When first planning our route, I knew I wanted us to stay for a month in southern Louisiana’s Cajun Country and arrive some time in November. After falling in love with New Orleans during my visit almost five years ago, I knew I would have to return to explore more of the state. At the time I am writing this we have now been in Louisiana for over a month and have moved further north to another RV park near the Mississippi River. In my next blogs I plan to spend some time writing about our impressions and experiences while in Cajun country.
When entering a new state I love checking out the State Welcome Centers. They are usually a wealth of information providing lots of free maps, brochures and pamphlets as well as helpful and personal travel advice. When we were traveling from Arkansas into Louisiana I found that the Welcome Centers were not on our route. We were able to locate one in the middle of the state that was out of the way, but we decided was worth the detour. We were hurrying to get to our RV park before it closed at 6:00 p.m., but just couldn’t pass up a Welcome Center!
Since I love researching places to go and things to see, I really enjoy getting as much paperwork as possible about where we will be traveling. At the table area in our trailer, I am often surrounded by brochures and maps. Although I can find most things on the internet, it is always nice to have a paper copy in front of me. Above is a picture of some of my stash from the Louisiana Welcome Center.
From the beginning, we really liked our RV park in the little town of Carencro near Lafayette. It is located out in the country and away from any highways or major roads. It was our first campground stay with no road noise. The residents were also very quiet – we hardly ever heard anything from them. In fact, I told Mark a few times that I wished more of the people staying there were out and about so we could visit and get to know them! We learned that many of the occupants are working, so that explains their absence. The price was just right too – they have a great monthly rate and it averaged to be about $17.00 per day with full hookups. We were lucky to be right across from the bathroom and laundry room. Some of the places we have stayed didn’t have laundry facilities which meant a trip to the local laundromat. My favorite part of the RV park though was the small swamp located on the property which was just beautiful. I was delighted to have it close by to visit.
Speaking of swamps, one of my favorite things in southern Louisiana and Cajun country is all the water. There are many swamps, small lakes and bayous. Bayous are slow moving rivers. Many towns here are along them. We had a bayou across the street from our park. Below is a picture showing a fishing pole at the ready. Someone had built narrow decking along the bank with seating and cute signs.
In Lafayette we learned all about the Cajuns who came here from Acadia in Eastern Canada after being expelled by the British in 1755. Of French descent, they were forcibly removed from their homes and had to look for new places to live. Some settled in the Carribean, some in New England and others went back to France. Eventually some made their way to Louisiana where they built new lives but kept their distinct culture including their language. Many people in this part of Louisiana speak Cajun French and signs are often in both English and French. The National Park Service has a site called the Acadian Cultural Center with exhibits, photographs and a film about the history of the refugees from Acadia.
Vermillionville in Lafayette is a living history museum that shows the lifestyles of the Acadian, Native American and Creole peoples that lived in this area from 1765 – 1890. The Creoles were inhabitants of Louisiana during the time periods of French and Spanish rule.
Vermillionville is a great place to learn about these different cultures and of course is on a bayou. We visited here a few times to see the village and listen to the Zydeco music that is offered on Sunday afternoons in the auditorium. There are seven historic homes on the property. Below is a picture of the oldest building in Vermillionville from 1790, a large Acadian plantation home. The owner of the home was a successful cattle rancher.
Several people in period costume demonstrate their craft in the village. One of the best demonstrations was on spinning and weaving.
Before this visit I had never heard of brown cotton. I learned that at first brown cotton was the only cotton available and used to make clothes and blankets. White cotton was eventually grown and considered a superior product. The Village has a brown cotton patch, so I was able to see it in the field and learn how it is grown and harvested.
The Village has a few musicians playing period instruments including one with a guitar and another with an accordion. The first day we visited the accordionist played a few songs for us on the porch of one of the homes.
Below is the beautiful little Acadian Catholic chapel built in the late 1700’s. The Catholic Church was the only recognized church in Louisiana during the periods of Spanish and French rule.
Lafayette also has the Acadian Village, another center similiar to Vermillionville with historic buildings and exhibits. During December, they have the Noel Acadien, a celebration of the holiday season with the village decorated with thousands of lights reflected in its bayou.
The glowing alligators set in the bayou were one of our favorite light installations.
Stay tuned – next time we will sample some wonderful Cajun food!