Friday, March 6, 2015

Lunch at Oak Alley Plantation

Continuing with our Louisiana/New Orleans wanderings… Following our visit to “Laura”, the Creole plantation, we headed on down the road to Oak Alley plantation.  But by this time we were ready for a little lunch before we took the tour…  


This is the exterior of the Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant.  The restaurant is housed in a 19th century cottage located on the grounds of the plantation…not far from the antebellum mansion. (Photo was 'borrowed' from Yelp)

 
Naturally enough for attractions such as Oak Alley, diners actually enter the restaurant through the adjoining gift shop… This Christmas tree was loaded! 



As you can see from the previous photos, the dining rooms at Oak Alley’s restaurant consist of several small rooms, each with a few tables.  The menu is focused on Creole and Cajun dishes and preparations.  The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch.  There is also a café on the property that is more casual with a more ‘standard’ menu and lower prices.




Dawn had a cup of Chicken Gumbo soup. ($3.95) She thought that it was pretty good… She also had a side salad which was just fine.


Laurie decided that she would take advantage of being in Louisiana and partake in one more oyster feast!  This is the Fried Oyster Po-Boy Royale. ($14.95) This beautiful Po-Boy was dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, bacon and blue cheese sauce on Leidenheimer buns.  It was a real winner!


I’m not into oysters but I have a hard time resisting quality fried food!  I ordered the Overstuffed Grilled Shrimp Po-Boy. ($13.95) It consisted of lots of fresh gulf shrimp marinated in chef's seasonings, grilled and dressed with Creolaise, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on Leidenheimer bread.  It was excellent…and very satisfying!


Our waitress brought us the dessert tray in an effort to tempt us… Options included Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, Crème Brule`, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Buttermilk Pie and Creole Cream Cheese Cheesecake with Praline Topping… They looked great but we resisted.  Laurie took this photo for me so I could torture any readers of this blog who love desserts!

The menu is quite expansive and we didn’t order any of the dinner entrees that are offered.  To see the menu, you can just go to http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/restaurant-menu.

We enjoyed our lunch at Oak Alley’s Restaurant.  Checking Trip Advisor, I noted that we aren’t alone.  There were 118 Excellent/Very Good, 22 Average and only 2 Poor/Terrible reviews.  The plantation and restaurant are located at 3645 Highway 18 in Vacherie Louisiana.  Restaurant phone:  225-265-2151.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for lunch!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Creole Plantation

One of Laurie’s ‘must do’ items when we went on our trip to Louisiana and New Orleans was to visit a plantation… Seeing as I truly do believe in the phrase, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”, I planned our trip accordingly.  As a matter of fact, I doubled down on plantation tours just to be sure that I’d score some extra points.

So we headed up the river road along the Mississippi River to our first destination.


This is “Laura”, a Creole plantation.  Guillaume Duparc's sugar farming complex was originally called “l'habitation Duparc”.  Years later, it was renamed the Laura Plantation, after Laura Locoul…a 4th generation descendant.  

In 1804, Duparc, a French naval veteran of the American Revolution, acquired the property as a grant from Thomas Jefferson for Duparc’s service to the USA during the Revolutionary War.  Construction of Duparc's manor house began in 1804 and it was completed 11 months later.  It was constructed by highly-skilled slaves, probably of Senegalese descent…using pre-fabricated methods.


  
This is one of the many beautiful old Oak trees on the property near the main house.  In the distance, beyond the fence, you can see the levee protecting the property and surrounding farmland from the busy Mississippi River.  Back in the early days, the levee was much lower and you could see the river and its traffic from the veranda of the home.  It sits only about 600 feet from the river…


As it was built on the Mississippi River floodplain, the home was raised high above ground, resting on blue-gray glazed brick columns and walls and supported underground with an 8-foot deep pyramidal brick foundation.  The cypress superstructure was inlaid with locally fired brick, then plastered inside and stuccoed outside, with a brightly painted (red, ochre, green and pearl) exterior.  The original U-shaped structure totaled about 24,000 square feet and there was a large detached kitchen to its rear.


The raised area under the house was utilized for storage of food, wine and other supplies required to operate such a large home. 

Duparc built his manor house squarely in the middle of the large Colapissa Indian village that had been on-site for over a century.  At Duparc's death in 1808, the plantation consisted of 10 sizable buildings, including quarters for 17 slaves, a barn, warehouses and a small sugar mill.   There was a wooden pier on the river which allowed for docking boats of all sizes.  A road followed the levée and a fence separated the plantation from travelers.  Inside the fence were planted 2 large orchards of pecan trees that parted to create an allée, where one could see the manor house from the river.  Even more importantly, the trees would funnel the river's breezes directly into the house.


This was our guide for our tour of the plantation.  She was very knowledgeable about both the house and the Duparc/Locoul family.  The tour takes a little more than an hour.

Guillaume Duparc lived at the plantation for only 4 years, dying in 1808, just 3 years after the house was built.  The Duparc daughter, Elisabeth, married into the Locoul family, and generations later, Laura Locoul Gore inherited the plantation after moving to New Orleans.  She was the fourth mistress of the plantation.   She was born in the house in 1861 and she inherited it and ran it as a sugar business until 1891.  Laura wrote a book entitled “Memories of the Old Plantation Home” and it provides part of the information that the tour is based on…


It was fairly dark in parts of the home and the conflict between outdoor light and the dark interior made photography a challenge…at least for me. 


This little office setting reminded me of Laura’s grandmother, Elizabeth Duparc (Locoul).  She apparently wasn’t the nicest person…mean to the core!

Most infamously, in 1830, as owner of the plantation she went to New Orleans and bought 30 teenage girls to have them impregnated.  Ten years later, she had what she called her "crop of children".  She built 65 cabins for their families, 4 of which still stand today. 

Factoid:  The parents and family of U.S. singer-songwriter Fats Domino ("Blueberry Hill") once lived on the plantation.


Many if not most of the furnishings and decorative items found throughout the house are Duparc/Locoul heirlooms.   


Mosquito netting helped assure a good night’s sleep in the delta country of the Mississippi River.  It also helped prevent the spread of malaria and other insect borne diseases… It had to be miserable living here in the summer heat with all of the biting critters.


Much of the tour is about the family… Laura didn’t like living at the plantation…preferring all of the action in the Creole French Quarter in New Orleans.  The family considered their French Quarter townhouses in New Orleans as home whereas the plantation was where they went to work and the source of income for every family member.
 
Laura's family would come to the plantation in the spring to get the sugar crop underway and they worked here until around Christmas…and the end of grinding.   They frequently traveled back and forth from farm to city for 9 months.  However, during January, February and March, the family remained in New Orleans for the “Season”.


Note the crib in this room… It was built so it could be covered with mosquito netting too. 


The table is set and dinner will be served shortly… Creole life was all about family!

Everyone in the family was a member of the business, each with his or her own specific and accountable role.  With each succeeding generation, Creoles, who already owned most of the valuable real estate in Louisiana, created businesses that encompassed far-flung networks of cousins in related occupations and in politics. 

In an aggressive attempt to break the strangle-hold that Creoles held on Louisiana real estate, natural resources as well as the sugar and cotton-based economy, the Americans enforced the already existing laws of forced inheritance upon all citizens.  The Anglo intent was to destroy the Creole estates, carving them into ever smaller pieces and making them more available to American buyers.  The Creoles solved that challenge by forming family partnerships and corporation-like family enterprises. 

To learn more about Creole culture and its way of life, you can go to http://76.12.172.34/general.asp?cID=32.


We all liked that colorful door with the fireplace and decorations on the mantle.

Note: The Brer Rabbit and Br'er Fox tales are variations on traditional stories that originated in Senegal and were brought to America around the 1720s by enslaved Africans.  Alcée Fortier, a neighbor of the family and student of folklore, came there in the 1870s to listen to the freedmen. He collected the stories which freedmen told their children in Louisiana Créole French language.  These stories were about Compair Lapin and Compair Bouki, (the clever rabbit and stupid fool), in which the rabbit plays a trickster role. Twenty-five years later in 1894, Fortier published stories which he had collected and translated in the edition ‘Louisiana Folk Tales’. 


This attractive little sideboard is also in the dining room.  Family portraits and photos are found almost everywhere in the house.  There also is a plethora of written information about the Duparc-Locoul family if one takes the time to search for it…


This is part of the ‘cellar’ or area underneath the main living quarters.  It shows part of the area where the slaves would have labored to maintain this estate.


This is a view of the rear of the plantation house.  The plain boards show where the original wings of the house were located. 

In 1891, Laura Locoul sold the plantation to the family of Florian Waguespack.  They were French-speaking Creoles of Alsatian descent.  The Waguespacks continued to farm sugarcane until 1981 when the property was purchased by a consortium of investors who planned to destroy the historic buildings and build a bridge across the Mississippi River at this site. 

However, a still-active earthquake fault below the historic site ruined their venture and the land went into receivership until it was sold at auction in 1992 to the St. James Sugar Cooperative.  In 1993, the old homestead was acquired by the Laura Plantation Company, a private enterprise, for the purpose of restoring the site and opening it to the public as a Creole cultural attraction.


This is a photo of Laura prior to a devastating electrical fire in 2004. (I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia) The kitchen wing at the left of the photo was destroyed and much of the house was severely damaged.  The kitchen wing was not rebuilt… It took 3 years to rebuild and refurbish the main portion of the home and tours resumed in 2007. 


This is a view from the back of the plantation house showing some of the slave cabins and an active fire.  The smoke and fire are from the burning of the sugar cane fields.  Burning eliminates the dry leaves, speeding up the harvest and simplifying the milling process. 

At its largest size, Laura Plantation totaled approximately 12,000 acres, which included properties amassed over time.  In addition to the original grant, Duparc also acquired adjacent parcels from Acadians who had settled the land 20 years prior.  His new farm was located on prime real estate, on unusually high and cleared ground.  There are still many acres of sugar cane planted along the river in this area…


This little patch of sugar cane near the outbuildings is I’m sure maintained for the benefit of the tourists.  Sugarcane is one of the several species of tall perennial true grasses native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production.  They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar, and they measure from 6 to 19 feet tall.   Other than sugar, molasses, rum and ethanol are commonly made from sugar cane.  Sugarcane is the world's largest crop by production quantity…


This is one of the slave cabins that still stand on the property.  Some of these cabins were lived in until 1977. 

In the mid-1800s there was a road behind the main house that was lined on both sides with slave cabins.  That road was 3.5 miles long!  Each slave cabin held two families and each had a chicken house and/or pigpen and vegetable garden just outside the cabin. 

In the decades before the Civil War, the slave quarters consisted of 69 cabins, communal kitchens, a slave infirmary, and several water wells stationed along the road.  By the 1850s, the Duparc Plantation was the workplace for 100 mules and 195 humans…175 of them slaves. 


This large old home is called "Maison de Reprise".  It’s the remains of the ‘retirement home’ built 500 feet away from the "big house".  It was built for the first female President of the Duparc Plantation, Laura's Great-Grandmother Nannette Prud'homme Duparc.  From what our guide told us, Grandmother Duparc never really retired, staying involved in plantation operations for all of her life…

To learn more about the tours and the Laura Plantation, just go to http://www.lauraplantation.com/. 

That’s about it for this tour… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


Monday, March 2, 2015

Dinner in Slidell Louisiana

Following a busy day driving down to Venice Louisiana and exploring a bit of the Mississippi Delta, I’d decided that Slidell Louisiana was a logical place to spend the night before drifting back toward East Tennessee.


This is NOLA Southern Grill in Slidell.  Slidell is located about 30 miles from New Orleans’ French Quarter on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
 
The ‘greater Slidell’ area has a population of about 90,000.  Slidell was founded in 1882 and 1883 during construction of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad.  This railroad connected New Orleans to Meridian, Mississippi. The town was named in honor of American politician and the Confederate of America’s ambassador to France, John Slidell.  The town is or was the home to a plethora of professional athletes but its most famous former resident is Arthur Chevrolet…co-founder of the car brand of the same name.


NOLA Southern Grill advertises itself as a casual restaurant offering great New Orleans homemade food.  The photo of the bar offers a glimpse of the décor and the restaurant’s casual atmosphere. (My photo of the main dining area didn’t come out well…)


We’d had a nice late lunch in Venice Louisiana so we weren’t too hungry.  Still we couldn't resist trying an order of Gator Bites.  ($9.29) We forgot to take a photo until the order was mostly eaten!  They Bites were fried in Cajun cornmeal.  It was a tasty appetizer although it was the Cajun spices and spicy ranch dip that kicked it up a notch.  Alligator doesn’t have a lot of flavor and like chicken, it’s all about the spices and method of preparation.  


For her dinner, Dawn Marie ordered the Cobb Salad with Thousand Island dressing. ($11.99) This version of a Cobb Salad included mixed greens topped with chopped bacon, sliced eggs, tomato, bleu cheese crumbles, avocado, croutons and grilled chicken.  It was a nice big salad and Dawn said that it was pretty tasty…


Dawn also ordered a side of Mac n Cheese. ($2.99) As I was writing this posting, I noted that for some reason, probably an oversight, we weren’t charged for her add-on.  She did report that it was very good indeed!


I went the healthy route…one of the few times on our trip!  This is the fresh Grilled Redfish. ($17.49) The fish is chargrilled and topped with herb butter.  For my sides, I chose the steamed broccoli with a little parmesan and some coleslaw.  It was all good!  The fish itself was excellent…


Laurie wasn’t too hungry so she decided to have a bowl of NOLA’s Corn and Crab Bisque. ($7.29) It was very good and filling too…

NOLA Southern Grill has a broad and varied menu including many Cajun or New Orleans style items.  These include such items such as a Fried Crawfish Platter, Shrimp and Grits, Crawfish Etouffee, Atchafalaya Pasta, Red Beans and Rice, Tuna Napoleon and of course, Oysters on the Half Shell or Charbroiled.  In addition there are Southern Sliders, Sandwiches and Wrap, Burgers and ‘Nawlins Po-Boys’.  Pricing is reasonable and service was efficient and friendly.

NOLA Southern Grill is located at 1375 Gause Boulevard in Slidell Louisiana.  Phone: 985-201-8200.   Their website is found at www.NolaSouthernGrill.com.    
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, February 27, 2015

Touring New Orleans – St. Louis Cemetery #1

As you may know, cemeteries are definitely different in New Orleans and throughout the bayou country.  Cemetery tours are big business for many. These guided tours satisfy curious tourists, history buffs, believers in the supernatural as well as those who lend credence to the practice of voodoo or black magic.

Laurie would have preferred a nighttime ghost tour…but to be honest, I wasn’t sorry that we visited this cemetery in the daytime.  Maybe she’ll get her ghost tour on our next visit to New Orleans…


Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana.  All of these graves are above-ground vaults with most being constructed in the 18th century and 19th century.  As we learned, the custom of above-ground burial in New Orleans and south Louisiana is a mixture of folklore and fact.  These vaults were built above ground due to French and Spanish tradition, not because of a high water table.
 
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest and most famous of all the New Orleans’s burial grounds.  It was opened in 1789, replacing the city's older St. Peter Cemetery, (no longer in existence), as the primary burial ground when the city was redesigned after a fire in 1788.



Use your imagination as you view the preceding photos.  Pretend that it’s a dark and rainy night, maybe with a little lightning, and you’re lost…just wandering down these dark and spooky aisles.  I’m not easily ‘spooked’, but this nighttime setting would bring out any latent fears that I might be suppressing!


The lady with the badge hung around her neck was our guide for the tour.  She was very knowledgeable and she knew her history as well as tomb architecture… We opted for the Historic New Orleans Tour group/Save Our Cemeteries vs. the Haunted History or Voodoo Cemetery Tour.


This is the tomb for Pierre Derbigny and his family.  Pierre Augustin Charles Bourguignon Derbigny was born in France in 1769 but he fled France in 1791 during the French Revolution.  Derbigny was one of the representatives of the new Americans in Washington seeking self-government for the Orleans Territory.  He was the 6th Governor of Louisiana…

Derbigny supported the reopening of the slave trade and, as the territory was integrated into the United States, he opposed British common law in Louisiana and defended the retention of civil law practices established during the French and Spanish colonial periods.  As a consequence, Louisiana is unique among the 50 U.S. states in having a legal system for deciding private disputes that is primarily based on French and Spanish codes and ultimately Roman law, as opposed to English common law. 

FYI…These tombs usually contain more than one deceased member from the family, in fact there are normally several corpses are interred in most of these structures.  The remains are basically stacked on top of each other… 




With its multitude of large and small structures, spires, towers, multi-story tombs and monuments, St. Louis Cemetery #1 is indeed a city of the dead… The tall brick structure on the right is a ‘tomb apartment’.  If you couldn’t afford a family tomb and you couldn’t convince a friend to ‘share’ their tomb with you, these stacked apartment burials provided an optional solution. 


This is an example of a shared tomb, with the owner of the tomb sharing it with a friend.  As is the practice, visitors or family members have left flowers, beads and other mementos…such as this bottle of champagne…as gifts to the deceased.  

Our guide informed us that many families actually gather by their family tomb each year to commemorate/celebrate the dead and to have a picnic.  She had come across one such celebration only a week earlier…


This is the “Musicians’ Tomb”.  It’s big and quite new… Back in 2004, local community activists answered the call to properly honor those who gave the city its anthems.  This 18-vault tomb bears a plaque designating it as the Société "L'Union Sacrée"/Barbarin Family/Musicians' Tomb.  A larger plaque lists New Orleans musicians as they are entombed at the site. Inclusion in the tomb will not be limited to those who can't afford another place for burial but most New Orleans musicians are neither wealthy nor international celebrities.


This is the tomb of Jean Étienne de Boré. (1741 – 1820) He was a French planter who was known for producing the first granulated sugar in Spanish Louisiana, essentially making sugar cane profitable as a commodity crop. He was prominent at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in 1803 the American governor of the territory appointed him the first Mayor of New Orleans under United States administration.


This is the de Marigny family tomb.  Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, (1785–1868), was a French-Creole American nobleman, playboy, planter, politician, land developer and President of the Louisiana Senate. 

Bernard was also a big time gambler.  He actually introduced a dice game (craps), into New Orleans.  He had so many gambling debts that upon reaching legal adulthood, he divided his family plantation into small lots on what was then the outskirts of early New Orleans.  His development was very popular and it is now called the Faubourg Marigny…a neighborhood in the city.  Jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton was from Faubourg Marigny.   


Among other family members buried in this tomb is Homer Plessy. (1862 – 1925) He was the American Louisiana Creole of Color plaintiff in the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.  Arrested, tried and convicted in New Orleans of a violation of one of Louisiana's racial segregation laws, he appealed through Louisiana state courts to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. 

The resulting "separate-but-equal" decision against him in 1896 had wide consequences for civil rights in the United States.  The decision legalized state-mandated segregation anywhere in the United States so long as the facilities provided for both blacks and whites were "equal".  This ruling stood until the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. 


There are also a number of ethnic or society tombs in the cemetery.  This is the Italian Society's version…

Society tombs for professional or benevolent societies were common in the early history of New Orleans and served to administer to the burial needs of the individuals who belonged to them.  There are many historically important ethnic groups as well as such groups as volunteer firemen that are represented by these tomb styles.  A society tomb is a multi- layered tomb wall that contains several burial vaults.  They are like mausoleums…except that most people in a society tomb are connected in some way.





Scattered tombs throughout the cemetery have slowly collapsed as families either fail to maintain them or family lines have faded into obscurity.
 
Initial burials appear to have taken place in a haphazard manner, leading to the current maze of tombs and aisles.  Current theories about tomb and site evolution suggest that initial burials took place below-ground or in low, quasi-above ground tombs that only held one burial.  As the needs of the site grew, existing burial plots were added on to create additional burial vaults while retaining the original tomb footprints.  So, the one tier semi-below ground burial space became the fully realized above-ground tomb now found throughout the cemeteries of New Orleans and bayou country.


This pyramid is one of the most unusual tombs in the St. Louis #1 cemetery.  As it turns out, this is the only property remaining in New Orleans that is still owned by actor Nicolas Cage.  While he lost his home and other properties in bankruptcy, apparently pre-purchased tombs are exempt from the law.
 
If you’re wondering about all of those stains on the tomb, just click on the photo to enlarge it.  You will discover that those are lipstick imprints… Yikes!


This is the Glapion family tomb.  Allegedly, best evidence indicates the renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, (1794 – 1881), is interred in the Glapion family crypt.  There is still some debate regarding the whereabouts of Marie and her daughter’s remains…but she had a lover, Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, and they had a plethora of offspring.  

Two known descendants of Marie Laveau (II) supposedly still practice Voodoo.
To learn more about Marie Laveau (I), the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Laveau.

The Laveau-Glapion tomb is a focal point for commercial ‘voodoo’ tours. Some visitors leave small gifts at the site-coins, Mardi Gras beads, candles, etc.-in the tradition of voodoo offerings. Many follow a custom of making a wish at the tomb.  In 2013, this tomb was painted pink by a vandal and it cost over $10,000 to remove the paint and refurbish the tomb.


This is another tomb that is somehow alleged to be connected to the voodoo practices of Marie Laveau and her daughter.  The XXX markings are supposed to bring good luck and there are other rituals that go along with that.  Several tourist operations over the years have sensationalized the voodoo aspect of the cemetery, some going so far as to encourage people to mark on the tombs or even to knock openings in the bricks so they can extract bones to show the tourists…

If you’d like to learn more about Voodoo in New Orleans you can go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo.


From what we were told, many of the tombs used to be painted and a few families still maintain the practice.  This particular crypt is littered with offerings and gifts.

In January of this year, the Roman Catholic archdiocese announced that, as of March 1st, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 will no longer be free to the general public.  This is to protect the cemetery from further desecration.  Tour companies that operate in the cemetery will be required to register with the archdiocese at a cost of $450 a month, $1,200 quarterly or $4,500 a year. People with family members buried in the cemetery also can register for free passes.  To learn more about this new policy, you can go to http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2015/01/new_rules_limiting_access_to_s.html.

We did enjoy our tour.  The “Save Our Cemeteries” organization supports the new controls in St. Louis Cemetery #1 despite the additional costs.  Our tour guide was very good although another ‘guide’ tagged along, interrupted and was a general nuisance.  To learn more about this group and their tours, go to http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/st-louis-cemetery-no-1/

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and accompanying us on our tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave