Louisiana – Part 1 of 2

Started our trip to New Orleans in Acadiana Park Campground, a super quiet, cheap ($15 a night) little city campground.  We took a walk on the raised boardwalk path and enjoyed our first night in Louisiana.   There was one strange guy there who was in the process of painting his run down RV all black, but let’s go for that it was in preparation for Mardi Gras, ok?   

Woke up ready to explore Lafayette when we realized it was Sunday and most of the restaurants suggested to us were closed, as was the Jean Lafitte National Park.  Things close around here on Sunday.    (How bad was the restaurant situation?? We ended up in a Mexican restaurant because we were hungry and needed to eat.  Mexican in the middle of Cajun Central!)

However, the privately run (non profit) Vermillionville was open so we gave it a try.  Vermillionville is one of those living history museums where everyone dresses in period dress and tells you about their history while showing you the ‘ways’ of the time.  In my cynical world, they are build for school field trips.  In this case the history was the Acadian, Native American, and Creole cultures – from the time period 1765 to 1890. The park sits on a 23-acres on the banks of the Bayou Vermilion with seven restored original homes.

It was all pretty standard fare and we might have been bummed about the admission charges ($36 for all of us) had the day not been saved by three things.    One, we wandered into the science center at the museum, which was run by a woman who was determined to teach the kids some science in only the way that a retired teacher can do.  She was awesome and let the kids play with dead bugs and a tornado machine and showed them pictures of snakes.   Bennett especially was eating it up (not the bugs, but the knowledge and the interested adult).  There is something about an ex-teacher when she gets a hold of interested kids.  I loved how she reprimanded one of the boys when he answered something and she said “Yes, MA’AM, son, you are in the South now and you better get used to saying ma’am and sir.”

That was highlight number one; highlight number two was getting to catch lizards and a frog with a 9-year-old daughter of one of the volunteers.

Have you noticed that both of those highlights were about the boys and not us?  Yeah, David and I were not that thrilled about the day, but it got saved for us because our admission entitled us to a Zydeco concert with Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp Band and included dancing!   We had a blast watching this huge crowd of very varied age and look folks who obviously knew each other.  We went out for a turn or five around the floor too.  Zydeco – seriously, how can you not move to it??  It’s contagious. (Challenge – watch this  videos  or the ones on the side and I dare you to keep your feet completely still.) We learned later that it was a social group of dancers that are serious about their Zydeco.  The woman that we talked to had retired here, just for Zydeco. There was a film crew working and one of them was filming an unaware Carter’s as his feet just kept moving to the music while he was watching from the sidelines.  We got him out dancing too.

That concert was serious fun and totally worth the price of admission!

Off we drove from Lafayette and on to the KOC Kampground in New Iberia, LA. 

Nice little campground with the best Wi-Fi we have found on the whole trip.  When we pulled into our site, a Carter aged boy came over and asked if he could help in anyway.  (That has NEVER happened before.  Wow, we are really in the South.)  We declined, but  after we finished setting up, the boys went for a walk around the grounds with David while I got dinner ready.  They ran into the boy again and we got a little bit of a cultural education.  Dylan lives in the campground on the weekends.  He explained to David that he likes to catch alligators, not big ones – just 5-6 feet.  You just jump on their backs until they tire out, then you got to close their mouths with the good tape – the gray stuff, not the cheap black stuff –  that won’t work.   He also showed the boys a nutria pelt that they had skinned for last nights dinner.

Just how good was that Wi-Fi?  David and I got to watch a Sherlock episode with streaming video.

The next day we went on a factory tour on Avery Island.  Anybody know the factory?  Their product has been to the moon, is a featured ingredient in MREs and President’s tables… Tabasco.  Cute little factory tour on a beautiful piece of land and it was free with 4 little mini samples of sauce for all of us.  Packaging is always the best stop in factory tours.  Just watching machinery package up stuff is way cool.

If one factory tour is good, two would be even better, right?  The Conrad Rice Mill – the oldest working rice mill in the country – was right near by.  They sell their rice as Konriko – which I had always incorrectly assumed was an Asian company.  Not so much, all the rice is grown right near here in Crowley, LA.  Their rice mill is a National Historic Building so they can’t change any of it or the machinery.  All those of you who think that might be a bad idea not to keep up with any current technology, raise your hand.  Yeah, the place is dusty and the machines are ANCIENT.  It was fascinating to know that these old workhorses are still spitting out bag after bag of rice.  We learned quite a bit about the process.   I loved how they have totally jumped on the gluten free bandwagon though.  Good for them.

We drove on to New Orleans and the ever so fabulous Bayou Segnette State Park.    20 minutes from downtown and $20 bucks a night – try to beat that in New Orleans!  One of the highlights for us that every night we drove back into the park we saw some new wildlife including a live armadillo that the boys got to get out of the car to check out.  (I’ve only ever seen them dead on the side of the road unfortunately).   We didn’t spend much time in the park (hello, 20 minutes from New Orleans), but it was spacious and clean and very pretty.  Plus there is a wave pool there in the summer!

Rain was scheduled for our first day, so we got some homeschooling done and headed out of town for Laura Plantation, a creole sugar plantation a bit out of town known for its excellent tour.   We got an excellent education about Creole vs. Cajun vs. Anglo and learned, for example, that in Louisiana, women were allowed to own property, inherit, and manage their own monies back in the times when that certainly wasn’t allowed in other parts of the country.  Women ran this plantation for over 60 years!   It was quite an interesting tour and worth the admission. We again were reminded how much Carter hears and listens when Carter was able to answer all of the questions David was trying to ask of the tour guide because Carter had been walking up front with her for the whole time.  On these types of tours we tend to let the boys stick right with the leader and we hang back a bit.  They spend so much time with us that it’s nice to let them soak up some education from someone else and it gives us a mini break.    Just as some website suggested, we drove by the impressive Oak Alley Plantation for the view, but paid for the Laura Plantation Tour.

I’m going to stop here and post our New Orleans adventures in the next blog.