In the sugar cane plantations of the southern United States, the beauty of the paths of great century-old oak trees leading to imposing mansions mingles with the harsh memory of slavery. To immerse yourself in this era, nothing beats visiting the large estates erected on the banks of the Mississippi. Here are four plantations to see, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Houmas House, the decadent
Some of its oaks are said to be 500 or even 600 years old. Its gardens are magnificent and make the young people dream who unite their destinies there. A submarine dating from the Civil War occupies one of its buildings. Its sumptuous interior has been restored respecting the style that prevailed in 1829. One of its restaurants, the Carriage House, offers original dishes in a setting worthy of a castle. Welcome to Houmas House, nicknamed the “sweet palace”, a plantation that dazzles with its splendor.
But the estate also surprises with its particular character, like its owner Kevin Kelly, a relaxed businessman who does not seem to do things like everyone else. Mr Kelly bought the estate in 2003 and lives there on a daily basis – during the guided tour, you could see his glasses on his bedside table, and you could smell his dogs in his bedroom. Tourists can also spend the night at Houmas House – which we warmly recommend! Besides, maybe Mr. Kelly himself will drive them in a golf cart to their room in one of the luxuriously furnished cottages a little further on the property, and they can take the opportunity to chat with him for a while. Sleeping at Houmas House also offers the perfect break from touring the local plantations, and allows visitors to sip Mint Juleps without remorse at the tiny but very friendly Turtle Bar, since they won’t have to take the car.
Note that at Houmas House, the notion of slavery is evacuated. Hearts in love with justice and rigorous history, be warned.
942, River Road,
Oak Alley, l’incontournable
Oak Alley is absolutely majestic, with its avenue of Spanish moss-topped oak trees that are almost 300 years old. It is said that Jacques Roman had the house built in 1837 in order to keep his wife, 16 years his junior, Celina, who loved the hectic life of New Orleans a little too much, away from the city.
Today, Oak Alley is managed by a nonprofit foundation that oversees its conservation and educational mission. Of the four plantations presented here, this is the one that offers the most information about the existence of the slaves who lived there.
3645 Highway 18
(Great River Road), Vacherie, LA
Evergreen, to modest
Opulence is not the hallmark of Evergreen. Compared to the others, this plantation established by a farmer of German origin in 1790 is relatively modest. Moreover, even if the house seems imposing from the outside – it displays, since it was completely redone in 1832, the paces “Greek Renaissance” -, its rooms are smaller than what one might expect. expect. But Evergreen, which has 37 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places (including 22 slave cabins, some of which can be visited), is the “most intact” plantation in the South. It is also still in operation. And, yes, that’s the one you saw in Django Unchained.
4677 Hwy. 18, Edgard, LA
Laura, the matriarchal
Laura – named after Laura Locoul, born in 1861 – is a plantation that has been run by women for 84 years. Moreover, among the ancestors of Laura who managed the place, we note her great-grandmother, Nanette, who was French Canadian. When Laura was little, 300 slaves supported this Creole plantation, where the colorful main building served as business premises. The Laura Estate has recently offered a guided tour that emphasizes the “complex and provocative relationships between landowners, slaves, and the emancipated men and women of this plantation.”
2247 Highway 18, Vacherie, LA
The Louisiana Office of Tourism covered a portion of the costs for these tours.
Photos: Andréanne Chevalier/Metro