A Travellerspoint blog

Vacherie and Barataria - Oaks, Catfish and Alligators

The Photography Battle

semi-overcast 9 °C
View Summer, 9-11-2001 - and then the 2nd time down the ICW & Bermuda & 2004 Migrating by Mercedes on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

December 13, 2004 - Plantation and Swamp Tour

I have the computer plugged in to the phone (for dial-up) and electric behind the headboard (which is too heavy for me to move), and I've been just shoving it under the bed, but the big cleaning is done on Monday, and we can't keep the housekeeping staff out of the room forever, so I have to stash it. I loop the long phone line on one of the bedposts (standing on the bed to reach).

The Swamp and Plantation tour that I've booked picks us up started at 9, so we don't have much time. This tour cost us $57 each. I wanted another tour that would do the swamp part on a different day or do a plantation that is closer to New Orleans, but this one is less expensive. I think the front desk girl may get a commission from the tour company. We have the same guy we had for the city tour on Sunday, and he takes us out to the Oak Alley plantation in Vacherie first.
Cemetery on the way to Vacherie

Cemetery on the way to Vacherie


Vacherie is located in St. James Parish within the Plantation Country Region west of New Orleans along Highway 18 on the banks of the Mississippi River. Vacherie is part of the New Orleans, Louisiana metro area. There are three major plantations here - Oak Alley, Evergreen and Laura.
Map of the River Road plantations

Map of the River Road plantations


Each of the plantations markets itself to the tourists. All of them had slaves, and the slavery aspect is pretty well played down.

Laura is a Creole Plantation on The Great River Road kind of next door to Oak Alley, and built earlier (1805).
Vacherie water tower near Laura

Vacherie water tower near Laura


Usually kitchens in the south were in separate buildings from the main house for two reasons. One was to mitigate the danger of fire from the cooking stoves, and the other was so that the main house would not be heated up by the cooking. Apparently fire is still a danger.
cane field near Laura

cane field near Laura


On August 9th, 2004 a fire damaged 60-70 percent of the house at Laura. The fa├žade, floors, walls and basement were all that was left. So when we were there, we couldn't tour the plantation house. The people who run Laura claim that their tour is not and never was about the house - it is the stories about the people that live there that is important.

Consider what you will be seeing before you spend your money. Do you just want hear the story of a Creole plantation and see the grounds and outbuildings - then go to Laura. If the big oak trees attract you, and you don't care about the house authenticity, then go to Oak Alley. There's also Destrehan from the late 1700s which is the oldest plantation in the Mississippi valley, San Francisco which advertises itself as the only authentically restored plantation house in Louisiana (Oak Alley has been furnished with non-original antiques), Belle Alliance, Madewood and Nottoway, the South's largest plantation home. So check to see what you are getting for your money. Personally I would rather see the authentic objects and building that was there at the time, although reconstructions are interesting in their way.

There is a riverboat cruise ship at the levee in front of the house.
River Cruise Ship at the Levee

River Cruise Ship at the Levee


The sign that I saw on the ticket booth as we went through said that they didn't accept credit cards. I was worried about this as I didn't have a lot of cash with me. I also do not understand why they would want to have a lot of cash on hand if they are so worried about robbery that they don't let people take pictures. The man in the turquoise jacket is paying for the whole busload of us. I don't know how he paid
Ticket Booth

Ticket Booth


Ground level looking out through the oak alley

Ground level looking out through the oak alley


This plantation has a tremendous live oak street of trees leading to the house from both directions which were planted some years before the house was built. It is one of the most famous ones in this area and is on the Mississippi. Oak Alley is primarily of interest (in my opinion) for the great live oaks on the grounds. Oak Alley rents out the their trees for both movies and weddings. The house itself was gutted, and none of the interior furniture is original. I think you can see the trees from the road without paying for it.
Oaks at Oak Alley

Oaks at Oak Alley


There are also a lot of school children here.
Visitors on the Avenue of Oaks from the 2nd floor

Visitors on the Avenue of Oaks from the 2nd floor


The brochure for this house said that photography was allowed. I took the first picture while waiting for the tour,
Picture taken before the tour began

Picture taken before the tour began


and as the tour guide came in I took this picture.
Photo I took without flash

Photo I took without flash


I was not using flash, but she told me that photography was now forbidden because of insurance concerns.

I felt insulted and scammed because if I had known that no photos were allowed, I would not have taken the tour. I think this is a load of BS. They say it is security reasons but I do not believe it. And I did not believe that photos were not allowed. I just think she took a dislike to me and wanted to make my life difficult. It was Bait and Switch.
Charming Guide (NOT)

Charming Guide (NOT)


She also told some stories which are suspect - she says that as a mark of hospitality a pineapple was given to each guest when they arrived, and if they stayed too long, another one was given. It that were true it would be quite rude. Pineapples were quite expensive and rare at that time (they were sometimes even rented to use in a centerpiece), so I'm pretty sure that is not a true story.

Anyway the plantation is furnished with reproduction furniture - it is NOT original.

The National Register of Historic Places Inventory States:
Originally named Bon Sejour, Oak Alley was built in 1837-39 by George Swainey for Jacques Telesphore Roman. Madame Roman's father, Joseph Pilie, was an architect and is thought to have provided the design. Its most distinguishing architectural feature is a full peripteral colonnade of 28 colossal Doric columns. The steep hip roof is crowned by a simple platform and balustrade. On each side are three gabled dormers with round-headed windows and delicate Federal detail which date from the 1920s restoration. The gallery railing is a delicate wheat sheaf design in wood.
Extensive restoration by architect Richard Koch dates from 1925-26 after the property was acquired by Mr. .and Mrs. Andrew Stewart. The pale pink of the plastered columns and walls and the blue green of the louvered shutters and gallery railing were color choices of Mrs. Stewart at that time.
Square in plan, the interior has a central hall from front to Tear on both floors. At each end of both halls the doors have broad fanlights and sidelights framed with slim, fluted colon-nettes. Square rooms at the first floor rear were partitioned and adapted to modern uses at the time of restoration. The long parlor and dining room at the front are minimally altered. Notable interior ornament is. limited;:-to the carved rose in the corner block trim of door and window openings. Mantels are simple. Stairs are-straight open runs at the rear of the, central halls.
The interior is open to the public on payment of a fee but furnishings and interpretation fail to measure up to the promise of the exterior or the magnificent setting with its alley of 28 ancient live oak trees, some 31 feet in girth, connecting the house to the levee landing. No outbuildings of importance remain. There is a formal garden to the east of the house.
(My emphasis added)

As we left to go into dining room I took this one of the mirror in the waiting area which I later cropped down to show just the area with my face.
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Me in the mirror

Me in the mirror


We went into the dining room, and my back was hurting me, so I sat down on the floor
China in the Dining Room

China in the Dining Room


and while she was talking about the shoo-fly fan, I took this photo of the dining room table.
Dining room table from behind people

Dining room table from behind people

And a detail of the dining room fireplace which had some historical significance. At least the guide told some story about soldiers damaging it with their swords. I later learned that there were no soldiers here during the Civil War.
Detail of hearth

Detail of hearth


Upstairs in the nursery

Upstairs in the nursery


And then I took one upstairs in the nursery (shooting from the hip).

I feel that anything visible through windows is fair game. Modern flash can't hurt, even if I was the kind of person who took flash photos. This one I had to do some editing on to remove window reflections
Bedroom through the window

Bedroom through the window


Bedroom through the window

Bedroom through the window

Looking in the window at the office

Looking in the window at the office


The one piece that interested me was the rolling pin bed, which I had never heard of before. (The rolling pin shaped piece which is on the bed for the demonstration but normally is on the pins on the top of the headboard was used to smooth out the mattresses in the morning - she said they were stuffed with Spanish moss) . Although after the pineapple story, I was suspicious of the guide's truthfulness, but I later ran across this same kind of bed in St. Martinville.
Picture taken through the window -rolling pin bed

Picture taken through the window -rolling pin bed


I took photos from the verandah
Line of live oaks from the verannah

Line of live oaks from the verannah


Bottom of column

Bottom of column

Roof of verandah

Roof of verandah

Plantation bell in the formal garden

Plantation bell in the formal garden

Pot on the porch

Pot on the porch


Formal garden from above

Formal garden from above

Paths at the rear of Oak Alley

Paths at the rear of Oak Alley


And then I took some photos of the grounds
From the side garden

From the side garden

Cat napping under the hedge

Cat napping under the hedge

Sugar kettle with water lilies

Sugar kettle with water lilies

Resurrection Fern on the live oaks

Resurrection Fern on the live oaks

Oak Alley

Oak Alley

Farm machinery

Farm machinery

FIre extinguisher

FIre extinguisher


Sign about the slave quarters

Sign about the slave quarters

Slave list

Slave list


Houses on the grounds

Houses on the grounds


Beardless Iris

Beardless Iris

Plants for sale

Plants for sale


Plaque in blacksmith shop

Plaque in blacksmith shop


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Blacksmith shop

Blacksmith shop

"Antique Car" exhibit (model A Fords)

"Antique Car" exhibit (model A Fords)


In the place where the kitchen was, there is a building with "antique cars" which proved to be two Model A Fords. Big Whoop - How antique!! How rare!!!

We had just time to get lunch here. Another couple on our tour mis-heard the time, and the guide had to go and get them out of the restaurant before they'd eaten.
Fireplace decorated for Xmas

Fireplace decorated for Xmas


I think I had a roast beef po'boy and Bob had fried shrimp. Our lunch including tip was $20.00
Gift Shop Display

Gift Shop Display


The gift shop says that they offer: ".. a wide selection of Louisiana and Oak Alley souvenirs, such as postcards, t-shirts, novelty items, and handmade collectibles, as well as cookbooks, beautiful regional photography, unique gift items and fascinating books on the architecture, history and culture of the River Region", We got some sterling salt cellars for our daughter's 25th wedding anniversary.

Then we drove for more than an hour to Jean Lafitte which is on the edge of the Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve section.
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Our group trying to warm up out of the wind

Our group trying to warm up out of the wind


We went out in a pontoon boat,
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Old home on a hammock

Old home on a hammock

large_100_3884.JPGlarge_100_3846.JPGGravesites on shore that we saw on the swamp tour

Gravesites on shore that we saw on the swamp tour


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Reflections

Reflections

Swamp in the Winter

Swamp in the Winter

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and while it was cold, it wasn't so cold yet that there was no wildlife. We saw nutria and several alligators, and birds.
3767948-Nutria_New_Orleans.jpgNutra in the swamp

Nutra in the swamp

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Nutria (also called coypu) is a destructive invasive species. It is a large rat which was originally imported from South America for the fur trade. But they reproduce quickly (one female can have 200 babies a year), and they eat the plants -leaves, stems, roots and all - which destroys the wetlands.
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Little blue heron

Little blue heron

2940857-Egret_New_Orleans.jpgGreat egret

Great egret


turtle

turtle


We also saw the way the folks here catch catfish - they have the bait on a line which is attached to a clorox type bottle.
large_f914f120-bd51-11e8-9429-6bab364a4f02.JPGlarge_501b6260-bd52-11e8-9429-6bab364a4f02.jpg
The guide pulled one out of the water and we saw the catfish on the end of it.
Tour guide

Tour guide

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The tour guide had some baby alligators to show us
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He also said you could kill alligators that were over 6 feet long and someone asked whether you measured before you killed them. He said they can leap half their body length out of the water, so you hang the bait 3 feet above the water, and if they can get it, they are big enough.
large_100_3877.JPG100_3885.JPG
3 medium Alligator's sunning on a log

3 medium Alligator's sunning on a log

Alligators diving off a log

Alligators diving off a log


He said on one trip they saw one of the bigger gaters (about 12-13 feet) who got into a fight with a slightly smaller one (about 9 feet), and one of the ladies on the boat cried to him to make them stop!!

We drove home
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Canal Street

Canal Street


We got back to the hotel about 5, and were too tired to do anything but go across the street to the Half Shell for dinner. I had a PoBoy and Bob had fish strips.
Oyster Po'Boy

Oyster Po'Boy

Posted by greatgrandmaR 07:00 Archived in USA

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