Monday, November 21, 2011

Brittania's Visit

The first week of November saw the arrival of Brittania Tobin from Tucson, Az.  Brittania was the reservations manager, and my boss, at Westward Look Resort.  She also is renting my house so we are more than mere friends.  She spent 4 days with me in the RV and the following is her entry into the blog.  Her notes will be prefaced with BLT and my notes with TL.

  TL:  New Orleans Airport.  Satchmo is trumpeting the arrival of Brittania.

BLT:        My Travels with Toni :)
Months ago, when Toni hatched this wondrous plan of retiring and setting sail down the road, she told me that I had to come travel with her at some point, and to let her know what I wanted to see.

I had the good fortune of sitting next to Toni at work for 4 years and was always awestruck at her stories of growing up in Southern Louisiana, the tales of living in the French Quarter, and she consistently had my mouth watering with her description of Cajun food and the music…. So naturally, my choice was to explore New Orleans and Cajun country with my dear friend.

After working through some logistics, the plans were set – I would meet Toni in New Orleans and we would work our way throughout Cajun Country (little did I know that we would EAT our way through the state!). 

BLT:  Toni and her incredibly kind and gracious cousin Jamie picked me up at the airport and we headed out to Gramercy, to stay the night at their beautiful home. As we drove out to Gramercy, Jamie explained how the sugarcane fields are harvested and pointed out the swamp. We drove on and saw several refineries and plants – they look like small cities of their own! On the way, we stopped for some chicken fingers at a chain called Raising Cane – I love the story behind this booming business. Legend has it that an LSU student turned in a business model for this restaurant for a project and received a C. After graduating, this student started the first Raising Cane store across the street from LSU – there are now Raising Cane’s throughout the state!

TL:  Brittania spent her first night in the RV--and survived!

BLT:  Once we got settled, Toni and I caught up on what had been happening on her travels and I caught her up with what’s been happening in Tucson – it was so great to be with her!! I have missed her terribly since she decided to start this grand adventure… and we made plans for the next four days… First stop, New Orleans and then into the heart of Cajun Country.
 BLT: On Thursday morning, we headed to Vacherie, LA to visit the Laura Plantation, which is a Creole Plantation. It was beautiful – brightly colored, exotic gardens and a great history. Our tour guide was great – she had a wonderful sense of humor and did a fantastic job of telling the story of how the Laura Plantation came to be. The Duparc family, headed by Guillame Duparc began the plantation in 1805. Three generations later, Laura Locoul took the helm, operating the successful plantation until she sold it in 1891 to the family of Florian Waguespack, who were French-speaking Creoles of Alsatian descent. We had a great time walking around this incredible plantation – the grounds were just beautiful and the legends we heard were wonderful. 

TL:  I was struck by the fact that the plantation was run mostly, and most successfully, by the women.
But they were as ruthless and demanding as any man would have been.

TL:  The bright colors on this plantation are an indication that it was Creole owned.  The colors mirror the influence of the Caribbean in Louisiana.  The non-Creole (or Americans as they were called then) painted their plantations white.

TL:  The interior of the plantation was not particularly lavish--it was, after all, a working plantation.  There were no fancy balls or soirees in the style of neighboring Oak Alley plantation.

TL:  Upwards of 250 slaves worked the plantation--starting at the age of six.

TL:  This was the kitchen that supplied meals for all the workers.

TL:  There was a whole grove of banana trees.

BLT:  Next stop was the Oak Alley Plantation, down the road. This majestic antebellum property was just beautiful – the live Oaks that line the driveway were breathtaking. We didn’t tour the plantation, but had a delicious lunch in their restaurant – my first taste of real gumbo and a roast beef po’boy. This was the beginning of my culinary adventure, and we were off to a great start!!

BLT: Once we walked off our lunch through the grounds and the gift shop (I’ve never met a gift shop I didn’t like!) we hit the road towards New Orleans.  

TL:  I learned that all these plantations with rows of oak trees leading to the front entries were designed with a purpose.  The homes all faced the river (Both Laura and Oak Alley are across the road from the levee) and the oaks helped to capture the breezes from the river and lead the cooler air into the front doors and windows of the plantations. 

BLT:  We drove into New Orleans and got settled.  Our campsite was about a ½ mile outside of the French Quarter.  We walked into the Quarter on Dumaine St. and saw where Toni and Roger lived back in the ‘60s! Such a magnificent area – the homes and storefronts 
were just beautiful. 

BLT:   We moseyed our way down to Bourbon St. and walked into Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. (TL:  Jean Lafitte was a notorious pirate during the early 1800's and the blacksmith shop was a front for him to sell his pirated loot) Toni said not much had changed since she used to hang here. We ordered some drinks (I braved a Hurricane) and sat and people watched for a bit… another one of my favorite activities.

TL:  Have you ever wondered where the product name of Nabisco came from?
And one of their earliest products was Uneeda Biscuit!

TL:  Brittania immediately made friends.

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