Interesting Events
New Orleans - Cajun Style
Stimulating, interesting, surprising - fun!
New Orleans has 500+ festivals each year, more National Historic Landmarks than any other U.S. city and some of the most highly acclaimed restuarants in the nation. But North and West of New Orleans lies Louisiana's fabled river cities - Cajun/Creole/Zydeco country filled with unique music, food, scenery, history, culture and just plain fun.

Lesser known and visited than the Big Easy, we set out to explore, kick up our heels and join in. Read "itty-bitty" recap here or visit highlights below. Cajun "joie de vivre" will steal your heart!

Day 1 - New Orleans

fly to New Orleans - arrive late afternoon

check into: Hotel Monteleone go
Since 1886, the historic Monteleone has combined legendary hospitality and a perfect Royal Street location that puts you at the very heart of all that is the French Quarter in New Orleans. Walk to everything. Don't miss the Carousel Lounge right off the elegant lobby. A favorite meeting place for visiting celebrities - the circular bar revolves once every 15 minutes - making it hard to keep track of your drinks.

dinner: Snug Harbor Jazz Club go
This popular jazz club, bar and restaurant on Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny section is a great intro to the music scene. The Showroom, set up like a cabaret theatre, features Jazz 7 days a week. In a separate casual relaxed dining room a broad Creole based menu specializing in aged Angus steak and fresh caught Gulf seafood is served. With planning, an evening combining dining and jazz can be enjoyed. Here, etoufee and our 1st bread pudding of the trip were sampled. photos2

stay: Hotel Monteleone go

Day 2 - New Orleans

breakfast: Café Du Monde go
Open 7/24/365 this French-market coffee stand, established in 1862, offers a menu of dark coffee and chicory, beignets, white or chocolate milk and freshly-squeezed OJ and is one of the most popular places in the quarter. While the coffee is good, most people come for the famous, fresh-from-the-fryer beignets - little square donuts, sprinkled with powered sugar. They are brought to your table in such a hurry that they are still hot when you take that first melt-in-your-mouth bite.

walking tour: French Quarter go
"Vieux Carre", the French Quarter, was established in 1718 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne to sell produce to French settlers. Architectural styles reflected in the buildings remind us of the countries that once held power in Louisana. The district is sized right for strolling - shops, parks, monuments, shady courtyards, and gracefully buildings. You can see it in a day but it can engage you for a lifetime. photos4 Luxuriant gardens drape gracefully from galleries above. A prized annual award for "Best Gallery Garden" is seriously competed for by French Quarter residents. photos5

stops: Cathedral of St. Louis King of France photos6, Pat O'Briens (Bourbon Street) for their famous Hurricane drink photos7, visit to Old US Mint for Napoleon Exhibit and seredipidously view an archeological dig underway on the grounds of the Old Mint. photos8

auto picnic lunch enroute to outskirts: Muffuletta from Central Grocery
One of New Orleans' great sandwiches, the Muffuletta - a circular soft Italian bread loaf, sliced horizontally and piled with salami, ham and provolone, topped with spicy melange of chopped green and black olive salad fragrant with anchovies and garlic. Tastes great with local chips and soft drinks.

afternoon driving/walking tour: for a broad view of districts outside the famous French Quarter - Uptown photos10, Magazine street where you can shop for 6 miles, thorough the flood ravaged 9th Ward and visit to the next generation of housing - the Global Green Holy Cross Project go photos11. A stop at the Audubon Riverfront Park to see the meandering Mississippi hugged by riverside industry, and finally, the Garden District to visit Lafayette Cemetery across from the Commander's Palace. The cemetery, row upon row of raised tombs - common where the water table is high. As to the number of names on a tomb, a Latin interment practice - "unlimited interment" - allows a casket to be removed after a year and a day while leaving human remains at the burial site. photos12 George W. Cable entertained Mark Twain here in the Garden District; here Jefferson Davis spent his last days. Distinguished families lived in stately Greek Revival homes on quiet tree lined streets. Emile Commander etablished "Commander's Palace" in 1880 for his distinguished neighorbors. By the 1920's riverboat captains and sporting gentlemen used the private dining rooms on the second floor to met with beautiful women while the main dining room below continued with impeccable respectability for family meals.

return: to Monteleone hotel for a swim in roof top pool and roof top views - photos13

appetizers/drinks: in Carousel Bar; toured Eudora Welty's suite - two bedrooms, and a roomy parlor with panoramic view of the Mississippi River; plasma television, a CD player, portable telephone, high-speed Internet, wet bar, a marble and granite bathroom with Jacuzzi and separate glass shower - added since she stayed there. photos14 The Monteleone has 54 suites-more than most hotels-so there's good chance you can get one when you visit. Ask!

dinner: Lüke Restaurant go
John Besh received the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006, and has set the benchmark for fine dining in New Orleans - with 4 successful restaurants - of which Lüke is the most recent. The restaurant is Besh's homage to the brasseries once prevelant in New Orleans. Growing up in Southern Louisiana, learning at an early age the essentials of Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions Besh appreciates local ingredients and includes them in his menu. 2nd Bread Pudding sample was tasted here. photos15

walk: evening walk through Bourbon Street. In most cities, the weekend starts on a Thursday. In New Orleans, it has no beginning or end and on Bourbon street - a friendly block party (7 blocks long) - it goes on until you decide to leave. photos16

stay: Hotel Monteleone go

With regrets we left the luxury of this hotel but not before saying goodbye to "Hotel George" who greets, chats and makes the guest feel welcome and cared for. He's been with the hotel for 50 years serving in various capacities.

Day 3 - New Orleans/Donaldsonville/St. Francisville

breakfast: auto picnic with pastry and quiche from Croissant D'Or. photos17

drive to historic Donaldsonville go and the Donaldsonville Museum go
Donaldsonville, strategically located along the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Bayou LaFourch, known as the gateway to Cajun and Plantation county because of its rich heritage and numerous plantations along the Mississippi.
Donaldsonville, state capitol for one year, had been the economic and cultural hub of the region in times past. Revitalization of the downtown and preservation of historic structures is currently going on. The Museum, housed in the B Lemann & Bro. building - a 2+1/2 story structure - described as "the finest Italianate commercial building in any river town north of New Orleans" - is evidence of the prosperity and cultural variety in the 1800s. photos18

visit/interview: artist Alvin Batiste go
On Railroad Avenue, a main street in town, this self taught African-American primitive artist's painting studio and gallery display his original art and is open to the public. Critically acclaimed, his work captures the history of generations living along the Mississippi River with honesty, vigor, humor and vivacity. Now is the time to buy his work - his prices are still reasonable! photos19

tour: Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church go
Our guide was a southern gentlemen and great storyteller named Mr. Boo Leblanc. Predating the town the Catholic faith community was established here 50 years earlier when the territory was still served by European missionaries. Here is where the first Bishop in the Louisiana territory was ordained, it is the home of the oldest Catholic school and has one of the largest and most historic cemeteries in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. photos20

lunch: Grapevine restaurant go
Opened 2001 after painstaking restoration of the historic building structure. As defined by owners Cynthis & Steve Schneider, Grapevine Cafe and Gallery provides authenic Louisiana Creole and Cajun cooking in a comfortable art gallery atmosphere. Stories about the award winning cuisine have appeared in national and international publications. It is here we tasted a white Bread Pudding, our 3rd sample of the trip. This recipe has been served at a James Beard dinner. Originally known as "The Tavern", with the restaurant and bar downstairs - and ballroom with private gambling rooms upstairs, Al Capone was frequently welcomed during bootlegging years. photos21

visit and tour: River Road African American Museum go
This is the premier facilitiy in the South focusing on the important 300+ year history of Africans in America and their contributions to the growth of the South and the US, and the legacy and heritage of African Americans (and slavery) along the Mississippi River. Very interesting Freedom Garden - growing the plants that would have given nutrition to those runaway freedom seeking slaves headed north on the Underground Railroad. Also a courtyard tribute to Black musical genius and Jazz greats. photos22

drive to and explore: St. Francisville go
Situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi, this historic and charming little town is nestled in the beautiful Tunica Hills of West Feliciana Parish, well-known for its abundance and variety of flora and fauna. Settled by English planters in 1700s, many of the original plantations and antebellum homes are restored and open to the public. A restored 1905 bank building is home to Grandmother's Buttons featured in national magazines as a vintage button jeweler. History and antiquity buffs, hikers, bikers, birdwatchers, golfers and gardners will find a lot to enjoy in St. Francisville. photos23

visit Grace Episcopal Church and cemetery go
The Gothic style church, the second oldest Episcopal Church in Louisiana, started building in 1858 and finished in 1860. Beautiful old moss draped trees shade the historic cemetery. photos24

dinner: Magnolia Café - Adjacent to 3-V Tourist Court - casual enviornment, family run, friendly staff - serves typical locally harvested. foods. We sampled fried Okra, alligator, and 4th Bread Pudding version of our trip.

stay: St. Francisville Inn go
3-V Tourist Court go
Shadetree Inn

The St. Francisville Inn, a Victorian Gothic home built in 1880 nestled in 100 year+ moss draped Oak trees, has 10 guest rooms open onto wide porches. Minutes within easy walking to restaurants, shops and historic area. photos25 For value, the best accommodations in the area are at the 3-V Tourist Court. photos26 This is a genuine 1930s tourist court of wee cottages, many have been turned into shops, studios, cafes but five are still dedicatd to guests. Adorable, each has its own color scheme, sweet bed linens, teeny kitchenettes and nice basic bathrooms. The rustic Shadetree Inn, very private, is located on a 4 acre hilltop in a historic area. Romantic suites, with great amenities, on site nature trails, birdwatching and in suite breakfast. photos27

Day 4 - St. Francisville/McGee’s Landing/St. Martinville

breakfast: at B&B’s - ours included fresh made coffee, muffins, yogurt and fresh fruit taken at small table set on balcony overlooking lawn, gardens and Crepe Myrtle in full bloom.

explore two St. Francisville plantations:

Rosedown Plantation go located in the West Feliana Parish community of St. Francisville along one of south Louisiana's historic corridors. The River created deep soil deposits that in the cottom boom were extremely productive and valuable. Established in 1830, the plantation was originally 3,455 acres, now 371 acres, remained in the same family until 1950s. Rosedown embodies the antebellm lifestyle of the wealthiest Southern planters. Much of the original furniture is on display including a petitpointe screen attributed to Martha Washington, china, children's toys and clothing, and beautiful pieced quilts. The gardens, growing out from the house, cover about 28 acres were inspired by the great formal gardens of France and Italy. 450 slave laborers contributed to the construction and upkeep of the plantation during the peak years of cotton production. photos28

Oakley Plantation House go on the National Register of Historic Places is now a 100 acre State Park. A 3 story Federal style home, most noted for its famous resident, John James Audubon. Arriving in 1821 to tutor the children, he painted more than 80 of his American birds in this area. The 17 room house expresses colonial architecture adapted to the location. A clear West Indies influence - the jalousied galleries - allow cool breezes to drift through the rooms while keeping out rain and sun glare. Built circa 1806 it predates the classic revival in Southern plantation homes and claims distinction for its beautiful simpicity. photos29

drive: from St. Francisville to McGee’s Landing
Visited by people from over the globe who travel here to enjoy authentic home Cajun cooking on the water of the Atchafalaya. Cajun staples - alligator, crawfish etoufee, seafood gumbo, boiled crabs, fried shrimp and bread pudding - are on the menu. Believing the food we eat takes care of us, only the freshest and best ingredients are used to create McGee's menu. Crawfish, crabs and herbs are raised/grown locally, fresh produce and seafood from the Gulf come in daily. Owner David Allemond has been a featured cook on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and the CBS Morning Show. Brand new are two floating Cajun cabins on the shore of the Achafalaya. Imagine a few days in one of these! photos30

airboat swamp tour: Atchafalaya Basin
Toured the Atchafalya Basin, the largest swamp wilderness in the United States, on a McGee's Landing airboat. A combination of wetlands and river delta filled with bayous, bald cypress swamps, nationally significant expanses of hardwoods, back-water lakes and marshes that give way to brackish conditions and end in the Spartina grass marshes where it meets the Gulf of Mexico. The basin floods heavily and is sparsley inhabited.
Two hours of airboat touring was an exciting, on the water, up close visit to one of the most unique enviornment in the United States. Fed swamp gator "George", who responded to the boat driver's call and came out of hiding. Other worldly! photos31

Cajun’s love their alcohol - and fast. One of their greatest innovations (modeled after fast food) are the Drive Through Daiquiri Shops. Drive up to the window and order a daiquiri off the menu. Choose an individual or gallon-sized portion. 3 flavors are offered. Pay the attendant, who passes your drink through the drivers side window. Drinks are sealed as drinking and driving is not encouraged. You are good to go!

Lunch: McGee’s Landing go

dinner: Mulate's go
The real deal. Real Cajun music, real Cajun dancing and real Cajun food. Good service and hospitality. Many multi-generational families coming to listen, dance and eat. Lots of fun. photos32

In the heart of Cajun county lies St Martinville, the home of the legendary Evangeline, who awaited her lover on the banks of Bayou Teche. Adjacent to the Evangline Tree is the Old Castillo which had one of the most luxurious ballrooms and was the setting for decades of community activities until railroads undermined steamboat travel. photos33 Located 3 blocks away, Bienvenue House (circa 1830) is on the National Register of Historic Places. Has all the charm expected from a gracious southern antebellum home. photos34

stay: Bienvenue House B&B go
Old Castillo B&B go

Day 5 - Breaux Bridge/Lafayette

Breaux Bridge - designated as "la capitale Mondiale de l'ecrevisse" or "Crawfish Capital of the World"- got started in 1771 an Acadian pioneer Firmin Breaux bought land in the present-day city and built a footbridge across the Bayou Teche - a rope and plank suspension. Breaux's bridge was used as a directional sign post by early travelers and eventually became the name of the town. A "proper bridge" replaced the original as the town grew.

Zydeco Breakfast: Café des Amis go
What a great way to start the weekend! On Saturday morning, at 7:30 am, dancers began lining up for the breakfast, music and dancing, which started at 8:30 am. Cajun food - a French-accented mix of South and soul, with a dash of Caribbean spice and Italian brio are served. Menu included: "Oreille de Couchon" - pig's ear - a long strip of fried dough available plain or with boudin, biscuits topped with crawfish etouffee, couche couche, omelets with tasso ham, cheese grits with andouille sausage. The live band - with fiddle, accordian, drum, vest frottoir - played two steps, waltzes and shuffles - to a crowded dance floor. Reminded me of simpler, more innocent times when having a good time meant getting together with friends (kids and old folks alike) to eat and dance the night away. photos35

Zydeco music: The Coffee Break go
Strolled down the street to the coffee shop where musicians of all ages gathered for a Cajun music jam session. Fiddles, accordians, guitars, triangle, tambourines produced toe tappin' tunes while the audience sipped coffee, ate sweet treats and listened. photos36

drive to and tour: Vermillionville in Lafayette go
Situated on the banks of the Bayou Vermilion, this Cajun/Creole heritage and folklife park, two steps you back in time - authentically portraying a way of life (1765-1890) preserved with a distinctly French accent. The beautiful grounds are laid out as a historic village - 18 structures including a Creole Plantation House, recreated Slave Quarters, an old fashioned cotton gin and a Native American palmetto dwelling - with artisans, musicians and costumed guides. And a resturant with authentic foods prepared and gift shop for take home reminders of the trip. The Cajun musical heritage continues - a Cajun jam session was getting started while we were there. All ages and musical experience are welcome to join in. photos37

Po'Boys lunch: Olde Tyme Grocery go
Comfort food in other cities seldom reaches such heights. Po'Boy sandwiches represent bedrock New Orleans and we were anxious to try some. The crisp loaves - culinary crossroads, encase the most pedestrian and exotic of foods: shrimp, oyster, catfish, soft-shell crabs as well as French fries and ham and cheese. A culinary innovation, the Po' Boy has attracted many legends regarding its origins. We shared several types, of which shrimp was our favorite. Locally produced chips and soft drinks completed our lunch. Eat here in casual setting or get yours to-go. Annual Po' Boy Preservation Festival takes place November 23. photos38

check in and swim: Hilton Hotel - Our room looked out on the Bayou Teche and the Breaux Bridge. An afternoon thunderstorm did not interrupt the swimming. photos39

Dinner: Randol's Restaurant and Salle de Dance go
The spirit of Randols is deeply rooted in the values and traditions of Cajun culture - history on the table. Here we had a Crawfish Boil - a variation of the backyard barbacue that includes feasting on as many spicy crustaceans as you can. We learned how to "pinch the tails and suck the heads". Cajun food - all about freshest and best ingredients. Seperate but close-by, in the salle de danse, the musicians and dancers keep this vital culture alive and flourishing. As soon as the fiddler started tuning up, the first dancers hit the floor. Like the food, the music and dances are simple and hark back to a time when songs were made about pretty girls, the mystery of love, and the pain of loss. No one's a stranger for very long at Randol's. "Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler"!

explore: Downtown Lafayette

stay: Hilton Lafayette go

Day 6 - return home from Lafayette

Fly home on early AM flight - collapse

Thanks to all who helped create this fine experience

Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, & Tourism
Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu

Deveney Communication, New Orleans

Anna Whitlow
Deveney Communications

Annie Schroeder
Deveney Communications
who organized the visit and acted as guides/facilitators
Joseph Cillo
ForAlEvents Publisher & Editor in Chief
Mary Buttaro
ForAlEvents Creative & Photo Editor
+ Canon S5 IS digital camera
+ Kodak EasyShare V705 digital camera
who together created this story and photo journal
Bijan Bayne
author, media host/producer, bon vivant commentary
Dave Thompson
media producer, travel writer, bon vivant commentary
Kelly Westhoff
event chronicler, travel writer, bon vivant commentary
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