|Crazy girls and their cut-throat Cribbage.|
Mom and I recently returned from a 6-day adventure in Louisiana. We booked a package trip that included flights, hotel, and rental car, and our “home base” was the Lafayette Hilton on the banks of—ironically—the Vermilion River.
|Khloe's blue marker lipstick self-portrait.|
One highlight of the trip was driving up to Shreveport to visit with Mom’s oldest and dearest friend, Hope, who lives with her daughter, Vanessa. It was fun to see the crazy old girls together again (and I mean that with the utmost respect and affection). They were settled into a game of cribbage within moments of our arrival. We all went out to the local favorite café, George’s, and we dragged Hope to the casino in Bossier City for a couple of hours. We had a wonderful visit, and it occurred to me that both sets of moms/daughters are more than a little Grey Gardens-ish. If I start wearing skirts on my head, call for help.
|Baby Autumn, stunned by my hair color.|
The other highlight was that Mom and I got to spend time with my two beautiful Cajun nieces (actually half Cajun, half Bohunk). It was my first time meeting their wonderful families, including my three gorgeous great-nieces. It was so good to see them all thriving & happy. My older niece’s husband, born and raised in Arnaudville, and his mother, Miss Margaret, showed us the Cajun ropes and kept us from seeming too much like the total nerdy northerners we are. My great-nieces are 3 weeks, 1 year, and 2 ½ years old, so I had an ample dose of baby/toddler-hogging and kissing. I miss them all already.
Here are some other, more touristy memorable moments:
· Lafayette Airport – Smaller and more run-down than even our tiny South Dakota “Big City” airport. Everything moved at a slow, lazy pace. In fact, everything and everyone in Louisiana seemed to move at that same unhurried, lackadaisical pace. It drove me crazy at first, but as I unwound, I learned to appreciate it.
|Jarred and baby Roemyn.|
· Lafayette Hilton – the outdoor pool was (according to the staff) “broken” until our last day there; the hotel’s WiFi blinked on and off constantly, only rarely giving me enough time to check email, and then it would blink off again while I was trying to answer. The hotel was full of 8-12-year old regional pageant contestants and their families.
|Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Lake Peigneur|
|Ode to Kate Chopin's "The Storm."|
|Bayou Teche in New Iberia|
· Evangeline Thruway – main drag through town, splits a long ghetto in two. Many people in the ghetto live in shacks exponentially worse than my Little Town’s student slum rentals (folks in Little Town know how bad these can be). The poverty in south Louisiana is staggering, and because it’s hot (90-100 every day we were there) and incredibly humid (at least 150%, I’m sure), metal roofs are all rusted, paint is always peeling, and things look generally run-down. But the people are warm and wonderful, and there are gems in the ghetto, too: neighbors hanging out together on porches, Dad’s Blades & Fades barber shop, St. Genevieve School, and drive-thru daiquiri huts.
· Avery Island – home of the original McIlhenny Louisiana Tabasco Sauce. Factory, store, small village of tiny houses where factory folks live. We sampled raspberry chipotle frozen yogurt. Divine. Drove past the island’s “rookery,” where dozens of egrets, rosy spoonbills, and flamingos were nesting in noisy colonies.
· Rip Van Winkle Gardens – amazing botanical gardens on Orange Island, originally the winter home of American film actor Joseph Jefferson (www.ripvanwinklegardens.com). The English gardens are gorgeous & lush, with camellias, crepe myrtle, magnolia, rose gardens, fountains, a wooden walkway out over Lake Peigneur, expansive lawns, and century-old live oaks strung with Spanish moss. Some gardens feature an Oriental influence, with bamboo thickets arching over walkways, meditation benches, and Asian-inspired statuary. Peacocks and raccoons wander about the grounds, so I felt right at home.
· Myran’s in Arnaudville – Oh. My. Word. The food. This is a little dive-y café on the bayou. Best Cajun food I had the entire trip. Since crawfish was out of season, I had the boiled shrimp bowl – large, gumbo-sized bowl with boiled, seasoned corn on the cob and potatoes on the bottom, and more than a dozen large, fresh Gulf shrimp on top, with pistolettes on the side – dinner rolls deep fried in oil used to cook shrimp. I could feel my arteries shutting down for a nap.
|Steamboat House, New Iberia|
· Fezzo’s in Scott – more Cajun food. I tried my first alligator, frog legs, crawfish, and fried oysters, topped off with shrimp étouffée. The meat is all breaded and deep-fried, and seriously, everything tastes like chicken; hence, I guess, the expression “chicken fried.” Good stuff, a fancier restaurant, but it couldn’t beat Myran’s.
· Evangeline Downs – a new casino outside of Opalousas, LA. We spent an evening losing on the penny slots, but we had a blast.
· New Iberia – I’ve read one of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels set in Burke’s hometown of New Iberia, and Mom’s read the entire series, so we had to see the town on the banks of Bayou Teche, where Burke still spends half of each year. We saw places mentioned in the novels: main street, Mt. Carmel convent, Victor’s café. We stopped in the bookstore and bought a DVD of The Electric Mist, a film with Tommy Lee Jones adapted from a Burke novel and filmed in New Iberia. The film was disjointed and hard to follow, but I’ll watch anything with TLJ in it.
· Acadian Cultural Center – I finally have an accurate picture of Acadian history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acadians). It’s been a long, tough road for the Cajuns. In spite of, or because of, incredible hardships and persecution, they have a vibrant culture and rich, fascinating traditions. And the food…have I mentioned the food? C'est bon!
|Downtown New Iberia|
Maybe the best part of the trip for me, was that I barely noticed my post-stroke gliches. I was too busy to be slowed down by a clunky leg or a few missed naps. The only hangups were the the 50 mph runs through the Chicago and Dallas airports on the trek home (30 mins each stop to change planes), my desperate need to crash by 9 p.m. every night, and the fact that neither of us could ever remember the last time one of us had taken Advil. Otherwise, it was a grand adventure, and any time I get the chance…laissez les bons temps rouler!