Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sights to See + Good Eats: Laura Plantation + B&C Seafood, Vacherie, Louisiana


Laura Plantation  2247 River Rd./Hwy. 18, in VACHERIE, (888) 799-7690, (225) 265-7690.  Guided tours daily 10am-4pm; $20.  No lodging.  Based on 5,000 pages of documents from the French National Archives that are related to both the free and enslaved families who lived on this centuries-old sugar cane farm, and also incorporating original resident Laura’s own book “Memories of the Old Plantation Home,” the tour here features professional guides who share compelling, real-life accounts of seven generations of Creole inhabitants.  This plantation has the largest collection of family artifacts original to a Louisiana plantation.  Life here wasn’t all hoopskirts and mint juleps or convoluted relationships and intrigue.  Here it was Creole-style austere.  For instance, by tradition marriage was proposed with a fan, not a diamond ring.  Twelve buildings are on the National Register, and many are 19th-century Creole-style that are raised off the ground on square brick pillars while others are 210-year-old West African bricks-between-posts construction.  Built in 1805 and situated on a fault line with a natural ridge high point, this site never flooded.  The property has a tropical feel, with palm trees and a banana forest that is sometimes shriveled and dry from cold winter weather.  The west-African stories that inspired “Tales of Brer Rabbit” were originally recorded in this region and are thought to have been originated in cabins here.

Laura Plantation store in Vacherie, Louisiana
Laura Plantation store in Vacherie, Louisiana

cat's-eye view from plantation house at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
cat's-eye view from plantation house at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
 
dry banana forest at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
dry banana forest at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

19th-century Creole-style out building that is raised off the ground on square brick pillars, at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
19th-century Creole-style out building that is raised off the ground on square brick pillars, at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

out building at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
out building at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

portraits of former residents at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
portraits of former residents at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

portrait of former resident at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
portrait of former resident at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
 
crawfish mound at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
crawfish mound at Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana


B&C Seafood  2155 River Rd./Hwy. 18, (225) 265-8356, in VACHERIE.  M-Sat 11am-4:30pm.  Located right next door to Laura Plantation, so close that you can easily walk on over, B&C provides some of the area's best Cajun and Creole seafood.  According to one regular, it is “the only restaurant in the state of Louisiana that serves Alka-Seltzer for dessert.”  Diners pass through the fish market in front to reach the large dining room in back.  Fried plate lunches are primo and include combos—I had catfish, prawns, and particularly delicious hushpuppies—and the menu also offers fried alligator, boudin balls, stuffed potatoes, gumbo, po-boys, and plenty more. 

exterior of B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
exterior of B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana

fish market at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
fish market at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana

fresh crawfish at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
fresh crawfish at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana

dining room at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
dining room at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana


owner of B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
owner of B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana

Abita root beer at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
Abita root beer at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana

salad at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
salad at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana

fried combo at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
fried combo at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana
B&C Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sights to See: Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana


Oak Alley Plantation  3645 River Rd./Hwy. 18, in VACHERIE, (800) 442-5539.  Tours 9-5; $10.  Lodging $104-$135, includes breakfast.  This exceptional property is entered from the river road through a dramatic, and much-filmed, quarter-mile alley tree tunnel of 300-year-old oak trees (there are 28 of them spaced 80 feet apart in two equal rows).  Movies filmed here include “The Long Hot Summer,” “Interview with the Vampire,” and “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” as well as Beyonce’s “Déjà Vu” music video.  The house tour tells about the Romans family that built the plantation.  Outside, a self-guided tour continues through the “Slavery at Oak Alley” exhibit.  Spread through six cabins, it provides insight into the lives and importance of those who were enslaved here.  Also of special interest are The Sugarcane Theater, which shows a short video explaining how sugarcane is processed into sugar, and a Blacksmith Shop with an 1800s-era forge and live demonstrations.

oak tree alley at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
oak tree alley at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

dining room in plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
dining room in plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

reading belle in plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
reading belle in plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

children's bedroom in plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
children's bedroom in plantation house at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

slave cabin at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
slave cabin at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

Housed in a 19th-century cottage, Oak Alley Restaurant serves a particularly tasty breakfast enhanced by what must be the very best beignets around. 

best beignets around in restaurant at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
best beignets around in restaurant at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

Both new and century-old cottages are available on the outskirts of the property to spend the night in.  Breakfast in the restaurant is included. 



guest cottages at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana
guest cottages at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sights to See: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, Darrow, Louisiana


Houmas House Plantation and Gardens  40136 River Road/Hwy. 942, in Darrow, (225) 473-9380, (225) 473-7841.  Tours daily 9am-7pm.  Once part of a sugar cane farm, this grand Greek revival plantation home began as a three-room cottage.  It is now known for the 40 acres of magnificent gardens that surround it, and something is always in bloom.  Sugar kettles, converted into small ponds, dot the premises.  Giant oak trees in front channel breezes into the house.  Allow time to stroll the gardens before or after your house tour led by a costumed tour guide who describes the plantation’s unique history, people, and culture.

garden fountain at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
garden fountain at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

drum bridge at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
drum bridge at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

The art and antique furnishings here are posh and spectacular, and a few are original to the house.  Highlights include a striking mural in the mansion's entry, which was painted by the head groundskeeper--who is also a talented artist and runs The Art Noir gallery on-site.

costumed guide by interior grand staircase Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
costumed guide by interior grand staircase Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

detail of contemporary mural at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
detail of contemporary mural at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

A gold clock that once belonged to Marie Antoinette and then Napoleon now resides on the mantle,

antique gold clock at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
antique gold clock at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

and a 68-pound solid-silver rendering of Abraham Lincoln made by American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who also chiseled the giant heads at Mt. Rushmore, sits calmly in the drawing room (don’t miss your chance to rub his nose for good luck).

silver sculpture of Abraham Lincoln at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
silver sculpture of Abraham Lincoln at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

And an original Gauguin graces a wall.

Gauguin painting at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
Gauguin painting at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

painting at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
painting at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

Plus, upstairs you’ll see the bed where Bette Davis slept while filming “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” here, as well as a vampire slaying kit from the collection of author Anne Rice.

the Bette Davis bed at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
the Bette Davis bed at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

The Carriage House restaurant is a splendid room.  Sitting in it is divine, and the food matches the surroundings.  Afternoon tea is served, and you can enjoy a casual but elegant dinner here.  My own meal was a bland local seafood gumbo with a potent French martini cocktail and a soft white-chocolate bread pudding ending.

Carriage House restaurant at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
Carriage House restaurant at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

gumbo at Carriage House restaurant at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
gumbo at Carriage House restaurant at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

An annex near the kitchen features taxidermy animal heads galore.

room with taxidermy heads at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
room with taxidermy heads at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

Tucked at the other end of this restaurant, behind a giant 600-year-old live oak tree that has been struck by lightning several times, the cozy Turtle Bar is the perfect spot for a before or after dinner drink.  Also, Cafe Burnside is open daily for lunch and Sunday brunch, and in the Old French House, Latil’s Landing, offers fine dining dinners. 

Turtle Bar at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
Turtle Bar at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

New cottages are situated sort of like the slave quarters were on plantations in times past--always in two rows, always on the outskirts of the property.  Built in 2012, The Inn at Houmas House is a collection of 6 luxuriously appointed cottage buildings with 21 rooms situated along a 300-year-old allee of ancient oaks.  Exteriors feature Doric columns and mimic planters' homes of the 1800s, and guests are provided rocking chairs so they can sit on their shaded porch and enjoy a gentle breeze off the Mississippi River.  A mixture of antiques and modern amenities decorated the attractive guest rooms, and each has a unique theme.  Bell service and transportation around the property is handled with golf carts.  Two complimentary house-tour tickets are included with each guest room.

cottage at Inn at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
cottage at Inn at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

guest room at Inn at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana
guest room at Inn at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana

More plantations.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sights to See: River Road Drive Plantations, Baton Rouge to New Orleans, Louisiana


Grand plantations stretch along River Road Drive, following the Mississippi River for about 45 miles from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.  High levees continue to protect the properties from the Mississippi River.  The area was nicknamed “The Sugar Coast” because of the extensive sugar cane fields found here, many of which are still attached to old plantations.  Once, more than 2,000 plantations lined the Mississippi River along this winding road.  Today, most are gone.  Only about 100 remain, and of those only 20 are open to the public.  Each tells a unique story and offers guided tours, and some have restaurants and/or overnight lodging.



Houmas House Plantation in Louisiana
Houmas House Plantation in Louisiana

As you travel through the parishes of St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Charles, in addition to majestic plantation homes you’ll find mysterious swamps and some excellent Cajun/Creole cuisine. 
Organized tours that visit plantations vary.  An option is spending half a day touring two plantations and the other half exploring Cajun Country and the swamps.  Some will pick you up by van from your hotel, others have a central meeting point.  Some are by bus, and some are by boat.  And, of course, you can drive it yourself. 

costumed docent at Destrehan Plantation in Louisiana
costumed docent at Destrehan Plantation in Louisiana

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging here about 6 plantations that are open to the public:
Destrehan Plantation 
Evergreen Plantation 
Houmas House Plantation and Gardens 
Laura Plantation 
Oak Alley Plantation 
Whitney Plantation 

More things to do in Louisiana. 

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 



oak alley at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana
oak alley at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Good Eats: Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House, Taichung, Taiwan


Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House  Cold pearl milk tea—also known in the U.S. as bubble or boba tea--originated in the early 1980s.  To be precise, Mr. Liu Han-Chieh invented bubble tea here in his Taiwan tea house.  He came up with the idea of serving tea cold during a visit to Japan where he saw coffee served cold.  In Taiwan, bubble tea is a foamy, cold black Chinese tea mixed with ice and sometimes milk.  It does not include tapioca balls.  Another guy in this shop invented pearl tea, which mixes tea with fresh tapioca balls and sometimes include milk.  Tapioca balls can be added to any cold drink in this tea house for a small additional charge.

ad for DIY Boba Tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
ad for DIY Boba Tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

entry at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
entry at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

I found myself here for the do-it-yourself workshop that teaches you how to make both types of cold tea.  My lesson began with making bubble black tea—the original cold Chinese tea.  Using a precise recipe, we started with 70 cubic centimeters of strong-brewed black tea from Sri Lanka.  To the shaker, we added ice over the top, so it was like a mountain, then poured 20 cubic centimeters of liquid cane sugar over the ice, added the tea, and closed the shaker.  We then shook it forcefully, out and away from our bodies, for 33 shakes.  The collision of liquid with ice creates bubbles--thus the name.  We poured our liquid in a drinking cup and compared the foam with the other participants, then drank. 
The second part of the lesson taught us how to prepare pearl milk tea, the shop’s best seller and my personal favorite.  I adore pearl tea.  First we compared the powdery, fresh grey pearls that this shop uses (they last only a few days in the refrigerator) with the hard, dried-out, toasted-looking pearls that many other shops use (they can last unrefrigerated for 2 or 3 years!).  (It was interesting to learn that tapioca grows underground on the root of a tree.  About the size of a yam, it is often called a tree potato.)  For this concoction, an even stronger black tea is used so that the pearls don’t overpower the taste of the tea.  The recipe is the same, except that 1 spoon of dried milk is added into the shaker with the tea and whisked until dissolved.  After shaking the shakers like they are maracas, we pour the liquid over 2 teaspoons of tapioca balls and stir.  Yum.

set-up for DIY boba tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
set-up for DIY boba tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

instructor Dora Cheng for DIY boba tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
instructor Dora Cheng for DIY boba tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

fresh tapioca pearls for DIY boba tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
fresh tapioca pearls for DIY boba tea at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

finished pearl tea at DIY workshop at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
finished pearl tea at DIY workshop at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

After, we had the option of staying on for lunch, which we did.  I ordered the #279 vegetarian handmade thin noodles, which were delicious and just the right amount of food.  The most popular lunch item on the menu is #198, Kung-Fu noodles with minced pork and mushrooms.  I accompanied my noodles with the #819 chocolate milk tea with pearls.  The medium portion was huge and chocolatey, with chocolate shavings floating on top, and could easily have passed for a dessert.  I shared it with others and still wasn’t able to finish it.  The most popular tea here is the #6 pearl milk tea.   

#279 vegetarian handmade thin noodles at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
#279 vegetarian handmade thin noodles at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan

#819 chocolate milk tea with pearls at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan
#819 chocolate milk tea with pearls at Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan


More things to do in Taiwan.


More things to do in Taichung.

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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers