Let me start by saying Lee and I in no way wish to glamorize what life in the plantation system was like. But it is part of our history and since I love old houses and antebellum architecture it was on both of our must-do lists. There are numerous plantations in Louisiana available to tour, but they all have different rules and Lee settled on Oak Alley because it allowed both inside photography and free roaming tours of the grounds. Oak Alley has the look of the quintessential plantation with a beautiful line of 28 300 year old oak trees along what used to be the driveway from the main road along the Mississippi. The trees alone are worth the visit and despite the $20 entrance fee it did not disappoint. It did get more crowded though as the day wore on, so if you want to get people free pics of the house, I definitely recommend getting there early. The first thing we did upon arrival was go to the trees and we took some pics of the house, in between people wandering through.
You simply cannot take a bad picture here! Next we decided to take the house tour and I am glad we took this early. Despite the relatively small crowds the group was still pretty large and at times we had difficulty hearing the tour guide. The staff dresses in traditional costumes and were very knowledgeable about the plantation and the area. One interesting thing was that about half of our group was African-American. I think we were all a little tense about the subject matter in the beginning, but the tour guide did an outstanding job of factually dealing with the role slavery played in plantation life. She was very careful to make it clear what work was done by the slave population and her tone was direct and historically accurate. I watched the black families on the tour to see their reaction and eventually they relaxed which made me relax. I gave them huge credit for sharing the experience with their children, because it is such an important part of their history and the kids seemed pretty sanguine about the whole thing.
I was surprised by how small the inside living are of the house was. Although the celilngs were all 13 feet tall to help with controlling the heat, the rooms themselves were smaller than we expected. The upstairs only had four bedrooms and was “all porch”. I was unable to get the dimensions of porch versus rooms, but it was at last 1/3 of the available space. We were able to go out on the second floor porch though, and that was amazing. You may recognize the view from the movie “Interview with a Vampire”, which is one of the many TV shows and movies that have been shot here.
After the tour, we went down on the front lawn and walked down to take some pictures. Never could get a shot completely people free, but took some nice ones. I loved, loved the oak trees and we could spend as much time as we wanted wandering among them, which not every plantation allows you to do.
After taking our pictures we took a lunch break and found a lovely place in the gardens to eat. Well, it was lovely and then we were invaded by a huge group of school kids. Actually they were extremely well behaved and very nice group of kids, but it would have been nice to have the spot to ourselves.
After we ate lunch, we toured the slave cabin area. The original cabins were destroyed, but the re-creations were built after extensive research and this area of the plantation was extremely well done. They personalized the cabins by talking about the experiences of some of the slaves who lived in the originals (using records and documentation) and gave what I felt was an accurate portrayal. They also dedicated one whole wall with the names of the slaves who had worked on the plantation, which I thought was very well done.
We loved the whole experience and the only weird note of the day was a small tent where an employee dressed as a confederate soldier talked about the war. He had strong opinions on the war and Louisiana in general, which he stated “was one of the few places you could still live as an American. ” What was odd was he was originally born in Berkeley, CA, moved here 8 years ago and actually found a piece of land and homesteaded it, so he will never have to pay taxes. I found the history interesting, but could have skipped the lecture on the state of our country.
We also watched a really great short movie about sugar cane production. The plantation is a working sugar cane farm and the movie was really informative. And they had a young kid doing blacksmithing demonstrations which we loved. He sold his work for tip money and we ended up buying two of his pieces (for $5 each) because we liked them and him so much. Oh, and the gift shop was really good. Lots of unique items (although not much was produced locally so watch out for that) and I ended up buying some Swamp Pop which is cane sugar flavored pop with pecans. Wow super sweet.
So even though it is more than we usually spend, I highly recommend a plantation tour and Oak Alley in particular. Just go there during the week, get there early, and take your pictures of the house first!
The next day Dave and Sharon came into the park and we also invited Pat and Bridget and we had a wonderful time. I wanted to return the favor on all of Bridget’s food and stretched myself by making Crab Stuffed Cod. Everyone really liked it, so I am including the recipe here. This is what it’s all about . Nothing beats good food, good friends, and a great campfire!
- 4 Cod, Sole, Haddock, or Flounder fillets Costco sells Wild Caught North Atlantic Cod which is delicious
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- 1 cup crab meat fresh if available or canned if not
- 1 small yellow or red onion; finely chopped
- 1 egg; lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 3 TBL butter ; melted and divided
- 1 TBL flour
- 1/2 cup chicken broth (low sodium)
- Grated Parmesan cheese from the deli
- In a bowl combine bread crumbs. crab, onion, egg, salt, and cayenne
- Mix well
- Spoon onto middle of underside of fillet then roll both ends up and secure with two wooden spears or toothpicks Most grocery stores sell a wooden skewer about double the length of the toothpick which I used
- Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes in a greased pan until fish flakes easily with a fork; drizzle with 2 TBL of butter prior to baking
- Place remaining butter in a saucepan, stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add broth, stirring and cook and stir for 2 minutes until thick and bubbly
- Drain liquid from baking dish and then spoon sauce over fillets
- Put Parmesan cheese on fillets and broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is meted and lightly browned
- Remove toothpicks and serve
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