Oak Alley Plantation is Gorgeous
Oak Alley, a beautifully restored antebellum plantation is a perfect place to visit, if you enjoy learning about American history. Located near Baton Rouge, in Vacharie, St. James Parish, Louisiana, Oak Alley is famous for…you guessed it… the stretch of giant oaks, which frame the long lawn extending from the Mississippi River to the plantation home.
The oaks, 28 in total, were planted before the house, which is surrounded by a 28 Doric columned porch, (corresponding to the number of trees). The mansion offers resting spots where visitors can relax in a chair and imagine what it would have been like for the forgone residents to cool in the late afternoon. Mint juleps are available for sale, so you don’t have to imagine what it would be like to just sit and sip, you can if you like.
The story of the house and Jaques Roman, second owner of the property, who built this beautiful edifice, is retold throughout the day by tour guides dressed in period costume. Our young guide (pictured below) had a lovely accent and I detected a slight Creole influence.
Both the upstairs and downstairs of the home are shown and furnishings are true to the period.
In sharp contrast, re-creations of some of the slave houses offer a different view of history. Here the disparity of life and living conditions between master and slave come alive. Living in the mansion (while not as comfortable as what we modern folk are accustom, i.e. air conditioning) was as luxurious as what could be found at the time. Seeing the stark simplicity and utilitarianism of every object found in the slave quarters, I left a bit uncomfortable to have witnessed this place. I think that seeing this should make visitors a bit uneasy and humble.
Only a few cabins can be found on site, however, at one time the plantation had 24 cabins housing slaves, who planted and tended to crops, processed the sugar cane, took care of the master’s family and tended to all day to day chores.
Something that I found particularly telling was this chicken coop. Construction of the coop is of the same quality of the construction of the slave cabins.
In addition to mint juleps (mentioned at the beginning of the article), Oak Alley offers a restaurant that features Louisiana cuisine and a café for those who would prefer a quick bite. We dined at the restaurant. Service and food were both good and I would recommend planning to have a meal if you visit. There is also a gift shop, where I and my traveling partners all plunked down a bit-o-cash. Obviously we found some things that we just had to have!
My visit was too short to see all that is offered at Oak Alley. There are out buildings and other areas to explore. In addition, cottages are available for overnight stays.
No compensation was received for the posting of this article. We paid full price for entrance and meals.