Monday, December 26, 2016

A Cajun Christmas.......Natchitoches, Louisiana

      Barb and I established our own Christmas traditions after retirement to visit somewhere new each holiday season.  Two years ago it was on the banks of the Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park and last year we spent it with good friends in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.  This year we return to the warmth and traditions of Cajun Country.
      This was a fairly easy two day drive (but we took 4) from our grandson in Marlow, Oklahoma doing the WalMart boondocking thing along the way in Idabel, Oklahoma.  This totals 9 days of boondocking so far on this trip equating to a cost adjusted savings of $270 since October 1st.  Diesel was $2.28/gal and we averaged about 13.6 per gallon from start to finish on this leg.  We also treated ourselves to a complete truck/RV wash at Blue Beacon Truck Wash in West Shreveport, LA.  They do such a nice job in about 15 minutes; getting ALL the road grime and dirt off, and for me the $36 is worth it.  I had extra time built into our schedule so we stayed 2 overnights (mommy break) at the Diamond Jack Casino in Shreveport;  full hookups, laundry, showers, cable for only $25/night.  Good Sam discount takes another 10% off.  Barb won $90 her first night, but gave it all back plus a bit more on night #2. 
      Let me take you back for a moment in cinema history.....this movie "Steel Magnolias" was filmed here....the Christmas scene where Julia Roberts comes home to visit the family during the holidays.  The banks of Cane River Lake in this small, quaint Louisiana town of Natchitoches embody all that is the best of the South......landscapes, horticulture, architecture, culture, fellowship, festivities, and of course food.  We visited here last winter prior to Mardi Gras, but once discovering the nationally famous festivities that occur each holiday season we made our reservations early.  We stayed at the Nakatosh Campgrounds, just 4 miles outside the town and right off Interstate 49.  A decent park with all the amenities for the fairly reasonable price of $165/week.  The CG has full hookups, ample parking, showers, laundry, and is close to the festivities.  It is located very close to BK, McDonalds, a Mexican Restaurant, several hotels and gas stations, including a truck stop right next to the campground so you have to be ready for the noise of parked semi trucks all night.  I WOULD NOT recommend eating at the French Market Truck Stop Buffet just west of here; the food isn't worth the price. In addition to the National Historic District downtown the normal shopping and business district stayed PACKED for most of our visit. 
     On our arrival in the campground we were, of course, met with a new challenge.  Our electric front hitch jack was intermittently operating and smelled of overheating.  There is no RV sales or service within 75 miles in any direction so we decided to wait for now.  I can always raise/lower it manually so once we got camp set be it for now.  Since it was our arrival night we decided to treat ourselves to dinner in the village eating at Mama's Oyster House.  Barb loved her gator while I ate my fill of fried oysters!  Afterwards we walked the streets for a bit taking in the lights.  This is the 90th year of the City of Lights Christmas Celebration. 

      The entire Cane River Lake waterfront is ablaze with lights for 6 weeks prior to Christmas.  Weekends provide Kids Festivals down on the waterfront with Friday providing fireworks and Fri/Sat live Cajun and Zydeco Bands.  Food from Boudin to Catfish to Gator on a Stick to PoBoys, and of course funnel cakes abound.    
      FYI, the entire downtown historical district is very 'parking restricted' during these festivities so unless you want to park at the outlying hotels and 'shuttle in' ($20 round trip per person) or park in the designated downtown lots for up to $65 OR MORE per day you learn to leave early, find the few areas that are open to free parking and be willing to walk several blocks.  What the's exercise, right?  It's not like I'm NOT going to eat!
     Spent my WARM Christmas Eve Day (80 degrees) making the Praline Pecan Pound Cake for the big dinner and then Christmas Eve we just relaxed.   In the days after Christmas we did a bit more shopping, stocking up on Tasso, Chorizo, and a few of Lasyone's Famous Meat Pies.   Filled with your choice of pork, beef, or crawfish.....think of them as fried pastys and just as tasty. 
Pictures courtesy of Layone's
      In addition to the delicious local cuisine I prepared Tillamook BABBS Sandwiches n Soup, Chicken Cordon Bleu, SW Grilled Tilapia, Taco Boat Chorizo Salads, Leftover Quail Salad Night, and of course Fettucine Cudighi w/Cabbage whose leftovers would satisfy us on arrival at our next stop. 
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Taco Boat Chorizo Salads
      Our Christmas dinner was pretty sweet.  I found a very good slow cooker recipe for quail (which we have plenty).  I also made baked sweet taters with marshmallows and syrup, steamed broccoli with Hollandaise Sauce, deviled eggs, and of course Hawaiian Dinner Rolls. 
      We were blessed with a gift of pecans from our inlaws in Oklahoma so instead of the normal Pecan Pie I tried a new dessert recipe for Pecan Pound Cake with glaze.  Much like any other pound cake it was dense, but delicious......just like Pecan Pie.  
Praline Pecan Pound Cake
Christmas Dinner 2016
      Diesel was much more expensive in Natchitoches averaging from $2.44-$2.61 per gallon, but we were able to find $2.25 per gallon in some smaller outlying towns.   This has been another wonderful holiday experience on the road, experiencing cultures blended with our own to just get the very best out of life.......Joie de Vivre!  From here in a few days we travel further south to Breaux Bridge, LA for some relaxation, catfishing, even more stocking up of our mobile larder, and of course a Cajun New Years celebration!  Christmas 2017?   Who knows.......laissez les bon temps rouler! 

"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all of one's lifetime"
                                                                             Mark Twain

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

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