Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Orleans - Day 4

Today we left the city of New Orleans and drove though Mississippi and Louisiana on the way to Orange Beach, Alabama next to Pensacola, Florida.

 On the way out of town we stopped to admire the Metairie Cemetery.  Burying the dead dead in a place built below sea level was a problem early city settlers struggle to resolve.  Whenever the ground flooded, bodies would float up to the surface. Their solution was to use above-ground marble crypts.

There are many more like it scattered across the city. Some famous for those who reside in the vaults.

Our next stop was the St. Joseph Plantation. It is an authentic sugarcane plantation, built around 1830 and still operational. The plantation was has been sold several times since its construction, until it was purchased by Joseph Waguespack after the Civil War. Since then, it has remained in the extended family. The adjoining home "Felicity" was purchased and the two properties merged in 1850.  Some of the family still resides in Felicity whereas St Joseph is now just open to tours and events.

Our tour was given by a great-granddaughter of the Waguyespack family. It was so fascinating to hear her retell her personal memories of growing up in Felicity. She would point out family photos and retell how her ancestors have met, married, and lived at St. Joseph.

Like all Plantations, St. Joseph relied on slaves to grow crops and run its operations. The shacks a complete contrast to the lavish interior of the home.

Next to St Joseph is the famous Oak Alley Plantation. The belle of the ball, Oak Alley is a popular tourist destination because of it's lavish landscapes. We briefly drove in front of it, but did not stop. Todd and I visited Oak Alley over twelve years ago, during our last visit to New Orleans.

The kids found the Plantation interesting, but the Cajun Pride Swamp Tour was thrilling. We drove to a bayou and boarded a river boat. Tom, our captain is a local with roots that trace back to the french settlers. He still speaks french at home and hunts for alligators on the side.

On our tour we spotted a family of wild raccoons and many alligators swimming along side our boat. At one point, Tom pulled out a bucket of raw chicken and a hook and dangled it outside the boat. Some 6-8 ft long alligators we mighty jaws came over to the side of the boat to jump and catch the meat.  Alligator hunting is done in the same way, except there meat is dangling high on the side of trees on a baited hook so that only the tallest of alligators will be able to reach it.  Alligator licenses limit the number of animals that the license holder can harvest, so only the largest of alligators are captured during the one-month season.

While we were on the boat, Tom reached out his hand in the water and captured a baby alligator for us to hold. I was so proud that the older kids decided to try it. I was one of the last one to hold it. By that point, the poor animal had become squirmish. I should have known something was up, because the moment I held it, it peed on my lap. Now, how many people can say they have been urinated on by a wild alligator?