Twenty-eight oak trees line the awe-inspiring driveway of the decadent Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana. These were the reason why Jacques Joseph Roman chose this plantation to woo his wife into moving from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter and into the countryside. Marie used the plantation as a social gathering point for all of her city friends and entertained guests on their own country retreats. The plantation was even the site of many popular films like Interview With a Vampire and Primary Colors.
The plantation cultivated sugar cane and its owners became one of the richest families in the South. Since then Oak Alley Plantation has become an icon of New Orleans and its rich history has attracted people all over the world to visit, get married, and have special events.
Our tour began with a pickup point along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter. While waiting for the bus we sat along the riverbank watching the Natchez Steamboat roll by. The bus ride lasted about an hour, where we went through swampland and marshes, taking our turns at crocodile spotting.
Once we arrived at the plantation we were given some free time to walk around the grounds, visit the gift shop, and buy a famous chilled mint julep to cool us off from the NOLA summer heat. The plantation grounds transport you through time, and the tour guides dressed in period clothing only make the whole vision that much more authentic.
The tour began on the lower level sitting room where the Jacques and Marie would take their guests. Many times courting would also take place in the room, filled with young lovers waiting to meet their new fiancés and chaperones watching their every move. The tour guide showed us a candlestick holder that allowed a stern father to shorten or lengthen the time of a date by twisting the candle up or down the candleholder. If the courter made a good impression on the father, he would turn the candleholder up to lengthen the candlestick and allow more time. Apparently this is where the saying “short end of the stick” came to be.
After the sitting room we were guided into the elegant dining room, which was the place in the house that displayed the most wealth. One way to see how wealthy and established your hosts were was to see how heavy their silverware was. The silverware in Oak Alley Plantation is valued at over $20,000 today.
With the house being in the sub tropical climate of Louisiana, the whole house was built with a high priority for ventilation. Windows and doors faced each other for a good breeze. The house was built with thick brick walls that cooled its interior and the porch that lined the outside of the house made sure that it was always kept in the shade.
The upstairs wing of the plantation housed all of the rooms: the master bedroom, children’s room, and guest room. It was customary to serve the guests freshly cut pineapples every morning, as pineapples were a luxury item of the area. If the guest woke up to a whole pineapple in their room, it meant that they had outstayed their welcome, and should take their parting gift and leave.
The outside deck brought the most spectacular view of the property, the perfect place to sit and enjoy the scenery. After taking it all in, we were able to wander more of the property, and take a stroll down the famous oak-lined entrance-way that makes the Oak Alley Plantation so unique.
Take the Oak Alley Plantation Tour for yourself to experience this historic site!