How to spend two perfect days in New Orleans, Part 3
Finally, were on Day 2 of my trip to NOLA. If you’ve just tuned in, I’ve got Part 1 & Part 2 waiting for you. On our second and last full day in Louisiana, we drove to Vacherie to tour the Oak Alley Plantation. It is roughly an hour away from New Orleans, which wasn’t too bad. The best part about us driving is that it allowed us to explore other parts of Lousiana without having to pay extra for the transportation. We arrived at the plantation early in the morning, hoping to finish the tour by noon because we had to do a Swamp tour at 3 pm. Luckily, we had just arrived in time and were able to go on the second tour of the day.
Oak Alley was once a sugarcane plantation and home to over 100 slaves. The main house is grand & beautiful but the main attraction is of course the 28 Virginia live oak trees lined up perfectly, creating an alley that stretches from the main house to the Mississippi River. It’s like something straight out of Gone with the Wind; very southern and definitely charming. The grounds were lovely and pristine, there’s no denying that. However, I couldn’t help but think about the horrible things that has happened here in the past. I thought the tour was not as informative as I would like it to be. Our guide mainly focused on talking about the slave owners and only mentioned slavery a few times throughout the whole tour. I felt like the tour shied away from the topic and kept it light and friendly.
After the tour, James and I made our way to the reconstructed slave quarters at the back of the main house, which has an exhibit on slavery. I did appreciate the fact that they were able to create a proper exhibit that emphasized the lives of the slaves that made this plantation what it is today. Maybe if they incorporated it a bit more on the tour, then it would have made more of an impact to the visitors-like myself. One movie that helped me understand more of this dark past of American history is 12 Years a Slave. Growing up in the Philippines, I didn’t really know much about America’s history. I admit, my only exposure to slavery is when I would watch movies like Django Unchained and The Help. Both were good movies but it didn’t really make an impact like 12 Years a Slave did. It is so compelling and very moving that I found myself sobbing uncontrollably after watching the movie-which made me wish I saw it before we visited the plantation.
After finishing the self-guided tour of the grounds and taking a few more photos of the 300-year-old live oak trees, we drove to our next destination-Slidell, Louisiana. We’ve been looking forward to this the entire trip. Who doesn’t want to see alligators up close? Upon arrival, we were given colored wristbands that assigned us to a group. After 20 minutes or so, we were finally off. The boat captain was funny and somewhat informative. He gave us assurance that we will see maybe 1 or 2 alligators despite the cold weather (alligators are more active during the warmer months). I don’t know how he knew-maybe he’s just intuitive..but hey he’s the expert!
A few more minutes (as if it was scheduled), we finally saw an alligator. The boat captain fed it marshmallows and the alligator circled our boat till it finally grew tired and left. We saw a few more till we reached the entrance to the inner swamp. Here, the swamp is more lush and wild. As we continued to make our way into the swamp we heard a screeching noise. At the corner of my eye, I saw a bunch of wild pigs! It was so insane! The pigs were all over the place, some trying to get into our boat. Some of the passengers were a bit annoyed (maybe because the pigs were dirty) but I thought it was so cute. This swamp tour was definitely one for the books!
BONUS: The next day before we drove to Florida, we made a quick stop at the Barataria Preserve (Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve). Admission was free and since we woke up really early, we had a few hours to spare. We were pleasantly surprised with what the preserve has to offer. The preserve has 23,000 acres that includes bayous, swamps, marshes, forests, nutrias, over 200 species of birds and wildlife! Our only guide was the winding boardwalk that stretched out for miles. We saw owls, snakes, birds, bugs and even alligators-just within a hand’s reach. I was a bit anxious and had to walk in the middle of the trail because I was scared that an alligator might suddenly jump out and eat me alive (there’s no railings that separates you from the wildlife). We walked for about 4 miles or so, enjoying the lush scenery and serenity of the swamp lands. Who knew this was only a short drive from the city? Definitely a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
I really enjoyed our trip to New Orleans. From the amazing food, beautiful surroundings and lively scene, it’s definitely one of my favorite US cities to visit. Despite being stricken with poverty and natural disasters, the perseverance of NOLA’s own is something to be admired. The well-preserved culture is vibrant as ever and I’m glad visitors are seeing past the surface & actually embracing the rich culture that this place has to offer.
How about you guys? Have you been to Louisiana? What’s your favorite part of New Orleans?
Let me know in the comment section below. 🙂