Oak Alley

When we drove to Oak Alley Plantation about 35 miles outside New Orleans, I had a déjà vu moment. The massive, elegant live oaks were familiar from travel magazines.

Here, the trees not only shade but dominate the house. The 800-foot promenade of oaks was planted in the early 18th century, long before the house was built. The current house, the second on the site, was built between 1837 and 1839, largely with slave labor.

A stroll down the alley leads to the Mississippi River. The oaks enjoy a constant water supply just below ground level and 12 months of warm weather. Their savanna oak cousins in the northern prairies must be jealous.

One can only imagine the generations of birds, squirrels, insects and lichens that have inhabited Oak Alley. With intertwining branches, critters can roam through the grove without touching the ground. Many branches weigh themselves to the ground -- canes supporting the aging giants.