In the previous plantation post, we described our plans to go on Louisiana Plantation road trips and wrote about our Oak Alley Plantation tour. In this post, we will tell you about our trip to Laura Plantation.
Where is Laura Plantation located?
Laura Plantation is located approximately 60 miles upriver from New Orleans (NOLA). If planning on visiting more than one plantation in the same day, there are other plantations nearby. These include Oak Alley, St. Joseph, Whitney, San Francisco and Evergreen plantations.
On Our Way!
It is a week after our Oak Alley trip. Although the weather report calls for popup thunderstorms throughout the day and for the next 10 days, we decide to make the 1.5 hour drive to Laura. We leave early and are on our way, regardless of the rain. Our plan is to visit St. Joseph Plantation, have lunch, then tour Laura Plantation, and return home.
St. Joseph Plantation- The Experience
I know. This post is about Laura Plantation, but per our plan, St. Joseph Plantation is first on the list. Stay with me here…
Great! As we arrive, I’m thinking, the parking lot is empty. We’re early. We’re first in line. I can take photos before the crowds get in the way! “Aiieeee!- What!…they’re closed?” I ask Tricia. “Wait, is it Tuesday or Wednesday?”
Just thought I’d share this, be sure to check the open/close days for each plantation. Also, make sure of the day of the week. I’m thinking it is Tuesday! St. Joseph Plantation is closed on Wednesday. So, we pull out of the parking lot, and drive about three miles downriver to Laura Plantation.
Laura Plantation- Arrival
As we get out of the car, it is hot, humid and the rain clouds are gathering. It is a typical South Louisiana summer. I grab my camera bag, and tripod; Tricia and I walk into the gift shop to find out the tour “routine”. We are expecting to be able to walk the grounds, tour the house, roam freely and take photos. But, the young lady behind the counter is telling us, “You can pay now and join the next tour in 40 minutes. And, you can tour our museum next door while you wait.” I start to ask, and am informed, “Sorry, you can not access the grounds without a guide.” I am now a disappointed amateur photographer.
The museum is small, but impressive. I am expecting to see and read about the typical tragic stories of slavery, but we are surprised! This small museum not only contains historical information on slavery, but details about individual slaves. This is different! Details about individual slaves, their life, their family life are seldom known, much less documented. Laura Plantation researchers have done a fantastic job finding historical documents to tell factual life stories about several slaves.
Forty minutes blow past and it’s time to join the group for our scheduled tour of the home, grounds and other structures at the site.
Camille is our guide. She is dressed like us, not in costume/period clothes. As we gather in front of this creole plantation, she informs us that this tour is different from others; she will tell us about the owners, the family and individual slaves that worked on the plantation. She lets us know that this was a “working” plantation. ‘Although this is a large home, family members preferred to stay in New Orleans; if they stayed here, they had to work!’ This sets the stage for the tour of the home. As a result of the memoirs written by Laura and other historical documents, Camille can and does tell an interesting story of the plantation life at Laura Plantation, and the interaction with other plantations up and down the river.
Entering the Home
Prior to entering the main part of the home, we walk toward and under the home. Many older homes in South Louisiana are built off the ground to assist in cooling. Upon walking underneath this home, the temperature feels like it drops 10 degrees, to a comfortable 82 degrees!
I will not spoil the Laura Plantation story by retelling it here. Also, I would not do the historical narrative or Camille’s tales justice by trying to repeat the stories in my own words. As we walk under the bottom of the home, walk up the stairs and through the rooms of the home, Camille tells us the historical facts about the personal lives of the Duparc families. At one point, Camille entertains us in a first person narrative, playing the part of Nanette Prud’Homme, the ‘not-so-nice’ matriarch of the family. As things are not always perfect in our lives, everything was not always perfect in the owners lives.
Outside of the home
We exit the back of the home, down the steps, and walk across the back of the property. As the tour continues, I realize that I cannot pause for photos, and listen to Camille; she keeps moving, so I linger behind the group to attempt to get some photos. I catch phrases of her narrative as she switches from taking about the family and focuses more on the slaves that worked on the plantation. I recall reading about some of these slaves in the museum.
The Slave Cabin
I catch up to the group at the slave cabin and take photos, as Camille continues the narrative, talking about details of slavery and the slave families that lived in cabins such as the one pictured below. Also, she tells of the west-African origination of the children’s story “Br’er Rabbit. I again hang back, waiting for people to clear the area, to get clean photos. The tour ends at the slave cabin and the group walks back to the entrance as the rain begins to fall.
The Experience- What did we learn?
Although we are not able to roam the grounds to explore on our own, we do enjoy our time at Laura Plantation. The hour and a half tour and narrative by Camille is entertaining and very informative. It is great to hear and learn about life on a plantation in the late 1700’s through the 1800’s. This is the first time I hear of the interaction between plantations, slaves, owners and others living in the area in this much detail. We are very glad that this tour is nothing like the tours conducted 15-20 years ago, which typically focused on the wealth of the plantation, with some slave history mixed into the tour.
I was so focused on the photography, I missed some of the narrative. Also, since it was raining and approaching lunchtime, we left the plantation without returning to the museum; another reason to return. It should be noted that most plantations, including Laura Plantation, can be contacted if interested in photography.
One last note; due to the heat and humidity, some people with the tour group returned back to gift shop prior to arriving at the slave cabin. If you make this trip in the summer, prepare for the heat. Bring, or purchase water in the gift shop and wear light-weight comfortable clothes.
Thanks for reading!
To learn more about the Cajun Trippers, Click Here.
To learn more about Laura Plantation, go to www.lauraplantation.com.