While exploring New Orleans, many visitors make time to venture beyond the city's borders – and embrace the unique attractions that southern Louisiana locales like the Northshore, the Great River Road, and Cajun Country have to offer. While all of these regions are worth experiencing, I admit to harboring a particular affinity for the plantation homes that lie along or near the Great River Road. Despite the complicated history of Southern plantation life – and the horrendous practice of slavery that allowed many plantations to thrive – I've always enjoyed visiting these antebellum homes, if only to have a better understanding of America's past.
my American Nomad blog before, two of my favorites are the Destrehan Plantation and Laura: A Creole Plantation. Over the weekend, though, my husband, Dan, and I had the delightful opportunity to experience two other plantation homes in southern Louisiana – Madewood Plantation House (pictured above, 4250 Hwy. 308, Napoleonville, 985/369-7151) and Oak Alley Plantation (3645 Hwy. 18, Vacherie, 225/265-2151) – both of which were well worth the 1.5-hour drive from our apartment in the French Quarter.
Admittedly, I'd been to Oak Alley on several previous occasions, though never with Dan. As for Madewood, however, this was the first time that either of us had ever seen it in person – mainly because, unlike Oak Alley and the other plantations along the Great River Road, Madewood lies a bit farther afield. In fact, it's considered a “bayou plantation” – likely because of its proximity to Bayou Lafourche. Honestly, though, I was excited to visit both plantations with Dan – though the two experiences turned out to be quite different.
In fact, it wasn't always a bed-and-breakfast. For a long time, it was simply home to the Madewood Arts Festival – that is, until the mid-1980s, when Keith was spared from a staggering utilities bill by a doctor who had called to inquire if Madewood accepted overnight guests. After that, the rest, as “they” say, was history.
Of course, Madewood wouldn't be the hospitable place it is without its small, capable staff, which, besides Keith and Janet, includes Janet's great-nephew Michael Johnson; his wife and the house/event coordinator, Angie Johnson (who met Michael at Madewood); Angie's sister, Alice Himel; and the caretaker, Warren Freeman, whose family has cared for the property since the Civil War. As Millie said on Sunday morning, “See, you come to Madewood, and you never know where the day will take you. We all become part of the family!”
If I ever have the chance to stay there again, I'd happily book the same bedroom in the main house, though I wouldn't mind giving one of the others a try as well. After all, as with most bed-and-breakfasts, each room or suite at Madewood has its own unique spirit – and I don't mean the ghostly kind.
So, have you ever slept at a plantation? If so, which one – and how was the experience?
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