Within a 70-mile (112.6 km) stretch in southeastern Louisiana between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, you can observe the spectacular beauty of antebellum homes, compelling glimpses of history, a fascinating ecological system and the influence of Creole and Cajun culture. The powerful effect of the Mississippi River is on display in every facet of life in this area. You will drive parallel to the levee separating you from ships and barges sailing all over the United States and the world. Take a closer look at five of the plantation mansions in this part of the state and enjoy a boat ride through the swamp.
Destrehan Plantation, first stop out of New Orleans
During a one-hour guided tour of this property, you will hear of the Slave Revolt of 1811, the value of Essex the cooper (barrel-maker) slave who was purchased for 1,500 USD in 1790, and the story of Marguerite the cook and laundress at Destrehan who taught table manners to the 14 children of Jean Noel Destrehan and his wife. You will learn the origin of phrases, such as “getting the short end of the stick” and “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” You will see flycatcher jars and a 1,300+ pound (~589.67 kg) solid marble bathtub.
In a carefully-protected room in the house, you can take a look at an original document signed by both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison appointing Jean Noel Destrehan to the Orleans Territorial Council.
This is a very informative tour. Barbara Fair and the staff of guides go through weeks of training and do a wonderful job.
A swamp tour reveals the ecology and regional cuisine
T Tom brought out a one-year-old alligator with its mouth taped for safety, and as he passed it around for the children to hold, he warned, “Don’t squeeze his middle. He’s got crawfish in there!” If you enjoy watching “Swamp People” on television, then you will really like actually being around T Tom and other authentic swamp people in an environment they dearly love. Swamp tours retail for 24 USD for adults and 18 USD for children, but there are discounts for booking online.
San Francisco Plantation, vivid colors and exotic details
San Francisco Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and was a 2015 Travel Attraction of the Year.
Evergreen Plantation with 22 original slave cabins
Evergreen is still a private home, now owned by Matilda Stream who lives on the property and allows daily tours which help with the cost of upkeep. Also helping economically, two movies were recently filmed at Evergreen: “Abe Lincoln; Vampire Hunter” and “Django Unchained.” And “Roots,” the remake is being filmed there now.
St. Joseph Plantation, birthplace of H.H. Richardson
A tour of St. Joseph includes the stories of Dr. Cazamine Mericq who lived there and provided medical care for the slaves, Gabriel Valcour Aime (reputed to be the richest man in Louisiana) and two sisters who were born, lived and died in the house and spoke only French. The house contains many crucifixes and kneeling benches, signifying the owners’ Catholic roots. You will find a bonnet tub, a pulley system on the porch, and many original doors and windows. The detached kitchen, several slave cabins, a barn and a blacksmith shop remain on the property, and you will learn about the mourning customs of the day. St. Joseph even offers a Creole Mourning Tour Experience in the month of October. Sylvia Zeringue, one member of the tour guide staff, is a native of Louisiana. She and her colleagues are very knowledgeable about this plantation and the whole area. If you are a musician, she might even give you a moment to try playing the antique pump organ in the house.
Laura Plantation, inspirational story of a woman who lived there
The tour guide will lead your through four generations of the Duparc-Locoul family. Laura’s own history spans almost 100 years. She was born when Abraham Lincoln was president and died when John F. Kennedy was president.
There are 12 buildings on the property officially recognized by the National Register. One of them is a slave cabin built in 1840 where the Compair Lapin folktales were recorded, known in English as “The Tales of Br'er Rabbit.”
The house itself is referred to as A Creole Plantation, and the exterior colors reflect that heritage. The tour of Laura Plantation that you will receive has been called the “Best history tour in the USA!”
All of these and more
In addition to these five plantations, there are five more in Plantation Country with tours and special stories. Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the slaves who lived and worked there. Ormond, Oak Alley, and Houmas House offer bed and breakfast accommodations, and Poche Plantation is a destination RV resort. Average ticket prices for tours are 20 USD with discounts for students, military personnel and senior adults.
Lunch suggestions while touring this area include Connie’s Grill, Mabile’s, B & C Seafood, Spuddy’s and New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood. In each of these you can expect to find cajun dishes and appetizers such a turtle soup and alligator bites. Try them if you want to “eat like the locals.”
The Great River Road will teach you far more than history books ever could. Go. See. Hear. Feel. Eat. This is a world distinct from all others.
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