Music and food, followed by more food and abundant music, distinguish a family vacation in Louisiana. Before diving in, especially in the state’s north and center, consider staying in a historic home in Louisiana.
What’s an 1820s plantation called today when it’s a working farm? Is plantation still accurate? Loyd Hall, located16 miles south of Alexandria, Louisiana, is the place to find out. Cheneyville is the community’s name.
Stately oaks fill the front and side yards and fields of sugar cane and cotton, plus pastureland extend as far as a 640-acre gaze allows.
The pool in the back feels like a modern addition, not part of the original 1820s lifestyle. I stayed in one of five bed and breakfast cottages, complete with a kitchen, large bathroom with shower and rocking chair front porch.
Two suites on the second floor in the main house looked even more luxurious, complete with claw foot tubs. Porches from that level offer a sweeping view of the land.
Accommodations work well for couples and girlfriends, retreat groups or singles. Families can choose cottages with twins, sleeper sofa or two queen beds. Prices begin at $125; suites in the main house are $250.
Visit the Southern Forest Heritage Museum for a look at 1900s logging, railroading and sawmilling with authentic equipment, including the steam locomotive. The town is named Long Leaf, funny to me since that’s a kind of pine tree, significant in this 1900s industry.
Historic hotel connections
The area has astonishing significance for U.S. troops in World War II. Trees from this forest were felled for lumber used in the Normandy D-Day landing boats. Maj. Gen. George Patton, Lt. Col. Omar Bradley, Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower and 2nd Lt. Henry Kissinger conducted maneuvers here and they stayed in the Hotel Bentley .
You can too when renovations in this 1908 structure with its seven-story 1935 addition are completed. Find the Bentley in downtown Alexandria.
I recommend a visit to the Creole Plantation House, which you can admire but not settle in for the night. Kent House is all about tours and engaging activities during special events and festivals.
Central Louisiana history is shared here, with stories dating back to 1795. I saw exquisite furnishings and decorative items, well labeled and intriguingly interpreted by my docent George Rogers.
Can’t see bousillage every day—that’s a mix of clay and Spanish moss packing the timbered walls. Sherman’s letter saying “Don’t burn these houses” is pretty amazing too.
Furniture and Functional Items of Elegance
I saw my first punkah, a solid wooden fan activated by a cord to cool people at dinner. In the midst of elegant Federal, Sheraton and Empire furnishings, I also found two rosary chairs for kneeling prayer time in the bedrooms.
Even though this is not a Louisiana culinary story, do plan dinner at the Diamond Grill, so named because it was a jewelry store in 1931. The grand stairway and tall trey ceilings set the tone for abundant, artistically plated, distinctive food.
The oh-so-light and refreshing chef-made poppy seed salad dressing was the perfect counterpoint to my warming turtle soup, prepared with the recipe learned in the kitchen of the Hotel Bentley decades ago.
Mirliton was my entrée, stuffed with crabmeat and shrimp. I ordered that with intention because I had no idea what it was. Turns out this is an heirloom Louisiana climbing squash that even has its own preservation website.
Always an interesting extra every twist and turn in Louisiana. They call that lagniappe.