New Orleans Day 3: Plantation Tour & Bourbon St. Balconies!

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FYI – I am channeling my inner, Garden District-residing southerner and writing this post from the luxurious front balcony seating area hard iron bench on my front porch!! It is 79 glorious degrees here in central Iowa and I am taking advantage of every warm minute of it. You never know how long it’s going to last in the Midwest! 8)

Well Day 3 in New Orleans started as all my other days did – with a hot coffee, banana and bowl of cinnamon toast crunch from the continental breakfast bar! I literally could not pass up free cinnamon toast crunch. You know how I feel about it!

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On this day we had booked a tour to see the Laura Plantation house – once voted “Best history tour in the USA!” by Lonely Planet. I was clearly pumped! 

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We boarded our tour bus and headed out of town. Past the Superdome, which, according to our tour guide, is still being renovated four and a half years after Hurricane Katrina,

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and over Lake Ponchartrain, which contributed to much of the damage during said hurricane.

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The drive took about an hour, and most of it was through swampy woodlands that could not have been more different than the Iowa landscape we are used to. The gently sloping, corn-rowed farm lands were replaced with dense, swampy marshland. The highway we drove on was essentially a bridge because you can’t build directly on top of the land. It was really, really cool to see!

At any rate, we passed over the Mississippi River bridge (in addition to being a nervous flyer, Ben hates driving over open bodies of water, so my hand was nearly squished to death at that point) and arrived at the Laura Plantation a few minutes later!

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The Laura Plantation is over 200 years old and, during operating times, was a very profitable sugarcane plantation. It contains the largest collection of family artifacts original to a Louisiana plantation, including clothing, toiletries and business and slave records. “Laura” was, at one time, one of the plantation managers.

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The grounds of the plantation were absolutely incredible – exactly what I was picturing, actually. Massive Cyprus trees framed and hugged the buildings.

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We came on a picture perfect day to view the grounds – it couldn’t have been more beautiful outside!

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Oh, there was a plantation cat, too. Molly.  :D 

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Our tour got underway, and we headed straight for the main house. Before the tour I always thought of big, white homes when I thought of plantations. The truth is that most plantation homes were painted in lively colors preferred by the Creoles (French, Catholic Louisianans) and only when Americans took over as majority in the state government, did they demand that plantation owners paint their homes English-approved white. When the Laura Plantation was renovated, it was re-painted in the original colors.

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Canary yellow siding, bright blue railings and red accents.

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It was just as charming as could be!

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We started the tour in the basement, where we learned that, at one time, the original owners of the plantation ran the biggest wine distribution gig in Louisiana right out of their basement. They had vineyards in France that they shipped the wine in from.

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The house was built “30 beams wide” (that’s how they measured building size in the early 1800s) and the numbers can still be seen scratched into each beam. I thought that was so cool. That etching right there is 200 years old.

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We continued upstairs and into the house where we viewed room after room of elegant, yet practically decorated rooms. Most plantation owners had “social” homes in the French Quarter where they kept all their nice stuff at. The decorations and belongings in their plantations homes were their most modest possessions.

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This was a “holding room” where food for the family would be brought up and held at until they were ready to eat.

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After touring the rest of the home, we stepped out the back.

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Here’s a view out the back door at the original kitchens. This is where slaves would have prepared food for the family who owned the plantation, as well as the rest of the slaves. Again, those are 200 year old buildings.

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We continued our tour out in the grounds of the plantation, viewing more un-renovated buildings, original to the property. The history here is just spectacular!

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The building on the left is the last remaining home on the property where slaves would have actually lived.

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Each building housed two slave families on separate sides, with one communal hearth.

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Here are some more buildings original to the property.

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Touring the plantation was a sobering experience for sure. The fact that our ancestors could have been so heartless and ignorant is truly tragic. Laura Plantation has done a wonderful job of preserving this time in history though – so we know never to go back!

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Present day Laura Plantation had a plentiful stash of Zapp’s Chips so I snagged a bag of the sweet potato variety for the drive back. :) 

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Oh! Half the people on our tour bus went with us to Laura Plantation, but the other half went to Oak Alley Plantation. We went to pick them up after our tour was done and were allowed to take pictures.

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I MEAN!!! Those are people on the walkway there – that’s how big these trees are!!

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It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

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After returning from the plantation tour, we cleaned up and pounded some 5 Hour Energy drinks (note: grape is not good). We were super tired in every way from our tour, but like one commenter told me before we left – you can sleep when you get home! Amen, sister!

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We headed back to the French Quarter to walk around and enjoy the sites.

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A lot of other people had the same idea. ;)

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We strolled for awhile before making our way to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.

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Lafitte’s is the oldest operating bar in America!

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The structure has served as many things since it was built in 1722, but is still not wired for lighting.

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They use candles at night!

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I enjoyed a local Strawberry Abita Beer.

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I’ll tell you one thing – the prices were not 1722 prices, so we had our beverages and moved on. It least I can say I had a drink in an 18th century building now!

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At this point, we knew what we had to do. Mission: find a balcony on Bourbon Street, plant ourselves there and people watch for the next several hours, was on!

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I can’t even tell you the name of the bar we were at, but it had all the qualities we were looking for. Balcony: check. Cold drinks: check. Hilarious people watching: check.

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There was even an impromptu parade! We saw a lot of those on Bourbon street actually…New Orleans residents certainly like their celebrations. ;)

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There was the bridal party making their way to or from a wedding – no bride, don’t worry!

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And we watched the line of cars trying to cross over Bourbon Street grow and grow…and grow and grow! Too many people milling about to cross!

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We soaked in the scenery,

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and had ourselves one heck of an evening!!

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Oh, and we even made friends! Greg and Jarrett, two New Orleans residents, gave us the low down on the city and humored us Iowan transplants by hanging out with us. Super great guys, with super great friends – we had a blast!!!!

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Sooo, Bourbon Street = best time ever. Especially if you are located in a balcony overlooking all the action. I highly recommend!!!!!

Day three’s a wrap, y’all! Tomorrow I’ll show you more French Quarter charm, take you to Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA restaurant (epic) and give you my final thoughts on our trip to the south.

Then it’s back to regularly scheduled programming! :D Good night!

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Comments

  1. Thirtyandhealthy 03.31.2010

    The cat at the plantation totally looks like he’s giving you ‘evil eyes’! I have made 4 trips to the U.S. (I’m from Scotland) and I am really starting to think that my next trip will be to New Orleans. There is so much history there. Your photos are great too!

  2. Yvette 03.31.2010

    Kristin – another amazing job and totally made me homesick. You took me right back to my wedding and honeymoon of April 2002. I got married in the Garden District, my reception was at one of those beautiful homes on St. Charles Ave. And I had so many out of town guests and we all gathered at Mother’s on Friday night (we wanted a quiet night before the wedding). And then we honeymooned in New Orleans and south Louisiana. We ended it at the Jazz Festival back in New Orleans. We went to both Oak Alley and Laura Plantation. I am going to be bummed when your New Orleans recap is over. I really need to get home, it has been 2 years this May. The last time I was there was so sad, I was there to close on the sale of my Mom’s home after she had died. But you have reminded me of the sweet memories.

  3. People watching is so much fun. I’m glad those two N’arlins boys were so cool.

  4. Wow I can’t wait to hear about Emeril’s restaurant!!!!!
    That plantation (er, both) was gorgeous!!! Wow! I love old buildings and history so that would be so much fun for me.
    I’m like Ben, I HATE going over huge bodies of water. Freaks me out!

  5. Whit 03.31.2010

    I heart you and your history lovin’. I too, LOVE history and historical buildings and I always feel like NO ONE else [besides Mama D] does! :D

  6. Kristin 03.31.2010

    I was shocked at the slave houses on Laura’s Plantation. They are SO SMALL and rundown, and to think that TWO families lived in one house. I think we are sheltered from all of that in the midwest. We don’t see the actual images of slavery and what that time period and those lives were like.

    I do have to say I LOVED Lafitte’s because of the history (I went at night and the atmosphere was SO COOL with it being candle-lit and a guy playing the piano), but you’re right–too expensive to have more than one drink! I wish I had tried Abita Strawberry. I got just plain old regular Abita beer, and it was good, but strawberry sounds amazing! Great story-telling :D

    Kristin C

  7. andie 03.31.2010

    How fun! Laura plantation- funny story- when I was in high school, for a combo history/literature project- we worked on the restoration of Laura Plantation and got to see, first hand, the house before it looked like that. Did you get to see the cannonball that was in the wall from the war? My friend Shanna and I actually got to interview a woman whose family owned the plantation in the 20’s. She had some great stories to share! We also learned about how the Br’er Rabbit stoires originated there.

    I know I’ve said it once, but I am LOVING your take on my hometown! :) I can’t wait to read more.

  8. andie 03.31.2010

    oh, and my first job- in high school- was as a tour guide at Ormond Plantation!!! i wore the big dress and everything.

  9. Midgetkeeper 03.31.2010

    Love love love tours like that. I just love to take in history. Awesome post once again.

  10. Jenny 03.31.2010

    Glad ya had a good time on Bourbon St. – it’s hard not to;) And like the houses you saw, those trees are equally if not more beautiful! So glad to see you had a good time:) I hope your warm midwest weather lasts!

  11. Ms. S 03.31.2010

    First of all, the oak-lined drive – WAY COOL!!!!!!!! Secondly, I’m glad today’s post didn’t include any po’ boys because every single one so far has looked incredibly amazing (and makes me hungry)! Looking forward to reading what you have to share tomorrow (even if more delicious food makes me envious). :)

  12. Melissa 03.31.2010

    I love all the pictures! I have to tell you something crazy, I read your blog twice a day (love it!). I’m scrolling through your post today and who do I see…one of my friend from college who moved to New Orleans in your post!!!! What a small world, one of the kids you met in New Orleans is my friend from collge in Boston, how nuts. I can’t get over it. Anyway, glad you had a great trip, and thanks for continually providing me great entertainment and recipes reading your blog every day!

  13. Awh that cat is so beautiful!
    Yet another good post full of photos :) and cute guys! Those two guys that you met, the one on the left – verrrry easy on the eye!! :P
    I can’t wait for the next recap :)

  14. You are so photogenic. I think more advertisements are in your future =]

  15. Daisy 04.01.2010

    I sooo want to go to NOLA now. Do you watch the new 90210? I’ve been catching up on my DVR lately and I totally placed who you look like – SILVER! (Jessica Stroup)

  16. AP 04.01.2010

    That cat is definitely giving you the evil eyes, she’s cute though. As always, great pictures and great stories. I’m curious about these sweet potato chips.

  17. Ashley 04.01.2010

    Those plantations, wow! That kitty looks just like mine, aww! :).

    Great photos as always!

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