Breaux Bridge is the Crawfish Capital of the World as they so proclaim. It is available everywhere from do it yourself to buying retail or wholesale and then of course there are the myriad of local eating establishments to try it from pie to stew to casserole to etouffe to, of course boiled and dumped on your table peel to eat yourself with corn on the cob and boiled redskin taters.
Our first day we met up at Poches Market and Restaurant with old friend Colonel Jesse Shanks (USAF ret.) on his way to Hammond, LA for his college basketball reunion. It was a great lunch with even better company. I gotta tell you that the Crawfish Etouffe was some of the best I have ever eaten! I'll be hitting their butcher shop before I leave. I have also learned after talking at length with the locals that True Cajun food isn't about the heat, but the flavor. Most Cajun food is seasoned to perfection and 'HEAT' is a matter of how much extra seasoning, pepper, or hot sauce you add at the table.
Crawfish Etouffe, Coleslaw, Fries, and a Biscuit for lunch at Poches
Afterwards we took a drive around the historic district of Breaux Bridge. This is also the home of Bayou Teche and famous hoist bridge. I don't think this one has been used in many a year. We were finally able to tour a cemetery where above ground vaults, crypts, and urns are used instead of the traditional below ground affair we see up north. This is due to the high (and sometimes flooding stage) water level. Some of these dated as far back as the late 1700s and early 1800s! There are plenty of antique stores here as well as several famous eateries: Café des Amis, Crazy 'bout Crawfish, and of course Poches.
The next morning we got up extra early to be at Café des Amis when the door opened. They are famous for their Saturday Morning Zydeco Breakfast. It was an incredibly fun time. Zydeco music playing, folks dancing with anybody/everybody, and plenty of good food. Seating is large family style and we ate with two other couples, one from Beaumont, TX and another from Lake Charles, LA. Both had driven all this way just for breakfast. What really got me was the fact the bar was OPEN and serving at 8 a.m. as well. WTH can drink at 8 a.m.? Cajuns, dat's who! Anything for a party. We arrived at 7:30 for an 8:00 opening......and took our place in line. There was still a line when we left.
Eggs, Boudin Patty, Gravy, Cheese Andouille Grits, and of course Beignets @ Café Des Amis
Next we drove over to Lafayette to tour the Acadiana National Museum, learning the history and culture of Cajun folks and then toured the Vermillionville Village.
Venturing further south we visited New Iberia and St. Martinsville. Two more villages with plenty of Cajun Arcadian influence and antebellum homes, including the grounds of Longfellow's famous Evangeline. A very good website for locating many of these homes is http://www.oaklawnmanor.com/antebellum.htm Another good one is http://www.louisiana-destinations.com/louisiana-plantation-homes.htm We stopped in New Iberia for lunch at Victor's Cafeteria on the advice of old friend Jesse Shanks . Wonderful food: Catfish, the best shrimp I've ever had, cornbread, and a delightful Pecan Peach Pie. We have used Jesse's dining suggestions at several of our stops in Louisiana, man he sure knows how to pick them!
Shrimp, Catfish, Cornbread, and Pecan Peach Pie.....lunch at Victor's Cafeteria
The BEST shrimp I have ever eaten!
A soaking, rainy day allowed us time to get caught up on some laundry and other minor camp chores, but the day after we ventured out on yet another 'day trip'. This time SW to the historic Cajun town of Abbeville, and then on to Avery Island, LA., the home of the Tabasco Plantation.
Airborne photo courtesy of Tabasco Co.
Avery Island itself is a bit of an anomaly. The island is the tip of a giant salt dome that extends some eight mile beneath the earth's surface. Edward McIlhenny founded the company on this small island in south central Louisiana. The factory tour is a self guided affair that costs $8 and with the Garden and Wildlife Sanctuary the total is $12.50.
The vast majority of Avery Island is a wildlife sanctuary. In fact, Edward McIlhenny helped save the Snowy Egret from extinction by building a protected aviary on this island. The island is home to birds, black bear, deer, nutria, rabbits, armadillos, possums, squirrels, raccoons, bobcats, and of course alligators call Avery Island home. The island is also home to some enormous Southern Live Oaks draped in lots of Spanish Moss. There are also Magnolias, Camellias, and Clematis to name a few flowers. There is also a huge presence of bamboo growing in tight clusters.
Most of the gators we saw were youngsters
More of the gardens
After our Avery Island adventure we motored into Abbeville, LA to experience what the Cajuns call the Oyster Capital of Louisiana. We settled into Schuck's Oyster House with Barb thoroughly enjoying her Shrimp PoBoy and my willing adventure once again into the world of Charbroiled Oysters. 15 oysters with assorted toppings. DELISHIMOSO! YUMDOGGEES!
Towards the end of our stay we embarked on our swamp tour with Champagne's Cajun Swamp Tours. www.champagnesswamptours.com Our hope was to capture the authentic swamp landscape with cypress trees, Spanish Moss, and many, many critters. The cost for this tour is very reasonable: 2 hours for $20 each adult. It is an excellent tour with great boats, lots of wildlife, and a very knowledgeable guide. It is also very close to our camping area at Breaux Bridge, LA with Bayou Teche and Lake Martin as their venue. I highly recommend it.
I used the 150-600mm lens for most of these shots, obviously due to the range, but Barb got a very nice shot with the 18-55mm of the mossy gator on the log as the guide steered the boat right by it and she got her shot from a distance of no more than 3 feet!
Our last night was appropriately crowned (for me) with a dinner of boiled peel and eat crawfish. We ate at Myran's Maison de Manger in Arnaudville. This place got a few bad reviews for customer service, but our campground host told us they are seriously understaffed and just to get there when they start boiling at 5 p.m. It worked cause we had great service and lively conversation. Crawfish boiled are delicious, but you get 4 pounds and peeling/eating them individually is a lengthy experience. You have to develop a rhythm and keep plenty of your favorite beverage and paper towels within reach. Barb just looked at me like a 5 year old in need of a bib. It took me an hour to polish off a tray of these spicy babies. When we left the place was packed and the waitress staff was hopping every which way. They were delicious. By the way, Barb also enjoyed her shrimp dinner as well.
We had so much fun visiting Arcadiana. We are already planning to stop here on our sojourn south next winter. The people are the friendliest and the culture/food are at the top of the scale. You know how some folks always claim to be of Irish heritage come St. Patrick's Day? Well, if I wasn't Cajun in my previous life I surely will be in my next. We stocked up our RV freezer with nearly 20 pounds of Boudin, Gator, Andouille, and various other delicacies for our summer UPNORTH. I also tried 'Cracklins' for the first time this trip. I have had Pork Rinds on many occasions, but these have a deeper, richer flavor that is enhanced when you get them fresh and warm in the morning. I'm sure these aren't on the 'healthy list', but they sure are tasty. Think of them as Bacon Jerky. From here we venture south to the Gulf for a few days of R & R on the beach and then back into Texas for some BBQ and Wild Hog hunting.
"The real test of good manners is to be able to put up with bad manners pleasantly"
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