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The Great River Road

The past is ever-present in this part of the country, so turn west off US-61 at St. Francisville and explore the myriad tales of this fascinating community, which grew up around the graveyard of a frontier-era monastery. Stop at the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum and Tourist Information Center (11757 Ferdinand St., 225/635-6330, daily 9am-5pm, free), for a sample of the architectural charms that draw visitors to this curious little town. All around St. Francisville are grand old manor homes, most notably at Rosedown Plantation (225/635-3332, daily, $12), on Hwy-10 just east of US-61, where a 374-acre state-run historic site preserves an 1830s main house and lush formal gardens. About five miles southeast of St. Francisville on Hwy-965, the Audubon State Historic Site (225/635-3739, Wed.-Sun., $10) is also known as the Oakley House, where in 1821 naturalist and illustrator John James Audubon came to work as a resident tutor while he compiled his comprehensive Birds of America.

Along with the rich history, St. Francisville also has a couple of compelling culinary attractions, including the Magnolia Café (225/635-6528), a wonderful little restaurant housed in the old 3V motor court complex at the corner of Commerce and Ferdinand Streets. The café moved here when its original home (a gas station) burned down in 2003, but it’s better than ever, still serving some of the best-tasting po’boys in the state that invented them. There’s also a coffeehouse-cum-art gallery and cabins for overnight guests; there’s no better place to get a feel for this part of Louisiana.

Heading on from St. Francisville, race south down US-61 to Baton Rouge or head west across the river on the John James Audubon Bridge toward Louisiana’s legendary Cajun Country.

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