Friday, August 10, 2018


For decades, I have seen  photos of this "tunnel" of  oak trees in magazines, and dreamed that one day I would be able to see it in person.  And, by the Grace of God, this past July, I was able to actually stroll what is called "Oak Alley" in south Louisiana.  The photo above was taken by Brian Jewell, editor of Group Travel Leader Magazine ( ) , who (along with other members of his staff) worked with the River Parishes Tourist Commission ( ) to co-ordinate our group's site visits to seven different plantations.

During my tour of Oak Alley Plantation ( ), I was able to understand that this famous scene was the "street" or passageway that led from the banks of the Mississippi River to the "big house", where the planter/owner lived with their family. It is one fourth mile in length, and made up of 300 year old live oak trees.   The photo below shows a closer view of the familiar Louisiana plantation-style home that usually comes to mind, when you think about this part of the country.
A view one would get as they left the main plantation home would be the passageway to the Mississippi River. Perhaps at one time, the visitor could see steamboats on the river, but now the huge grass-covered levee renders the actual waters of the river out of sight, since they are on the other side of the levee.  The photo below is looking towards the levee, and the "blue sky" above the levee indicates that is the space above the river. 
Another very popular historic home to tour in the area is The Houmas House ( ).  What I find amazing about this home, is that the owner actually lives there still, yet he lets visitors enter his "inner sanctom", to get a glimpse of how the property is being used now.  In addition to it providing a domicile for the owner, he has added to the property so that it has large spaces for special events, a restaurant, gift shop, and rental cottages for overnight visitors.   

I mentioned that seeing "Oak Alley" was a long-time dream; likewise, a swamp boat tour has also been an activity that has interested me.  On this trip, we were able to take our first trip into the swamp on an air boat ( ), equipped with "ear muffs" to protect our ears from the extremely loud fan motor that propels the boat over the shallow waters.  Once we had journeyed deep into the swamp, the driver stopped the boat, we took off our ear protection, and listened/watched as he pointed out the fascinating flora and fauna that surrounded us:
We also took a different swamp tour, at a different location, and this time, it was on a pontoon-style boat, and at a much slower pace ( ).  Needless to say, we saw plenty of alligators on both trips into the Louisiana swamp.  On the pontoon boat ride, the captain's young son passed around a small, live alligator that guests could choose to hold, if desired, and have their picture made with the alligator.  After much hesitation, I decided to hold it, because I wanted to get a photo of me holding an alligator.  However, after seeing the (scary--- in my mind only) alligator that showed in the photograph with me, it looked no bigger than a large lizard I commonly see around my home.  Hence, I am too embarrassed to put the photo in this blog!  Yet, at the time I was contemplating holding it, it seemed huge!   While educating myself on New Orleans area attractions, I came across an article that offered suggestions for Grandparent/Grandchild outings that mentioned "swamp visits".  I would recommend one of these swamp boat tours as an excellent opportunity to spend time with a grandchild in the outdoors! ( I want to give a "shout out" to the website that provided the article, because it has started a "spin-off" called Boomers. The  Executive Editor of the new Boomers magazine is a Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sister of mine, from our days at the University of Arkansas.  Her name is Laura Claverie, and you can read more great articles for folks of my generation, by clicking on )

All of the plantations we visited included recreated slave quarters, in order to commemorate the people who did the actual physical labor to make these properties possible.  The re-created slave quarters shown below were at the San Francisco Plantation. 
The San Francisco Plantation main house ( ) is shown in photo below, and is on property owned by Marathon Oil.
The first time I saw a photo of the San Francisco Plantation, I was immediately curious about the cylindrical tower pictured adjacent to the big house.  During my tour of the property, I learned that this was their water storage and supply system.  If you look closely at the photo below, you will see that there is a pipe leading from the tower, into the upper story of the home.
At the Destrehan Plantation ( ) we were able to see their water supply tower system (shown below), which was not quite as ornate as the one at the San Francisco property.
There are various educational exhibits/demonstrations available for visitors at the Drestehan Plantation.  I was delighted that the one our group was able to witness, involved the use of the indigo plant, which was one of the crops grown on plantations, hundreds of years ago:
The Ormond Plantation is not only historic, but also available for special events, and our group was treated to a delicious evening meal there, in the formal dining room.  In addition, their website ( ) indicates they also function as a Bed and Breakfast, to provide overnight lodging. 
The elegant cuisine we enjoyed at the Ormond Plantation was just one  of the many opportunities to sample local flavors.  We enjoyed a seafood lunch, along with several nearby refinery workers, at a restaurant adjacent to the levee. The display case at the counter where you placed your order left no question as to what their specialty was:   ( you can see below it is GULF SEAFOOD!)
Another important crop, in addition to the indigo plant,  during the height of the plantation era was sugar cane.  One of the ways that sugar cane was used was to make rum.  In recognition of that tradition, a local family has recently opened a small distillery, which we were able to tour.  They proudly label their product as "Made in the USA"!
We also went to a restaurant where alligator was not only on the menu (which I was able to sample), but also there was a live alligator just inches from the shoreline, that caught the attention of the man shown in this photo, who is pointing to it.
No trip to the Gulf of Mexico area is complete without the traditional "Shrimp Boil Plate", so I thoroughly enjoyed the one I was served at the Frenier Landing Restaurant ( )

Another plantation we visited that has an architecture less associated with an "antebellum" time period, was the Laura Plantation ( ).  It is said to have a "Creole" design, and our tour guide did an outstanding job of describing the lifestyles of the various creole characters who have lived there:
So far, I have mentioned five of the plantations we visited .  The sixth one was called Evergreen Plantation ( ), and for me, it was the most memorable because of the animated stories provided by our tour guide.  Before we retreated to the air-conditioned interior spaces to tour, we went around to the front of the house which faces the Mississippi River and levee, to get a photograph of its impressive entryway way and porch:
One of the plantations whose modern-day owner was deeply touched by learning of the history and hardships of the slaves who had formerly lived at his plantation, decided to take a completely different viewpoint, as he prepared the plantation for public visitation.  Simply called "The Whitney" ( ) it is focused almost entirely on the enslaved people who were born there and died there, or otherwise wound up at this location.  He built a wall, inspired by the Viet Nam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., that is engraved with
the names of all those slaves who were, at one time, simply listed as "pieces of property", by the slavemaster who owned them. 

Our group visited a historic church (Riverlands Christian Center) in Reserve, Louisiana that gives a glimpse at what segregation in the churches looked like in the pre-civil rights era.  Since it was a Sunday, we were able to participate in their weekly worship services, as well as hear a presentation called "Soul River---A Musical Journey through African American History".  Visitors are always welcome at the worship services of the Riverlands Christian Center, and to schedule a presentation of their "Soul River" program, call 985-210-6621.
The Riverlands Christian Center  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17 .  I am very thankful for the strong faith of persecuted Christians, that enables them to endure their hardships, because of their faith in God's promises.   This church is a reminder of a time when the ONLY hope an enslaved person had, was that of eternal glory, after they died.

 This trip along Louisiana's Plantation Trail gave me "MILES OF SMILES"! (Or, as they say in the swamp, "See ya later, alligator!")