Farming and Floats and Gators, Oh My!

After 4 days of sightseeing in New Orleans I had over 500 pictures to choose from to put into the blog. Rather than overwhelm the blog with posts, I decided 3 posts of 10 pictures each (and a pair of short videos) would best convey the story. Having already posted my top 10 pictures of the city and another 10 for museums, I am left with three major tours undisplayed: guided tours through Destrehan Plantation (the oldest restored plantation in southern Louisiana), Mardi Gras World (where they create all of the elaborate floats) and an air boat ride through the swamp in search of alligators.

Destrehan is one of a half dozen preserved plantations near New Orleans. Guides in period dress take you through the house, which has several mannequins of the key figures posed at key junctures. Founded by a wealthy Frenchman, the house has a complex history as a failed indigo producer and a successful sugar cane farm. Mysterious deaths of two members of the family, the appointment by Thomas Jefferson for one on the heirs to help move Louisiana to statehood, and the ultimate demise of the entire Destrehan line make for a fascinating story. And, as you can see, the estate is visually rich.

An interesting side story involves the price for the Louisiana Purchase. You may know that Napoleon offered to sell the entire land area for $15 million to fund a war he was about to undertake. What you probably did not know is that the first offer was just for the city of New Orleans. Jefferson then countered by asking how much to throw in all of the rest of the French US holdings. So the price for the purchase was actually $10M for the city of New Orleans and $5M for everything else. Napoleon didn’t think much of the US heartland, did he?

Mardi Gras World is a production studio where most of the most elaborate floats are created for Mardi Gras. This family business has expanded far beyond this, however, and they now do work for Disney and professional sports teams. They also create all of the cows for Chick Fila. The tour lets you see artists at work (see below), as well as finished floats and the warehouse of previously created figures.

The last set of pictures (and a few videos) are from our swamp boat ride. Our main goal was to find alligators. Since they are cold-blooded, they can be difficult to find in the winter, when they go into brumation (similar to hibernation), burrowing into the mud, with only snouts showing, for months at a time. Younger gators will emerge first, and these are the only ones we can see at these temperatures. The two previous days, and the previous tours of the day we went, saw no gators. But the sun came out briefly on our tour and we saw about 8 to 10 alligators, including the group of three that you see in the picture below. The very short videos show some closer encounters with these eerily fascinating creatures.

This two minute YouTube video summarized the swamp ride, where it goes swiftly through open stretches and slowly through narrow passages, along with a brief portion where an alligator approaches our boat and is fed by the guide. This is only my second edited YouTube video, so I apologize for the quality. I hope to get better at this, but I was pleased just to be able to consolidate 4 clips and a single sound track.

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