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This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: South West
In the travel series View America, South West covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.
My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.
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LOUISIANA is also known as the Pelican State, the Creole State, and the Bayou State. The name was given in honor of the French King Louis XIV, and the Spanish version was Luisiana. In 1812 Louisiana joined the USA as 18th state.
Its capital is Baton Rouge and its largest city is New Orleans. Most of the state area was purchased from France in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase, and the remainder came from the West Florida Rebellion in 1810.
Louisiana's population is approximately 4.5 million inhabitants, of which 32.5% are black, and it has a population density of 40 per km2. The state has a surface of 128,000 km2, of which 49% is forested. The Louisiana coastline measures 639 kilometers, but if one counts all the inlets this figure grows to an astonishing 12,430 kilometers! The Mississippi river runs through the entire state and is one of the longest rivers in the world. There are many brackish lakes (a combination of fresh and salt water), of which Lake Pontchartrain is the largest with 1,619 km2.
A few initial experiments with the cultivation of tobacco and Indigo soon gave way to the more lucrative cotton and sugarcane production. However, the continuous cultivation of cotton over many decades strongly impacted the soil's fertility. Next to agriculture, shrimp fishing is an important industry. Louisiana also has immense reserves of fossil fuels and only ranks second after Texas, which soon led to an important chemical industry.
The French influence is still very noticeable with the Creoles, descendants of French, Spanish and Germans. After the British victory over the French, the Acadians immigrated to Louisiana, and their descendants are the Cajuns.
Louisiana is the birthplace of Jazz (a mixture of blues, spirituals, Creole songs and French dances), the Dixieland, and the New Orleans style. Touristic sights include the magnificent Antebellum Mansions, and New Orleans with its Mardi Gras carnival.
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THINGS TO SEE
New Orleans is a city with a rich and varied past. The best way to explore it is with a City Tour, during which the guide documents various sights. Points of interest include the port with its many shops, the famous French Quarter with the old houses and beautiful wrought iron balconies, and the St. Charles Avenue streetcar.
In the historical Lafayette Cemetery, the graves are located above ground due to the high water level.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest bridge in the world, with a length of 23.87 mi (38.442 km) and a width of 150 feet (46 m). The original Causeway was a two-lane span, and opened in 1956. A second parallel two-lane span was added in 1969.
The Creole San Francisco plantation was built in 1855 by an American of French descent, married to a Bavarian. Truly an international man... The house was very cleverly constructed, and it has been beautifully restored.
The interior contains magnificent ceiling paintings, artistic and beautiful woodwork, and marbré moldings on the ornamental fireplaces, that are made in Cypress-wood. The kitchen was located outside the house, since cooking was done on an open fire and everybody was terrified of putting the house on fire. The bathrooms were also outside the main house.
The name San Francisco actually came from the first owner, who was nearly broke after building this great mansion. He used to say that he was "sans fruscins" (slang French for "without money"), and the new (English) owner innocently translated that into "San Francisco"...
The Plantation employed about ninety slaves. An interesting detail: owners used to be taxed on the number of wardrobes they owned. Which explains the reason for the extraordinarily large travel wardrobes of that time, because they weren't considered as fixtures!
Laura is a non-restored Creole plantation, built in 1805 by one Guillaume Duparc.
On this plantation worked some two hundred slaves. Creole houses were always built in a U-shape, with the entrance pointed to the water. But this mansion had undergone several transformations from subsequent owners, and ended up being T-shaped.
The guided tour was terrifically annotated by a Creole lady, who acted the part of a slave. The only problem was trying to understand her dialect... Most interesting!
The name of the Oak Alley plantation refers to the wide driveway to the house, planted with twenty-eight 300-year-old oaks. According to the legend, a Frenchman planted these oaks around 1700, with the intention to build his house later, but for some that never happened.
About one hundred and fifty years later, to be precise in 1839, the present plantation was built by Jacques Roman, as a wedding gift for his wife. As time passed, the house changed hands several times. In 1950 it was restored and modernized.
After the owner's death in 1970, it was donated to a foundation to be preserved for posterity.
Nottoway Plantation House is a stately and well-maintained mansion. The exterior woodwork may perhaps look somewhat plain and unadorned, but in contrast the interior is simply overwhelming, with all kinds of beautiful things!
There are sixty-four rooms, porcelain door knobs (all at a very low height, because in those days people were only about five feet tall...), and everywhere there are beautiful moldings, ceiling moldings, flower moldings and columns with detailed upper parts ! The interior is exceptionally beautiful, with the stunning white reception or ballroom, the dining room, the smoking room, the study, the contemporary furniture, the gold cutlery for two hundred guests, the French (painted) dishes, the pull-up windows (who also serve as a door to the porch), and the gorgeous framed mirrors !
An absolute must !
The difficult Indian name of Natchitoches comes from the Powhatan Indians, and is simply pronounced as Naquites! It may be somewhat difficult to locate the old part of town, and the road indications don't really help.
Front Street is the center street of old Natchitoches, a quiet and low-rise town. It displays beautiful old fronts and the traditional Creole balconies with wrought iron railings. An interesting anecdote is that the popular movie "Steel Magnolias" was filmed in this city, and it is easy to locate one of the houses in the movie.
The Visitors Center is located along the river, and it offers documentation about the city and the old cotton plantations along the Cane River.
The local Indians were first visited by the Spanish, but in 1714 the French founded the first and oldest French settlement in Louisiana, to trade with both the Indians and the Spanish. Natchitoches is therefore even older than New Orleans ! At that time, the city was still located on the banks of the Red River, and the area was quickly populated by cotton planters. These cleared vast areas of land with intensive slave labor, and prepared it for the lucrative cotton crop.
The Civil War devasta ted most of the original plantations, but you'll find the restored plantations Magnolia, Melrose, Oakland Plantation, and Cherokee plantation.
A striking point of interest in the city of Shreveport, or rather points in the plural, are the several remarkable Mega Murals, the largest painted walls in the USA, with a surface of more than 27,000 square feet (2,500 m2).
Outstanding, and really worth the visit!