The Big House

     Yesterday I was acting tour guide for two of my nephews-in-law (is there such a thing?) who are visiting New Orleans, and us, for Jazz Fest. 
     Yes, they must do Bourbon, and The Bulldog, and the Quarter, and the Lafitte’s, but one should also see a ‘Big House’.
     Think ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ or the current ‘Downton Abby’, but with involuntary servitude. I’m talking Plantation Life in the old south.
     There are not nearly as many structures left along the Mississippi River as there were in the ‘mythical’ halcyon days of the pre-civil war south. Most have fallen victim to time, weather, property taxes, lack of descendants, lack of energy, and those silly little 13th and 14th Amendment’s, but there are a few left and they are beautiful.
     Our first stop was the iconic Oak Alley Plantation. The large, sweeping lawns dappled in the dark shade of Live Oak trees is always breathtaking.  And the house ain’t bad either.
     Our second stop, Laura- A Creole Plantation, has always been my favorite. Alas, the times, they are a’changin’.
     When I first visited Laura in the late 1980’s, the last of the sharecropper families had just moved out and a local preservationist had formed a foundation to purchase and restore the property. A kindly woman let my mother and me in for a few dollars, with promises that it would look so much better in the future, and “wouldn’t we come back?”, but it was  beautiful to me- just the way it was. Peeling wallpaper, dull paint, stairs missing treads, and an overgrown garden made me feel as though I was truly eavesdropping on someone else’s life- like sneaking into a fairytale (albeit, a poor sharecropper’s fairytale). 
     Well, life went on, money was raised, nails were hammered, furniture was bought. I came back again in the 1990’s and it was lovely- still. Just shinier. 
     The guides had on embroidered golf shirts, and they had built a gift shop. O.K. Still good.  
     As I have been on the tour at least six times, bringing family and friends, this time around I just wanted to be able to walk the grounds and take pictures. I have never had a problem with any other Plantation in doing just so- for free.
      I’m not taking the tour. 
      I could give the tour. 
     “Not so fast Madame”, says a docent of all about 20 years old. “No one may enter the grounds past the gate at the gift shop without a ticket”. 
     “But I’m not taking the tour. I just want to photograph the grounds”?
     “I’m sorry you must have a ticket and stay with the group. Do not leave the group”.
     “So if I buy a ticket I can take photo’s?”
     “And you stay with the group. You may then take a photograph but only as the group moves through the tour. You may not back track, get off track, or stay longer in any one spot if the group moves on. You will only have one chance to take photo’s, and will not be allowed to linger”.
     “So how can I take photo’s for a blog I write about living in New Orleans where I will gladly feature the loveliness of Laura- A Creole Plantation, possibly bringing you more customers to buy tickets and stay with the group”?
     “For that you will need to make a special reservation and there is an up-charge.”
     “And what will happen if I squeeze right through that fence hole and smack you on your little fussy behind as I walk right past”?

     Which is exactly what I did. 


The Oak Alley 
from River Road
to the front

My favorite elevation-
the back of Oak Alley‘s
Big House

The Oak Alley
looking towards
River Road and the
Mississippi River

A sugar kettle used as a lily pond, behind the Big House at Oak Alley.
Ben and I have a kettle too, but ours is
made out of fiberglass (weighing 10 lb) and this one, out of cast iron, weighs hundreds.

A beautiful gnarled oak at Oak Alley

A building not yet renovated at Laura

Yet, another

…and another.


The maison de reprise, or,
mother-in-law cottage
at Laura.


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