When heading to Louisiana we expected loud cajuns with boisterous personalities. Maybe a little back woods, maybe a little er… red neck. What we found is that there is a wide mix of Cajun, and Creole in this area. There were a few loud boisterous cajus with thick sharp accents. They smiled when the met you and it was clear where they were from. There was also another accent that I had heard about but never really experienced. It was this smooth understated accent that was calm and pleasant to listen too. I remember a movie line where one of the women described her favorite man as having a smooth caramel Cajun voice. I didn’t know what that meant until after talking to a manager at one of the stores we went to. The second he started talking I fully understood what she meant. (I don’t remember the movie, in case you were wondering) I could listen to this guy talk for hours. I wanted him to read me a book. HAHA. I have never heard such a smooth dialect. T’s were smooth like a soft d and there no rough vowel sounds like what you hear more in places like southern Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. No twang, no hard y’s, just smooth. He carried himself in a different way too. What I discovered is that there are backwoods Cajun accents, a some what standard Cajun twang, and then a regal reserved accent that was just unexpected.
Lafayette – I met a manager for a Baymont Inns and Suites in Lafayette Louisiana (actually he ended up being the owner), through twitter. After some conversations about what we were doing he allowed us to park our 5th wheel in the lot, actually drop it (a term for leaving it there), while we explored the area. He even recommended some good Cajun food in the area. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised, not only did we have a chance to drop our trailer but he offered us the use of the facilities, including the continental breakfast. It was a great experience. The staff there was helpful and compared to other Baymont Inns I have been in, the place was immaculate. For the normal price range of the hotel $70 to $120 the with some extended stay the facilities were well above par. The whole experience was wonderful. I would like to make more connections like that while we travel. Truth be told I hate paying 30 to 40 dollars a night just to park, which is the average we have been paying and is about 2x what we had planned for / hoped for.
Prejeans – Sonjay the owner of the hotel I worked with suggest Prejeans. They are an award winning restaurant with top notch chefs, staff, and food. Unfortunately, they did not offer us any discounts while were were there. But they still provided excellent food and dining experience. The restaurant was themed as though on the bayou, with salt wheat grass, vine draped trees, Cajun art, and bronze alligators all around. They also offered nightly Cajun music that was smooth and quiet. We ordered the seafood platter which included crayfish and shrimp gumbo, crayfish boudin balls, shrimp, stuffed crab, fried gator, catfish, crayfish etouffee, stuffed shrimp, crayfish Cajun rice, a mini Cajun cream corn in a small savory pie shell. We split the meal 4 ways and were mostly satisfied. Good thing too because the one meal with 4 waters and a tip was about $60. A well deserved price tag for the experience.
The day we went to Baton Rouge was overcast, grey and cold. Cold for Louisiana standards. The city was smaller than most we have visited, more like a small town with some big buildings. Our intent was to stop for about 30 mins take some pictures and head to New Orleans. What we ended up doing was staying the afternoon wandering the capital building and the Louisiana State Museum. We even parked in front of the capital building taking up 3 meters for most of the day!
Louisiana state Museum – Located across from the capital in one of the old LSU buildings there is the Louisiana State Museum. We have stayed away from most museums other than those attached to visitors centers that do no charge. We went in to see what the cost were and what kind of time it would take to walk through it. We ended up talking to the lady working the desk and the police officer who was with her for about 30 minuets about the area, our trip and some things to eat once we got to New Orleans. After a our conversation the Officer asked us to go through as his guest. They were both very nice laid back individuals that we counted ourselves lucky to meet.
We ended up skipping lunch and walking though the museum. The museum was a sight to see. Though small they put a lot of effort in to building an experience that left you with a good impression of the state and the cultures that are ingrained within Louisiana. It was hard not to read everything, even the boys were sucked into the various displays. The museum covers everything from the Louisiana purchase, the Revolutionary War, Civil War, slavery, to jazz funerals, Mardi Gras and Cajun, creole roots and culture. I have heard people say that Louisiana is it’s own country within the US, and I can see that. There is clearly a unique quality and heritage.
Capital Building – After the museum we went to the Capital building. We have only looked at a few capital buildings and this was the first one we actually went into. It also happens to be the Tallest capital building in the US, so there’s that. Inside the decor is ornate, and detailed. The woodwork, scroll work, artistic carvings, and statues are all top notch. We missed the elevator ride to the top because it was closed early, which was a bit of a letdown as we were told you could see the whole city from the observation deck. However, our experience here was as surprisingly good as the museum. The people too are kind, welcoming and laid back.
Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans we ended up staying at Poche Plantation. It wasn’t planned, I had a bit of work that was starting to pile up and Gail had some equally pressing needs. We had been and had planned on dry camping but knowing that we would need power and that one of the colder nights was ahead of us we decided to go ahead and pay to stay somewhere. We had mixed feeling about staying on a plantation, especially after we had learned that the harshest plantations were in southern Louisiana. But we ended up there none the less, though an odd conversation with the owner. We actually thought we were staying some where else. It turned out he owned both Sugar Hill and Poche Plantation and while he told us we would be staying at Sugar Hill there was only room at Poche Plantation. It’s hard looking back to even discuss the plantation without being affected by it’s history. Our stay there during the rain and colder weather was decent and quiet. The grounds were in decent shape, but I enjoyed the imagery and photo ops more with the rain and gloom than when the sun came out.
New Orleans – The Big Easy – NOLA – the Crescent city . This is one area with which there was no surprise and no disappointment. It was exactly what we hopped for on a warm winter afternoon before the insanity of Mardi Gras was to begin. The buildings, decorations, performers, sights and sounds were almost fictional as they played out in front of us. Iconic sights and sounds. We were careful to avoid certain areas, especially since we had the boys with us. The rest of the areas, from the residential, Jacksons Square, the French Market, and some of the backs streets and ally-ways were filled with intrigue. There are layers good and bad interwoven within the city that made it a unique experience. We spent the afternoon wandering the streets, and watching various performers do their thing. We spent time near the river and in the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. With a little care and a little care you can have a pretty good PG time in The French Quarter that is enjoyable for adults and kids.
Louisiana is the first state that I can say was full of pleasant people. Even after needing to back down a street with the RV and having to block traffic for a few minutes. Everyone smiled, waved, laughed, and let it roll off their backs. Other than my feelings with the plantation and my experience with the owner of said establishment, Louisiana was the most laid back state to date… Then we went to Mississippi on the Gulf Coast!