Today we were to tour two plantations, take a city tour and tour the cemetary, however we we running late on the plantation tours and our bus couldn’t get us back to the city on time. Therefore we will do the city and cemetary tours tomorrow and I am actually glad it worked out that way. There was a fair amount of walking and Brian’s hips were giving him grief.
The planations we toured today were sugar cane plantations. It’s too wet here to grow cotton. This is creole country and many of the plantations were run by women. The position was called “President” of the plantation and the next “President” was picked by the current one, and groomed for the position for several years. The chosen child was often the smartest one and may have begun their “apprenticeship” at the age of 13.
Sugar cane is planted every four years. Once the first crop is harvested the remaining debrie is burned and the surviving “buds” start growing again…they do this for four years. Our first tour was the “Laura Planation” named after the last “President.” Laura decided after ten years she did not wish to carry on this way of life, married and moved north. After several years she sold the land in the late 1800s, turning her back on her Creole heritage and all that went with it. In 1936, in her 70s she wrote her memoirs and in the 1990s they were discovered and published. During our tour much of what we learned about the life and times of those living on this planation came from the book “Memories of the Old Plantation Home” by Laura Locoul Gore. You can bet I bought a copy on the way out.
The planation was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was purchased in 1993 by Norman and Sand Marmillion who planned to restore the home and surrounding gardens and open it to the public. The home has been restored 3 times due to hurricane and then fire damage.
The tour, the guide and stories were very well done and it you are ever in the area I would encourage you to visit the “Laura Plantation.” The tour is exceptionally interesting thanks to Laura’s Memoires.
After we completed our tour, we drove 5 minutes to “Oak Alley” plantation. The tour is much shorter but the house is grander and was lived in until the 1990s. The grandchildren live near by and run a bed and breakfast on the property as well as cafe and gift shop. The home and 25 acres is owned by the historical society that operates the property & tours.
The grounds has 28 live oak trees estimated to be 300+ years old. They really are magnificent. This “alley” of oak trees often hosts weddings. Can you just imagine walking down this aisle?
We have seen a number of tours to see alligators, however unlike the Everglades where you go through the mangroves, here you tour through the swamp land in an airboat. As we have seen our share of gators, we decided not to take a swamp tour…but travelling through the swamps might be fun.
As we were starting out this morning, the bus stopped at several hotels in the area to pick up passengers and afford us the opportunity to see some of the high rises damaged by Katrina and since abandoned. One of the most tragic sights for me, was one ( of 4) abandoned hosptials. For those of us who have worked in a hosptial, it’s like a little city all in itself and to see a once proud hospital with decaying walls and broken windows, now derelict, really brought home the devastation of Katrina. The tour guide indicated the area was desperately short of medical people and the loss of so many talented nurses and Doctors have severely impacted local residents.
After our tour was done we were dropped off in the French Quarter, We went looking for a drink and something to eat. We stoped at Pat O Brien’s for a drink. A while later we stopped in to grab a bite to eat in a cafe offering Po Boy sandwiches. Brian had a hot dog….a weiner in a bun… and packages of relish and mustard while I opted for jambalaya. Neither was a good choice…most of mine ended up in the dumpster. Even though it was only 430pm we head back to the hotel and found Santa Claus on our way!
I am surprized to see so many dogs in this area. It’s not unusual to see two to three people per block walking their dog on Bourbon street. I guess people live close by. However this dog seems to be enjoying the bar!
In the morning we will be taking the city tour which includes a tour throught the devastated Ninth Parrish. The city is slowly rebuilding with construction going on everywhere, but the stories the locals tell are harrowing. Though the French Quarter was spared, it was severely impacted by the loss of tourism. From what I have seen, tourists are back and the hope has been restored to the city.