Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baton Rouge to New Orleans

Baton Rouge LA to New Orleans LA
Wednesday October 19, 2011

Wow what a day!  We left our campsite in Baton Rouge after a good nights’ sleep, the sun was shining, it was still windy but the temperature was up from yesterday. We found a Wal-Mart and made our way back across I12 and I10 and the Mississippi to find Rt1 our beginning to the GRR for today. Today crossing the Mississippi we could see lots of activity on the river. I am going to post yesterdays photo and this mornings just to contrast the weather!
 Late Afternoon in fog and rain (top) and Morning after cold front passed (bottom)
Route 1 was marked as GRR on the LA map but did not have any signage at all. In fact while we have followed the roads on the map and definitely followed the river closely – LA has not had any GRR signs that we have seen.  Often the road was close to the levee and it was not possible to drive up on it to view the river.  Sometimes it ran further away from the river and the following description was on both sides of the road. There were a number of small towns, huge industrial complexes  (chemicals, oil, fertilizer, no idea what some of them were), a small grocery, gas station, or café and lots of homes of all types. And sugar cane, sugar cane and more sugar cane. It was being cut, hauled to the processing plants in huge trucks, and we also saw fields being burned.
 Sugar Cane Fields ready for Harvest
One of numerous Chemical Plants
Here and there we drove on smaller roads that went towards the river and then looped back to Route 1. The scene was much the same and the levee was always present. Many small homes and trailers were along the smaller roads as well as an occasional larger home.  This continued for the first 40 miles or so. When we passed through Donaldsonville we transferred to another route – LA18 that was known as the River Road. Along this road were more homes and villages and huge plantations you have read about in books or seen on TV or in movies. Many of them have been used as sets for films. Some were easier to photograph than others. There were also many smaller homes and a good number of churches with accompanying cemeteries. The raised graves are not unique to this area – they are common in any part of the world where the water table is shallow. They are an unexpected sight for some people.
 St. James Church Cemetery

One of the plantations I had wanted to try to photograph was Oak Alley.  The light was not perfect but I was able to get a fairly good photo of the Oak Alley.  We were also able to park and walk up on the levee here in front of Oak Alley. The river was right there on the other side of the levee – no space for the water to go….
We stopped at BC Fish Market and Restaurant for lunch – a catfish Po-boy and fried okra. They were excellent.  
 Oak Alley
After lunch we drove to Laura Plantation for their tour. This was a Creole Plantation not one of the Antebellum White Column Plantations. I really knew little about the Creole culture and had read this was an excellent tour…it did not disappoint. We waited about 10 minutes and then were given the tour with another couple from TX.  We noticed two other large tour groups as we left so we felt very lucky to have had only the 4 of us. Our tour guide told us about the Creole culture and the history of the family who owned the home and managed the plantation for several generations. In the Creole culture and in Louisiana prior to it becoming a part of the US women were equals with men in ability to own property, manage business, and manage money. The Duparc family who owned and managed this plantation were originally from France. He was given the land where Laura Plantation was built by Thomas Jefferson. We learned many stories of how the grandmother, then her mother, and finally Laura lived on and managed the plantation. They lived in New Orleans during the season (Mardi Gras) and lived and worked here on the Plantation in Vacherie during the rest of the year – the growing and harvesting season. They also had a large number of slaves – over 200 for the sugar cane plantation.
 Laura Plantation front and dining room
The plantation home was lovely and had been restored by a couple and now managed by a board of directors. The restoration of a portion of the plantation and publication of the story of Laura and her family  has taken place since 1993. Laura sold the plantation in 1891 to the Waguespack family who continued sugar cane cultivation until 1981. The location had been empty several years when purchased in 1993 by the people who have restored it. The story of how the restorers found Laura’s memories is fascinating but I will not go into that here. We toured the home, the out buildings, the garden and grounds, and the slave homes. I included a couple photos above.

Another interesting part of the tour was information about Alcee Fortier who wrote Compare Lapin the French Creole version of the Brer Rabbit Tales by Joel Chandler Harris. Laura Plantation was one of the locations where the tales were collected from the west African slave descendants in the late 1800’s and used by both of these men who wrote them down. The tour and story was so fascinating I bought the book of Laura’s memories and Ben bought the French version of Brer Rabbit (in English of course!) 

After the tour we continued down the River Road and about 3:30 we put our State Park Campground in the GPS for Mr. Brit to help us find our way there before the office closed at 5 PM
We arrived about 4:30 and found a lovely campground with water, electricity, free laundry, and wifi !  We were amazed. We are supposed to be able to drive a few miles down the way and park and take a free ferry over to the French Quarter area.  That is our plan for 1 day,  another we will go to the WW2 Museum, and another we will drive to the Gulf – about 75 miles south. Nothing much on that trip to see but the levee but we are committed to finish the tour!  We will schedule our 3 days depending on the weather. We will plan to head to the museum for the day it looks like rain!

Dinner, some TV, blog writing and reading….I have so many choices right now – Memories of the Old Plantation Home by Laura, Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, or my paperback novels . I read 4 books on the Nook and then they expired. I had only been able to check them out for 3 weeks and suddenly one night it just said “expired”!  Good thing I finished the 4!  I might like one but sure do not want to use one from the library that expires again…


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