Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Up Plantation Way

One of cool things to see in Louisiana when you've either had enough of New Orleans or have just been there so many times before (as have the Astrals) is to drive along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and visit some of the antebellum plantation mansions. We picked our current location (LaPlace, LA) with that in mind and, today, we took River Road north in order to check out a few of these relics of a time gone by.

Watch them shuffle along
See them shuffle along
Oh take your best gal your real pal go down to the levee
I said the levee
Join the shuffling throng
Hear the music and song
It's simply great mate waiting on the levee
Waiting for the Robert E. Lee*

All along the river is the levee, which is
really just an earthen berm built by
the Army Corps of Engineers. When I first
went to the levee years ago, when my friend
Nabil lived in Baton Rouge, I expected to
see children with straws hats and fishing
poles and paddlewheel boats. Man, was I

There's an odd juxtaposition along River Road because, between the widely scattered and beautiful plantation mansions, there are mostly industrial sites, rural towns, and firehouses. It ain't exactly scenic and you can't even see the river because the levee's too high.

Then, as you're driving along through this industrial wasteland, suddenly a beautiful antebellum mansion pops up. The first one we toured was named San Francisco, built in 1853. The land it's on today is owned by Marathon Oil and Marathon was nice enough to fund the restoration and set up the non-profit organization that operates the site today.

San Francisco Mansion

This was our tour guide, a pleasant and
knowledgeable young lady.

Most of the woodwork in San Francisco is
original and there are five original painted ceilings.

Compared to the Eurovan and Econolodges, pretty damn opulent.

Astral Wendy sneaking in the front door.

Of course, the slaves didn't have the opulence.

The second place we stopped in at was the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens. Unlike the San Francisco, this mansion was surrounded by opulent gardens, some of which were obviously added after the fact in order to enhance the use of this site for weddings and other catered events.

Houmas House

This was our tour guide Judy. She was funny as hell 
and when we were touring the music room, she sat down at
this antique Steinway and belted out an amazing version
of, of all things, "Desperado". Highlight of the tour for me!

Houmas House is actually lived in and used by
its current owner so the place had no ropes or 
barriers. In fact, the tour guide said if you got
tired you could sit on any of the period furniture.

Found a little girlfriend for Otis too.

Here's two monkeys dressed for Versailles. The Sun
King will receive you now.

If Otis ever gets into heavy metal, we'll bring
out the Iron Rabbit Maiden. Excellent!

They have a nice little restaurant right on the grounds, which worked
out perfectly because we were famished and the food was excellent.

Astral Wendy had the pasta with shrimp and crawfish in a
creole sauce and I had red snapper with crabmeat served over
vegetables with a saffron cream sauce. Quite good and reasonably
priced too.

The grounds included this cool little architectural folly.
Tres japponais!

Here's a freakish scene from the gift shop. What's
up with that Coke machine?

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

*Waiting for the Robert E. Lee


  1. I'm glad you're looking for souvenirs for Otis. He must get bored waiting in the auto for you.

  2. @Debra: Otis stays in the motel, dining on the finest timothy.