Did you know the word Antebellum means, "before the war?" As in the Civil War? I had never had a reason to look it up, until I found myself hanging out in St. Francisville, LA for a week of work. During the day, I followed a film crew around as they shot a movie and I produced the behind the scenes video coverage. After wrap, I found myself visiting the local plantations in search of understanding. Let's face it, most of the ones I visited, sit on gorgeous, well manicured properties. And a few of them claim to be haunted (I'm looking at you, Myrtles Plantation!). But the whole time I was there, I felt awkward and uncomfortable about their historical ill treatment of the African American population. And seriously, why was everyone so insistent on dressing up and talking about life on the plantations as if the Civil War had never happened? To further my education, I decided to spend the night at the Nottoway Plantation on the other side of Baton Rouge. What I found was a 5-star hotel with no electricity. So if I had been curious of what life would be like living on a farm in Louisiana at the turn of the century, I had in fact found it. Thankfully, the bar hooked us up with delicious bourbon and my neighbors, who shared my porch had extra beer on hand. We made a little drinking party of it, as we batted away mosquitoes and watched the American Queen paddleboat leave the port and continue it's journey down the Mississippi River. Would I go back to stay a the Nottoway? Probably not. The cottage I stayed in was nice, but there wasn't much of an apology for the fact that we were without electricity, whatever happened to that famous Southern Hospitality?
From Nottoway, I went to Avery Island to visit it Tabasco Factory (which was a lot of fun...I have a soft spot for factory tours) and Lafayette, where I visited the Acadian Village to get a better understanding of the Creole settlers. Finally, after a week of working and wandering (and somewhere in the middle of it all, I spent 2 days in New Orleans) I finally headed back home to Santa Fe.
Here are my recommendations should you find yourself in the neighborhood....
The Francis: This seems to be the one place to go for nightlife. The food is delicious (albeit a bit heavy) and the bar has plenty of beer on tap.
Magnolia Cafe: All the locals well send you to this delicious place for breakfast or lunch. And it's worth it, the food was yummy and the hospitality was spot on.
Tucker's Seafood: Zachary, LA (about 15 mins away) is a total hoot. The cook that works there was wearing flip-flops, while the ladies that worked the counter would only tell you the secret ingredient in their cocktail sauce if you managed to guess it. The cafe has a silkscreening shop in front part of the store...which I'm unsure actually falls under OSHA regulations...but what do I know? A hustle is a hustle...and their food was not only good, it was a great deal.
Grandmother's Buttons: This is the cutest clothing and jewelry shop in town. The store is in a refurbished bank, and the vault holds a collection of vintage buttons. Totally worthy of a quick visit.
Lafayette, LA (about 2 hours from St. Francisville)
Avery Island and the Tabasco Factory : Although, this is pretty well done self-guided tour, I feel as though the location itself is more the highlight of the visit vs the actual factory. I left wondering if I could get a job working for Tabasco, so I could move to the island.
Acadian Village: I knew nothing about the Acadians and found this tour to be interesting, but not quite as informative as I had hoped. I liked that there were many preserved building from the area.
Acme Oyster House: This is pretty much a local sports bar, not far from campus, extremely low-key and crowded. But the grilled oysters are delicious and although my dinner companion was on a NO CARB diet, he couldn't help himself when it came to trying a sampler of Southern delicacies.