Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Gulf Coast Goodies

TRAVEL THERE: FROM PLANTATIONS TO PO’ BOYS

When it comes to travel, food is a just part of the fun, but if you’re talking Gulf Coast, it’s a big part of the fun.  On this trip I’ve had crawfish in Evangeline Country, nibbled on beignets and dined at Brennan’s.  Over the next few days, food moved to the forefront.  I had fried this and broiled that.  I had seafood stuffed with crab and shrimp in all kinds of formats.  I had seafood every time it was on the menu and I loved every bite of it, but there’s more to the Gulf Coast than seafood.  Come see what I mean.

Plantations

Just outside of New Orleans is the River Road.  Along it you’ll find one plantation after another.  In this day and age, slavery is a slippery slope.  Anything and everything associated with it is pretty much off limits.  I get it.  Slavery was bad.  What I don’t get is trying to revise history.  It’s like some people want to erase the first century of America’s existence, including anyone and everyone that owned a slave.

Well, America didn’t invent slavery or even participate in the worst of it.  It’s been a part of every society, virtually from the beginning of time and some slaves did a whole lot more that work in the fields or clean house.  If someone wants to erase slavery from the history books, they’re going to have to get a pretty big eraser.  Name a society from the Egyptians to the Mayans to the Celts – well to anyone you want to name.  They all had slaves, along with practicing a myriad of other sins – discrimination against women, child labor, sex trafficking, cruelty to animals – pretty much anything and everything we complain about ourselves today.  It’s really quite myopic to want discard everything American that is in anyway related to slavery and the Civil War.

If you are one of the eradicators, I don’t recommend the River Road to you.  You’ll be for pulling down the plantations and that would be a shame.  To begin with, the architecture is stunning, but it is also surprising.  While some are luxurious, you’ll most likely be surprised at how small the houses of the plantation owners were and many of them were quite plain.  Hopefully, visiting the River Road will get the Gone with the Wind images out of your mind and put you in touch with what it was really like to live out in the country raising cotton and rice.

Like many things on this trip, I can’t actually remember visiting the River Road plantations with my family, but I do remember recalling them when I visited them in later years.  We also saw The Myrtles, a home famous for its ghosts.  However, I’d be lying to you if I pretended I knew which order we saw them in.

Biloxi

Whatever order we saw the plantations in, Biloxi was our final destination.  While we saw a variety of sites, including taking a ride on the Shrimp Tour Train, we were in Biloxi to see Beauvior.  If slavery is off limits, then I guess Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy is beyond the pale.  Rather than apologize, I’ll just direct you to this post  I wrote back in 2012.  The president has changed, but my politics haven’t.

At Biloxi we stayed on the beach, though I can’t remember our accommodations.  I know about the beach, because Mom’s coiffure, which was pouffy in New Orleans, is decidedly flat in Biloxi.  That indicates time spent in the water and we’ve always enjoyed sea water more than pools.  One of the pictures on my scrapbook page is also seashells in the sand.

Were I to go on this trip today, I’m sure I’d have more than my fair share of food pictures, taken with my phone.  As I write I can see piping hot oyster po’ boys.  I can see baskets filled with fried potatoes, hushpuppies and shrimp, still sizzling from the hot grease.  My mouth is watering from the memory, but we used film back then and it was expensive – so we didn’t take all those food pictures we do now.  In fact, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been considered particularly polite and manners were quite important.

Our Gulf Shores vacation was over.  It was time to take Aunt Edie home and get back to Dallas.  Next week I’ll shift gears a little.  Come see where we’re headed.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Beauvior in Biloxi, MS

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: A CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT’S HOME

Welcome! This is the tenth installment in a series about destinations associated with American presidents. Last week I paid homage to Lincoln, but today I’m going to take a little detour South. Do you know which president lived at Beauvoir? The President of the Confederacy: Jefferson Davis.

A Little History

Before anyone gets their nose bent out of shape, let me tell you that I think slavery was awful.  No human being should ever own another and no one should have to suffer the way many slaves did in the South.  However, I cannot hate everything that the antebellum South stood for.  Beauvoir represents many of the things that are worth remembering.

Though the means did not justify the ends, Southern planters created a genteel society among themselves.  The genteel aspect encompassed only the interaction between plantation owners and their families, but Southern hospitality is famous for a reason.  I grew up in the South.  Southern manners, Southern cooking and Southern accents are dear to my heart.  These are also alive and well, so they are independent from the travesty of slavery.  In the coming weeks we’ll be visiting Mount Vernon and Monticello.  Much that is memorable about these landmarks is more closely related to the Southern traditions of Beauvoir than to the White House.

Beauvoir is located in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Though it’s better known for casinos now, in the seventies, when I visited,

History almost as ancient as the Civil War.  Scenes from the pre-casino, pre-Katrina, pre-BP spill Biloxi.

Beauvoir

Biloxi was more of a sleepy little beach town.  Beauvoir is situated right on that beach.  I remember driving along the coast road and parking next to a comparatively modest house.  I’d seen plantations with slave quarters grander than Beauvior.

Beauvoir is not exactly an antebellum home.  Davis moved there after the Civil War.  With his cause defeated, he searched for a place where he could write his memoirs and a defense of his way of life.  At first he merely rented a couple of pavilions on the Beauvior estate, but fell in love with the home as he wrote and contracted to purchase it.  Climbing the steps at the front of the house and turning toward the sea, you can certainly understand why.

A Little More History

Slavery was wrong, but there was a deeper issue that I still support – states rights, and beyond that, the rights of the individual.  It is my opinion that the federal government has grown entirely too big for its britches.  I’m for sending the czars home and closing down most of the government agencies.  I’m not sure exactly how that could be accomplished and I can only imagine my liberal friends gasping in horror, but that’s at the heart of what I believe.  Jefferson Davis would have agreed with me.

The history of Beauvior after Jefferson Davis’s death tells a story of how we Southerner’s look after one another.  Mrs. Davis sold the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans with the stipulation that as long as there were any Confederate veterans or widows who needed it, they had a home at Beauvior.  It served in that capacity until 1957.

The American Civil War is a sad chapter of our history, but slavery did need to be eradicated from the land of the free.  However, the Restoration was a sad chapter, too.  What Lincoln intended for good, John Wilkes Booth’s bullet  turned into a horror.  The Restoration is an example of government policy run amok.

Just as individual freedoms are suffering under an onslaught of government policy now, Beauvior suffered the wind and water of Katrina.  If you visited Beauvior today, the architectural  restoration is well underway – and more than just restoration.  A brand new Jefferson Davis Library and Museum is being built – thank you FEMA/MEMA.  Everything should be finished by May 2012, so you might consider a visit this summer.  Not only would you see the new and improved facility, but you’d be giving a boost to the Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from the BP Oil Spill.

We’ve reached an interesting place in the history of our world.  From the day Cain slew Abel and set out in the wider world, men who were uncomfortable with the status quo could embark on settling a new land.  They could go beyond the next mountain or the next sea and run things their own way.  The earth has no new horizons, so today’s Pilgrims have no where to go.  We are finally going to have to learn how to live with one another.  I’m not sure how all of that is going to work out, but I hope the world will be able to find a compromise that includes a little Southern hospitality and protects our heritage of the rights of the individual.  What do you think?