On Sunday we left the crowded French Quarter to the weekend tourists and drove out of town, following the Mississippi River southward. We drove for about an hour, and turned around just south of Happy Jack, where we drove onto the levee for a look see.
We stopped at a grocery store in Happy Jack to pick up apples and granola bars for our road lunch. There we talked to a local man who told us this area was under 27 feet of water during the Katrina floods. We saw homes now being raised on piers, but it would take a lot to be safe from 27 feet! We were out far enough that there were double levees, one on the river side and one against the gulf swamp land.
Returning north, we drove west along the south bank of the river. Here we saw overflow spillways for river flooding where the water would drain through swamp land into Lake Pontchartrain.
The river road is lined with huge chemical plants and refineries and grain elevators and other industry that pipe products directly to or from ships docked on the other side of the levee. It was surprising to see the stacks and masts of ships poking up over the top of the levee.
We crossed this dramatic new bridge over the river to the north east bank, where we visited two plantations.And this is as far as I got at the airport, with very slow photo downloading. We are now back home and I am snatching time as I can to get this post finished.
Destrehan Plantation was begun in 1790, first as a grower of indigo for the blue dye it produces, and then as a sugarcane plantation.
Our guide Emma was very knowledgeable.This is an indigo plant.
The house interior is set up as it was in the 1800's.
The walls are lath and plaster insulated with a mixture of dried Spanish moss, bits of shell and stone, and mud. Holes were poked into this so the plaster would adhere.
Mattresses were stuffed with dried Spanish moss. I learned that "horsehair" stuffing is actually dried Spanish moss, which when dried loses its gray coating and the result is black wiry "hair". These mattresses get very lumpy when slept on, and each day the servants had to pound them out to smooth them. Therefore they could not be used during the day for naps. So you see, at the foot of the bed, the day bed, where My Lady could get her afternoon nap.
Sugar cane was cut and stripped, crushed to extract the juice, and then the juice was boiled down to make syrup with was further boiled into crystallized sugar. It was labor intensive, and the laborers were slaves.
This plantation presented an authentic look at plantation life.
Not so was the case at the San Francisco Plantation.
While the exterior of this plantation house was beautiful, its colors were not authentic in the least, and were more to attract people to their venue than to present true history.
We did tour the interior of the house, but it was disappointingly sparsely furnished and finished.
The towers you see on each side of the house are cisterns, which stored rain water from the roof gutters. These are authentic and were the way that these homes got their household water. Wells were not dug at the time these houses were built.
Perhaps the other thing that detracted from San Francisco Plantation was the fact that it was surrounded by oil tanks. The property is all owned by an oil company and most of the land is covered by a refinery.
I am very glad to be back in my own northwest house this evening, with the cool, dry evening air coming in through open, screened windows. Our kitty is happy to have us back home too.