Postcard From The Louisiana Plantation Tour

Of course, no trip to New Orleans is really complete unless you take a Plantation Tour along the Old River Road or at least drive it yourself and pick a couple of the antebellum plantations to visit. A professional tour is nice because you have a tour guide who will fill you in on the history and bring to life the charmed and sometimes tragic lives of the plantation owners, the worker's families and the slaves who lived in a bygone era. The only drawback is the price. Most of the tours charge about $75 per adult and $55 per child (12 & under) to visit two of the homes. If you choose to drive yourself and pay to get into the homes of your choosing, it is still rather expensive - on average about $20 per person for each home. You could spend several days and hundreds of dollars to see all of them. We didn't.

Oak Alley Plantation
The first home we saw, and probably the most famous, was the Grand Dame of the Old River Road, Oak Alley Plantation. Built in 1839, this Greek-revival style home has a double row of 28 huge live oak trees extending for 1/4 mile leading to the front of the house. Period costumed guides provide an interesting 40-minute tour. These plantations were owned by people who generally started off rich and became extremely rich by producing sugar during a time when it was considered white gold. I kept thinking about hundreds of slaves tending to the sugarcane operation and keeping the grounds immaculately groomed while the owners enjoyed a life of grandeur amid conspicuous consumption. Walking around I felt Rhett Butler would come around a corner any moment!

Next up we came to St. Joseph Plantation. Sugarcane is still grown on this 1,000 acre spread and it is still a working operation. At only $15 per person, it was also one of the least expensive homes to see. Built in 1830, in addition to the 12,000 square foot main house which is filled with period antiques, you can visit numerous other buildings on the grounds such as restored slave quarters, workers quarters, barns, chicken coops and the original detached kitchen. The plantation was sold in the 1840's to a wealthy doctor who had a magnificent garden planted which contained flowers and plants from around the world, including bananas and coffee. The garden was so extensive it required 30 full-time slaves to maintain it. Now that is one heck of a garden!
St. Joseph Plantation

The family who now owns it purchased the property at a sheriff's auction in the early 1870's when the previous owners couldn't pay the back taxes due to the financial catastrophe they suffered after slavery was abolished. Many of the former slaves stayed to work on the plantation as paid workers for the new owners. The main home ceased to be lived in by the mid-1960's and was closed with the antique furniture still inside in the 1970's. As the home deteriorated though, over 100 close and extended family members formed an association in 2003 and began restoring the home to its former glory.

The next plantation we stopped at was the Laura. The 24,000 square foot main home was built in 1804 using skilled slave labor. A 2,500 square foot detached kitchen was built behind the house. The plantation began with several thousand acres of land, the main house, 10 large outbuildings, a barn, several warehouses and quarters for 17 slaves. Eventually it grew to include 12,000 acres of rich, cleared land, 69 cabins for 186 slaves, living quarters for 20 paid workers and overseers, several water wells, several community kitchens, barns for 100 mules, and a small hospital for the slaves. Surrounding all of this were the fields of sugarcane stretching as far as the eye could see.

After the civil war ended slavery, like at St. Joseph, many of the freed slaves continued to live in their quarters on the plantation and worked the sugarcane fields as hired hands. Some were still living in the cabins in 1895 when a cypress lumber mill paid to have their own workers live in the quarters. Workers continued to live in these cabins until 1977 when most of the buildings were in such bad condition they were torn down. Today, only 4 remain.
The Laura Plantation

The Laura continued to raise sugarcane until 1981 when it was purchased by an investment group who wanted to tear down the buildings, clear the sugarcane and build a bridge over the Mississippi River on the property. After the purchase though, they found there is an active seismic fault right below the site and they could not get permits to build their bridge. Somebody did not do their due diligence! The property went into receivership and was abandoned until the St. James Sugar Company bought it in 1992. In 1993, the main house was purchased by the Laura Plantation Company, a private enterprise, for the purpose of restoring the home and opening it to the public. In August, 2004, an electrical fire burned over 80% of the home. It took 3 years to restore, but it was once again opened for tours in 2007.
Slave cabin

After a full morning and most of the afternoon, we were looking forward to a late lunch/early supper before heading back to our hotel. The Mama-woman had heard good things about the B and C Seafood Market and Cajun Restaurant so we stopped there expecting our mouths and belly's to be nicely rewarded. The building itself was clean, but nothing to be impressed by. That doesn't mean diddly-squat to me though as some of the best meals I've ever had have been in little off-the-beaten-path, run-down shacks. It did have plenty of character with several stuffed alligators dressed up as a chef (named "Chef Don't Ask") and a sexy girl alligator in a wig placed inside the ladies bathroom, a television showing a gator hunting show, and several musical instruments, including a guitar, which anyone can pick up and start playing.

We placed our order with the friendly waitress and waited. And waited. We walked around looking at all of the stuff on the walls as we waited some more. And then we waited some more. Finally, our food came and I'm sad to report, it certainly did not meet our expectations. It was OK, but the portions were certainly not overly generous and the taste was actually kind of bland. And according to the prices we were charged, they're pretty proud of their food too. Maybe the fact we were there long after lunch time and before supper time had something to do with the quality. It certainly wasn't the worst food we've ever had, but I doubt we'll be stopping by there again.

Alligator chef in the B&C Cajun Restaurant
All in all though, it was a darn fine day and we still had one more to enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer!

Little touches inside the restaurant like this painted
electrical outlet added doses of humor