06 JUL 2018: Gone with the Wind fans may not find exactly what they’re expecting when visiting New Orleans Plantation Country, but visitors will get a true taste of the historic US south that gives “both sides of the story,” which is to say black and white, say regional tourism execs.

NOPC – the area of Louisiana, nestled between New Orleans and Baton Rouge – certainly has a “mint julips and magnolias” perception, admits Joseph Dunn of Laura: A Creole Plantation, but he quickly adds, “we’ve moved beyond that.”

“We’re not the Old South (of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara),” adds Jo Banner, communication manager for the River Parishes Tourist Commission. “We’re not what you imagine it to be.”

Indeed, Plantation Country is more of an extension of America’s colonial history (including French), she says, while NOPC literature touts the opportunity for visitors to “learn about plantation life, sugarcane, creole culture, slavery, and Louisiana wildlife.”

Critically, tourism offerings involve “digging into real stories of real people and the complexities of their lives,” Dunn told Travel Industry Today at the recent IPW travel trade show in Denver, adding that by acknowledging the descendants of inhabitants of the times when the plantations were in full bloom enables visitors to “see the whole picture” of the times, which were framed by both slavery and the Civil War.

Ten plantations are recognized as part of NOPC, each with their own attributes and unique histories. They include:

DESTREHAN – Offers daily folk life demonstrations and an original document signed by Thomas Jefferson.

EVERGREEN – The most intact plantation in the South with 37 buildings, including 22 slave cabins.

HOUMAS HOUSE – 38 acres of formal gardens, three onsite restaurants and inn for overnight stays

LAURA: A CREOLE PLANTATION: Home to four generations of a Creole family, both free and enslaved.

OAK ALLEY – Impressive alley of 300-year-old oak trees, blacksmith shop, overnight cottages.

ORMOND – Rare West Indies architecture and antiques, ghost stories, Bed and Breakfast.

POCHE – B&B with RV sites, weekly events and cemetery tours.

SAN FRANCISCO – The most opulent of the plantations with 14 hand-painted ceilings, exhibit and inventory of Louisiana’s enslaved.

ST. JOSEPH – Working sugar cane plantation, original slave cabins.

WHITNEY – Museum dedicated to the slave story, first-person slave narratives, and last surviving example of a true French Creole barn.

Beyond the plantations, the area also offers a host of sites and tours that encompass the area’s history and culture, from the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail to the Soul River Musical Journey Tour. And visitors can get a taste of nature along the mighty Mississippi River or in one of the region’s ubiquitous swamps and bayous, the latter via air- or pontoon boat, or kayak.

Plantation Country – spanning St. James, St. John and St. Charles counties, and touching lakes Pontchartrain, Salvador, Maurepas, and Lac des Allemands – makes a great day tour from The Big Easy, but staying a night or two will help make for a more comprehensive visit, whether it’s at one of the plantations, a local B&B, or even at one of the national chains.

For info: VisitNOPC.com/Historicalriverlands.com.

Note: We chose, at random, a video of Houmas House Plantation. It highlights the vision and determination of owner Kevin Kelly, and the historic renovation of this elegant Sugar Plantation.

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