Flo Rida (the rapper) = Florida (the state). Yeah, I’m slow at these things. It wasn’t till the kids started saying it that the connection actually occurred to me.
We visited New Orleans on a previous occasion and loved it, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Baton Rouge. It’s New Orleans’ more sophisticated, genteel, quieter sister. Still radiating that unique Southern charm made sexy with a French accent, but cleaner, less hectic and with fewer tourists. I think I’m falling a little bit in love with Louisiana. But it may take some time to really understand her quaint, and well, befuddling accent. That’s ok. I can smile dotingly, besotted by her, without having to fully understand what she says.
Just outside of Baton Rouge sit a number of old plantation houses. Some have been turned into resorts, others remain private residences and others still have been beautifully preserved and maintained in perpetuity. The best of these is the Oak Alley Plantation.
It was run into the ground by the original owners Jaques and Celina Roman, but fortunately, was rescued in the 1920s by the Stewart family. It is a brilliant example of what careful curation can produce, an important historical record of slavery and plantation life. The guides dress in period costume (and if you get a particularly good one, like we did, you’ll get a very humorous and informative tour).
I could easily wax lyrical about this destination, but honestly, I was too busy fulfilling my Gone with the Wind fantasies (yes yes, I know it wasn’t set in Louisiana, and it wasn’t filmed at this plantation. Don’t comment with complaints or corrections please).
I happily dragged my less-than-wildly-enchanted family through the grounds for over an hour, soaking up every inch of the place. Aside from the Scarlet O’Hara fantasies (and yes, I know I’m the wrong skin colour), it is also a terrific historical record of the time. The slaves quarters have been carefully replicated, and many of the artefacts found on the grounds have been preserved and displayed with detailed explanations.
You can indulge in Mint Juleps or Virgin Mint Juleps on the porch. The Mint Juleps have a kick like a mule, with two parts bourbon that should be no surprise, but they’re wonderfully refreshing on a hot day.
You can also have a meal (and the meals are big) at the restaurant on the grounds (or the cafe if you’d rather just have some sandwiches). If you’re super organised or travelling in an RV, you can have a picnic at one of the picnic tables in the shade.
There is, of course the ubiquitous gift shop, replete with tacky tourist attractions, and a few real gems (have a look at the antique nut crackers).
Biloxi, on the other hand, is all business. A town made most famous for its army base, it doesn’t really have much else to recommend it.