Friday, March 28, 2014

Fabulous theater awaits in the magical town of Ashland, Oregon

SAMPLE TOP ACTING AT OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL, LIVELY CABARET THEATER, FINE RESTAURANTS, CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE!



Ashland, Oregon's main street at dusk shows off its shops, movie theater and centerpiece hotel, the Ashland Springs.


The festival owns several cars and has a $32 million budget.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

     WORLD CLASS theater is alive and well in Ashland, Oregon.
The gender-bending, stereotype-defying Oregon Shakespeare Festival is an annual tradition for this reporter, and has been for decades.
I can't imagine a year without my Ashland and OSF fix.  There are many enticements in this magical southern Oregon town.
    Ashland really has everything one needs for a varied, restful yet exciting escape.
Stage hands transform the Bowmer Theater for comedy in "The Cocoanuts."
     Its unique blend of sophistication and earthy appeal, of town and gown, city and country, soothing and exciting render it a jewel of America and the globe.
     CHIEF AMONG its pleasures is the world class festival, founded by enterprising Scotsman Angus Bowmer, who called the Rogue Valley home.
     In 1934,  Bowmer devised a way for the town's popular boxing matches to fund his deeper passion, the theater.
Cookie strolls by the Allen Elizabethan Theatre.
    The clever, play-loving gentleman  dreamed that Ashland could support live theater -- first rate productions.  
   HE WAS right. From his ambitious idea grew the internationally known festival.  In the Bowmer lobby, a lovely portrait of Bowmer smiles down on the lobby as the appreciative audience files in to surrender to the wonder of live performance.
Angus Bowmer's vision for top theater
 became a money-making reality .
We had the pleasure of sitting in the Bowmer seats for one of the roster of plays we enjoyed.  And we located two seats I endowed in memory of my late husband, Bruce Kemp Meyers, an actor and writing professor who spent many happy hours mesmerized by the festival.
I LIKE TO think that Bowmer and Bruce are sharing a scotch and theater talk in the great performance hall in the sky.
The Thomas Theatre is small, intimate and versatile,
named after a beloved OSF devotee and
staffer, the late Peter Thomas.
 Between plays, you can eat like one of Shakespeare's kings -- we hit the Oregon Chocolate Festival and sampled delectable cheese from Rogue Creamery (more later). You'll get hooked on Ashland  as you celebrate the dramatic arts.  Whether a theater newbie, or die-hard veteran, you'll be dazzled by OSF's diversity. THESE PROS serve up classic works by the Bard, much loved musicals always with a spin, and new, thought-provoking works by playwrights from around the world. Except for a couple of WWII years, Ashland has offered a knock-out roster of intriguing work, acted by top performers and musicians with an annual following in the tens of thousands.
Oregon Cabaret Theatre marks season 29 in an historic converted church.
JUMP IN and fasten your theatrical seat belt for a gorgeous and imaginative version of "The Tempest," a rousing laugh-filled "The Cocoanuts," a thought provoking story about relationships and change in "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," and more. That's just at the Bowmer.  www.osfashland.org
Cookie checks out the OSF Playbill during a week-long visit. 
The smaller Thomas Theatre, named after a late, beloved fundraiser at the fest, offers "The Comedy of Errors" set in Harlem, an upcoming world premier and "Water By the Spoonful," while the Allen Elizabethan Theatre will feature "Into the Woods," the Sondheim musical, plus "Richard III" and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" with an all-female cast. Variety, daring and quality.
      THIS YEAR, we also took in the backstage tour -- a wonderful diversion for seasoned theater goers or anyone wanting to learn more about the inner workings of this successful operation.
The Allen
Elizabethan
Theatre.
Most people do what my family and friends have done for years: check into the Ashland Springs Hotel, stroll to the festival box office to pick up tickets, make a reservation for dinner (a tough choice in delectable Ashland) and begin savoring this magnificent year-round destination, just 15 miles north of the California border.
Actors John Keating and Galen Schloming deliver
in "Double Trouble" at Oregon Cabaret Theater,
directed by the talented Jim Giancarlo. 
      ASHLAND IS fun for a long weekend but there's plenty to do for a full week or more.  We try to visit either Portland or San Francisco (it is roughly half-way between).  This trip we stayed six days in Ashland, seeing all the fabulous works on the boards at OSF's theaters and topping it off with a delightful evening at the always entertaining Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
Oregon Cabaret
Theatre has a
lovely chandelier.
THE CABARET is also an Ashland family tradition, nearly 30 years old and always a treat.  We saw a dazzling "Double Trouble," with two gifted actors playing multiple roles in a 1940s musical "tour de farce."  It runs through March 30, followed by "The Marvelous Wonderettes Caps and gowns," "Ain't Misbehavin," "Backwards in High Heels" and the live radio play of "It's A Wonderful Life" for the holidays. www.oregoncabaret.com for a totally enjoyable theater experience, stellar meal and the dramatic, comfy setting of an historic church.
Jeffrey King takes theater lovers on a tour of the OSF's
three theaters.  Here, they gather in the basement of
the Allen Elizabethan Theater, which opens June 3. 




COMING UP: From center stage to backstage, join us to discover OSF backstage secrets.  One of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's seasoned actors takes us on an intriguing tour in the hidden places of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Remember to explore, learn and live, and check out our posts on Wednesdays and weekends: www.whereiscookie.com  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jacksonville charms with history, beauty, tranquility, small-town charm


Jacksonville, Oregon, may be a small town known but it's known for its large atmosphere and broad appeal.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Spring has sprung, in all its glory, in Jacksonville, Oregon. 
THE ENTIRE town is on the National Historic Register.
Its trees, flowers are orchards handsomely groomed and abundant.
The food is tasty and varied. Fruit and cheese are stars, with vineyards and tastings galore.
The people are smart, friendly and welcoming. "Could you direct us to the closest winery?" we asked. "I'm going that way," the man in the truck motioned. Come on, follow me."
WE RENTED a car to cap our week of play-going at nearby Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  I'd remembered a long-ago concert at the world famous Britt Festival and knew that Jacksonville was a pleasant, half-hour drive away.
Jacksonville sports several fun coffee houses.
IT WAS A pastoral journey down memory lane, through land glorious with fruit tree blossoms. As we entered the pretty town, we felt immersed in its history. At every turn are proudly maintained homes, churches, public buildings. More than 100 historic structures stand in the town founded in 1852.   Horses, dogs and cows seem content.
The Jacksonville Inn offers elegant, boutique style digs.
Yet the landscape trumps everything in this breathtakingly beautiful town in southern Oregon.
JACKSONVILLE got its start during the "gold fever" days, for it was here that the Pacific Northwest's earliest gold discoveries occurred.
The woods and world class music are part of  the Britt Festival's appeal.
The front-and-center Jacksonville Inn welcomed us with its Western antiques and old-fashioned ambience.  The Inn has served several U.S. Presidents and is proud of its restaurant's carefully chosen menu. There are plenty of eateries, cafes and coffee shops, B&Bs, shopping and attractions, including a vintage trolley which will take you around in leisurely and colorful fashion.
ONE OF THE town's stand-outs, perhaps its most colorful offering, has put Jacksonville on the map.  It's the Britt Festival, a star of my youth, a musical extravaganza played out in a lovely wooded area right on the edge of town.  Last season's offerings ranged from  Cindy Lauper to Jeff Bridges, Michael Franti, REO Speedwagon, Kenny Loggins to the Doobie Brothers.
Southern Oregon is full of unusual,
fun small businesses, such as Gary West
Artisan Smoked Meats. Yummy.
Jacksonville's charming City Hall.
WHILE YOU'RE in a southern Oregon frame of mind, consider a trip to the coast.  Winchester Bay is one of the busiest fishing ports and you can book a scenic or sport fishing journey.  There are plentiful vineyards, and delightful shopping all along the way.
Southern Oregon is generating tremendous interest among companies looking for a laid-back lifestyle in a setting where they can also compete. San Francisco is seven hours south and Portland five hours north! Medford offers direct flights to both cities. While in southern Oregon, you'll feel small-town charm with big-city appeal!

  
COMING SOON: A world famous festival unfolds in nearby Ashland, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Three unique theaters and a creative roster of plays charm visitors from all over the U.S.
We blog about places, cruises, hotels, the hundreds of plays we see and the actors who perform in them. Let us know what you'd like to read about in our world travels: www.whereiscookie.com  Remember to explore, learn and live.  And please tell your friends.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Oregon chocolate festival seduces, charms, excites, aids students

CREATIVE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL INTRODUCES INNOVATIVE SCHOOL PROGRAM AT ASHLAND HOTEL

Ame and James Beard are co-owners of Sweet Thang chocolates, gifts.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

BY DAY, she's a school principal, working with low-income kids to boost their self esteem, encouraging them to stay in school and plan productive lives.
By night and weekends, she's a chocolate wizard, inventing new recipes for truffles, making cookies with the age old ingredient worshipped by millions.
AMETHYST BEARD, called Ame for short, loves her students even more than she loves chocolate.  She's merged her two passions in a single endeavor.
Recently, as principal and superintendent of Network Charter School in Eugene, Oregon, Beard cooked up a plan to bring six students to the Oregon Chocolate Festival. They helped set up and man a booth at the sponsoring Ashland Springs Hotel.  The endeavor won "best of show" in this theater driven town.



Ame Beard wears two hats -- school principal and chocolate
maker. Here, she shares samples with chocolate lovers at
Ashland Springs Hotel's 10th annual Oregon Chocolate Festival.
THE STUDENTS  are an engaging group, aged 15 to 17, selected for the festival for exceptional performance. Culinary teacher Evan Woodward considered their work ethic, ability, and teamwork skills, drawing on his experience as a businessman and professional chef. Woodward owns his own popular restaurant, Porcellino Bistro, in Eugene.
The school's 120 students range from grade seven to twelve. As chosen "chocolate helpers" from the culinary class, their festival banner proclaimed "Le Petit Gourmet," from the Culinary Arts Program.
The enterprise in Ashland represents only part of the school's ambitious training program.


Ame Beard, center, cooked up a program to help students segue into life.
Flanking her are culinary students Anakin Banker and Makayla Elliot.

THE CLASS also shares its talents with school mates, teachers and staff. "Each day the class prepares nutritious and pretty whole-foods meals," says Beard, "In the morning, they fix delicious breakfasts.  By noon, they've prepared lunch for the entire staff and student body.  It's a huge hit."

THE STUDENTS are learning everything needed to succeed in life beyond the school halls, in pursuit of worthy vocational careers.
The 10th annual Oregon Chocolate Festival is the brainstorm and pet project of the hotel's director of sales and marketing, Karolina Wyszynska.  She welcomed the project to her lively and innovative festival.
THE BELOVED, historic hotel was a perfect
The chocolate festival also offered hats, earrings, crafts.
setting for the kids to hone skills. People were in a festive mood as they tasted chocolate and shopped for specialty gifts, appreciating the variety and treats at the booths and taking time to commend Beard and the students for their enterprise. "We work on entrepreneurial skills, production line skills, customer service engagement, punctuality, taking direction gracefully," says Beard. All that came into play at the festival, plus preparation and budgeting for costs, materials and time.
"MY IDEA is to prepare them for whatever lies ahead -- whether it be college, owning a small business or being a useful, proud employee," says Beard.  Her husband and business partner, James Beard, is also a "chocolate moonlighter" and, says his wife, "super dad."  His day job is as a University of Oregon computer programmer.
At the 2014 Chocolate Festival, the Beards' unique student booth got plenty of accolades.
The Beards have developed
a unique student program.
"MANY OF THESE kids come from challenging backgrounds, so I'm really proud," says Beard. Her school has among the highest combined poverty and disabled rates in Oregon, so the program gives kids a leg up.
It's a mutual admiration society.  The respect of students for principal and vice versa shines through.
Keller and Cookie prepare to enjoy a chocolate dinner.

"THE SKILLS they're sharpening outside class are   critical," says Beard. "Even though we would like to see our students attend higher education, many will become either employees or entrepreneurs. The skills displayed at the chocolate festival are immensely useful outside a regular school setting."  She points out that the festival booth incorporated math, English and science skills, applied to actual, real life situations.
Artwork from chocolate.

THE CLASSroom also helps in the grooming.  "If a student is late, he or she could lose her position in class. "I'm trying to teach cause and effect, responsibility, consequence," says Beard. "They realize that being tardy in the work world can jeopardize a job."
THE KIDS learn to work together, to co-operate and compromise, to act professionally even if they don't particularly like everyone they encounter.
"They also learn economics, to be wise with materials," she says. "If they make a product they cannot sell, they learn how waste impacts their business model and their budget," says Beard. "They were wonderful at the festival," she said, reflecting. "They were great with the public, interacting, using their skills, gaining confidence," she said. "This speaks highly of their maturity and drive."

IT ALSO speaks highly of their creative and caring principal.


Jacksonville: lively yet peaceful southern Oregon town.

COMING UP:  Jacksonville, Oregon, is a charming throwback to another era.  Especially in spring, the picturesque town is a gem to discover on a road trip. The entire village is on the historical register.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and weekends.
We travel the world, interview the stars. Tell us what you'd like to hear about and please share the blog link with friends. www.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Neighborhood charm is a happy throwback to more innocent times

COOKIE, KELLER GIVE THANKS TO NEW FRIENDS AND A DIVERSE, LIVELY SAN DIEGO COMMUNITY



Boxes galore came from Arizona to southern California two years ago.



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

BEGORRAH! 'Twas a mere two years ago, St Patty's week. We were tired and dusty as we finished dry-walling the living room ceiling, moving into our San Diego town home. We weren't expecting an invitation to a party!
New friends, fun parties and a welcome to neighbors!
WE'D SCOURED the area from north county to the Mexico border for 18 months. We were losing hope we'd find our dream retirement home.  A roller coaster of actions and emotion prefaced our purchase: We found the home one morning, and "lost" it that afternoon. We'd jumped in the car after circling the listing in the morning paper. We loved the home and neighborhood, so hurried back to make an offer! The house had vanished from cyberspace. A call to our realtor friend determined that the home had just gone in escrow.   

Last weekend's St. Patrick's Day party featured
Chuck Colclasure playing guitar, Cookie singing.
DRAT! If anything should change, we told him, please call us immediately.  Then, miracle of miracles: the place fell out of escrow over a buyer-seller squabble about a minor repair the owner refused to make. We jumped on it, a lucky move.
That St. Patrick's day week two years ago lives on in memory, a testimony to good timing and welcoming neighbors. Our unexpected invitation came between dry wall, the unpacking of an overloaded truck and a  PODS arrival from Phoenix. We felt like the Clampetts enroute to Beverly Hills. We were messy and tired from cleaning, painting and the aforementioned dry walling.
The Clampetts of TV
fame had nothing
on Cookie and Keller.
St. Pat's fun: Cookie, Keller, right; Chuck and Cathy, left.
A PRETTY neighbor stopped by, urging us to her party that night.  We declined, intent on finishing our work. But as dusk and fatigue settled, we reconsidered: let's go! We showered, grabbed a bottle of wine and plate of Bristol Farms cookies and wow! We came, saw, sang and feasted.  This lovely neighborhood "conquered" us. It's 2014 now and we feel still like extras in "Leave It To Beaver." The dog-friendly, diverse community is old-fashioned, gracious.
Neighbors visit and chat with one another in Cookie and Keller's
diverse neighborhood. Here the Madisons enjoy Halloween, dropping
in to see if our writer and photographer have treats. (They did!)
People water each others' plants, greet one another, stop by for a cuppa. They visit in their front yards. That contagious spirit is due largely to the Colclasures -- Chuck and Cathy -- now our friends. They're community oriented (she's president of the HOA) and brilliant at connecting people. Chuck sings, plays guitar and cooks when he's not teaching and talking philosophy. Cathy hangs whimsical banners outside their town home, heralding every season and holiday. She loves to dress up to a theme.
THE PAIR are "the host and hostess with the mostess." Their annual Christmas party is so much fun, we try to plan trips around it. For their bashes they like to set up a keyboard.  After the potluck feast featuring Chuck's main course, a jam session might ensue, with Cookie and Chuck leading singing.

Here's lookin' at you, kids, from a neighborhood party.
WE LOVE our neighborhood and our community. Every gathering has been fun and we're hoping to start a "food and friends" dining and wine group which will explore ethnic themes and draw us together to socialize and enjoy. Happy anniversary to us!  Thanks to all who welcomed us and continue to make us part of our exciting, friendly life here! May Irish eyes keep smiling (along with those of all diverse ethnicities represented in our area!)   Some time in these two years, I began to call our delightful neighborhood  "home."



School principal Ame Beard, center, developed an inventive
program to train students for life in the business world.
Here Beard and students at Oregon's Chocolate Festival. 

COMING UP: An enterprising Oregon school principal in a low-income venue teaches life skills to be used as students pursue their futures. She uses her hobby -- chocolate making -- as the conduit.  "Sweet Thang" is a rock star! Plus thrills at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Spring blooms in Ashland, Oregon, fabulous blue cheese from an 80-year old creamery, Ephesus antiquities and more. Christene Meyers shares knowledge and experience -- 69 countries and islands visited and dozens of celebrities interviewed, Tom Hanks to Liza Minnelli -- at www.whereiscookie.com. Remember to explore, learn and live and please share our link.

Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Patrick's Day delights: a daughter helps her mum kick the bucket list!

GRANDMOTHER JIGGED AND COOKED CORNED BEEF, MUM DYED THE RICE GREEN AND WEPT AS SHE SAW IRELAND

Cookie and her mother, Ellen, wearing the green. 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
St. Patrick, a humble man,
whom the holiday honors.

Dancers will kick it up during the weekend and to Monday.
MY FAVORITE memories of St. Patrick's Day have to do with my two strongest female influences:  my mother and her mother, my beloved gran, Olive. They also have to do with parades and costumes -- because both women loved them.
Proud of her Irish heritage -- Cobh in County Cork -- Gran taught us how to jig. She loved the holiday and described Cobh as vividly as if she'd lived there herself. "Oh, it's a lovely, small seaport town in County Cork, Southwest Ireland," she'd say, hands on her hips after opening an atlas to her clan's homeland. "It's on Great Island in Cork Harbour and it was from Cobn that our ancestors set sail for the new world -- never to return to Ireland again."  At this she'd dab her eyes and pour a stiff toddy.
Celebrity's Century brought Cookie's mother to Cobh, Ireland, below right.
'Tis true, 'tis true.. In the era of transatlantic travel before the jet age, Cobh was often the last port for many of the great liners bound for America. It was at Cobh that the ill-fated Titanic made its last stop. My great gran's parents -- with my grandmother's mother, Christena Wilson -- sailed to America from Cobh on a less troubled but undoubtedly tragic journey. It was called Queenstown when Christena's clan left Ireland, and Gran made certain we knew that. She nurtured a romantic notion that her meeting of my grandfather Gustav Nystul, whose parents came from Norway, had a mystical connection to the Vikings who inhabited Ireland and the waters that both cultures shared. 










SO IT WAS with great emotion that my sister Robbie, my mother Ellen, and I sailed into Cobh on a Celebrity Cruise during the last years of my mother's life. The whole trip was delightful but Ireland was the highlight.
Cook up a corned beef and cabbage dinner, such as Ellen
enjoyed. during her "bucket list" trip to Ireland.
"I'm home, I'm home," she wept as the beautiful and sleek Century ship sailed into port. It was as lovely, lively and green as my gran described it. The Ireland trip, and a trip a year later to Norway, where my grandfather's parents were born, were the two top items on mum's bucket list. I'm grateful I helped her complete this important circle in her life.
THE CENTURY'S able staff, knowing of mum's deep connection to the land, staged a private Irish-themed party after we came back on board, having toured the town and stopped at a pub for the inevitable corned beef and cabbage. Gran prepared it on a regular basis and mum yearned to taste it on native soil.
Saint Patrick converted the pagans.
St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
The following year, my mother astonished my Georgia sister and her family's Japanese members by coloring the rice green on St. Pat's day, her eccentric nod to the saint for which the holiday is named. She claimed it helped her reconnect with the green of Cobh.
THE HISTORY of St. Patrick's Day is an interesting one. Its obvious religious connections have morphed into a reason to party, whatever your faith, or even if you are faithless. Today, we Irish welcome you all!
St. Patrick is said to have inspired the love
of shamrocks, using it to explain the Trinity.
Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity and driving out the snakes while charming the pagans. Most of what we know comes from his two works; the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians. Saint Patrick probably didn't swill whisky, guzzle Guinness stout or sip green beer. He described himself as a “humble-minded man, pouring forth thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God.”
Cookie serves up an Ashland lunch
at the wonderful eatery, Sesame.
ALAS, THE BELOVED saint would have his work cut out with me!
Gran also told us that the shamrock became the national flower of Ireland because St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans.
Makes sense, gran. Happy St. Patrick's day up there! Bet you're jigging and knocking out Irish tunes on heaven's 88s.

COMING UP:  Ephesus and its wonders, plus the glories of Ashland, Oregon, with its world class theater, charming boutique hotel, chocolate festival, fabulous food, glorious wine and cheese, scenery, spring blossoms and shopping. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com. Please share the link with like minded folks. Our specialties are food, fun, travel, theater and general joie de vivre! Christene Meyers, aka "Cookie," was arts and travel editor with the Lee Newspapers for many years, interviewing stars including Sean Penn, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. Her first "big movie" coverage was Arthur Penn's "Little Big Man," filmed in her native Montana in 1971. You can find this story at whereiscookie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Oak Alley Plantation lives on, documenting life in Antebellum south

A VISIT AND OVERHEARD CONVERSATION BRING REVELATION OF THE PLACE'S HISTORIC IMPORTANCE

With the grandeur of Tara in "Gone with the Wind," Oak Alley's "big house" rests at the end of a grand oak entryway.


The view from the second-story balcony at Oak Alley.
 
A docent in period dress guides guests through the living room of Oak Alley.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

PLANTATIONS make me nervous.
Revisiting the sorry history of slavery should make one uncomfortable. The juxtaposition of small, stark slave houses against the opulent mansions is always startling.
Especially with "Twelve Years a Slave" fresh in our minds, and its deserving recent Oscar wins, one realizes that suffering and pain of many crafted "the good life" for the few.
YET HISTORY lives on -- with all its complexity -- in the beautiful Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans. Located in Vacherie, Louisiana, where creole French is still spoken and the oaks are centuries old, Oak Alley is commanding. With its graceful crepe myrtles, restful gardens and enduring cast iron sugar kettles, one almost smells molasses thickening in the glory days.
I VISITED the plantation for the second time, thinking of my journeys in terms of understanding history.  I overheard one tourist say to another, "I noticed in the guest register that your name is Riley.  My family might have been owned by your family."
Spring is fully sprung at Oak Alley.
And old-fashioned blacksmith shows
how to make nails in an exhibit.
INSTEAD OF offending one another, the two women -- one white, one black, both curious and articulate -- exchanged addresses and the intent to continue their acquaintance in pursuit of research and information. Learning trumped guilt, prejudice or anger.
Oak Alley, now a non-profit trust and historical monument, gained a reputation before the Civil War for its decent treatment of slaves.  Owned by a wealthy Creole sugar planter, Jacques Telesphore Roman, and his bride Celina, it is a splendid example of the Greek Revival architecture of the times, designed by the bride's father.
Cookie pauses outside the slave quarters of Oak Alley.
THE PLACE was a  prestigious home and grand receptions were held in the ballroom. (Couples still marry in the historic home and one was planning their wedding during our visit.) But the oaks are the undisputed stars. The "alley" for which the place is named is a quarter-mile long with more than two dozen 300-year old Virginia Live Oaks. The trees are registered and named. The star of the oak show has a 30-foot girth and 127-foot spread of limbs. Live oaks can live to be 600 years old, which makes the Oak Alley trees only middle-aged.
THE GRANDLY decorated and furnished rooms of the Big House contrast to the slavery, two rows of cabins where the ledger with the slaves names is displayed.
One of the property's most successful gardeners was a slave named Antoine, who successfully grafted 110 trees in a nearby orchard.  His showpiece trees were particularly pretty and prolific,
An Oak Alley bedroom, with canopy.
but were displaced to make way for sugarcane through the years. Last year, Oak Alley Foundation planted 13 pecan trees to replace them and to honor the gifted slave, Antoine, who made the pecan an important part of the plantation's legacy.The home's last owners, the Stewarts, are buried on the place along with beloved pets. The lady of the house, Josephine, gardened daily until her death in 1972.  The boxwoods she fussed over are 100 years old.

The slave quarters are of course simpler, more utilitarian.
A HOST of movies has been filmed at the plantation, including the 1965 classic, "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," with Bette Davis, 1993's "Interview with the Vampire" (Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt stayed in New Orleans during the filming of the Anne Rice best seller) and in Beyonce's hit music video, "Deja Vu."
UNLIKE MANY other historic homes and plantations, Oak Alley is still a working sugarcane operation.  The Big House tour is fascinating and you can self-guide yourself around the slave grounds, with a stop for a praline or a dish of gumbo at the restaurant.  OakAlleyPlantation.org

COMING SOON:
Begorrah! 'Tis St. Patrick's Day soon.  We'll   look at the loves and lore of the Irish and some of the world's most joyful parades. Who was St. Patrick -- really? Is it true about the snakes? All that and more at: www.whereiscookie.com. Remember to explore, learn and live. Find us Wednesdays and weekends and share the link.