Wednesday, August 19, 2009



By Anne Butler

St. Francisville, Louisiana sunrise at the River
Slow down, you’re moving too fast. Summer in the south means dialing it back, says Southern Living editor Eleanor Griffin. She’s talking about abandoning the swift interstates for the picturesque winding back roads, decompressing in venues that don’t insist on round-the-clock activities, slow-cooking those old favorites that don’t come in the frozen-foods section of the local grocery. She’s talking about: St. Francisville, Louisiana, the perfect place to take it easy in the dog days of summer.
There are books extolling the virtues of slowing one’s pace. Go Slow England, a new travel guide recommending that visitors take time to smell the roses, speaks for an entire movement the author describes as “born of a renewed regard for the simple pleasures in life…resisting the homogenization of food and culture, longing for the return to a sense of place.” And if there’s anything St. Francisville has, this little Victorian rivertown between Baton Rouge and Natchez in Louisiana’s English Plantation Country, it’s a sense of place, anchored by an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life.

Davis home on Ferdinand Street St. Francisville Louisiana
Tours through the local historic plantation homes and glorious 19th-century gardens remind visitors of the days when a stroll through the hydrangeas and a sip of sun tea in the shade of the gazebo were exertion enough for a hot summer’s day. Six of these splendidly restored antebellum treasures are open daily: The Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation and The Myrtles, all dating from the late 1790s; Oakley Plantation established shortly thereafter and famous for associations with John J. Audubon; and Rosedown Plantation and Greenwood Plantation, grand Greek Revival structures built in the 1830s. Rosedown and Oakley are now significant state historic sites and on most weekends offer living-history demonstrations and fascinating educational programs. In addition, the charming Victorian cottage centering Catalpa Plantation opens by appointment, and Afton Villa Gardens is accessible seasonally.

Porch talk on a Bed & Breakfast
The St. Francisville area boasts a wonderful assortment of Bed & Breakfasts, ideal for relaxing getaways and romantic retreats. Several of the plantations provide overnight accommodations amidst the ancient live oaks: The Cottage, The Myrtles, Greenwood and Butler Greenwood. In the National Register-listed historic district in town are other B&Bs: Shadetree, Wisteria, Barrow House, St. Francisville Inn, 3-V Tourist Court, each with its own unique charm. Lake Rosemound Inn sits on an enormous lake and entices summertime visitors with fishing, party barge and in-house ice cream parlor, and Hemingbough also features a picturesque lake setting. There’s also a Quality Inn and a lodge at The Bluffs golfing resort. The hosts of all these facilities can provide information on everything the guest might like to do, from massages and spa treatments to horseback riding and hiking in the spectacular unspoiled wilderness areas of the Tunica Hills, and they also have the good grace to accommodate those guests who want to do absolutely nothing at all. Wide welcoming porches with comfortable rocking chairs, hammocks and swings, shady garden nooks and cool swimming pools, picnic areas, barbecue grills…these B&Bs know just what to provide for a relaxing stay.
Local restaurant Carriage Restaurant
Local restaurants stress fresh summertime fare, cool salads, homemade ice cream, produce straight from the farmers’ market, which visitors lucky enough to be in the area on Thursday afternoons can patronize themselves for farm-fresh veggies, fruits, flowers, artisanal breads, honey and jellies. An eclectic collection of little shops fill historic commercial structures in the downtown area, offering everything from the nationally famous button jewelry of Grandmother’s Buttons to the lush Victoriana of The Shanty Too, fabulous gifts and housewares from Hillcrest Gardens and Sage Hill, and an extensive collection of regional books and art complementing the museum exhibits at the West Feliciana Historical Society’s tourist information center. There are several fine art galleries purveying paintings and prints, Michael Miller’s exceptional pottery, an artists’ co-op and other small specialty shops. The downtown merchants, in an attempt to make summer shopping as painless as possible, sponsor an enjoyable and effortless shopping extravaganza called White Linen Nights on Saturday, August 22, with the Highlands Bank trolley transporting participants from shop to shop to enjoy live music, art, refreshments, special bargains and a laid-back cool-of-the-evening atmosphere.

Inspecting a Captured Hummingbird during the Feliciana Hummingbird Celebration.
Even the hummingbirds slow down in the summertime in this birding paradise so beloved by John James Audubon. The Feliciana Hummingbird Celebration, sponsored annually by the Feliciana Nature Society, provides participants with an up-close and personal acquaintance with these tiny feathered friends. Normally among nature’s fastest winged creatures, hummingbirds can fly at speeds up to 34 miles per hour, wings flapping up to 90 times per second and hearts beating as many as 1200 beats per minute. This year hummingbirds were not in great profusion, but the ones captured at the celebration the end of July seemed to welcome the chance to chill before rushing off, as hummingbird biologists banded the birds, weighing and measuring them, to provide useful information on their habits and habitats. Information on next year’s hummingbird event is available at, or by telephoning 800-488-6502.

Migrating ruby-throated hummingbirds have such a high metabolism that they can fly across the Gulf of Mexico non-stop on a 500-mile flight, but they are also capable of slowing down their metabolism by entering a hibernation-like state called torpor, slowing the heart rate considerably, resting and rejuvenating their tiny bodies. Don’t we all need times when the pace slows, the mind rests, the body relaxes and recharges? St. Francisville in the summertime provides exactly that respite from the hustle and bustle.

For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street, 225-635-3873, or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-635-4224; online visit,, or