Tuesday morning, our Tours By Isabelle guide, John, drove us from the French Quarter to a plantation called Oak Alley. Oak Alley is about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and on the way there, we took a road running along the Mississippi, lined with sugar cane fields and old plantations in various states of repair.
Sometime in the 1700s, an unknown settler built a small house, where the plantation house now stands, and planted two rows of 14 live oak trees, forming an alley leading from the house towards the Mississippi River. In 1839, a wealthy Creole sugar planter bought the property and built the home that now stands to please his young wife. However, according to our Oak Alley guide, though the planter himself loved plantation life, his wife preferred town living and escaped back to New Orleans every chance she could. Eventually, after the planter died, his wife and then his son tried unsuccessfully to run the plantation. It had to be sold to cover the family’s debts, and later fell into disrepair. (We were told that at one point, cattle broke into the home seeking shelter!) In the 1920s, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Steward began the restoration of Oak Alley, the first example of ante-bellum restoration along the River Road. Oak Alley is now a National Historic Landmark, run by a non-profit organization. The land around it is still working acreage, leased to local farmers. In addition, a number of movies, videos, commercials and TV shows have been filmed there (for instance, Oak Alley is Louis’ homeplace in Interview With the Vampire).
|View of alley from second floor balcony|
Oak Alley was my first real taste of artistic frustration on this trip. I still consider myself a beginner at sketching on location, but found myself disappointed by my lack of ability to produce the images I had in my head. I know that is something that will come with time and practice, and I tried to adjust my expectations to fit what I was able to accomplish right then. I loved seeing my fellow travelers’ journal pages, trying hard not to be embarrassed by my own, while holding out hope that someday my own pages would look something like theirs. It’s hard to accept limitations—hardest when you think you should be able to perform a certain way. (I finished one page, and began another, so at least I didn’t give up!)
|Kettle used to boil sugar cane|