Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mississippi River Road

My husband loves country music and had been looking for an opportunity to travel up to Branson, Missouri.  He had a good bit of time off in July, so we decided it was a good time to hop in the car and head to Branson.  He especially wanted to attend the revisited Hank Williams show. 

We had seen some of the beautiful old plantations and other sights near the New Orleans, Louisiana area when we visited our daughter  when she lived there.  She is back living here in Tallahassee now.  What a blessing!  We remembered the area being so beautiful and decided we would begin where we left off and travel on up the River Road,  along Highway 61,  continuing on to Branson.

Traveling along Interstate 10, continuing on west just past New Orleans, we took an exit that took us down to the Mississippi River Road.  We discovered there are a lot of little side River Roads on both sides of the river.  The main road we would be following for most of the trip would be Highway 61.  I had seen Oak Alley on a previous visit with our daughter, but my husband had never been there, and I did not want him to miss seeing this beautiful sight.

Oak Alley Plantation
3645 State Hwy. 18
Vacherie, Louisiana

Oak Alley was built in 1837-39 for Jacques Roman.  Brother of Andre Roman who was twice governor of Louisiana.  These types of plantation homes were once scattered all along the Mississippi valley.  Through the years this house was sold and resold.  In 1925 the house was purchased and extensively restored.

So impressive is the double row of giant live oak trees which form the 800 foot long oak alley.  The trees were planted before the house was constructed in 1837.

Our all-day travels put us in the area after Oak Alley was closed.  Just to let you know, you can tour this home, and they do have overnight rental cottages, a full country breakfast, and lunch is available at the plantation restaurant.

Directly across from the above view of the huge oaks, if you turn around and face the other way,  is this scene in the below photo.   You can't just look out and see the Mississippi River, you must climb up the levee that has been built all along the River Road.   I do understand the levee was built to prevent flooding of the area, but can you just imagine how very beautiful the river would be without that levee in the way.

As you can see, there is some construction.  I am standing on the narrow roadway at the top of the levee in the below photo.

And from that roadway in the below photo is the view of the Mighty Mississippi.  Even though the sun was setting it was still a beautiful sight to see.  

This beautiful river is the world's 4th longest and 10th largest river system stretching for 2,530 miles.  The river begins in Lake Itasca in Minnesota and ends at the Gulf of Mexico.  The Mississippi River travels through ten states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.  It was exciting to be traveling along the River Road and to feel the history all around us.

As  we continued on along the River Road it was not unusual to see these huge bridges crossing the Mississippi as in the below photo.

One of our goals while traveling along the beautiful River Road was to visit several of the old plantation homes dotted all along the way.  There were so many it would be impossible for us to see all of them.  Mr. Google would be happy to tell you about the other plantations in the area.

The next plantation we wanted to visit was the old antebellum Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, which was a relatively short distance from Oak Alley.

Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
40136 Highway 942
Darrow, Louisiaa

As we walked around the gardens, the below photo was our first view of the beautiful Houmas House Plantation.  Houmas House is sometimes referred to as "The Crown Jewel of Louisiana's River Road."  It is a 21 room mansion situated on 36 acres,  just across from the Mississippi River.

The garden area included this beautiful pond.

This beautiful old antebellum mansion has quite a history.  Construction was completed in 1828.  Houmas House began to build it's sugar production with 98,000 of it's total 300,000 acres planted in sugar cane.

An Irishman, John Burnside bought the plantation in 1857 for $1 million. Under his direction, production of sugar at the Houmas House was the largest produced in the country, with a monumental 20 million pounds of sugar being produced each year.   Mr. Burnside even built a railway to carry his products to market.

During the Civil War, Burnside saved the Mansion from destruction by declaring immunity as a subject of the British Crown.

The gardens and plantation were surrounded by these beautiful stately old live oaks.

Well! in time things changed for the plantation ... In 1927 there was what was called the "great flood." The rains began that summer causing the Mississippi to overflow, ultimately causing $400 million in damages. This was followed by the Great Depression just two years later.  The Houmas House Plantation withered away and fell into disrepair.

But, there is a happy ending to the story.  In 1940,  Dr. George B. Crozat bought the Houmas House to use as a summer-home away from his home in New Orleans.  He renovated the property and returned it back to it's original splendor.  Dr. Crozat's family opened the property to tourists in 1963.

There were several old statues dotted all around the garden.

Could not resist snapping this pretty little purple flower while walking through the garden.

The tour of the Houmas House began in the main hall downstairs.

 I loved the statues of the little fellas who greeted guests as they came inside for the tour.

 It is always a treat to see a beautiful dining room.

I felt like we were surrounded by history, and it is reflected in the many antique furnishings and works of art that we saw in the beautiful old Houmas House.

 The music room below.

 The upstairs hall.

 A spiral-staircase work of art.

 In an upstairs bedroom.

One of the upstairs bedrooms.

 A game table.

A view out the upstairs bedroom window.

 Another bedroom.

A Tiffany lamp in the study.

 A beautiful old light fixture.

 A lovely hand painted serving bowl.

 Our tour guide entertained us in the music room.  She was very good.

A view from the upstairs porch looking down toward the Mississippi River.  You would be able to see the river except the levee is very high.

 The upstairs porch.

 All good things come to an end with a walk through the kitchen and a door leading outside.

Thank you for coming along with us on the tour of the beautiful Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.  Do come back again as we continue on down the River Road later on.......
Wishing you sweet days with many blessings.

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