On Christmas Eve day, we decided to ride the Tammany Trace bike path towards the small lakefront town of Mandeville, Louisiana. The ride from Fontainebleau State Park to the center of the village was only 2.77 miles one way. It is a fairly level ride and we wanted to have plenty of time to leisurely explore the town and the waterfront.
Mandeville has an interesting history. The town was founded by Bernard Xavier de Marigny de Mandeville in 1834. His family originally came from French nobility and were very influential in Louisiana – owning almost 1/3 of the city of New Orleans at one point in time. Inheriting a fortune worth nearly 7 million dollars from his father, Bernard began delving into real estate and started purchasing land on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain across from New Orleans. He purchased some tracts of land in St. Tammany that he developed into a rich and profitable plantation – the site of the current Fontainebleau State Park. He continued to acquire land including about 5,000 acres west of Bayou Castine. It was on this tract that he began to plan and develop what is now the town of Mandeville. While Bernard’s fortunes eventually took a tumble due to his passion for gambling, the town of Mandeville prospered. Along Lakeshore Drive are many historic homes built during the early days of the town. Mandeville became a summer resort for wealthy, prominent New Orleans residents with a ferry boat established across the lake to transport residents between the resort town and New Orleans.
One of the stipulations in the original layout of the town was that the land between Lakeshore Drive and Lake Pontchartrain would always be a public green space for free community use. Along Lakeshore Drive are many historic homes built during the early days of the town. I read about some historic sites that were worth visiting so we stopped to see some of these sites along our bike ride.
Pottery Hill is on the national register of historic places for its importance as an archeological site that gives insight into the native American activity that took place here many years ago.
Continuing onto some of the side streets in town, we came to the beginning of the lakefront walking/biking trail and enjoyed riding the length of the special green space along the lake. It was a beautiful, warm day and the green way was busy with people out enjoying the weather.
I read that an historic old oak tree inhabits a patch of this green space and we kept our eyes out for this landmark. It was labeled and had the help of several props to keep it from falling over!
The park was a mixture of open green space, fountains and beautiful oak tree groves.
One particular oak tree was much more impressive than the 200-year-old tree. It was situated in among a large grove of trees and its massive size captured our attention. The photograph at the top of the blog depicts this cool tree! It had some side limbs that reached out and touched the ground. We spent a lot of time just marveling at the pure beauty of this tree!
At the end of the paved hiking/biking trail along the lake, we sat and rested and watched some entertaining pelicans as they fished for food – one of my favorite birds!
There was an inlet here bordered by a grove of trees and we noticed a bald eagle landing in one of the tree tops. I’m not surprised to see him as we noticed quite a few fish jumping while we sat on the lakeshore wall looking out over the water.
After enjoying the lakefront landscape, we rode on into the town proper in search of lunch. We found a nice brewery – Old Rail Brewing Company – conveniently situated right on the Tammany Trace bike path. We devoured some good pub food and a couple of craft beers then headed over to the historic Mandeville Train Station which also serves as the spot where the bike path trailhead is accessed from town. There were some nice historic exhibits here and apparently there is a weekly farmers market on the premises as well.
What a sweet little town!! We returned to Fontainebleau State Park in time to take a walk down to the waterfront for a peek at the sunset. Nice end to a relaxing day of exploration!