Today we went upriver along the Mississipi, from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
So Jeannine very nicely drove us around all day. We started with the Crescent Connexion, one gigantic bridge on the Mississippi, long enough to cross the largest river in the U.S but also high enough so as to enable the passage of huge commercial ships underneath !
As it was the first bridge we crossed, it really seemed impressive, but between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, there are several of a similar size. The only low bridge around here is the one in Baton Rouge, built on purpose to prevent any city upriver of building a competing port!
In the morning we followed the Mississipi, with to our right the Mississippi, mostly hidden by the huge levies protecting the area from floodings and to our left the big colonial plantation mansions, facing the river (which used to be the main means of transportation). They are easy to spot with the long entrance alleys bordered by very old live oaks.
Jeannine owns a property with a lot of forest in it, and when Katrina hit, she had a lot of trees uprooted. So she bought a sawing machine to make planks out of these trees, and she then sold these planks as rebuilding materials for the damaged buildings around. One of these buildings was an old plantation house along the Mississippi, that was partly destroyed by a fire. So today we visited this sugar cane plantation house, who is now a touristic attraction.
The guided tour was very interesting, and showed the master’s living condition in the main house but also the harsh lives of the slaves and the small houses they had to live in. And even after the civil war, it did not necessarely get better. A lot of slaves had fought for the Union, against their masters. But most of them had to come back to their original plantation after the war, as they couldn’t be employed elsewhere. They were now payed, but were also charged board and room, which were often more expensive then their small pay !
After visiting the on site slavery museum, very interesting and precisely documented, we drove further up the Mississippi. We saw a lot of wooden constructions on the levies. They are actually bonfires built by families or group of friends, and are lit for Christmas eve. We saw some under construction, and there seemed to be a very nice vibe in the constructing groups, like they were having fun doing this together on a sunny afternoon.
Then we drove to Baton Rouge, and saw a lot of industrial buildings. The industry is very present along the river, you can see industrial complexes everywhere. Unlike most other ports in the world, the port of Louisiana is not located at a particular location, but rather all along the river from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, so it extends over more than a 100 kilometers!
Once in Baton Rouge, you immediately notice a big difference with New Orleans : the city is empty! Jeannine explained than Baton Rouge, which is the capital city of Louisiana, is mostly only administration and offices, so no one lives there, which means it’s empty on weekends!
Luckily for us, the New State Capitol is open on Sundays. Which is pretty cool, because it’s the highest building in Louisiana, so it has great views on the surrounding region. It’s also a historically significant place, with statues and paintings of important Louisianian historical figures and events. It’s also here that the Governor than decided to build the place was assassinated, officially by a doctor who didn’t like a remark the Governor made to his wife. But the Governor was also a strong and popular rival of Roosevelt, so some say the later may have had him killed.
Once back in New Orleans, we visited the Business district and looked for a restaurant with overlooking the river, but didn’t find any. Be we did find that if you get to certain of the luxury hotels in the skyscrapers, you can get a very nice view on the city and river without spending a dime! In the end we went to a very nice restaurant to have oysters, duck, shrimps and grilled fish… it wasn’t that bad at all 😉 ! We even had a trio of a Capella singers singing local songs.
That’s all for today, but it’s already a lot ! Theses last two days were quite packed, so we’ll probably sleep well tonight :).
P.S : ok, I know we slept well because we’re way too late for the writing of this article :p .