Friday, May 26, 2017


 Lake Charles, Louisiana is located in Calcasieu Parish.  Our visit to this area included a stop at the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu.  The idea of this museum originated in 1997 when enough Lake Charles Mardi Gras costumes were collected to fill two classrooms of the Central School Building in Lake Charles.  This amazing collection now takes up the entire east wing of the second floor of the Central School Building (built in 1912), and is now recognized as the largest Mardi Gras costume collection on display in the world!  Many of the original costumes on display are valued between $3,000 to $5,000 each.  Not only does this museum display these elaborate costumes, it also preserves and interprets the tradition of the Lakes Charles history of Mardi Gras.

Many people mistakenly associate only New Orleans with Mardi Gras, and once you travel through the different parishes and small towns of Louisiana you know this celebration takes place in Louisiana as well as Alabama, Texas, and some parts of Florida, as well as Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Cayman Islands, etc.  Several years ago while visiting Lafayette, La. on the day of their Mardi Gras celebration, a friend explained there are many Mardi Gras celebrations, most of which are family oriented and the New Orleans celebration does not portray Mardi Gras in the tradition it was intended.
may not give you time to see everything!
Mardi Gras is a day long celebration the day before Ash Wednesday.  The term Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday", refers to the old custom of leading a fattened ox through the streets of a Catholic village.  The ox is later cooked and celebrants feasted and made merry before the dawn of Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.

What is Carnival?  Carnival is the name of the season derived from two words:  "Carne" meaning meat, and "Vale" meaning "farewell to meat" during the 40 days of Lent.  The Carnival Season begins on the "Epiphany" or the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6, and goes until Mardi Gras day.

Many museums are presented in such an amazing fashion that they take your breath away.  This one qualifies as one of those museums that defies your imagination.  We walked away imagining the talent, the creativeness of the designers, the years of tradition, and I'll have to say....if you can believe it...WE WERE SPEECHLESS!

Friday, May 19, 2017

LAGNIAPPE (A Louisiana Creole Custom)

We completed a visit to southern Louisiana and what made it even more enjoyable was that our tour guides were Louisiana natives, er,  our Cajun friends.  Our friends made sure we visited several   well-known established restaurants and national landmarks.  We enjoyed the hospitality of our friends throughout our entire stay in Louisiana.

Our friends not only have generational French ancestry but Italian ancestry as well... back to the earliest settlement of this area in Louisiana.  All we can say is "Unbelievable, when you put the sensory, historical and tastes together."  You may need more than a month, but to be honest, after a month you may not fit into your clothes.

We enjoyed getting together with our friends Carol and Don Stenger
in Alabama - more seafood.
More seafood - Pat's of Henderson, La
The Kimball's joined us!
McIlhenny on Avery Island, La.
Home of Tabasco products
We began our trip with a caravan of 3 motorhomes.  We left Alabama and arrived at Pontchartrain Landing Marina and RV Resort to experience New Orleans for a week. There are so many restaurants in New Orleans you definitely benefit if a friend from the area can inspire and direct you.

Jacque-Imo's Restaurant
New Orleans, La.
Mandina's Restaurant - one of the oldest Italian restaurants in New Orleans
One of the best meals ever! 
Want oysters?  Go to Acme Oyster House
New Orleans, La.
Central Grocery - New Orleans
Home of the Original Muffuletta
After New Orleans we caravanned to Breaux Bridge for a week, and if you haven't noticed, there are several staples in southern Louisiana you have to try.  

"Crazy Bout Crawfish Cajun Cafe"
Breaux Bridge, La.
The Boudin Shop and Country Store
Cajun Meat Market - Henderson, La.
Boudin (a sausage), crawfish everything, oysters everything, blue crab anything, shrimp anything and alligator many things your head spins if you understand the beautiful French Cajun dialect.  I have left out some crusty French Bread, but I promise you, we ate it.  We left New Orleans before the Jazz Festival began, only to go to Lafayette, La. to experience the International Music Festival..... think zydeco on steroids!

Lafayette, Louisiana
Home of the Festival International de Louisiane

From Breaux Bridge we spent a day at McIlhenny and Avery Island to enjoy all there is to know about Tabasco products and history.
My Little Hot Pepper, RV
McIlhenny Co. - Avery Island, La.
On the way to Avery Island we stopped to enjoy the Evangeline Oak in St. Martinsville I wrote about in our last published blog.

The Evangeline Oak on Bayou Teche
St. Martinville, La.
Driving to Lake Charles we passed acres and acres of rice fields on one side of the interstate and the other side of the interstate were crawfish farms.  Our new home for a week, Lake Charles, La., was the hometown of our friends.  We learned so much from them about their interesting heritage in southwest La.
Rice Fields off I-10 in La.
Crawfish Farms off I-10, La.
This part of Louisiana is supported mostly by the petrochemical industry on a grander-than-grand scale.  Even so, there is much natural beauty in southwestern Louisiana.  

One of many petrochemical facilities in
Lake Charles, La.
We were extremely lucky to find a place to stay in the bustling town of Sulphur, La., west of Lake Charles.  The area is booming and I want to write about that later.  We drove to Holly Beach, a small town on the coast in this part of La.  We drove the  Creole Nature Trail, and came upon an industrial area under construction that was larger than many cities. 

New facility near Hackberry, La under construction
Creole Nature Trail - on way to Holly Beach
on Louisiana Coast Line
If  you've never visited Louisiana make it a point at some time in your life.  The people are friendly,   the food was delicious, and the countryside was scenic.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


A recent road trip adventure in Louisiana I'll fondly remember is one about 20 miles from New Orleans on a scenic drive to see the old plantation homes along the Mississippi Delta.  The Great Mississippi River Road is off a highway that links New Orleans to Baton Rouge.  This beautiful road is 70 miles in length and is located on each side of the route along the Mississippi River.

Scenic River Road
River Road Plantation
Scenic River Road
River Road Plantation
The existing River Road plantations and homes along the Mississippi River are scenic and breathtaking. It is said there were as many as 400 plantations along this route and many of the old plantations are still standing.  Old sugarcane plantations are now kept as historical gems and many are still productive.  Most of the original plantations were built 30 years prior to the Civil War.

Sugarcane "White Gold" farms - Louisiana
River Road Plantation
 We visited the Grande Dame of the Great River Road, Oak Alley Plantation, named for the quarter mile entrance canopy of 300 year old oak trees.  After many years of neglect, the revival and restoration of Oak Alley Plantation began in the 1920's.

Oak Alley Plantation
Vacherie, La.
Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Canopy - Vacherie, La.
Oak Alley Plantation Master Bedroom
Vacherie, La.
Oak Alley Plantation
Vacherie, La.
Oak Alley Plantation, in St. James Parish in Vacherie, Louisiana, was built in the Greek Revival Style,  and has been restored, lovingly cared for, and restored back to life.  Costumed guides now chronicle the long history of this beautiful mansion built around 1837.  Oak Alley Plantation has overnight cottages to accommodate guests as well as a restaurant known for traditional Louisiana creole and cajun dishes,  and as soon as you arrive you are offered a mint julep.

Whitney Plantation - Promise ... no relation!
It is not hard to visualize large ships and barges on the Mississippi River that would regularly arrive from New Orleans.   Supplies, provisions and various goods were loaded/unloaded from these vessels along the Mississippi River to the antebellum plantations along River Road.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


If the title had said "Mother Church of the Acadians", you may not recognize what this blog is referencing.

St. Martinville, La
New Iberia Parish
We recently visited the Mother Church of the Acadians, established in 1766, St. Martin de Tours Church Square in St. Martinville, Louisiana, and received a memorable history lesson!

Saint Martin De Tours - Established 1765
St. Martinville, La
St. Martin de Tours Church
St. Martinville, La
There is much detail to Acadian history we weren't taught,  and probably wouldn't understand unless we traveled to this beautiful region of Louisiana.

B & B close to Evangeline Oak
St. Martinville, La
We would have known very little about the significance of the Expulsion of the Acadians, the Great Upheaval and the Great Deportation and Le Grand Derangement,  which was the forced removal of the Acadians from Acadie, or present day Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island when the Acadians were deported in massive numbers from their homelands.  The Expulsion (1755-1764) occurred during the French and Indian War and was part of the British military campaign against New France.  If these facts were mentioned as a part of early American history in my high school years my eyes may have glazed over and I would have daydreamed until the end of the story.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Statue
at the Evangeline Oak, St Martinville, La

Evangeline, the epic poem written in 1847, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was about an Acadian girl named Evangeline Bellafontaine, and her search for her long lost love, Gabriel Lajeunesse, set during the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians.

The Evangeline Oak is a very popular and famous tourist spot.
The poem Evangeline became Longfellow's most famous work of his lifetime.  The poem also had a powerful effect in defining Acadian history and identity in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Evangeline Statue in St. Martinville, La
In 1929 the small town of St. Martinsville, La received a gift statue of Evangeline which is located in the Perpetual Adoration Garden and Historic Cemetery in St. Martin de Tours Church Square on Main Street, St. Martinville.

The Evangeline Oak
St. Martinville, La
The Evangeline Oak
St. Martinville, La
Nearby is the famous and beautiful park of the Evangeline Oak,  regarded as the original meeting place of Evangeline and Gabriel.  When we arrived we didn't realize the historical significance of this tourist spot and would recommend a visit if you are in the south Louisiana area.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

ON THE BOUDIN (Boo Dan) TRAIL....and Cracklin' Country.

We could stop at just about every food store on the way to New Iberia and Avery Island and buy someone's version of Boudin (boo dan),  but you wouldn't believe how many stops that would be!

Cajun Meat Market
Henderson, La
Fine Cajun Cooking to eat some Boudin and Cracklins'
Southern La.
So what is this delicacy usually listed with Cracklins'?  Boudin is a Louisiana French type of sausage made of chicken, pork or veal.  If you're from this region you must eat it frequently because it's everywhere and on most menus in some form or another.  Cracklins' is a whole other story - pork belly cubes deep fried until crispy crunchy and then seasoned with a unique blend of Cajun spices (think pork rinds with extra fat and meat attached).   Recipes on request.

Don's Specialty Meats 
Crawfish Town USA - Henderson, La.
Breaux Bridge, La.
The other Cajun food delicacy is crawfish (mudbugs) - boiled, steamed or fried or added to a gumbo.  This weekend is the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge, La.,  and that's where you can get crawfish prepared about 500 different ways to be eaten in a variety of ways (with Cajun zydeco music and dancing to boot).  
Crawfish Festival - May 5 - 7, 2017
Breaux Bridge, La.
And there's plenty of gator as well.  I'm trying to work on these foods but shrimp, oysters, catfish and blue crab are as far as my palette has extended so far.

Bridge to Avery Island, La.
However, if you want to "kick it up a notch" and savor the spices used in foods in this area you usually use a hot sauce seasoning or seafood boil.
This just about says it all!
 The number one sauce would probably be some flavor of Tabasco Sauce, manufactured and distributed by the McIlhenny Company on Avery Island, La.

Life Size Bottles of Tabasco Sauces
McIlhenny Co. - Avery Island, La.
Tabasco Sauces aging in oak barrels - McIlhenny Co. - Avery Is., La
We leave this beautiful region of Louisiana with a large jar of Tums and Prilosec capsules, but resolve not to let indigestion and heartburn get us down.   It's on to Lake Charles, La. for a week of exploration,  rest and more delicious Cajun food.