergola, and another along a pathway, although there are probably many more, which you can count when you visit Monmouth Plantation.

We began each morning having full Southern breakfasts in the Garden Room of the pretty Marguerite Guercio's Conference Center where the friendly staff took great care of us. Edward enjoyed scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, grits and Mrs. Mary's biscuits, and I had fluffy pancakes topped with berry puree and fresh blackberries, or Mrs. Mary's biscuits and hot cinnamon rolls.

In the evening, we walked through the attractive brick courtyard featuring a crane fountain with purple petunias in terra cotta pots gracing each of the black wrought iron tables and chairs to have pre-dinner drinks in the Lounge, and sampled Bartender Roosevelt's special Mint Juleps served in requisite silver cups, and complimentary hors d'oeuvres in the Quitman Study, where there are many Quitman family mementos including the family bible proudly displayed on General John Anthony Quitman's desk, a red silk handkerchief that he used in the war framed on the wall, and there is a love letter from General Quitman to his wife, Eliza, that will tug at your romantic heartstrings when you read the line, "You are my polar star and my heart ever points to you."

Dinner in the main house is the ultimate in elegance with precious antiques including Waterford gasoliers, a Duncan Phyfe sideboard with a lead wine cellarette to chill the wine in the dining room, there are Quitman family parlor sets, fairy lamps, and a piano, harp, and music box that plays eight waltzes in the ladies parlor.

The dining table featured a freesia floral arrangement, silver angel napkin rings held pristine white napkins, sparkling china, cobalt glasses, and polished silver to showcase Chef Lanny Brasher's gourmet five-course menu, which began with a delicious Warm Crayfish Tart.

On the last night of our stay we visited the Gift Shop, and there were so many wonderful and unusual gifts, that I wished I had "discovered" it earlier, which provides me with yet another reason to return to Monmouth Plantation.
The service throughout our stay was wonderful, and especially notable was Gift Shop Manager Anna Watts-Gunning, who was like a fairy godmother in arranging last minute tours for us, and making sure that we left with a complete understanding of Southern hospitality.

Before I left, I took one long, last look at Monmouth Plantation with its rich history of romance, and imagined what it would be like to attend a wedding there, or to spend Valentine's Day, or the Christmas holiday season with the mansion decorated in full splendor, and thought that it must be an incredible experience.


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