Nottoway Plantation (grounds), White Castle, Louisiana

view from 2nd story balcony

View from the 2nd story balcony. The road is LA-405, part of the River Road that parallels the Mississippi River and runs from New Orleans to Baton Rouge—we refer to it as one road, but it really changes depending on what parish you’re in. I love this particular stretch of it and have taken many photos along it. Beyond that of course is the levee and the river itself; the trees you can see are actually an island and not the far bank. The Mississippi is much wider than that.

plantation grounds

The old slave cabins in the background are now hotel rooms, which umm I find rather tacky but whatever. Anyway I’m pretty sure they’re reproductions; a lot of these old plantations let the slave quarters fall apart after the Civil War even if they kept up the main house, for obvious reasons.

Randolph family cemetery

In the background you can make out the Randolph family cemetery, the last burial there was in 1944. It would be kind of weird to buy a house and be responsible for tending another family’s graves.

Nottoway Plantation

The hill on the other side of the gate is the levee.

Nottoway Plantation

This would have been considered the front of the house, the side that faced the river, when it was built.

Nottoway Plantation

The curved part is where the ballroom is, and the ground floor of that section is now a restaurant. It was unusual for a rich planter to have an asymmetrical house in those days, when architects were churning out one Greek Revival after another throughout the deep south, but apparently Randolph wanted his house to stand out. When people passed it on the river, he wanted everyone to know who it belonged to.

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Nottoway Plantation (interiors), White Castle, Louisiana

So as already stated, I had last Saturday’s meetup at Nottoway Plantation. As everything from the postcards to the tour guides hasten to inform you, it’s the largest surviving antebellum house in the state. There used to be an even larger one in the same town, called Belle Grove, which Clarence John Laughlin made famous by photographing for Ghosts Along the Mississippi, after it had already been abandoned for years. It burned down in the 1950s, though.

I only took digital photos inside, since we weren’t allowed to use a flash. 400 speed film is not fast enough for indoors.

2nd story balcony

These openings are called “windoors”. Property taxes were sometimes calculated by how many windows a house had, and sometimes by how many doors. On years where it was the former, the owners could claim these were doors, and vice versa. (Sometimes it was by how many closets a house had, thus the popularity of free-standing armoires in the 19th century.) I’ve been to a lot of plantations, but I’ve never seen this particular tax dodge before.

chaperone mirror

This was a chaperone mirror, so you could make sure no one’s ankles were showing or whatever.

White Ballroom

This is the most famous room in the house, the White Ballroom, which I think is SUPER TACKY, but everyone else seemed impressed by it so what do I know.

White Ballroom

entry hall

Uhhh what the hell.

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Capitalism, gluttony, & slavery: MURICA FUCK YEAH

Welp, we don’t get too many 3-day weekends at the job, and I have to say I feel like I did not waste this one.

Friday I drove to the Tanger Outlets in Gonzales, which is about 20 miles east of Baton Rouge and just under a 2-hour drive from Abbeville. I’ve been wanting to go to the Coach outlet there since the first year I lived in Louisiana but just never got around to it. Yelp reviews said that the prices weren’t much below full retail, unless you went on a holiday, so I figured the 4th was my best bet. I confess myself a tad disappointed on finding out that it wasn’t an outlet so much as a factory store. I was hoping for like, last season’s bags at a reduced price, but instead it was a secondary line Coach makes for outlets and mid-range department stores like Macy’s. Everything was “trimmed in real leather” but nothing was MADE from real leather. I’m not even sure Coach sells old bags or factory seconds/mistakes; I think they might destroy old stock like Chanel does.

But a non-leather Coach bag is still a Coach bag, which is to say it’s made by hand and will last for years if you take care of it. They were having 50% off the entire store and I drove almost 2 hours to get there, so I was not leaving without a damn Coach bag.

coach bag

I knew right away this was the shape that I wanted but dithered for a while on the color. I eventually settled on this khaki/tangerine combo, which is colorful enough to be interesting but neutral enough to go with most outfits that are predominantly earth-toned. It’s just large enough to hold all my stuff, but not so large that I feel like I’m hauling around luggage. And I like that clamshell shape, so I don’t care if it goes out of style. (When have I ever cared about being IN style, anyway?)

There must have been some secret discount on top of the 50%, because the price tag was $358 and I paid $108, and that was with the tax. That’s only about $20 more than I paid for my London Fog, and I’ve had that for several years. It’s funny, as much as I like shoes and always have over a dozen pairs, I don’t care about quality. I’ll wear any old cheap $20 pair if I think they’re cute, and toss them without a second thought when they start to fall apart. Handbags though, I’m willing to spend more on. It’s not that I care about the name Coach so much, but since I was a teenager leafing through the September issue of Vogue I’ve always seen Coach as the best handbag there is, and I’ve just always wanted one. One, shit, there were women in the line with 6 or 7 hanging off their shoulders, and clutching fistfuls of wallets. I felt positively restrained, just buying one.

I got home early enough to do some cleaning, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of the weekend, then ate a grilled rib-eye and a baked potato for supper. I don’t know what vegetarians eat on Independence Day and I don’t care.

Saturday was my photography group’s meetup, and in the interests of not having anyone need to be treated for heatstroke, including and especially myself, I’ve moved to indoor shots until Louisiana stops feeling like the mouth of hell is belching on us. Nottoway Plantation in Iberville Parish is one of the few I haven’t seen. It’s the largest surviving antebellum home in the state, and architecturally it’s pretty interesting, asymmetrical with some Italianate elements—those rich planters loved their square Greek Revivals, for the most part. More to the point, it’s a popular event center/hotel these days, which means air-conditioning.

I was pleasantly surprised to be told that photography was allowed inside the house, provided we not use a flash. Most of those old plantations don’t allow photography at all; they say it’s to protect the interiors/original furnishings, but it’s really because they want you to have to buy their gift shop books. This was my first real photo shoot with my new camera phone, and I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s going to replace my film cameras or anything, but it’s always good to have a digital back-up. Plus I firmly believe that everyone should always have a camera at all times. What if you see injustice that needs to be documented? Or aliens? Or aliens committing injustice?!

white ballroom

This is the most famous room in the house, the White Ballroom. The tastes of the filthy rich haven’t changed much in the last 165 years, have they?

I also got some shots of the grounds, it actually wasn’t too dreadful if you stayed in the shade. I went home along the River Road as far as Plaquemines before hopping onto I-10, and took some more photos along the way.

I got home around 6:00, stuffed my baked potato skins from the previous night with cheese and had that for supper, then spent the evening making some novena candles.

novena candles

Sunday was a generally lazy day, although I did get the car washed and do some grocery shopping. The bulk of the afternoon was spent writing letters, drinking Summer Shandy (beer and lemonade), and watching Oz—between watching this show for the first time (I just finished season 4) and binge-watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black, my visual entertainment has been quite prison-themed lately. Then I made meatballs for supper and read The Soul of a New Machine until bedtime. One of the writers for Halt & Catch Fire must have read that book, because I recognize certain things, mostly use of the term “kludge” and an obsession with the early text-based computer game Adventure.