Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Orleans Day 5: A Night at Oak Alley Plantation

After a quick lunch in Slidell, we forgot to go to Mississippi, instead heading back towards New Orleans so we could travel along the River Road and spend the night in a cottage at Oak Alley. Here's a little map of our route -

 We made an accidental detour by the Superdome when I was a bad navigator and we missed our freeway exit. It allowed me to snap a photo of that horrible place (I may still be bitter from a certain NFC Championship Game...).

It was a short delay, and we were back the right way in 5 minutes. Along the road, we could see a few above ground cemeteries. They are so unique looking!
Our route took us along the east side of the river. I was surprised to see how close together the plantations were. At one point, there were nearly 500 plantations lining both sides of the river on the 70-mile stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The plantation lots were narrow but stretched far back from the river. The reason for this being that the river frontage was at a premium, as this was how they transported their crops of sugar cane and pecan.
Unfortunately, during Reconstruction after the "War of Northern Aggression" some of these great homes fell into disrepair. Then, in the early 1900s Mosaic disease wiped out many of the sugarcane crops and led to financial ruin at many of the plantations. The great houses were then abandoned. Also at this time, the area along the River Road became much more industrial. In 1932, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the levee system along the river which wiped out many of the huge plantation gardens and ruined the view of the river from these houses.

You can still see the big plantation houses in varying states of disrepair along this stretch. There are many different house styles ranging from Creole (like Laura) to Greek Revival (like Oak Alley) and Italianate. There's even one considered "Steamboat Gothic" called San Francisco. It was closing when we drove by, so weren't able to tour, but I grabbed a few photos from the road. It's very unique looking.

We crossed over the river on a really high bridge to the west side of the River Road. 
By 4:15, we were at Oak Alley. We wandered the grounds for a bit and took some photos before checking in at 5. Oak Alley is famous for it's quarter mile allée of oaks. These oaks were in place long before the plantation house was even built, and are thought to be over 300 years old!

 We rented a whole cottage for ourselves as I thought it would be weird to share one. These cottages were old sharecropper cottages that had been updated. It had 2 large bedrooms, living room, bath room with dressing area, dining room, and full kitchen. 

 Because we were out in the country, we had arranged for food from the plantation restaurant to be waiting for us in the fridge to be heated up. Adam had chicken and sausage gumbo with rice and my salad. I had seafood au gratin with veggies. The food was okay, but worthwhile to avoid the hassle of going somewhere or making something.
By 7, it was dark, so we decided to take the flashlight, camera and tri-pod to do some exploring. The cool thing about staying on the grounds is that you are free to roam the plantation after closing. I was really excited to take advantage of it. The grounds were lit up beautifully, and there wasn't a soul in sight. It was spooky but amazing.
On our way to the big house, we made a kitty cat friend that followed us the whole time. I thought our new friend was adorable, but Adam was not amused.

In front of the house, we set up the camera and tripod, and had fun taking some long exposure shots.

We even got in on a few of them.

Adam did the smile perfect on his first (and only) try!
Then we walked back to our cottage in time to watch the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. It was a really neat atmosphere to watch it in! Spooky and isolated.
Adam - Swamp Tour
Stef - Seeing gators and the swamp, walking along the allée of oaks at Oak Alley, especially at night

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