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Baton Rouge, LA

2019-03-28 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Baton Rouge, LA – State Capitol and Rural Life Museum

We boarded the bus again for our ride back to Baton Rouge…

Our first stop was the Rural Life Museum, run by Louisiana State University.  It is on land that was originally a plantation; the family which owned the land donated it to preserve a record of plantation and rural life in Louisiana.  While the buildings on display are not original to this plantation, they were moved here from nearby plantations and restored.  The museum exhibits and the buildings were very interesting.  Our tour guide knew EVERYTHING about these buildings, and he was intent on telling us everything he knew… It was a bit of a bore.  But I loved looking at the buildings…

My only disappointment was that thee was no Big House here – apparently the house that was slated to be moved here was demolished one week before the legislature voted for it to become an historic landmark… We will see a Big House in a few days, and maybe more after the caravan is over…

The museum is set in a plantation-like setting…

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These are stone columns taken from a demolished library at LSU.  The scale is impressive.  They are solid, carved stone.  Many plantation houses had columns that looked like stone, but were, in fact, wood.  (IE:  Mt. Vernon…)  Why plantation owners had this perverse desire to live in the Parthenon escapes me, but I just love houses…

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The museum exhibit rooms contained many impressive mid-19th century funeral coaches…

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The exhibit room was mostly filled with old junk that people had sitting around their garage and that they wanted to get rid of; they jumped at the chance to donate it for a tax deduction…

The Commissary or “Company Store”…  Sharecroppers were paid in script that could only be spent at the company store…

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The Overseer’s Home…  There were three classes of overseers: the professional overseer, who was in a social class similar to the plantation owner; the middle manager, often the owner’s son; and the hired hand, an itinerant farmer with little training or skills.

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These buildings were wood framed; soft brick, made on-site, was used as infill for insulation.  It was either plastered over, or was covered with wood siding…

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The kitchen…  This would usually be directly behind the Big House…

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The Sick House, or slave hospital…  One room for examinations, one room for “lying in”…

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Typical slave cabin…  Two rooms sharing a central chimney…

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Blacksmith shop…

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Single room slave cabin…

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Sugar House…  Sugar cane was processed and boiled into sugar and molasses here.  Sugar Cane was a VERY lucrative crop, but its processing was VERY labor intensive.  There were over 1,000 sugar plantations in Louisiana before the Civil War.  Once the slaves were freed fewer than 100 sugar plantations remained…

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This is a cane grinder…  The canes were ground up here, the husks were taken away and burned, and the pulp was sent to the Sugar House to be boiled into sugar and syrup…

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Pioneer cabin…  This is for a yeoman farmer, in northern Louisiana who was not in the same class as a plantation owner, but who struck out on his own to make his living as a farmer…  Many of these farmers were Creoles – more on the difference between Creoles and Cajuns to come later…

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Baptist Church, founded and built by ex-slaves in 1870; It was used until 1960, and former congregants still come here once per year for a “homecoming” style gathering…

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Typical Acadian dwelling…  This one was built in 1805 and occupied until about 1960.  Note the exterior stairs to the attic sleeping loft…

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Rather than bricks, the spaces between the wood framing were filled in with a mixture of mud, moss, horse hair, and manure… It was generally covered with plaster or wood siding…

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Another Acadian dwelling; this one had three rooms front to back – a “shotgun” house…

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A “Dog-trot” house has two rooms separated by a breezeway…

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A barn…

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Inside the museum is an artist’s expression of his feelings toward the legislature…

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It was a fun place to visit – full of information about life in rural Louisiana in the 19th and early 20th centuries…

We were served a lunch of Jambalaya… Spicy rice with hearty smoked beef.  It was different than the seafood Jambalaya I was used to…

Back on the bus, we headed to the State Capitol – the tallest in the union…

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There are 48 steps, one for each of the 48 States when the building was built.  Alaska and Hawaii have been added off to the side, starting new columns of names…  Who’s next?  The huge statue on the left depicts the founding fathers; on the right are the pioneers…

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Inside the Grand Memorial Hall is all this beautiful marble.  These flags represent all the nations that have held sovereignty over Louisiana…

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At the far end of the hall is a mural that is obscured in this photo by the chandeliers…

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Here is a close-up of the mural.  I thought this was Louise, the woman they named the State after, but apparently it is not…

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At either end of the hall is an antechamber with a stair for the legislative chambers… Very nice…

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We were told of the bomb that was exploded in the Senate chamber in 1970.  The room has since been restored to its former glory…

We took the elevators to the 27th floor – the observation balcony… This is the Mississippi River, looking north-west…

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Looking East we can see the Governor’s Mansion…

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The industrial north-east…

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Barges being pushed up-river…

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We were shown to the hall outside the governor’s elevator where Huey Long was shot and killed.  They tried to make a case for some sort of mystery along with conspiracy theories;  I checked it out on-line and nothing they said holds any water.  He was killed by the son-in-law of a judge that Long had had disbarred… End of story…

We returned to the bus and to the Villa…

We had a drivers meeting – we are moving to a new RV park tomorrow…

Then we all car-pooled together to Pont Breaux Cajun Restaurant…

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It was a real dive of a place, and we totally overwhelmed the wait staff… Even though we had called and told them that there would be 50 of us, somehow they were WAY under-staffed.  But the music was good, the food was OK, and…

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…an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-27 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Baton Rouge, LA – Governor’s Mansion and Old State Capitol

Airstreamers enjoy driving all over the country on their adventures, but one thing they don’t ever want to do:  Drive into a “big” city!

So we take a bus…

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Today we are going into the “big” city – the heart of Baton Rouge, the State capitol, population 240,000 – smaller than Irvine…!  To get there we drive along this 18 mile long causeway:  Almost all east-west highways in the state are on these causeways because there is water everywhere…

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Out first stop is the governor’s mansion…

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The mansion was built way back in 1963, after the “old” mansion was deemed to be inadequate.

As we waited to enter the grounds we saw this helicopter land…

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A bit later a second helicopter landed…

I started looking around as we waited for the garden tour.  This lake was adjacent to the mansion property…

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This house is directly next door to the Governor’s Mansion, right on the lake.

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According to the Redfin app on my phone, this house is worth about $275,000.  We’re not in California anymore…

We soon started the garden tour.  Sorry, not my thing…

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However, when I looked the other direction I could see the State Capitol Building.  We will tour it tomorrow…

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Garden tour over, we were allowed to approach the mansion.  As we walked, the Governor and 3-4 other men walked out of the mansion and down to the helicopter; it took off and left the property… (PS:  maybe this is why he doesn’t seem to care about the horrible condition of the roads… he never drives or rides on them…)

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As we were learning a little bit of the history of the mansion the First Lady and her people came out onto the veranda… After a short talk she and the other women walked away and left in the second helicopter…

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The house is modeled after a classic plantation mansion, but it is a bit bigger – about 25,000 square feet.  We were only allowed to see a few public rooms.  I hate tours like this – I want to see the kitchens and the basement mechanical rooms and the servants’ stairs, and things like that…

The entry foyer or reception room contains the requisite center round table and beautiful flowers; it also has a four sided mural painted by Auseklis Ozols of New Orleans… It depicts scenes and symbols of all areas of Louisiana as well as all the governors who have lived here…

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I couldn’t help but notice that the chandelier in the foyer was terribly lopsided…

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Beyond the foyer is the stair rotunda:

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The seal of Louisiana on the floor of the rotunda…

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The drawing room…

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The dining room seats 20 – even more than my Airstream…!

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So we returned to the bus and we drove a short distance.  We stopped for lunch, then we walked along the Mississippi River, enjoying the scenery…

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Our walk ended at the USS Kidd, a WWII era Fletcher-class Destroyer.  Not being a military guy I never knew the difference between destroyers, cruisers, tenders, and the like.  Here I found out that a destroyer is basically a weapon destroyer, a defensive ship, designed to intercept and destroy torpedo boats…

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After the Kitt we walked through downtown Baton Rouge.  It is basically full of government office buildings and a few (very few) restaurants and hotels.

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Out next stop was the Old State Capitol Building; it is a very forgettable building.  They called it neo-Gothic, but it was just a fake castle with Gothic shaped windows.  I didn’t even take a picture of it.  It looked like something a winery in Temecula would build if they wanted to have their tasting room in a castle… It was built just before the War of Northern Aggression or the Civil War or the War between the States – no wonder we fought with each other – we couldn’t even agree on the name of our war!

It was occupied and looted by northern troops during the war and damaged by fire.  It was rebuilt after the war.  The only good thing about the new building was this lovely skylight above the center stair hall…

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We did learn about Huey Long and his assasination in the New State Capitol Building – more on that tomorrow when we visit the New State Capitol Building…

By now we were exhausted!  The bus brought us back to the campground.  Happy Hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-26 – Airstream Cajun Country Caravan – Breaux Bridges, LA

The Cajun Country Caravan  officially begins today!

We are in Butte La Rose, LA, but the address of the RV Park is Breaux Bridge, so that is what we will call it…

Cajuns were French folk who had settled in eastern Canada, around Nova Scotia, as we learned on our Nor’ by Nor’East Caravan in 2017.  The were called Acadians, but the English kicked them out of Nova Scotia two or three times, so finally they got the hint and they resettled here in Louisiana, and “Acadian” was corrupted to become “Cajun”…

Our leaders are parked near the entrance to the park.  They have a very unique Airstream, called The Skydeck:

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Airstream produced only 12 of these motorhomes from 2003 to 2006.  It is a fairly typical interior layout, except that instead of a dinette they have an internal stair that accesses a hatch to the roof.  The roof contains a “skydeck”, with built-in seating , umbrellas, ice chests – everything you need to hang out and party on your “deck”

There were no activities planned for the day, other than watching the Airstreams roll in.  It turns out there are five other couples that we have met on our previous two caravans.  It was great to see old friends.

We did walk about one mile down the road (actually we walked on the levee, because Louisiana streets have no accommodation for pedestrians…) to the Atchafalaya Visitors Center

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The houses across the levee were interesting… It was hard to tell if the levee was protecting us from water on their side or protecting them from water on our side.  Water is everywhere!

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Houses were traditionally built up, leaving open space below to allow water to pass through and to allow cooling breezes to go by… and to keep termites away from the wood structures…

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We arrived at the Visitors Center, where we learned a bit about the geography and history of the area…

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We walked back along the levee; at 3:00 pm we had our initial meeting.  Information books were handed out, lots of information was discussed, and a generally convivial atmosphere prevailed.  Following the meeting was a gumbo dinner, provided by the staff of the RV park.  This was followed by some door prizes, dessert, and brief introductions all around.

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And we added our 31st state sticker to our map…

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Tomorrow we board the bus for Baton Rouge!

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

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