Deep South Tour:  Big Easy to Baton Rouge
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Friday
May 31st


New Orleans
We kicked off the day at Cafe du Monde, home to world-famous beignets (fried dough with sugar: very tasty) and world-famous chicory-laced coffee (not very tasty). We took a walk through the French Quarter to work off all of that grease, making our way to the dock of the Creole Queen for a riverboat tour:
The Riverboat, Creole Queen

Our tour took us to the site of the Battle of New Orleans, where Andrew Jackson made his name during the War of 1812. On the way we took in striking views of New Orleans:
New Orleans from the River

Chris at the stern:
Chris, Old Glory, and the Big Easy

Princess Leia wanted to pose, too:
Don't Ask Us How She Got Those Beads

Next we attended the New Orleans School of Cooking where (VERY) Big Kevin gave us some tips on making great jambalaya. Then we retired to the hotel to watch the Lakers game.

Saturday
June 1st


Laura Plantation
& Baton Rouge
We rolled out of New Orleans after a very heavy, very tasty breakfast at Brennan's. Highlights included baked apple in heavy cream and eggs a la Hussard (like eggs benedict plus). Next stop: "plantation country". We drove along the River Road along the Mississippi, past many a grain terminal or natural gas station, until we hit the Laura Plantation.

This plantation was originally in the Creole style, which meant it was painted in bright colors as opposed to the typically white style of the anglo planations. Seems that a group of investors picked up the place after the state scrapped plans to tear it down to make way for a bridge. They've renovated it and returned it to its original appearance, i.e. stripping off the white paint from later anglo owners:
Laura Plantation

Our first stop on the tour was the basement, where they showed us these ceramic urns that were buried and used as "refrigerators", taking advantage of the cooler temperatures underground:
We Urn It

Along the tour they made the claim that this plantation was where a folk tale from Africa was transformed into the Br'er Rabbit stories. Here's a view from the back porch where you can see some of the preserved buildings used as work areas and also as slave quarters. Originally the slave cabins extended a great distance off behind the main building, housing hundreds of families:
The Back Porch

We detoured through the gardens:
That Ain't No Gardener

There we found this cool old sundial, on which the shadow from the arrow is projected onto that arched piece of metal:
Funky Sundial: Arrow of Time

Then we headed out to look at the "backyard":
Shack--probably a smithy or some such

This Beetlejuice-esque structure was the kitchen outbuilding attached to the separate "main" house occupied by Laura, the woman who ran the plantation for many years, after she turned operations over to her daughter:
Warped Shack

After the Laura Plantation we also visited the Nottoway Plantation, known as The White Castle of Louisiana according to the title of the diary published by the daughter of the original owner. That was huge but a bit more like some big old manor home. So we didn't get excited enough to take any pictures. Worth noting that was the first place we saw the lockable dining room furniture piece designed to hold tea and other costly luxuries--you could open it up when guests were in and then lock it up afterwards to keep the servants from nicking any. Lighting was provided by dimmer-equipped gas lamps throughout the house, all fed by a huge gas producing well in the yard. And each entertaining room had a little "ringer" on the wall that rang a chime, which differed by room so that the servants would know where to go.

Then we headed north again on the River Road. Chris and I were fascinated by all of the signs of industry in the southern countryside, so we had to take some pictures. (Click on "industry" to check them out.) They all cluster along the river, I assume, because it's cheap to then dump their products on barges that deliver them to markets. Or maybe because it's cheap to dump some other stuff in the river.

We soon arrived in Baton Rouge, where our first stop was at the old state capitol, which is a fantastic, castle-like building:
Cajun Camelot

Another look:
Cajun Camelot: The Revenge

And stop two was the new state capitol, built during the 1930s. The art deco capitol is not as cool as the original, but I think it still ranks as the second coolest state capitol building I've seen:
Tower of Power

We stopped for the night in Opelousas, north of Lafayette. Before sacking we headed over to Richard's, where we listened to excellent Zydeco music and watched the multi-generational crowd get down with some of the craziest dance steps you've ever seen.

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