Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dallas, TX (still!)

So, we are in TX still, though I think we are escaping as of Friday. Phew! Anyways, this trip has been kinda fun. Here is the beautiful view from our hotel room:


Not bad, huh? It's a really pretty lake, and we were excited to find a path going around it, but unfortunately, the path keeps ending, then starting up like 30 feet later, but in all random places. So, a bike ride didn't work out so well.

We also lucked out at having an event right next to the Dallas Galleria, which is a high-end mall in the area. I'd been eyeing this mall, so it worked out well that we were in walking distance.


Yes, there are palm trees inside the mall! And it is like 3-4 stories, depending on what part you're in. Tyson's Corner in Mclean, VA definitely has it's run for the money! Sure, Tyson's has a sushi-conveyer-belt bar in the middle of it, but look what the Galleria has?

That's right, a skating rink! Awesome right?? I enjoy ice skating, so I'd love to go, but I don't think Trent is a big fan.

But speaking of Trent, he wanted me to tell you that, in his mind, the one redeeming thing about being in Texas, is that they have Dr. Pepper at every single restaurant. Even Diet Dr. Pepper, which is unusual. It's all because Dr. Pepper was founded here.

And, he took some sweet photos today, so we will posting them...next time!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Texas Part II

So, we have had a nice tour of Texas. It's a huge state, and we are covering tons of ground! Here's an idea of where we went:

Houston > San Antonio > San Marcos > Austin > Houston (again) > Harlingen > Brownsville > McAllen > San Antonio (again) > Dallas

...then holiday break, but when we return...

Dallas > Plano > Grapevine > Leaving TX!

...so all in all, I think we have covered a lot of ground so far.

In Houston, we stayed at a lovely full-line Marriott, which we don't usually get to do because they rarely have parking accomodations for a 45-foot motorcoach! :)

Marriott Westchase- Houston

It was a nice property, and even better- we were there when Houston got its earliest snow on record!

Earliest snowfall in Houston's history via motorcoach :)

Needless to say, we were excited to head down to the Texas-Mexico border, and even though it was cloudy for part of the time, it was nice and warm!! Very enjoyable, especially in December!

Cute Palm Tree in McAllen, TX

On our way north from Harlingen-Brownsville, we had to stop through somewhat of a border inspection stop. It was kinda funny to see the search dogs sniffing our coach to make sure we weren't harboring any illegal substances/immigrants!

I also discovered the most delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes ever! Ok, so they're actually just Cheesecake Factory brand from Starbucks (they sell them in B&N Starbucks), but they are sooo good! I had to take a photo to pay homage to the amazingness that it is:


Then, we went to Dallas, where we visited the site of JFK's assassination, and actually, I will probably post an entire entry on Dallas but here is a photo of the city from my iPhone:

Dallas, TX

And we've still got a bit of time to spend in TX, so I will be sharing the rest soon!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Laura Creole Plantation, Vacherie, LA


Ok, so this is a really delayed post- we visited Laura Plantation nearly two months ago- but I feel like it's DEFINITELY worth sharing. We didn't intend to visit this plantation either, but on our way out of Louisiana, we were gladly surprised to see signs for various plantations, and this is the one we chose, a choice that we're very pleased we made! It is a must-see!


I will try to summarize some of the interesting history that our guide (also the owner/restorer) gave us.

-First, Creole culture was predominant in Louisiana in 19th Century, but it was VERY different from that of European or American; they held a high regard for "family", though it differed as well from our knowledge of it. When passing down the plantation (aka the family business, which everyone in the family worked on), they would pass it down not to the oldest male, but to the child that they thought was the most capable. In this family's case, they passed it down to their 14-year-old daughter.

All of the lines on this map represent plantations that bordered the Mississippi River in the 19th century.

At age 13, you were a child, but at age 14, you were considered an adult, and considered capable of running and maintaining the plantation. Naturally, this 14-year-old had to grow up very quickly.

Business was often performed in one's bedroom- it was considered the polite way to do it, and this often offended the American businessmen, prompting them at times to not do business with the Creoles.

Houses were brightly colored (as seen above), and they said as the Americans moved in the neighborhood, one could tell which house was an American house, and which one was a Creole house, because American houses were boring white.


-Life on the plantation (at least a Louisiana plantation!) was nothing like Gone with the Wind. As I mentioned, it was mostly work, very little play. Just to get breakfast out to all the slave cabins, it was a 4-mile trek, so often times the food was very cold by the time it arrived. They worked early in the day (3am-10am) and in the evenings (5pm-8pm) to avoid working in the mid-day sun, which could be deadly.


Louisiana slaves were not necessarily chosen due to their race, but was more an issue of class; Native Americans, Whites and Blacks could be all be slaves, it just depended on how poor they were. Conversely, any race could be a slave owner.


Slaves were expensive, and cost up to $100,000 in today's currency. The most expensive might be a 20-year-old man, the price depreciating with age and gender. The cheapest way to obtain slaves was to "breed" them. Often, the plantation would "rent" a "stud" (male slave) from a neighboring plantation to come in and re-produce with the women. And yes, often the plantation master would have relations with some of his female slaves, sometimes producing illegitimate offspring.


-Language: Creoles are a mixture of French settler, Native American and African-American. Their language is a variation of French. Theoretically, if one speaks French they could probably, with a little difficulty, understand Creole. Speaking English was strictly forbidden, but in 1913, the state of Louisiana ruled that school could ONLY be taught in English- Creole and French were not allowed- which heavily contributed to the deterioration of the Creole culture in Louisiana.


In the above photo, Trent is standing in Laura's garden, which she discusses in her book, Memories of the Old Plantation Home. When the restorer got there, the garden was non-existent; however, there were still some bricks that outlined a possibility of how her garden with. So, with the help of an architect at Tulane and her diaries, they were able to reconstruct the garden in the style that it would've been. It was conveniently a popular style of the day, AND it cost the restorers $0 to do, because at the time France was offering grants to projects related to French culture, and they were able to get one of these grants!


The above basin was actually what they used for cooking Sugar Cane. They started boiling it in a bowl this size, but the process would eventually condense it into a bowl small enough to hold in your hands- all this work for a small bowl of sugar!



I loved all the beautiful details of this plantation, it was like a paradise :)


The house fell into disrepair over years, and was even a victim to a fire that occurred a decade or so ago. The rear of the house is not completely finished, to offer us an idea of how it looked before they came to finish it. Despite its dilapidated condition however, many of the ancestors of slaves lived in the slave cabins til the 1970's! They eventually moved out, but only moved as far as a few hundred feet away. It's also important to note that much of Louisiana was excluded from the Emancipation Proclamation, thus slavery continued for almost 100 years after slavery was abolished!


The above photo represents how well the plantation was constructed. First, it was made out of Cypress, which is one of the smoothest yet toughest woods, as it is termite-proof. It grew in abundance in Louisiana, but was quickly wiped out because of its appeal. They say it will be at least 200-300 years until the newer growths of Cypress are mature enough to use for building.

You'll notice in the photo a roman numeral. These pegs were numbered and measured across the length of the building for support. The house had to be strong enough to withstand hurricane winds, and some of their tactics were amazing. One example: they had giant "staples" in the roof to keep it intact, and they were so effective, that the owner took some of them to his own house after Hurricane Katrina, to keep his house safe!

Well, this tour was absolutely phenomenal, first in part to the rich, diverse history of the plantation, and also to our wonderful guide who was eloquent and well-researched. There was tons more that he told us, but I guess you'll have to go yourself to get the full tour, because it's really worth checking out!


The bearmobile in the parking lot :)


Well, I hope everyone's had a fabulous holiday season, and got everything they wanted! Sorry I've not posted for so long- I am currently on break, chillin' at the parent's house, and slated to go back out on the road in less than a week. It's crazy that a month has gone by almost, and though I'll definitely miss my lovely family, I am excited to get out on the road and see some new things!

Here's a rough idea of where we'll be in the next month:
-Texas (finishing up our long run here- been here since mid November!)
-Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK (here's hoping it's not too cold, since I lost one of my gloves today!)
-St. Louis, MO
-Knoxville and Nashville, TN (again!)
...and come Feb, hopefully we'll be heading south to Florida! Cross your fingers for us :)

Anyways, that's what's to expect shortly, and the good news is, now that it's the new year, my resolution is definitely to write more frequently!! But I have 2 awesome posts to add still from before the break so I hope to get on that now! <3