By Alexis Yap
JUST along the west bank of the Mississippi River, there lies a beautiful house amidst a vast plantation that once was inhabited by over a hundred slaves whose moving stories about their struggles and their quest for freedom are a bittersweet irony to the breathtaking live oak-lined drive to the mansion.
The Oak Alley Plantation, originally owned by the Roman family, is probably the most photographed plantation in all of Louisiana – and to no surprise. It is enchanting. Built in 1839, every step you take on the hardwood floors of this magnificent home definitely transports you back in the time when Jacques Roman, a wealthy Creole sugar planter commissioned the building of this very home as a gift to his wife Celina.
Complete with a guide in period dress, the tour of the Big House (as what the mansions of these plantations were called in reference to the smaller bungalows of the slaves) was both informative and entertaining. For example, back in the day a house guest is served peeled and sliced pineapples in the morning. However, when he has overstayed his welcome, one whole pineapple fruit, unpeeled, complete with the thorny “crown” was left for him instead, telling him he can have his fruit on his journey home. Quite funny, actually.
Another old tradition they practiced back then, we were told, was to cover all mirrors with black cloth when a person of the house passed away, as it was believed that spirits do not “cross over” if he finds his reflection in the mirror.
The Slavery at Oak Alley Exhibit was one of the most essential parts of the plantation experience. Two cottages were designated walk-in exhibits while another two were view-only exhibits displaying the slave’s living quarters, dining area, and sick house.
The weather was nice during our visit so we got to walk around and absorb the energy of the place, amidst the grandeur of the famous 300-years old live oak trees that lined the driveway leading up to the Big House.
It was a one-of-a-kind experience being at the plantation. It is indeed a mystical place that exuded a special kind of tranquility. Oak Alley Plantation also has century-old cabins where guests can stay the night. It must be so nice to enjoy some real peace and relaxation in a place like this.
If the opportunity arises, don’t ever miss the chance to visit.
Oak Alley Plantation is located along the west bank of the Mississippi River, Vacherie, St. James Parish, Louisiana, USA.