Tuesday 19th July – The Sugar Palace and The Sugar Prince

‘Busted Flat and Baton Rogue, heading for the train, feeling just as faded as my jeans…’ I’m thinking this was Johnny Cash but no matter. I think this was one of Dads favourites and we knew ALL the words. The words mean’t little but Baton Rogue is in the headlines with six officers ambushed by an ex marine who shoots and kills three and injures the other three.

People here are shaking their heads. There’s a lot of disbelief about the current news.  That Trump sits where he does. I ask if they are worried he might get through but we are told there is no way he will be allowed to be President. One tells me the new President was decided a long time ago and this is just the process to let American people think they have some say. “They don’t, she says matter of factly. It’s all a ridiculous game and an expensive one at that.” She tells me America’s gone crazy. Baton Rougue is just an hour from here and we head that way today with the first formal tour of our whole trip today. We were collected after breakfast and taken to a plantation house first built in the 1770’s by a French Aristocrat. Extended over the years to what it is today and known in the 1800’s as ‘The Sugar Palace’. 

We have an hour drive and it pours with rain and I reflect how we are usually amazingly lucky with it often clearing just as we are about to head out. It was still pouring when we arrive and everyone’s buying umbrellas at $25, except us, but as we exit the door to the garden I spy complimentary umbrellas and snap up the last two. Yaya!  About two minutes later the rain stops and it’s so hot we need them for shade. Still lucky….Yes!

Like many three hundred year old homes there was a series of changes and owners, but an interesting one was John Burnside, an Irishman who arrived as a stowaway and worked damned hard buying property and developing it. Seeing many of the richest families in America setting up sugar plantations he purchased land around the original homestead and developed it into the largest sugar producing plantation in the United States in its heyday. It had around a thousand slaves and a thousand indentured servants and in fact was like a village all by itself. At the start of the civil war he was smart and instead of fighting the system, he freed all his slaves, built them homes at one side of his property, gave them land for themselves to grow on and paid them wages. This meant his plantation was still in production right through the war. I’m sure he wasn’t popular with the other plantation owners. Did he care or was just savy?

We have a one hour tour with a southern belle dressed as in the day. She explains women back then often took out a rib or three to have the tiniest waists of around sixteen inches. No wonder they were swooning all the time pulled up tight in corsets and in this heat! She explained how the house design and tree planting helped with keeping them cool but also many plantation owners came for the cooler months and lived in their summer houses where the climate was more agreeable at this time of year. With her southern drawl and talking fast I sometimes found it hard to keep track. It’s amazing how not having glasses affects your hearing. I think sometimes we depend on our sight to fill in gaps and at times feel like I’m walking in a bit of a fog which gets better as my eyes adjust. 

This is the underneath of one of the four poster beds

The current owner of the house lives here still and has restored the house as much to original as he can. He has purchased many period antiques for the home and this one came from an auction where he was bidding on a beautiful table top eagle statue. 

He wasn’t. fussed on this one at all. But once he got it home and had it cleaned up turned out it was solid silver by a prominent artist of the time, so a bargain. I love stories like this! He developed the gardens which are stunning as a wedding venue and built cottages for boutique accommodation. I really enjoy wandering around the gardens and take a heap of photos to remind me what to do at home. 

This planting is perfect for a moon lit night garden. The light coloured leaves catching the moon light and reflecting it. 

This planting is awesome for a night moonlit garden with the leaves being reflective and I know where I’m going to do this but I’m also reminded to plant more heavily so I have to mulch and weed less. We head back and are reminded of how wet this place is as we head on to a bridge that takes us across swamp for almost half an hour with highways of bridges that Criss cross all over it. 

A coffee, shower and back to Starbucks for wifi. We only have wifi for two devices in our hotel room and guess who misses out? It’s not a biggie as the other two are crazy nerds and can’t be without it, but it means I’m falling behind on posting my blog. 

Finally at Coops where Tony and Duane recommended we go to eat. There’s a queue that ends up being about half an hour long but no one wants to leave and everyone’s had a recommendation for it. We decide to stay put chatting with the people in front and behind us. One couple had been down bourbon street and she said she was surprised at the nudity, level of drunkeness and disgustingness of it all. We haven’t even bothered to go there as it all sounded pretty horrible. Finally at about 9pm we are seated. We tell the waitress to order for us after a quick discussion and dinner was amazing and not even expensive. Wherever we go the song…’Jumbalya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo…’, plays in my head as its on every menu and we’ve tried it all different ways now. I love them all. Lovely spicy rice and tomato salsa type dishes that are filling and I’m excited about our cooking class tomorrow. 

We leave there and head down towards the music on Frenchman Street that is intermingled as every bar has a live band. ‘Act loca’v we laughingly remind each other so the thieves will leave us alone, then we round a corner and hello, there’s a ten piece band playing on a street corner. The crowd is clapping and enjoying it and growing. We join the crowd and Ren and I soon join the dancers. It’s heaps of fun and I’m happy to chuck a few dollars in the hat after. It ends as quickly as it started, with the crowd dispersing into other bars and we wander on until eventually make our way home. Another fun night on the streets of New Orleans. 

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