Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lake Martin, Beaux Bridge, LA

Five of us went out to Lake Martin for some kaying in the cypress swamp.

Here we go.

There were these beautiful light purple flowers all over the swamp.

But then we also saw plenty of these alligators too. I never did get totally comfortable knowing I absolutely had to keep the open side up. I really did not want to find myself in the same water as this guy or his bigger brothers, or even his littlier brothers.

But it was a gorgeous kayak. Normally I don't like just kayaking on a lake, but this was surreal being in all the cypress trees, the hanging moss and listening to all the bullfrogs croaking.

We also saw lots of water birds. Lake Martin is part of the Cypress Island Conservatory and much of the area is restricted because it is a rookery to many wading birds.

Out in the middle of the lake there were places like this. We believe they were duck hunting blinds for duck season.

On our way out we spotted this house. Notice it is 4 stores high, but only 1 room wide. What a strange house. I sure would like to get inside.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And More Cajun Country-Jeanerette and St. Martinsville

We headed towards St. Martinsville today to see what we could see.

This old church struck my eye. Never did find a date, but in the background you can see the old cemetary. Like New Orleans, many cemetaries in this area are crypts above ground.

In the town of Jeanerette I spotted this bakery. It was on a list of historical buildings so we stopped. As we were entering a lady stopped to talk to us. Her son is the current manager, and her name was Loretta LeJeune. The bakery, which opened in this building in 1884, has been in the family for 5 generations.

Much of the equipment is almost as old as the bakery itself. They pride themselves in doing the 'old fashioned way'. They start at 3am every morning to bake their famous french bread. Here is where the mixing takes place. And yes, the recipe they use today is the same as it was back in 1884, flour, water, lard, yeast, salt and sugar.

Here the dough is kneaded before being separated into 1 pound balls. The balls are placed on a long wooden table, shaped and left to rise.

Behind the wooden crates , which are used to hold the loaves waiting to be baked, is the old brick oven. It is lined with bricks and the process of baking was to get the bricks hot enough to bake the bread. They no longer use this oven.

This is the oven they use today.

Just before putting the bread into the oven they take a knife and split the top of the bread. Here is a cooling rack with some of the fresh baked french bread.

They make only two items at this bakery, their french bread, and ginger cakes. Here are fresh made ginger cakes waiting to be wrapped. Although they do sell to anyone who come into the bakery, most of their products are sold through a distributor to local restaurants and stores.

Mrs. LeJeune suggested we go see the local museum. Since none of the sugar mills give tours, the museum has a movie about how sugar is produced in Louisiana. The museum itself is in a home which was built in 1902. Each room is dedicated to 1-2 themes. You are guided through the home and the guide gives wonderful explanations of all that is in the museum. Here are a few of my favorites.

I used to by Aunt Lydia's rug yarn when I first started crocheting some 40 years ago. This package of Aunt Lydia's thread must be well over 100 years old. Most of what is in the museum has been donated by local families.

This crazy quilt is in a glassed frame and the reflection was terrible, but believe me the quilt was beautiful. Even more, the quilt is over 100 years old and was made by a 9 year old girl.

They had a mardi gras room, as most museums in the south do. Here are just a few of the costumes. Every wall was covered with costumes which have been worn for their local mardi gras celebrations.

These are beads, jewelry, masks and crowns from mardi gras.

This is the oldest antebellum plantation home I have see yet. It was built in 1790 in Baldwin and floated up the Bayou Teche to its present location by a descendant of the original builder. Notice the big oak tree in front.

This is now a Bed and Breakfast, but was built back in 1835 as an inn.

This is the Evangeline Oak. Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" immortalized the story of the Acadian exile from Nova Scotia in 1755. Based on a story passed down through the ages, this oak marks the meeting place of Emmeline Lebiche and Louis Arceneaux, counterparts of the poem's Evangeline and Gabriel.

Hanging out on the boardwalk next to the Bayou Teche.

They camoflauge everything down here.

This is the presbytery building (Priest's house) next to the church in St. Martinsville. St. Martinsville is considered to be the birthplace of the Acadians. This building was built in 1856, but the flags flying on the second floor balcony represent the 5 governments under which the church itself has existed. France, Spain, First French Republic, United States, Confederacy.

The St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, founded and built in 1765, is the mother church of the Acadians.

This statue of Evangeline is behind the church in the garden.

Across the street was this home. Notice the onion dome on the roof.

The town even has an Opera House. Unsure whether it is still in operation, there is an artist workshop and store on the ground floor in front. But the opera house itself could be behind.

We headed home by passing through Lake Fausse Point State Park and following the Atchafalaya Spillway road all the way back to Charenton. This is such beautiful country.

More of Cajun Country

I visited McIlhenny Co. or more commonly known as the Tobasco Factory on Avery Island.

They have been in business since 1880.

They even have royal approval from the queen.

They ship tobasco sauce to over 160 countries and print labels in over 110 languages. This batch is going to Saudi Arabia.

Our next stop was the oldest rice mill in the U.S. It was an interesting tour when I was their in 2009, so I went again with Max and Tom (Tom had never been). When I was there before I thought the plant itself was disgustingly dirty.

Well, it hasn't changed. Cobwebs and dirt everywhere.

And I think this might have been the same cat from 2009. Still making itself at home anywhere it wants, even on the conveyor belts where they package the rice.

For more info and pictures from my trip in 2009:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Old Spanish Trail in Cajun Country

We arrived at Cypress Bayou Casino where we will stay for about a week, exploring the area. This is the heard of Cajun country. We are close to the Atchafalaya Bayou, Bayou Teche, and lots of antebellum homes and old plantation homes.

But down along the levee of Atchafalaya Bayou we spotted this Cajun outhouse. Or maybe this is just a redneck outhouse.

Typical of many of the homes we saw, this home was built in 1857. Although this home is open for tours, many of the homes are being lived in. In fact, you can pick up one of these historic homes, it's on the historic register, for only $285,000. It has over 4,000 sq. ft. It was a lovely home right in the heart of Franklin, just waiting for a buyer.

There are fields and fields of sugar cane and I wanted to take a tour of a sugar processing plant, but none of the plants give tours. We did drive by one though. This plant boasts that it has been in operation since 1807. That's a long, long time.

I'm sure these buildings are not that old.

Bridges everywhere. So much water. But I love how none of the bridges are the same.

This is Morgan City. In the fall of 2009 we bought fresh shrimp right off the boat down on this pier. But no one was there today. Darn. I wanted more fresh shrimp.

I missed this when I was here in 2009, but this is Mr. Charlie, the first portable, off-shore well digging platform. Designed by Charlie Murphy, the founder of Murphy Oil. You know, the gas stations you find at Wal-Mart.....

On the way back we stopped at Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge. Some other birdwatchers pointed out this barred owl. The barred owl is one of the more common, larger owls found in North America. It is better known as a 'hoot owl'. He didn't mind getting his picture taken at all.

Then I spotted this pretty green fellow.

And then this beautiful caterpillar. Such bright colors. I guess they want to make sure you see them.

It was a nice day and this guy was sunning himself next to Yellow Bayou.

The Hilaire Lancon House, Antebellum Home. Most people think of an antebellum home as a large, pillored mansion, just like the one in 'Gone With the Wind'. And although many classic antebellum homes are of that nature, the word actually means 'pre-war', meaning pre civil war. So this home was built prior to the civil war and is still being used today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holly Beach, LA

Most people have never heard of the Creole Nature Trail, so we decided to find out what it was. Following the Louisiana coast from Port Arthur, TX, to Pecan Island, LA, Hwy 82 meaders through marsh, bayou and alongside the gulf.

But to get there took us over several interesting bridges.

Some of these bridges look steep enough to be roller coaster rides.

This one was under construction. We saw lots of damage from hurricanes, maybe this is still being repaired?

Not so steep, just long.

But finally, the beach. Holly Beach is not a town really, just a small spot on the road with some homes on logs and a large beach.

As you can see it was pretty windy. We had planned on staying several days on the beach, but it was so windy we left after only one night. And then I spent the next day cleaning sand out of my RV.

We had to cross one stretch of water on a ferry. This ferry has a maximum limit of 50 feet. Max was the only one who did not have to disconnect the tow car. It took several trips to get the RVs and the tow cars all across. Here Max and I are looking back as Tom heads across the river.

Once our RVs came on board no other cars could load.

Now we can be on our way again.

I thought the drive over the Creole Nature Trail was great. I saw my alligators in the canals alongside the road. We saw people throwing out pieces of chicken tied on string trying to catch crab and shrimp and we saw lots of fields where they were harvesting crawfish. A very interesting drive along Louisiana's southwestern coast.