Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On the Road to Tucson (1) Seaside & Baton Rouge

February 13-15, 2008. We spent time with Sandy's mother in New Port Richey. His sister Gail and husband Dale were visiting from Charlottesville, VA so we had a nice little reunion. We kept busy doing laundry, reading through and dealing with 4 weeks of mail for us and my mother, reorganizing (what really doesn't need to go with us for the next 2 months), and making some final plans.

February 16-17. We spent the night in Ft. Walton Beach near Destin and Seaside, Florida. We had read about the planned community of Seaside and that the movie, "The Truman Show" was shot here so we wanted to check it out. What a beautiful place! It was created as a pedestrian-friendly community of cottages with white picket fences and elevated porches to watch the sun set on the Gulf. It has a charming town square with an outdoor amphitheater and some of the street are cobblestone. The beach is gorgeous! In Destin we had a delicious seafood dinner at Fisherman's Wharf Seafood House while watching the sun set and boats move in and out of the harbor. (I didn't have my camera so here are some I copied.)

February 18.
The leaves were just starting to come out here. (It's interesting seeing signs of spring so early.) We had some heavy rain on and off for about an hour but were lucky the tornadoes were north of us!!

Our destination was the Laura Plantation, a creole plantation, noted to have an excellent history tour. Creole here means a mix of slaves from Senegal, Indians, Europeans (some from the Spanish Canary Islands), and French Canadians. It was started as a 20,000 acre sugar cane plantation by a French Canadian. (The land was an alluvial plain of the Mississippi River so it was very fertile.) The house was built in 1805 and named Laura Plantation by Laura Miller's father (a descendant of the original owner) to get her interested in taking over as manager. Laura managed it for about 9 years and then got married and moved to St. Louis. When she was 70 she started writing her memoirs which led to the wonderful history tour. (The guide was a decendent of one of the slave family and was excellent. He was so animated!)

It was an interesting design specific to creoles. All the beams were cut, notched and numbered first. Then it was put together. There were no hallways but air could move through the front door and out the back door. There were many slave homes, some still lived in until the early 70's.

There was a huge live oak in the front yard and beautiful formal gardens.

We were really quite ignorant about the ethnic makeup of southern Louisiana and their effect on the state's culture. French was spoken there and creoles ran the politics until 1912. After that more non-creole had moved there and became more powerful in politics. Houses were even painted different colors to denote whether French was spoken. The creoles painted theirs with bright colors like you think of caribbean island colors. The English houses were white. By 1917 the non-creole mandated that only English be spoken!! At that time the Laura Plantation house was repainted white.

An interesting sidelight was about the origin of the Br'er Rabbit stories. A creole, Alcee Fortier, who lived nearby liked to listen to the slaves' stories from their ancestral home in Senegal. He wrote them down and years later made the tales into a cartoon when he worked for a newspaper. These were then written into stories.

We had another delicious seafood dinner at Mike Anderson's Seafood and Oyster House in Destin. Their cole slaw was made with honey mustard instead of mayonnaise. I'll have to try that

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