First Time Visiting a Plantation

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. 

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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.

The Creole Plantation owner

The Creole (born in America but of french descent) Plantation owner

And his wife

And his wife

These pots were used to catch flies and had handkerchiefs covering them

These pots were used to catch flies and had handkerchiefs covering them

The large fan above the dining table was pulled by a slave during dinner to keep flies off the food

The large fan above the dining table was pulled by a slave during dinner to keep flies off the food

All the beds had mosquito netting

All the beds had mosquito netting

As did the childrens quarters. They also had a full time slave in their room at night to keep flies, mosquitos, and animals away from them as the doors were left open and they had no screens

As did the childrens quarters. They also had a full time slave in their room at night to keep flies, mosquitos, and animals away from them as the doors were left open and they had no screens

Loved the master bedroom. The furniture is from the time period but not original to the house which they were very upfront about

Loved the master bedroom. The furniture is from the time period but not original to the house which they were very upfront about

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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.

The view from the porch

The view from the porch

Loved the architecture

Loved the architecture

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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.

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Huge roots growing from the trees

Huge roots growing from the trees

HEre's me in the shot to give you some perspective of how huge they were

Here’s me in the shot to give you some perspective of how huge they were

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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.

Beautiful flowers in the gardens

Beautiful flowers in the gardens

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Our lunch spot

Our lunch spot

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Then the kids came :)

Then the kids came 🙂

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.

Slave row

Slave row

One of the cabins

One of the cabins

The bed and uniform of one of the house slaves

The bed and uniform of one of the house slaves

Versus the bed and clothes of one of the field slaves who raised numerous children in this one room

Versus the bed and clothes of one of the field slaves who raised numerous children in this one room

A great write-up on the discovery of one of the slaves who developed a strain of pecan

A great write-up on the discovery of one of the slaves who developed  the first strain of papershell pecan that won an award.  It was clear, however, that his owner received all the credit

The wall where the names of the slaves were memorialized

The wall where the names of the slaves were memorialized

A map showing the concentration of slaves in the Confedercy. The darker colors had more slaves and many counties had none at all

A map showing the concentration of slaves in the Confedercy. The darker colors had more slaves and many counties had none at all

The history of the tignon was interesting as well, which free women of color were required to wear

The history of the tignon was interesting as well, which free women of color were required to wear

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.

The confederate soldier

The confederate soldier

A general's tent

A general’s tent

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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.

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Blacksmithing has some similarities to glass blowing

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We ended up buying the hook with a nail and a bottle opener

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All the nails were made by hand in the 1800’s. He cranked one out in a couple of minutes, but think about the labor involved in making nails only

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Locally made in Louisiana

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!

Setting the table

Setting the table

Crab-stuffed sole, green beans, and little potatoes

Crab-stuffed cod, green beans, and little potatoes

Sharon wathcing Bridget cutting her sweet potato and pecan pie

Sharon watching Bridget cutting her sweet potato and pecan pie

Pat, Bridget, Sharon, David, me, and Lee

Pat, Bridget, Sharon, David, me, and Lee

Recipe

Crab-Stuffed Cod

  • 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
  1.  In a bowl combine bread crumbs. crab, onion, egg, salt, and cayenne
  2. Mix well
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Drain liquid from baking dish and then spoon sauce over fillets
  7. Put Parmesan cheese on fillets and broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is meted and lightly browned
  8. Remove toothpicks and serve
Crab Stuffed Sole

Crab Stuffed Sole

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12 thoughts on “First Time Visiting a Plantation

  1. Sounds like a great tour – will have to add that to the list for next time in LA. I know what you mean about the kids that joined you at the picnic area – I didn’t mention it on the blog – but we had a similar thing while looking at the Sequoias. We were just looking at them in wonder and it was fairly quiet and a family with 4 kids came up to where we were and they were LOUD! I became instantly annoyed and we had to move on. I think it’s great people bring their kids, I really do, but WOW! at least try to have them chill out!
    And – awesome job on the fish! Totally will be making that!

  2. The fish sounds good. I might have to try that. Rick and I went to Oak Alley many years ago. We were one of their first tours and the gardens had just been started to be restored. Most of what you talked about wasn’t there either. Might have to go back. One of the things I found most interesting was the door handles and how low they were on the doors. I had not realized just how small people were back then. I maybe would have been considered tall then.

  3. The plantation tour was really wonderful. You also had some special meal for you SPECIAL company;o)) Love it when RV-Dreamers can meet and make memories.

    Tracy, I know you are headed toward South Carolina. Not sure if you will get near the beach, but if you are… First, let us know as we are here until June 1. Second, be sure to visit Brookgreen Gardens, http://www.brookgreen.org/ a former Rice Plantation which is amazing!!

  4. The entire tour looked cool but what I was most impressed about was those trees! I would just be in awe of those 300 year old oaks. We have yet to meet Dave and Sharon but we do stalk them on Facebook and read their blog. We will meet them someday!

  5. I love you sharing the tour, The photos were great. Back in the early 80’s. I was at Gulfport Miss naval center. I went to Bellinggraft Gardens a Plantaion. Very interesting. The orignial Buttler gave us a tour. He was a black slave. He sent us down a road to a resturant. He said it was a all black establishment But the food was so amazing. Platter of cat fish, or platter of fried chicken . all the trimmings. $5.95.Enjoy your travels.God be with you both.

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