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Destrehan Plantation

Today was a delightful day! Jerry slept in so we got a late start but I had initially hope we’d have some down time since this is a long trip. We headed out to Destrehan Plantation which wasn’t actually on my list to see but it is the only one fairly close. What a treat! Our tour was Candice and she was in full costume, looked, talked and acted a lot like Scarlett. In fact, I later told her that she needed to be in Georgia at Tara!IMG_0688

The house itself is a treat. It has been completely redone as some time ago it was left vacant for 12 years and during that time vandals stripped the house of many things including the mantles. Destrehan Plantation remains the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley. Finally the River Walk Historical Society took it on and it has been lovingly restored. Some of the furnishings that are in it were donated by members of the original family so everything looks very authentic. Candice took us through each room telling us about the people who lived there and how they passed their time. The original house took three years to build and then the owner only lived there two years before he died. This was a working plantation producing initially indigo and then sugar cane. When the families wanted to engage in social activities, i.e. Mardi Gras they went into New Orleans rather than have celebrations on the plantation. Initially over 600 acres the plantation is now 16 acres.

One house is dedicated to the 1811 Slave Rebellion where the slaves exhibited behavior that would now be called “Stockholm Syndrome”. During the rebellion some slaves stayed with their owners out of loyalty but some stayed out of fear. Apparently Destrehan took very good care of their slaves. They did not work on Sunday’s and only worked a half a day on Saturdays. There was also a hospital on the plantation for the slaves. The Slave Revolt exhibit includes artwork and display items. The plantation was the site of the trial which resulted from the Revolt. The building also houses other photos and displays about Destrehan Plantation.

There are several more houses spread out over the grounds which are impeccable. Stunning live oaks with limbs lying on the ground surround the house and huge pots which were earlier used in preparing the sugar cane are filled with greenery and I would imagine flowers during the spring and summer.

As we walked through the house Candice related many stories about various members of the family. When we tour plantations like this I am always reminded of how many children lost their lives due to illnesses during that time. Destrehan had two hospitals on the grounds but that didn’t stop yellow fever which they thought was contagious. One lady died of lead poisoning due to the heavy homemade makeup she was using. Tea, a precious commodity, was kept in a box lined with lead! Tea was a dear commodity but coffee was the drink of choice for many Louisianans.

The entire front of the upstairs is a covered porch or veranda. I can just imagine sitting out there in a rocking chair sipping coffee and watching the mighty Mississippi which although across the highway is no longer visible from the house due to the levees put in by the Corps of Engineers.

Once the boys reached the age of 12 they were no longer allowed in the house but instead moved to another section for boys only. Although I was first stunned and dismayed at that proclamation when I saw where they were moved to I decided that they just had an early man cave. It had a pool table in it! I would assume they had maids that cleaned up after them. Let’s hope.

After we had gone through the house we walked around the grounds for a bit and ending up chatting with a lady who used to be a guide there.

Walking around the grounds.
Walking around the grounds.
She was an absolute fount of information not only about Drestrehan but about Louisiana in general.

It was nearing lunch time so we asked if we could go have lunch and then come back to wander the grounds. They not only allowed that but they suggested a restaurant a couple of miles from the plantation.

Portside Restaurant
Portside Restaurant
We went to Port Side which like described was a little hole on the wall. It backs up to the levees of the Mississippi so before we went in we walked up to the top of the levee to see the river. When we went in Connie, the lady we had met at the plantation and her friend Ally were already seated and they asked us to join them. We had a delightful lunch sharing our lives and as Connie continued to share snippets of information about Destrehan and Louisiana. The nicest thing though is that she is a Christian. We held hands and she asked the blessing. As we were getting up to leave she shared that she met with a group of ladies at her home once a month to minister. She sort of tilted her head discouragingly toward Ally and I reminded her that we were only to water. Jesus will to the rest. She agreed and smiled.

We all went back to the plantation and wandered around a bit, took some pictures and then we headed back to New Orleans. Since we will miss Mardi Gras I had hoped to visit the Mardi Gras Museum and the French Quarter during the afternoon after Drestrehan but because of our late start that didn’t happen. But as Jerry said if we had left earlier we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting Connie.

We went back into the city hoping we could find a parking place so we could go to the French Market. Wow – the French Quarter on a late Saturday afternoon during Carnival is, well let’s just say interesting. I can only imagine what it must be like on Saturday night and oh my – Mardi Gras! We rode around for a good while going in and out of streets we hadn’t earlier seen and I finally realized that I needed to close my mouth because it was surely gaping open in amazement. We saw many people dressed up in costumes. Some had their bodies painted gold or silver. We saw one guy painted entirely in silver lying on the sidewalk with his dog who was lying on his back. They were so very still it appeared that they were mannequins. The only movement was the breathing of the dog. Of course the streets were full of music everywhere from groups to trumpeters. It was truly an amazing site. We never did find a parking spot so we ended up coming on back to the coach.

We spent a quiet evening in. Since I had such a wonderful and filling lunch (fried oysters while Jerry tried two kinds of gumbo) I didn’t want any dinner so Jerry just warmed up left overs. He watched football and I read. We had another “summer storm” and had lots of heavy thunder and then rain. Temperatures are supposed to drop tonight so perhaps that was a cold front approaching. Although cooler it’s still supposed to be sunny so tomorrow we’ll be headed to Slidell for our only Mardi Gras parade.

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