Saturday, December 5, 2009

Louisiana Vagabond, Part 2

Happy 200th blog post to me!

Are you still with me? Are you ready for Day 2? OK, here we go!

I forgot to mention supper Thursday night. Per the recommendation of one of Mike's NOLA coworkers, we stopped by the Fat Hen Grill, a "finer diner." Oh. My. I love this concept. Mike had the chicken fried steak, and I had the crawfish eggs benedict. I love a good benedict, but this was incredible. We ate 'till it hurt. The menu had all sorts of other great-sounding stuff, but we were tired and ready for bed. I highly recommend this place. Very local. No tourists. Highly delicious food.

Friday morning, we left the hotel by 5:30 to get Mike back to the plant in plenty of time. After dropping him off, I decided to take 18 (the River Road) back to 310 on my way back to get some breakfast. On the most terrifying bridge I've navigated in a long time, the phone rings. Me: "Talk fast, lots of traffic, big scary bridge!" Mike: "It's fixed, come and get me!"

So I turn around and watch the sun rise over the power plant while waiting for Mike to turn in his badge. Pretty cool moment. We returned to the hotel, ate breakfast, checked out, and set out for home. But we decided to take the long, scenic drive.

Our first stop was San Francisco.

The house and grounds were lovely, but we knew we had miles to go before we slept. So we decided to just stretch our legs and move on. We agreed that it was unfortunate that so much industry had grown up around it: the road was built directly in front of the house, and huge factories loomed closeby.

Next we headed on to the Creole queen Laura. From the pamphlet photos, we didn't expect much, and the house was small in comparison to the others. But it held a delightful surprise: given by Norman, the current owner, this tour is not to be missed. We learned a lot about the real life on a plantation - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I never knew that white plantation homes belonged to Anglo-Americans, while the colorfully-painted ones denote Creole owners. Laura had been painted white twice over her original colors, shown below. Norman admitted that when they scraped down to the original paint, the colors scared him in their variety and brightness.

I also like that the Creole women were granted land and voting rights very early in history. They were considered just as capable of men; families did not leave estates to the oldest son. They left property to the most intelligent descendant, male or female, oldest or youngest. Of course along with these vast estates came much responsibility, work, and sacrifice, so these endowments were not always appreciated.

I love the photo below that Mike took. It's a nice juxtaposition between the gnarled live oak and the stately front porch.

The banana orchard was fascinating, and Norman sent us on our way with freshly-picked satsumas from trees so laden their branches touched the ground.

Next we were headed toward Oak Alley, but on the way we stumbled upon Evergreen. They only offer tours at 11 AM and 1:30 PM, so the gates were locked up tightly. But that didn't stop these accidental tourists.

On the road we took a few more photos and stopped by St. Joseph and Oak Alley for lunch, but we didn't do the tour, even though I was still somewhat jazzed by the previous day's hair-pulling incident. We ate in the proper restaurant with a view of the oaks, grounds, and house and had fried catfish on rice topped with crawfish stew with English peas seasoned with andouille. Delicious and warmed us up beautifully.

We then crossed from 18 over the 70 "Sunshine" bridge to 44 North on the east side of the river, despite the complete absence of a sign denoting the location of 44: I just took off the first exit and headed back underneath the bridge toward the riverbank. We passed the ruins of Tezcuco, an 1855 home-turned-bed and breakfast that sadly burned to the ground in May of 2002, just before a wedding was supposed to take place there. Photos of the accident show some of the chairs set out in preparation for the wedding.

Then we took 942 to Houmas House. We looked through the enormous gift shop and the extensive gardens, but the temperature was dropping, and we could feel snow in the air, so we moved on.

Four more minutes down 942, we came to the classic Greek Revival Bocage, our final stop before heading home. There a big happy black and white dog greeted us in the parking lot with a smile and a wagging tail that reminded us of our cajun pup back home.

We only paused for a moment to regroup before heading back to 44, then 10, then 55 back to Jackson. Our timing couldn't have been better: not an hour after we arrived at our house, the snow started.

If someone told me 48 hours before that I would have seen and experienced so many new adventures and learned so much in such a short time, I would have laughed at them. It goes to show - the most fascinating adventures are sometimes just a piece down the road.



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