We had the morning to ourselves before our trip out to a plantation.  Neither Kate nor I had been sleeping very well – we couldn’t seem to get the temperature right in the room, and we spent half the night being too cold, the other half being too hot.  We were waking early every morning too, so we got up early, went out for breakfast (same place as the day before).  This time I tried the cheese grits with my omelette, which were far tastier than the ones I’d had at Maison Dupuy.

We dozed a bit on the way to the Oak Alley Plantation.  It was a lovely venue, although I can understand why the original owner’s wife, Celina, preferred to be in New Orleans. The plantation was owned by Jacques and Celina Roman, although Jacques was not the original owner, his brother-in-law was.  They decided to do a swap of plantations in 1837.

The plantation is named after the path (alley) leading up to the front of the house which is bordered on each side by Southern Oak Trees (nothing like our English Oaks).  It was originally named the Bon Sejour plantation, and grew sugar cane.

One of the things that struck me was the slave quarters.  I have no axe to grind about the Americans and slavery – the Brits were guilty of it too, as well as many other nations, and it’s as bad whoever does it.  It’s just that they had names of some of the slaves who had lived here, and they told the story of slaves by name as you walked around the slave quarters.  It was incredibly moving.  As in sickening. We walked around the slave quarters, reading about the lives of the slaves and seeing the conditions in which they lived.  Grim.

Life was a little easier for the house slaves and I know that, had I been a slave there, I’d have been a field slave (way too gobby to be a house slave).  Some of the house slaves were relegated to field slaves, some were promoted to house slaves.  It almost seemed that, as a slave, you were cast aside like an old sock when you got too old to do your job, or something else went wrong.

The dining room at the plantation. A slave would have had the task of moving the overhead fan.

What a hard life, they even had the women slaves digging for the levees, and other hard field work, although even working in the house would not have been easy in those days.  At least outside you’d get a bit of fresh(ish) air.

The climate in Louisiana is generally humid (seems we were very lucky during our stay, it was not even as humid as London in the height of summer) which must have been awful for anybody working in the fields.  Although it was a beautiful location, I was quite pleased to get back to New Orleans and away from the harsh realities of what life had been like for some people.

A complete change of tack, we tried a different restaurant when we got back, which was quite pleasant.  Kate had a salad for her dinner, which turned out to be a plate of lettuce with chicken.  Not quite what I had imagined although I discovered during our stay that is what passes for a salad in most of the States.  To the extent that there were adverts on the TV in New York advertising salads with other salads vegetables as though it was a real novelty.  Which it clearly was.  I had another local dish with beans and a special request for grilled – not breaded, fried – chicken.

We found a supermarket on the corner of Bourbon Street where we bought a bottle of Californian Champagne to take back to our hotel room, to assist with the packing for the next part of our trip.  (Apologies to the champagne region of France, but that is what it said on the bottle, and it was very palatable.  I suspect, although I didn’t check, that it was made from Chardonnay grapes too.)  Somehow, packing wasn’t quite so hard after that.

We had enjoyed our stay at Maison Dupuy and were now ready for the next part of our journey.


© Susan Shirley 2017


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