After a month in Texas, we were ready to move on. I was very excited to hit Louisiana – a state neither of us had ever visited before.
Our first stop was at a pullout after crossing the southernmost border, just to have lunch. It just happened to be on the Creole Nature Trail and there was a rest area and a nice boardwalk. There were signs posted to not feed the alligators, so I was hoping that meant there were some in the area. We weren’t on the trail long when we spotted our first alligator. Actually, we probably wouldn’t have noticed her, but some people coming back on the trail told us about it.
Further along we quite a few baby alligators of different sizes in different spots. Pretty exciting for our first steps on Louisiana land!
One thing we’d been noticing since leaving the Houston area was how flat everything was. And Louisiana was no exception. Flat as flat can be as far as you can see.
We stayed our first two nights at a casino on Lake Charles. The gambling there is on riverboat only, so we were actually on a paddle-wheel riverboat! But you could only get to it through the casino. Still, a pretty exciting first.
While there we went to Sam Houston Jones State Park and got our first taste of swamplands. I found the red muddy water, Spanish moss-dripped oaks, and cypress knees just awesomely beautiful.
Again there were alligator warnings but we didn’t see any. Thank goodness because there was no boardwalk. We took a trail walk there and I saw the muddy mounds. I didn’t know if they were some kind of weird gopher hole or really aggressive ant hills. Driving back, we found a whole field of them.Turns out they were crawfish chimneys, and we saw them all over. Lucky for us it was the peak of crawfish season. Although I didn’t actually see any of them alive!
Leaving Lake Charles, we went to Lafayette. It was our first experience staying at a Harvest Hosts site and we stayed at Vermillionville – a “living history museum and folklife park” which had the “world’s largest physical representations of an early Acadian settlement using original structures dating from 17675 to 1890”.
Each home had a craftsperson dressed in period clothing doing something like hand quilting, basketweaving or playing an accordion.
The also told us stories about how the homes were built and used. It was interesting and beautiful. The azaleas were super impressive.
We had never even heard the term Acadian before this, so it was quite informative. They were the predicessors of Louisiana’s Cajun people, and we watched a great film about them at the Acadian Cultural Center next door.
Looking forward to some Cajun cooking, we asked the docent there for a dinner recommendation and were referred to Prejean’s (pronounced pray-shon’s). We were told later by a local Cajun that this was a touristy-trap place and there were better restaurants, but we thoroughly enjoyed our dinners: Tom had Catfish Étouffée and I had the Catfish Oscar Prejean. Yum!
I’d definitely like to return to the Lafayette area. And not just for the food. The area is beautiful, and we’re lucky to be hitting it in spring time at the height of azalea season. This time though, it was just a one night stop because we want to be in New Orleans by this weekend. Saturday is St, Patrick’s day, and we figure that might be second best to being there for Mardi Gras.
As we left, we had one more stop on our way to New Orleans, and that was the Evangeline Tree in St. Martinsville, named for a famous Longfellow poem of the same name. Say “350 year old oak” and I’m there, but after learning about the Acadian’s exile and the lover’s story the poem was based on, it made it even more fun to visit.
There were other even more magnificent oak trees in the area, but it was a nice rest stop. And probably our last relaxing moment before hitting New Orleans.
Peace & Love, Joy