Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Oak Alley Plantation

The morning was seasonably warm, and the drive from the Garden District in New Orleans was unhurried.  We drove to Vacherie (pronounced va-sheu-ree), about an hour's drive from our bed & breakfast, the Parisian Courtyard Inn, to tour the sweetly charming Oak Alley Plantation.

Widely known in the south as the Grand Dame of the Great River Road, Oak Alley Plantation is named after its distinguishing feature, an allied or canopied path created by a double row of Virginia live oak trees, planted in the early 18th century, long before the present house was built.  A set of oak trees take you from the exhibits to the house entrance, where you are greeted by an Historical Interpreter in period dress.

There are many things to see before making the lingering walk to the house.  There's the Blacksmith shop, the Slavery at Oak Alley exhibit, graveyard, the Confederate Commanding Officer's tent, and the gardens.  Once you reach the house, you have the opportunity to purchase a very tasty and refreshing Mint Julep.  So, so delicious on a hot, hot day.  Yes, you can enjoy your alcoholic beverage while you tour the house!  The Mint Juleps are available as a non-alcoholic beverage, too.
All of the rooms are sumptuously decorated down to the last detail.
Many furnishings and accessories are original to the house.

It was quite the experience to step back in antebellum elegance, and to learn about the creation of this national historic landmark and the people who graced this majestic home.

The grounds include a formal garden that separate the mansion from the garage, where antique cars on on display.  Gorgeous magnolia trees, pecan trees and crepe myrtles surround the home and dot the landscape.  The views transported me to a time when it was proper to be genteel, and time moved slowly.

Another section of oak alley begins from the rear of the house and leads a quarter mile to the Mississippi River.  It is forever known as one of the most beautiful trees in America, a symbol of elegance of the old south.  The trees are admired for its thick, strong trunks and long branches that reach out elegantly like ballerina limbs.

During the time Oak Alley was built, the River Region sugar industry was booming, and a chain of stately plantations and their homes began to line the banks of the Mississippi.  Over time, many of the plantation homes were devoured by the passage of time, exposure to the elements and hardships of mankind's struggle to forge on.  The Grand Dame of the Great River Road, which spans 25 acres, remains as a testimonial to the old south's Golden Age. 

After a long morning of wandering through this enchanted plantation, we lunched at the Oak Alley Restaurant.  I lunched on fried alligator and sipped on another Mint Julep.  It was perfect!

Be sure to stop by the incredible gift shop.  It offers a vast selection of gifts pertaining to Louisiana and Oak Alley.  What I loved most were the cookbooks and books on the history and culture of the River Region.  I also brought home replicas of period items like the candlestick holders, holiday ornaments, and food items as gifts for my family.  

If you plan to visit New Orleans, or any of the cities and towns of Louisiana, stop by the Oak Alley Plantation.  If not to stroll around the great southern home, then at least to sit and dream of golden bygone days.

If you're not able to make it down south, here is a list of productions filmed in part or entirely on location at Oak Alley Plantation:

Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Dixie:  Changing Habits
The Long Hot Summer
Days of Our Lives
Interview with the Vampire
Primary Colors
Beyonce's "Deja Vu" music video & "B'Day" CD insert photos
Ghost Hunters
Midnight Bayou
Young and Restless

Happy travels,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Checking In: The Hand Hotel in Llangollen, Wales

I'm sitting in an old, wonderful hotel in this picturesque market town in Llangollen, Wales. While I love the more modern hotels with all the amenities, I love more these old places that speak to me with creaky and uneven wooden floors, have old wallpaper with bubbles forming beneath it, and have labyrinths instead of hallways to navigate. This place is 400-plus years old, and it's so cool.  

Welcome to The Hand Hotel, where a burning fireplace awaits you in the tiny lobby on a cold, rainy day.  The staff is so friendly, the food pretty good, and the interior just received a new coat of paint. The two best things about this hotel is that it sits on the rippling River Dee, and it's supposedly haunted!  For those of us who love ghost stories, this gets a big round of applause! 
The River Dee
My suite facing the River Dee.
Furniture is kind of dated, but what do you expect from something charmingly aged?
The suite was small and cozy.
Everything about the room was pretty simple and basic, and that's enough if you're going to be out and about town all day.
Small bathroom but we managed nicely.
Wing of the hotel that faces the River Dee.
View into the hotel pub.

Upon arrival to this crickety hotel, we heard that someone who was staying in Room 28 the night before, wanted to be moved to another room.  She ended up being moved two more times because of "sounds" coming from within the rooms.  It's most likely from the loose floor boards and walls, but that'll be up to you, the reader, on what you want to believe.  There are stories you can find on the web about the ghosts of The Hand Hotel, and videos on YouTube!  This video had me chuckling, but it was creepy, too.  By the way, we stayed in Room #18, next to #19 where a murder occurred years ago.

To make this even more eerie, there's a very old cemetery behind the hotel. Ooohhhh...........

Again, I just loved this hotel with floors and stairs that creaked, and with staircases that went this way and that way.  They gave the hotel more character, like it really needed much more.
The hotel at dusk.
I highly recommend this hotel to the adventurous traveler.  It doesn't disappoint!  

Here's more information on The Hand Hotel.

Disclaimer:  It's my pleasure to share the places I've enjoyed staying in.  The Hand Hotel did not ask me to write this review.  I am solely responsible for my own opinion.