Day 11 - New Orleans (cont)  
    The main dining room at Oak Alley.    
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor Film: Fuji NPZ 800

The tour of the mansion at Oak Alley is very popular, and there were 30 people of so in our group as we started on the ground level. Met by a woman dressed in period costume we were guided around the building and shown some of the many features of the property. Additionally, our guide had many stories about life at the time, and the history of the plantation and the people who lived there.

Photography for non-commercial purposes is permitted inside the property, however flash photography is not allowed. Thankfully, I was able to switch to 800 speed film for the tour, and so I was able to photograph many of the rooms. The hard part was waiting for the 30 people in our tour group to finish looking at the room before taking the photos. I would suggest that the use of a fast prime lens and 800 speed film (or more) be considered if you wish to photograph the property.


The lovely downstairs sitting room. Every tour of Oak Alley starts in this room.


Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor Film: Fuji NPZ 800


While the United States took control of Louisiana in 1803, the people of New Orleans were not particularly enamoured with Napoleon's decision. In town, the response to American control was less than welcoming. Protestant American culture was seen as domineering and vulgar. In 1808, the territorial legislature adopted elements of Spanish and French laws - especially the Napoleonic Code - elements of which persist in Louisiana to the present.

However, the Louisiana Purchase did remove political barriers to the growth of New Orleans, and from 1803 until 1861, New Orleans' population increased from 8,000 to nearly 170,000. The nature of the city's economy also changed, moving from a river community whose main work was transferring goods from river vessels to oceangoing craft to a vastly prosperous city built on shipping and storage, wholesale trade, entertainment, travel services, and finance. A large part of this growth resulted from the booming agricultural sector which was capitalising upon the worldwide growth in demand for cotton. This cotton, produced on huge and efficient plantations, provided enormous wealth for the plantation owners, enabling mansions such as Oak Alley to be built.


The master bedroom at Oak Alley. This room is upstairs and opens onto the magnificent veranda.


Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor Film: Fuji NPZ 800


The Master's study, where the plantation's accounts would have been maintained.

Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor Film: Fuji NPZ 800

It is a truly magnificent property, and an amazing experience to visit. However, it is sobering to ponder on the misery that the slavery-based economy that created Oak Alley also produced. In fact, slave labor was used to build the property. All the bricks used in the construction of the mansion were baked in a kiln that was built on the plantation. The cypress boards were hand-hewn by slave labor and the wrought iron work still in place today was hand-wrought by slaves at Oak Alley

The view from the upstairs veranda.
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

As our guide finished showing us through the property, David and I joked that we had never heard someone use so many "y'all"s in 40 minutes in our lives. She had laid it on pretty good and thick for we tourists!

At the end of the tour, we walked outside into the warm New Orleans day, and David disappeared for a moment, returning with two huge mint juleps, one for each of us. A mint julep is a drink made with bourbon that has been infused with mint overnight, and then mixed with a water and sugar syrup for sweetness. Oak Alley is famous for its mint juleps and I can see why, it packed quite a kick, but was very refreshing. In fact, I could have comfortably had a few more.

Before heading back to our car we walked the grounds once more, enjoying the beautiful surroundings on what had been a lovely day.

Oak Alley has a garage with a couple of classic cars inside.
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

After leaving Oak Alley we took the opportunity to drive around and visit several other plantations, viewing them from the street because they were not open to tourists. Interestingly, at every intersection were dozens of placards for different elections. America is a little different to most countries, with elections seemingly for every public service job, but seriously, some of these people were seeking election to the job of Assessor! Sometimes maybe it is possible to take democracy a little too far.

Who wants to be elected Assessor?.
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

After returning to New Orleans, we arranged to meet with Hudson and Barba the following day, and then we headed down to the bar I had discovered the night before for some cleansing ales, and some more of those great deep-fried cheese sticks! There is just something about New Orleans that makes you want to drink a lot more than anywhere else I have ever been. Maybe it's attitude, maybe it's the warm weather and the ease of buying alcohol, but whatever it is, David and I got its full effect.

A few hours later and quite a bit more inebriated, we headed to Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar for dinner. Felix's has been operating for 55 years in New Orleans in the heart of the French Quarter, and naturally specialises in seafood. We had a great meal of plump, freshly shucked oysters and Jambalaya, and then headed home for the evening.

Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar, New Orleans..
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 VFC MC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala

There's no doubt about it, New Orleans is one heck of a town.

Please click on the link below to see our Day 12 - including a trip on the great Mississippi, and a visit to the historic Chalmette battlefield.

Next: Day 12
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