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Archive for April, 2011

Liberty Theatre, Eunice LA

We spend 5 nights towards the end of our trip at the Red Shoes Campground at Coushatta Casino.  It turns into a sit-by-the-pool vacation, we’re waiting out some severe weather that’s kicking up north of us.  And it gives us the opportunity to go to see a Saturday night performance – Rendez-Vous  Des Cajuns – at the Liberty Theatre in nearby Eunice.  I’ve had this on my triple star want-to-do list, and weather made it possible.

This picture isn’t of the band that was there  (April 16, 2011)  – I snagged it  from a generous Flickr sharer.We saw Hubert Maitre and the Triangle Aces, with a guest accordionist from Texas who was awesome.  And who had to compete with 10 year old Bubba Hebert, whose musical career  definitely bears watching.  We loved the whole experience, the classic theatre, the music, the people – including the mayor, Claud “Rusty” Moody , who came to visit with us, and introduced us to other interesting locals.  It was pretty much Norman Rockwell, southern style. Best music and most fun we’ve had, in Cajun territory.

Before the show, we’d visited the museum next door – a food demonstration was in progress. The sample of crawfish etouffee was so delicious, we search out the restaurant afterwards.  So we had dinner at Ronnie’s Cajun Cafe.  Delicious!

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Acadian Village

A place that surprises us in so may ways.  We thought Acadian Village was just another tourist attraction, with the additional advantage of being able to stay, with our little RV, hooked to power on “the grounds”.  When we pull into where we think we’re supposed to park,  we notice quite a few buildings near us that are geared to clients of some social programs, but we can’t read/decipher the signs.  We’re the only people here – I have to admit to being concerned for a moment.  Is it a safe place – who are the clients?  Will they be here tonight, or in the morning?  But, forget that – we make sure the campsite will work for level and power, etc. and head right back to Randol’s in Lafayette, because it’s supposed to be a great for Cajun music/dancing/eating. It’s rocking – we eat, and dance one dance.  Because, by gosh, we were going to dance down here in Louisiana.  But, in reality, we feel like we’re dancing in small-town Wisconsin. Is it the accordian?

The next morning, we hear lots of buses, cars and vans arriving.  We walk over to the Acadian Village General Store to get our tickets to tour, and hear that the clients are going to be having a big shindig today. We finally understand that LARC stands for the Louisiana Association for Retarded Citizens, and that this great historical park exists to fund their programs.  So, while we start touring historical buildings, all kinds of God’s children come into the park, some in wheelchairs, some with aides, some just helping one another along the paths.  They’re having a big barbecue party on the far side of the park, so we hear the pounding music and hear their laughter while we tour the village.  And it’s wonderful.

The Navion "campsite"through an historical window

Acadian Village

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Tabasco Factory

This is the island Tabasco built.  It’s not really an island, it’s a salt dome.  The same salt that played an important part in the Civil War, for curing food that could go bad, and in the recipe for Tabasco sauce, made from the HOT peppers that grow here.  You can tour the factory and burn/please your mouth sampling at their General Store. Nearby Jungle Gardens and Bird City, developed by the son of the founder of the factory, gives us a chance to hang out with alligators and walk some beautiful paths along the bayou and ponds.  There’s a driving tour through the gardens, but the real fun is getting out and walking – and there are plenty of places to pull off the road and we do that.   Past alligators we don’t take pictures of because they’re too close and we just want to get by them quickly!

Jungle Gardens, Avery Island

Buddha at Jungle Gardens

Bird City

But the best part of the island experience is Bird City. Egrets were being hunted into extinction, think beautiful plumage on ladies hats;  the Tabasco family built a refuge here and saved them.  There’s a gigantic colony here now – with some man-made help, long pier-like structures, where the egrets build nests, and supplies of nest-building materials, when those run scarce.  Plenty of egrets and other herons still nest in nearby trees, so the real estate has a lot of variety.

It’s an amazing scene, full of constant activity as parents soar in and out, tending to the baby egrets, or nesting on the next generation. You can hear the place before you come upon it. The water surrounding the structures is green, almost like a meadow, but it’s definitely water and we hear that several large alligators patrol there, so predators don’t have much of a chance of making it to the breeding grounds.  Good luck with falling into the water, though…

Bird City

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Vermillionville

Lafeyette is at the heart of Acadiana and we’re here for the Acadian village museums, the food and the music.  We start with Vermillionville, a Cajun/Creole Heritage and Folklife  Park (Vermillionville is the original name of what is now modern-day Lafayette).  True to form, we start our visit with the on-site restaurant, La Cuisine de Maman, because it was listed in our “1000 Things to See Before You Die -U.S” book.  It was just fine, and if we hadn’t such high expectations we probably would have liked it a lot more. Being in our 60’s now, we’re getting a bit finicky about the 100o things we have left to do here, let alone in foreign countries.  We have no regrets about this visit, though.

Vermillionville home

It’s a pretty park to roam at leisure – lots of historical buildings, some of them with crafts demonstrations and  Cajun/Creole musicians in the schoolhouse.  One of our favorite simple pleasures was coming across a rope-pulled wooden ferry, and pulling ourselves to the other side of the river.

Next, we head to the nearby Acadian Cultural Center.  It’s a good introduction to the history of Acadiana, starting with the deportation of the french Acadians from Canada, their settling in this part of Louisiana and how their distinctive culture still thrives We love coming full circle-last year we did the Evangeline trail in Nova Scotia, so we’ve now followed the story from beginning to end. Or maybe I should say, to another beginning.

St. Martin de Tours Church

After a stop at a lovely church square in St. Martinsville and a visit to St. Martin de Tours, the Mother Church of the Cajuns, we end the evening with dinner at Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge, with a Cajun band and crawfish dinner. We may have missed the best dancing part of the night – there were people in the parking lot putting on boots as they got out of their cars as we left.

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Alligators in the Paragon Casino Atrium

Is it starting to look like we may need a visit to Gambler’s Anonymous?  Ha – no worries.  We don’t play enough to get comped for a cup of coffee, but we’re finding that casino RV parks are a great alternative to mediocre private ones in areas where there isn’t something more scenic around.  They’re amazingly inexpensive (around $9/night with Passport America here), we’ve got access to a variety of restaurants (the best crawfish po-boys yet – and snowcrab and shrimp buffet), there’s four movie theatres,  alligators to watch in the atrium, and a great swimming pool.

Alligators at Paragon Casino

So we spend a couple days here, reading and swimming at the pool, attending Mass at a small all- black Catholic church, the music is a treat, and getting organized for the next leg of the trip.  Because it’s been hotter than we anticipated, we weren’t sure if we were going to head any further south – but it looks like there’s going to be a brief break, and we really want to see Cajun country near Lafayette, so that’ll be next!

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Oakley Plantation

We spend two days in the area and learn that John Audobon spent four months across the street from our campground at Oakley Plantation, tutoring the young daughter of the owners.  For $60/month plus room and board he taught for half of the day, leaving the other half free for him to roam the woods and find specimens for his paintings.  Yes, he killed the birds and posed them in order to paint them.  And his 13 year old pupil/assistant, Joseph Mason drew the backgrounds. In his short time here, he added 32 bird paintings to the collection, which is pretty remarkable.  We tour the plantation house, visit the museum and walk the paths where he would have walked, with an eye out for the poisonous snakes we’ve been repeatedly warned about.

Gardens at Rosedown Plantation

The next day, at Rosedown Plantation, I get my first snake sighting, up close and personal.  As we’re cutting through some of the gardens on the way to our house tour, a huge dark snake goes into a writhing frenzy on the top of a hedge inches from me.  I don’t know which one of us was more surprised by our encounter, but I was afraid he was going to fall onto my legs and feet in his panic to slither away.  We later confirm, with a tour guide, that it was probably a bull snake, one of the good guys in the garden. They actually eat the poisonous ones, she says.  I’m looking at the tops of hedges from now on, not just the ground.

We had an absolutely delicious dinner (green-fried tomatoes with blue cheese and fresh crab,  crab and corn soup, shrimp, etc.) at the romantic Carriage Restaurant at The Myrtles, an historic and famously haunted plantation. We’re so enamored with it all, we return for lunch the next day and learn – yippee! – that ghost tours are conducted on weekends.  That clinches our entertainment plans for the evening -we sign up and come back for one more dinner so as to get in the right frame of mind before nightfall.

Myrtles Plantation

Myrtles Plantation, featured on Ghost Hunters, America’s Most Haunted, Unsolved Mysteries, etc. is known as one of America’s most haunted homes.  It’s now a B&B and most of the people in our tour are staying there for the night. The house is dimly lit, our tour guide speaks to us in hushed tones as we move from room to room.  She tells stories of things that have happened in the house, the most famous one involving Chloe, a black slave who had her ear cut off by the master as a punishment for eavesdropping.  She retaliated by putting poison oleander in a birthday cake for his daughter’s birthday party -and two of his children died.  Afraid of their master’s wrath, her fellow slaves purportedly dragged her from the house and hung her from a tree on the grounds.  She is supposed to be one of the most frequently seen ghosts, along with the children –  two waitresses at the restaurant told us they’ve seen them, and one said her own children said they’d played with them when they were young.  Our guide makes special mention of certain ghostly phenomena associated with particular rooms – some people are going to hear crying children, others a piano playing, there are issues with hot and cold, there’s pretty much something for everybody. “So, who’s staying in room  number __?” she’ll ask softly, and then dole out their anticipated ghostly treat.  We feel a little left out.  And I’m definitely fine with that.

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Harrah's at night, Tunica, Mississippi

This place looks like a bit of Disney on the outside and tastes like a little bit of heaven on the inside.   We are not buffet people.  But Paula Dean has opened a restaurant here, and it’s buffet, so we’re on.  We’re not disappointed – so many different and delicious regional dishes to sample.

Tunica River Park Museum

We visit the Tunica Park Riverside museum the next day. Great small museum in a beautiful setting overlooking the Mississippi.

 

We spend the next night in Vicksburg, at the Ameristar Casino and fill a prescription for Taylor in the morning at a pre-arranged vetinery practice.

And this is why the blog’s been behind.  No real adventures to report.

 

 

 

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