I haven’t posted about Freyja, but she is our breeder dog for Southeastern Guide Dogs. She is in Canada having a litter of puppies for PADs and her host family sent us this video.
Thirteen years ago, my husbnad took a job in Florida and uprooted me from everything that I had known for the first thirty years of my life. For those thirty years, I had grown up in, lived, worked, got married and had my daughter in Louisiana. I didn’t know anything different. I worked with family and I could guarentee that if I went anywhere ‘in town’, then I would run into someone that knew me or knew my parents. I fully expected to live there the rest of my life.
As things go when you make those plans, plans unexpectedly changed. We moved. To Florida. Fifteen hours away from everything I had ever known. Let’s just say that I didn’t take it too well. It wasn’t like we had a choice. My husband needed a job and there was none to be found there. I had always thought that we would move, but maybe to another city within the state. I didn’t expect FLORIDA. The only parts of Florida that I was really familiar with was part of the Panhandle as this is where we would go for vacation. I had been to Disney World once, but seriously, that is just a bubble within Florida, so that didn’t really count.
After the move, Joel started work, Amanda started school and I, well I, got depressed. I missed everything. I missed my family, I missed the food, I missed FRIENDLY people. What people don’t tell you is that when you move to this area of Florida, you might technically be in a southen state, but you live surrounded by people from New Jersey. The Monday after our move, Joel handed me the keys, a map, said, “Everything is in a grid pattern, you can’t really get lost. If you get to the Gulf, turn around.” Uh, ok, thanks, that is real helpful.
Eventually,we settled in, I got my Real Estate license so that I would actually get out of the house, started knitting, met some Linda and Kathleen though a knitting internet group, and started making friends within Keller Williams where I worked. While I began to like living here, I still missed Louisiana, and I still do. I watched in horror when Katrina hit New Orleans, stared in disbelief when Rita took out southwest Louisiana a few weeks later, and more recently, teared up when a gunman changed Lafayette forever.
I often think about what it is about Louisiana that makes me long to go home. Everyone says that once you visit New Orleans, you never forget it and that she calls to you. Well, that may be true, but for me, it is the rest of the state. There’s just something about it.
It’s the friendly people, the work ethic, the willingness to help out a neighbor, or a stranger and expect nothing in return.
It’s the food. You haven’t had lived until you’ve sat outside in the late spring at a table covered in newspaper and a pile of crawfish, corn and potatoes in front of you.
It’s gumbo and LSU football on Saturday and Saints football on Sunday.
It’s the swamps of the Atchafalya, the Christmas Festival at Natchitoches, the hunting in the Kisatchie Forest, the fishing at Toledo Bend, duck hunting in Monroe and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
It’s zydeco music in Lafayette, gospel music in central Louisiana, and jazz in New Orleans.
I live twenty minutes away from some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, and sadly I don’t get out there as much as I should. Oh, the excuses are there..”I don’t have time”, “I don’t want to fight traffic.” “People forget how to drive while on vacation.” These are pretty much the excuses I use when I contemplate driving out to Anna Maria Island. Once I do, I almost always feel like kicking myself because I have such a wonderful time when I’m out there. It refreshes me and sort of does a reset on me. I went out last week for the morning because I knew that we had storms out in the Gulf and I wanted to try and photograph the clouds off the coast. By the time I got there, the thunderheads had pretty much dissipated, but the water was beautiful so I spent a couple of hours just photographing the beach and surrounding area. Hope you enjoy the photos and if you don’t live anywhere near the beach, maybe these will help give you a reset if you need one.
We decided that our swamp tour would be the last thing on our scheduled trip through South Louisiana and after looking a brochures and looking at Yelp and TripAdvisor, we settled on Champagne’s Swamp Tours in Breaux Bridge. Breaux Bridge is a quick twenty-minute drive from Lafayette. My mom wasn’t into the airboat type tours, so this one, using flat bottom boats was perfect. Champagne’s has been name a TripAdvisor 2015 Award of Excellence winner. After taking the tour, I can see why. The people there are super friendly and the guides are wonderful. This is the only swamp tour in Breaux Bridge that has its own bathroom facilities and the ability to purchase water and cold drinks. The $20.00 per person ticket price was well worth it. I was so impressed that I wrote a TripAdvisor and Yelp review, and I never do that. We arrived for our 10am tour and was glad to see that it was overcast as summer in Louisiana can be a HOT! Our tour was on Lake St. Martin and it was so peaceful and beautiful. Our guide, Andy, was a great storyteller and was very knowledgable about the area and the lake. I highly recommend this and will go back.
After our tour, we drove up to Arnaudville and had lunch at The Little Big Cup and then headed on towards Grand Coteau on our way to I-49. This little town is home to a convent and a boarding school. The town has done a great job making it an antique lovers destination with cute shops and cafes. We only explored a tiny bit of the town, but it is one place that I’d like to go back and spend more than the hour that we did this trip.
After our quick stop in Grand Coteau, we headed back to Dry Prong. We were tired, and too full from all the good food that we had eaten, but we had such a wonderful time and I’m so glad that we did this. I can’t wait for us to do it again. Sunday was my dad’s birthday and Father’s Day, so that was so nice to be able to be there to celebrate. I had Monday to myself, so I cooked dinner for them, packed and flew back to Florida on Tuesday. It was the longest time that I had spent at home in years. I plan on going back for a few days in the fall and then for at least a week next summer.
We headed out of New Orleans on Friday, but before we left, I snapped this guy jamming out and DJing his own concert. He was having a great time!
Headed out of the city, you can see the Super Dome peeping out from behind the building.
After we left New Orleans, we headed toward Lafayette via Hwy 90. Going via Hwy 90 did two things. 1) We stayed south of I-10 and didn’t thereby avoiding Baton Rouge traffic and 2) it’s a prettier drive.
Approach to the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge as we were leaving I-10 and headed toward Hwy 90.
We headed toward Houma where we stopped at the cutest little Tourist Center. The ladies there were so nice and helpful. If Houma sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve seen at least one episode of Swamp People. We didn’t see Troy, but you can just see how proud this area is of their ‘boys.’ I would love to do a ride along and photograph one of those gator hunting trips. (Yes, I’m crazy.)
Our first destination was to Avery Island , home of TABASCO. This island, while home to the bottling plant, is also home Jungle Gardens. The gardens were beautiful and very peaceful. Lots of places to have a picnic or just to sit out on a quilt and read. We were there in the summer, so past peak bloomng season, but in the spring, this place is a riot of color with tons of flowering plants and trees. There is a $1.00 toll to get on the island, and to tour the gardens, there is a small admission fee.
This is a driving tour. Of course, the adventerous are welcome to walk it, but summer in Louisiana, I’m staying in the comfort of the air conditioned car. After our tour of the gardens, it was time to head over to the TABASCO bottling plant. The plant runs four days a week, and wouldn’t you know it, the day we were there, they weren’t running. You can still go in, get a tour and see the machines and visit the country store. They give you miniature bottle of TABASCO as part of your tour and anything TABASCO that you would want can be found at the country store. I bought some wood chips that were made from the barrels that they age the TABASCO in for my brothers when they use the smoker.
We left Avery Island and headed toward our hotel in Lafayette. Our plan was to finish up our road trip with a swamp tour on Saturday, then head back to Dry Prong that afternoon.
Sugar cane fields.
Before we go into Lafayette, we made a stop in St. Martinville, home of the Evangeline Oak and Acadian Memorial. In this location you can find the story of the Acadiens (Cajuns) and their journey from exile in Canada to the swamp of Louisiana. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is know for his poem Evangeline, a bittersweet love story about two lovers who were seperated when Canada exiled the Acadiens. The memorial to this poem is also found here. You must stop in the museum and plan to spend a good amount of time as the volunteers are very friendly and will tell you the amazing history of the Cajun people.
After our tour through St. Martinville, we drove the short thirty minutes to our hotel in Lafayette where we grabbed some dinner at Cheddars and shopped some at World Market. I love World Market, but as the nearest one to me in Florida is over two hours away, I take advantage of when I can shop! The drive from New Orleans to Lafayette is approximently two hours, which is nice, because if you aren’t in a hurry, you can do what we did and stop and sightsee along the way. Next trip, I think I would like to go down and the Houma area and spend a little more time, maybe do a swamp tour in that area. In my next post, we’ll wrap up the road trip with a swamp tour on Lake St. Martin and a stop in Grand Coteau.