|End of the road in Plaquemines Parish|
It's not easy to get lost in Plaquemines Parish. There's one main road that runs down the left side of the Mississippi River and one down the right. Once you get on it, you simply drive straight ahead until you reach the end. We chose Highway 23 on the left side and spent the day exploring our rural neighbor.
|Looking for bugs in the Woodlands Conservancy|
Although the 6-mile Bottomland Trail was intriguing with its promise of 10 World War II Ammunition Magazines, we glanced at our 2 and 4-year-old kids and chose the easier 1.1-mile Upland Trail for our own sanity. The recently wet trail, which began by snaking out alongside a canal, was now hardened mud perfectly capturing the footprints of the deer that walked the path before us. Charles, dressed in his entomologist outfit, examined the footprints with his magnifying glass in between chasing the crickets and large mosquitos in hopes of capturing one for his bug catcher.
|Becnel's Farmers Market|
The food only made our stomachs grumble more, so back in the car and now on Highway 23, we made our next stop Becnel's Farmers Market. Here, we re-energized on tamales, boudin and alligator sausage, while the kids enjoyed hot dogs from the small food vendor next door. Before continuing on, we browsed the many citrus trees for sale and admired the Blue Angel plane elevated in the air across the street at the Naval Air Station.
Next door, the old St. Patrick's Church was moved to this location and now served as Spirits Hall, where six-course dinners are served up to anyone making reservations. The hostess told us how most of the guests were fishermen who stayed overnight before going out on one of the fishing charters arranged by the plantation staff. At the end of the day, the chef cleans and cooks their catch and serves it up in a delicious meal.
The property, including the plantation, received nine feet of water from last year's Hurricane Isaac, yet you never would have known it. In addition to the main house and church turned dining hall, the beautifully landscaped acreage contained a newly renovated overseer's house, an old slave cabin currently under repair and the ruins of the sugarcane mill. We strolled the property, at ease to make ourselves at home, while the kids giggled and squealed at the affectionate attention of the home's cats.
We made the most of our time there, though, and walked around the outer wall of the fort, which at times afforded glimpses into the fort's interior. A monument on the bank of the river denoted the spot where the first Mardi Gras took place in 1699 and another showed a picture of the explorer LaSalle underneath a cross soaring up into the sky. As we walked, something--"perhaps the loch ness monster," Charles informed us--seemed to follow us in the moat below, leaping into the air every so often to show its large black head.
|Plaque denoting Bayou Mardi Gras with MS River in background|
It was dark as we drove back to the city along the same road and encountered a mass of lights floating above the houses to our right. We were shocked to realize it was a cruise ship making its way south along the Mississippi, a city in itself, seemingly hovering in the air beyond the hard-working residents of this parish.
|Two worlds at the end of the road: cypress trees...|
|And a refinery - both covered in birds|