Friday, April 4, 2014

Along the Great River Road

Although tours are available from New Orleans of the plantation country, my travel buddy and I opted to rent a car and spend an entire day along the Great River Road--Great River being the mighty Mississippi.  It was a rainy gray day so I wore my new "distressed" boots.  Sure enough, they got caked with light brown Mississippi mud.  The poor tour guides were kept busy mopping floors all day.

I didn't mind the rain.  Coming from drought-strickened California, all the soggy plants and lawns of chartreuse green were a wonder to behold.
One hundred years ago, more than 200 plantations lined this part of the Mississippi River.  Many of them grew sugar cane and there were slave cabins "as far as your eye could see", as one guide put it.  Today, only a few of these great houses remain, but they are an eclectic assortment, which makes this road trip so interesting for architectural buffs.  There are samples of Creole homes, West-Indies style homes, Italianate and Greek Revival.  Some of them are antebellum masterpieces like Oak Alley and some are simple French Colonial cottages.  Most of them offer tours, so unless you have two or three days to see them all, the traveler must decide which one to explore in depth.  We decided on the Laura Plantation because it focused on Creole plantation life.

For an excellent gumbo, stop at the restaurant behind Oak Alley.  I had the okra, crab and shrimp gumbo and my buddy had the sausage.  We had gumbo in New Orleans a couple of more times, but this was, by far, the best!

Besides the houses, the views of the Mississippi are enchanting, although you must park your car and walk up the man-made levee to actually see the river.  We ended up doing this several times along the route.  My poor boots got even more "distressed".


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