Tuesday, February 10, 2009

LA 2/9/09 Plantation Homes

Monday morning, like the rest, I woke up peacefully & slowly on my own. Mornings were refreshing, reading, watching the sky change with sunrise, nuzzling on the cats as we all woke up together.

After more picture gathering, downloading, and cd-creating, we headed for the highway. It was a day of Antebellum homes, full of culture & southern living nothing like what I heard about in school history.

Our trip began with Magnolia Mound, in Baton Rouge. Roger, our guide, was colorful, and filled with history knowledge. He promptly informed us this was a Colonial home, and "many things would be different." Further in the day, I realized this wasn't entirely true, but somewhat. The Magnolia home was small, of only five rooms, and one story. The rooms were simple, and housed the boy children on one side of the house, and the master on the same side as the girls' room. Their furnishings were simple, with matresses of spanish moss (ew!), but I was a bit surprised to see the colors on the walls - bright blue and yellow wall papers. The lighting candle fixtures were pretty ornate, the obvious work of a skilled carpenter. Something interesting - kitchens were in a building separate from the house, due to open-flame cooking, keeping the heat, and the fire risk, apart from the main home. In the business office of the house, there was a recreation of an old document, listing home and slave values. We were shocked to see the land value was meager compared to the value of the slaves. Roger could have talked for hours if we were interested in staying, but we had to move on to our next adventure.

Second up, a brief stop at the Plantation home, Dow Plaquemine. It's neat to feel like you've snuck into the employer's quarters on vacation. =) The doors were locked, but we did grab some great photo shots of the exterior.

Thirdly, Nottoway. It was much unlike all of the others, modernized, and under major construction. Instead of building replicas, though, they were building a cabins for bed & breakfast, and it was much more commercial than the rest. The restaurant was very ornate, and there was an amazing old piano in the room. Even though the plantation owner was a gracious host, and kept a good relationship with all incoming and outgoing ships, one aimed fire at the building, and we got a picture of the shot that hit the main home.

Finally, and perhaps the most beautiful, was Oak Alley. Everything about the plantation seemed true to time. Absolutely the entire estate was amazing. The gardens were well kept, and the grounds well tended. Our tour guide, Gilda, was a gracious host, and told colorful stories about the family that lived there, and the culture they lived under. I learned the most here - reflecting on what Roger had said earlier in the day, the things Gilda told us became real. As we left the house, she told T and I, "You have to walk up the alley, and listen to the trees. If you really pay attention, they'll tell stories you couldn't imagine." She also said before Katrina and Gustav, the trees were so thick "you couldn't see the daylight down that alleyway." The damage to them was still apparent, with large limbs removed. Still, I felt absorbed by the history walking down that alleyway. T gave me the camera, and I started applying some of the things I had seen all through the trip. I took at least a dozen shots walking down that alley, and hope to find one best to frame and hang.
With some rain clouds rolling in, and the tour wrapped up, we travelled back near NOLA for dinner. Met up with K, and enjoyed some great Italian feast, and great company. The original plan for that evening was everyone gathering at T's house for some of my good home cooking, but K had a pretty crummy day at the office, so we assembled at a spot convenient for him instead. Nice long, slow supper before T and I headed back for Baton Rouge.

To finish out the evening, we met with P at a coffee house in town for decaf and my final beignets. Oh YUM! Good every time. Once again, a relaxing time, and good conversation. But my trip was coming to a close, and it was time to head for some rest.

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