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2014-05-23 11:07 am

LA-82, Vermilion & Cameron Parish, Louisiana

I really enjoy the drive on LA-82, which runs from my hometown of Abbeville for almost 150 miles to the Texas border (where it becomes TX-82). It’s very rural once you leave Abbeville, the largest town it runs through after that is Cameron, which has a population of about 2,000. I see something new every time I drive it.

These are just some digital shots from last weekend, I shot some film but didn't finish the rolls so they're still in the cameras.

Fishing cabin near Grand Chenier

This old cabin outside of Grand Chenier is famous. Seriously, everyone who drives on LA-82 stops to take a photo of it. A couple of months ago someone made an Etsy treasury inspired by True Detective, they used one of my photos of another subject, but they also used a photo of this cabin taken by someone else.

Our Lady Star of the Sea Cemetery, Cameron

It’s funny because it’s a dead end sign in front of a cemetery. Eh? Eh? This is the cemetery of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Cameron. (Incidentally one of the ocean goddesses I keep on my altar and a very important one to people who reside in hurricane-prone areas.)

Creole, LA

Of course one of the main attractions for me in Cameron Parish is, unfortunately, hurricane damage. (That overturned schoolbus I photographed several times was along LA-82 in the parish, but that seems to have finally been hauled away, I didn’t see it during the Sabine Pass trips.) This was the outskirts of Creole.

Old house between Abbeville and Mouton Cove

This is between Perry and Mouton Cove, not far from Abbeville. Last year when I passed by you could barely see the house for all the stuff growing around it, but someone seems to have decided to cut it back. Which is probably why I just this time was confused by the fact that there’s a fireplace on the OUTSIDE of the house.

Holly Beach

This was on the outskirts of Holly Beach, “the Cajun Riviera”. You couldn’t pay me to vacation there, it’s basically an acre of trailers and shacks crammed together on the beach. It looks like a Central American barrio. Apparently it was even worse before the hurricanes, which wiped the place off the map.
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2014-05-22 10:17 am

Abandoned house on the River Road, Pointe a la Hache, LA

Between Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon, Pointe a la Hache lost over 50% of its population, so there are a lot of abandoned properties in the town, especially along LA-15, which runs parallel to the east bank of the Mississippi River. Hope and I picked one more or less at random to photograph.

Old House

There was some damage around to the back of the house, nothing that looked like it would be impossible to fix. But if whoever lived there lost a steady income thanks to the oil spill, maybe they couldn’t afford even minor repair. Or maybe they just couldn’t afford to keep it up; those old houses need constant repair, and they are really hard to heat and cool. It’s sadly ironic that what made them suitable for the climate in the days before central air/heat—raised off the ground, high ceilings—now makes artificially cooled/heated air leak out of them like water through a fishnet. Too, since the levees were built they don’t get as much natural a/c from river breezes. And of course insulation has come a long way in the last 100 years.

Old House

Someone’s keeping the property mowed, but the house is starting to both sink and crack, and vines are growing over the outside. Left to itself, it will be unrepairable within not too many more years.
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2014-05-21 10:34 am
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St. Thomas Cemetery, Pointe a la Hache, LA

St. Thomas Cemetery

The cemetery wasn't all that interesting, but I liked these peeling old statues found at the back.

St. Thomas Cemetery

St. Thomas Cemetery

The weird swirl they elected to use in place of an O gave me True Detective flashbacks.
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2014-05-20 10:28 am

Grand Chenier, Cameron Parish, Louisiana

Cameron Parish

Fire is one of those things I've learned to ignore since moving to south Louisiana. There's always a column of smoke billowing into the sky somewhere on the horizon, and it's always just someone torching a canefield or a pile of brush or a bunch of garbage. We have a semi-tropical environment, which means rain all year 'round, which means it's never dry enough for fire in a rural area to get out of hand. Very different from my upbringing in California, where every summer some idiot's improperly doused campfire winds up burning down half the state.
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2014-05-19 11:10 am
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2014-05-18 10:40 am
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Lomographers of Acadiana: Pointe a la Hache, LA

I had my photography group's meetup here last month. Pointe a la Hache is the parish seat, but since Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon it's almost a ghost town. It's right on the east bank of the Mississippi and the primary business was fishing, so both of those things really hurt the town. There are less than 200 people living there these days, and the only business left is a combination diner/convenience store. (Unless you count the Catholic church.)

The damage to the courthouse precedes the hurricane, though. Some idiot who was about to go on trial in 2002 decided that burning down the courthouse would be a good way to destroy the evidence against him; instead he was convicted of his original crime AND arson. Parish business is now conducted in the town of Belle Chasse; there have been several ballot measures to move the seat there officially but they always get rejected. Sentimental reasons, I suppose.

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Jail

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaqumines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Jail
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2014-05-16 11:41 am

Sabine Pass Light

Sabine Pass Light

Remember how I said I couldn’t get close enough from the Texas side to get good photos? Yeah, this is pretty much the best photo I got—taken with my digital of course, because I don’t have long lenses for any of my film cameras. I hardly ever need them, because I don’t take photos of things like wildlife. I prefer to get close to my subjects. I could try to crop out a bit of the foreground, but I don’t know how much that would improve things; you can only do that so much until things start to get grainy, in a bad way. Too, I find something kind of interesting in this photo, the old wrecked lighthouse in the distance, at the end of a cracked and littered pier.

I could have gotten a little closer if I’d walked to the end of the pier, but there were about 20 no trespassing signs scattered about, hand-scrawled on pieces of plywood in a script I think of as “redneck murder font”. I may have attempted it anyway, but there were people fishing right nearby, and for all I knew it was their property. I don’t want to get shot over someone thinking I’m trying to steal their moldy lumber and desiccated tire scraps.
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2014-05-15 10:51 am
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Light leaks: art or accident (or both)?

Wrong-Way Cemetery

This is from a roll that I shot in the Smena 8M and recently had developed. I’ve never known this camera to have light leaks before, but I shot the first half when I went to Rayne (this was taken in the “wrong way” cemetery), and didn’t finish it until I went to Madisonville, a few months later. I suppose it could have gotten jostled at some point. Also, the film shot in this camera has to be removed and wound back into the canister by hand inside of a lightproof bag, due to the fact that the original take-up spool is missing and I had to cannibalize the inside of a film roll. Another possibility is that the bag wasn’t as tight on my wrists as it should have been; however, the second half of the roll was mostly free of light leaks, which points to the former scenario as the more likely culprit.

Anyway, light leaks are one of those things that give digital perfectionists fits and make them prone to dismissing all vintage/toy/plastic camera enthusiasts as hipster dilettantes. They like to point out that the effects of these cameras, if for SOME reason they are desired, can be replicated with Photoshop. To which we reply, where’s the fun in that? Stop being such a control freak and see what happens!
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2014-05-14 11:45 am
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Lomographers of Acadiana meetup: Madisonville

This isn't the most recent meetup, but the one before that. (I told you I was behind.) Madisonville is on the Tchefuncte River where it drains into the north end of Lake Pontchartrain, and is kind of a weekend spot for New Orleans. In the 18th and 19th centuries, anyone who could afford to get the fuck out of NOLA during the hottest months did so, and this is one of the places that they went. A lot of people still own vacation homes here, and a lot more people rent.

Tchefuncte River Lighthouse

The Tchefuncte River Lighthouse is another one of Louisiana's few surviving (mostly) lighthouses.

old houseboat

There was this rusty old boat anchored just offshore. I have no idea if it's still in use, but I hope that toilet on the deck isn't.

Madisonville Cemetery

The marina is draining its water into the adjacent cemetery. I wonder what the West Nile Virus rates are for the people who live across the street from it?
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2014-05-13 11:39 am

Sabine Pass Battleground, Texas

Sabine Pass Battleground

I drove to Sabine Pass a few weeks ago, just for the day, it was the first time I’d been in Texas since driving out to Louisiana from California in 2010. Interestingly, this is right in the area where my mother grew up; although my maternal grandmother’s family has lived in the same area of south Louisiana for several generations, my grandparents lived in Port Arthur, Texas for many years and their three eldest children were all raised there. I think Sabine Pass was its own town when my mother was growing up, but now it’s within the city limits of Port Arthur.

I primarily wanted to see the Sabine Pass Light, which is actually on the Louisiana side of the Pass. But all the online directions I found direct you to the Texas side, I think because there’s no longer actually any road on the Louisiana side. The Light was de-activated in the 1950s, and the last private owners donated it to Cameron Parish in the 1990s, and of course they haven’t done shit with it. If a hurricane came along and wiped out the road any time since then, I doubt they bothered to fix it. But I may try to get there from the Louisiana side, or at least see how close I can get, because I couldn’t get close enough to get any good photos from the Texas side.

However, I don’t count the day wasted, I drove around and found some other interesting things to photograph. I like that drive too, it’s straight down LA-82 (and then TX-82) for most of the way. It’s a highway, but it’s a 2-lane rural highway with pretty scenery, and to get across the Calcasieu River I took the Cameron Ferry. Louisiana used to have dozens of ferries; nowadays I think there are 8 of them left. You can take I-10 to get there, but it goes so far out of the way that it doesn’t actually save you any time.

One of the places I found was the Sabine Pass Battleground. There was a Civil War battle fought here. I liked the contrast between the little shell-scarred bunker, and the weird modern machinery hulking in the background. Sabine Pass is like that, it’s very rural but surrounded by refineries and everywhere you look there’s refinery towers or oil-drilling equipment looming over you.

I recently read a book called Visit Sunny Chernobyl, in which a journalist, inspired by the titular trip to Chernobyl, decides to visit the world’s most polluted places. One of those places is Port Arthur. (If the Keystone XL Pipeline ever gets built, the American end is going to come out in Port Arthur.) But even with all the refinery crap cluttering up the scenery, it doesn’t really LOOK polluted, at least not in Sabine Pass. The sky was blue, the vegetation was all healthy, and there were birds everywhere. Not all pollution is immediately visible, I guess. It’s not anything obvious like oil spills or smog, but you know it’s there when you look at the cancer rates for the area. Chernobyl is beautiful too, according to the book I read. The flora and fauna are all flourishing in the area. But people who go there have to wear radiation detection badges, and can only stay so long.
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2014-04-14 03:39 pm

Spring Sale at the Schoolhouse Antiques Mall

I am SO BEHIND on posting photos. I started a new job last month; my commute is twice as long as I’m used to (although largely on rural highways very light of traffic) AND I’ve been working a lot of overtime—I even came in for about 3 ½ hours on Sunday! I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, and I’m certainly not complaining about the money, but lately it feels like I barely have time for anything else.

Anyway, on Saturday I made time for the spring sale at the Old Schoolhouse Antiques Mall in the town of Washington, thus continuing my unbroken streak—I haven’t missed one of the biannual sales (there’s another one in October) since I moved to south Louisiana. For a couple of years there in the middle they were kind of crappy, but they seem to have bounced back. I’ve gotten some of my best vintage cameras there, including my Land Cameras, and this year did not disappoint:

Polaroid SX-70

The SX-70 was the only Land Camera I didn’t have at least one type of*, and one of just three cameras still on my must-own list. (The others are a Rollei 35 and a Fuji Natura Classica. I don’t count the Arguses or Kodak Brownies I buy when I come across them, because I collect those brands specifically.) I only paid $20 for it because it has the plastic rather than metal exterior, and because it hadn’t been cleaned and restored. But the seller—who was selling refurbished ones for $100, so he clearly knows Polaroids—assured me it worked, and I figured I could afford to trust him for $20. Those old leatherette patches just have to be scraped off, and the old adhesive soaked off with denatured alcohol, then I can either buy a die-cut skin or make my own. I’ve seen tutorials where people used materials like old wallpaper swatches, or leather patches cut out of vintage purses.

Hoodoo Oils

And this is the other thing I bought there, a Japanese lacquered corner shelf. Some of the lacquer has rubbed off on the edges, but it was only $12 and I’ve always had a fondness for all the kitschy stuff the GIs brought home after WWII. Cheap as it was, most of it is still better-made and more charming than the crap Ikea sells. I think it’s meant to hang in a wall corner, it’s got a metal hook, but standing it on the dresser creates 3 shelves instead of 2. Which makes it the perfect size to hold all of my condition oils, which previously had been scattered about—some of them were actually being kept in my underwear drawer!

*I also own a 95A, the 2nd model ever made and one that covers the earliest roll-film era; a 150, which covers the classic ‘50s-‘60s era (mine is a 1963); and several late-model hardshells.
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2014-01-21 10:59 am

Diana F+: Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama

I was there about a week before Hope and I went to Fort Pike, so I couldn't help but compare them. Gaines is in much better condition than Pike, which is not surprising, because Louisiana really doesn't have their shit together when it comes to parks and historic sites.

Apparently this is where Admiral David Farragut said the famous line "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!", during the Battle of Mobile Bay, in the Civil War. I thought it was odd that they would put it on all their signage and pamphlets, since Farragut was a Union admiral. But you know, we're all the same country now, so kudos to Alabama for refusing to give in to that stupid us vs. them grudge-holding mentality that is one of my least favorite things about the south.

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines
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2014-01-20 12:41 pm
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Marksville, LA: Fuji Neopan in the Yashica MG-1

Apparently that's where I shot that mystery roll of black & white.

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Fort de Russy Cemetery

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Fort de Russy Cemetery
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2014-01-13 11:11 am
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Rayne, LA: the Frog Capital of the World

Don't get sentimental about it, they're for eating. I feel vaguely bad about eating frog legs, I always picture little disabled frogs rolling around the bayou in tiny wheelchairs. I mean, I know they kill them when they cut the legs off, and it's not like I think being dead is preferable to being legless. It's just that my brain is a bizarre place. But they are tasty--like a chicken and a fish had a baby. It's about 35 minutes' drive from Abbeville, north in Acadia Parish.

Saint Joseph's "wrong way" cemetery

St. Joseph's Cemetery is "backwards": they dug the graves north-to-south, and burials in every other Catholic cemetery in the world (as far as is known) are done east-to-west. They're supposed to face the rising sun, symbol of Christ's resurrection. No one knows why they did it; probably it was just an accident and by the time they realized they'd fucked up it was too late to do anything about it.

Saint Joseph's "wrong way" cemetery

Open mausoleums always disturb me. Either they're vampires that never came back (or zombies?), or they got yanked out and thrown on the trash heap because their descendants stopped making payments. This is one of the reasons I want to be cremated.

Saint Joseph's Catholic Church stained glass

Stained glass in the church. The pelican is the state bird of Louisiana, but it's also a heraldic device that conveys self-sacrifice for the greater good: in medieval times, pelicans were thought to feed their young with their own blood.

Hoyt's German Cologne mural on the 5 & 10 Worthmore building

There are a lot of murals in the town, most of them frog-related. This one looks old, it was on the Five & Ten Worthmore Building, which has been in business since 1936. That's right, Rayne has an actual Five & Ten store. (Also, the ice cream store sells bubblegum cigarettes. It's like the Town That Time Forgot.) I'm halfway convinced that the store is some kind of museum underwritten by the town, because most of the merchandise looks like it's been sitting on the shelves since Nixon was in the White House. All the plastic wrap had gone yellow and brittle.

Hoyt's Cologne is often used in Hoodoo, mostly in things to do with gambling. (It does sometimes occur to me that Hoodoo practitioners might not need works to attract money quite so often if they gambled a little less.) There was no Hoyt's Cologne inside, but they had a pretty cool little religious section. Other than a few frog tchotchkes that they probably sell during the Frog Festival, it looked like the only merchandise that people actually buy. They had some items that I've never seen at the Catholic bookstores, like a Seven African Powers medal--that's more of a Santeria thing--and a Saint Expedite holy card. He's an official Roman Catholic saint, but Catholic bookstores never seem to carry his stuff. Probably because he's such a favorite of spirit workers.
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2014-01-10 11:18 am
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Lomo LC-A+: Fort Pike & Fort Macomb

500700-R1-18-7

500700-R1-11-14

500700-R1-12-13

500700-R1-06-19

500700-R1-05-20

Supposed to be nice weather on Saturday, about 70 (I guess that polar vortex thing has stopped pumping out its freezing deathrays... for now) and no rain. I might drive up to Rayne, which is only about a half hour from Abbeville. They have a Catholic cemetery where the burials go in the wrong direction (north-south instead of east-west) and a couple other sites of interest.

I'm also working on an idea inspired by reading Judika Illes' Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, and Sages--I'm currently on the Rs. Most of the listings mention major places of veneration, and when there's one in Louisiana I make a note. I thought it would be cool to photograph them as a series. A couple of them I have already, like the Saint Roch shrine in New Orleans. Apparently there's a shrine for Santisima Muerte in New Orleans! But first I have to finish the book.
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2014-01-07 10:39 am
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Lomographers of Acadiana meetup: Fort Pike & Fort Macomb

First off, I have to admit that it was dumb of me to schedule the meetup 2 days after I drove back from Alabama. Getting back in the car and driving 3+ hours was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I've been trying to shoot Fort Pike since last spring; it was closed for months after Hurricane Isaac, and when it finally re-opened last fall, first weather and then the holidays kept getting in the way.

Technically, the forts are within the city limits of New Orleans, but they are way the hell far away from anything. Macomb is part of the Venetian Isles community, which is outside the levee system, and it's taken a real pounding in the last few decades. They had made some attempts to clean it up enough so it could be open to the public, but essentially gave up after Katrina. Pike, which is on the Rigolets, the strait which connects Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, is even further away from the city. It's fared better though, and has periodically been open to the public.

These are just the digital shots, I shot a roll in the LC-A+ that has to be developed. I also shot my last pack of Impossible Project color film; I bought a 3-pack when they allegedly improved it and was just as disappointed in it as I'd always been. The last pack has been sitting in the fridge for a year and I finally decided to get rid of it; surprisingly, all of the photos are worth keeping. Apparently the trick is to refrigerate it until it's a year past expiration, and THEN use it.

PICT1802

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It looked like the state made some kind of half-assed effort at restoring this one room, which had new plaster and a few pieces of wooden furniture, then went "fuck it". The plaster was filthy and coming off in chunks.

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I'm not sure Macomb is accessible by land anymore. It might be around the other side, but it was so beat up looking that I wasn't even tempted to try and enter it. Hope and I drove past it and went into a bar to ask directions, they were like "It's basically across the street". We were looking right at it before we saw it, it's almost camouflaged.

PICT1845
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2014-01-06 11:11 am

Dauphin Island, Alabama

...is where I spent my holidays. When Granny died in April, Mom decided she wanted to spend the first Christmas without her away from home. She and Phil have been going there for weekends for a few years now, but I've never been. Anyway, they rented a house that was like 3 minutes walk to the Gulf of Mexico, it was nice. It's not warm this time of year of course, but I don't mind the cold. And I like beach towns in the off season, although Mom says it's pretty quiet even in summer. It doesn't have any major touristy draws, it mostly attracts people who either have a boat or just want to spend time near the ocean. Mom and Phil closed on a condo while we were there, so maybe I'll see more of it. It's not too bad of a drive, we left at 10:30 and got there about 4:00.

I shot some film, but these are just digital shots.

Dauphin Island Cemetery

I found this at one of the cemeteries on the island, propped against a tree.

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I found this beach out at the end of the island, it had a lot of tree trunks with the roots exposed. I think Hurricane Ivan probably eroded that end of the island and pushed the beach up into what had been a stand of trees. Barrier islands are pretty unstable and really don't last any time at all, in geological terms.

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Audubon bird trail

There's an Audubon bird trail that leads to a little lake. Apparently Dauphin Island is the only place in Alabama that John James Audubon drew birds, although he drew them all over south Louisiana.

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Driftwood macro.

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New Year's Day was our last full day, we had incredible skies. You can see some of the natural gas platforms in the distance. At night they're lit up and actually look quite pretty. Anyway, as long as they're not oil--no tar balls washing up on the beach.
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2013-12-18 10:14 am
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Pink Slim Dress: LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

The Pink Slim Dress has a dumb name but is an awesome camera. It's the SuperHeadz knock-off of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, which it re-created faithfully except for the Viv's annoying habit of breaking if you breathe on it too hard. It's great for photographing large buildings, like LeBeau was before a bunch of gas-huffing chucklefucks burned it to the ground--I used it last spring, when Trish and I photographed the house in slightly better days.

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

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2013-12-16 10:41 am
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Natchitoches, LA (some film shots)

I shot these with the LC-A+ and the Pink Dress; there were only a few frames left on each roll, I used most of them at LeBeau Plantation. That's one reason I'd like to go back, the other is that there's tons of stuff I didn't even get to see (like the Catholic church).

Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation

American Cemetery

Magnolia Plantation

American Cemetery

American Cemetery