Our fifth wheel and the truck

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Laissez les bon temp rouleur!

Or in English - Let the good times roll! This is the prevailing sentiment in Louisiana so I have discovered. And with good reason - you just have to love the food, the enthusiasm of the residents and the wonderful environment in which they live. As I said last week - I love Louisiana.

We have been so busy since my last post - hence the fact that this one is again, very late. What a wonderful couple of weeks we have had with our other partners in crime. And this week has been no exception with so many new and exciting experiences to share with them and with y'all!

My comment about visitors to Betty's RV Park extending their stays held true for us as well! There was just so much to see in and around Abbeville that we stayed an additional two days which, to be honest, still wasn't enough! But there is just so much to see in America that we really can't afford to stay in one place too long which makes for quite a conundrum. If we go we might miss something here and if we stay we will miss something somewhere else along the road! Oh what a difficult situation to be in!!! Yeah right!!

Vermillion Ville was one of the most interesting places that we have seen. It is a large park made up of old buildings that have been relocated from other areas and others that are replicas using traditional building methods. Just to show you where my brain was - one of the most interesting features in one house (where lived a family with 13 children) was the three seater, one door, outside loo! Interesting!!!! But seriously though it was really interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And we also enjoyed lunch at the cafe - wouldn't you know.

From the park we drove to Avery Island which is on a salt dome and was originally a salt mine but became the original home of the famous Tabasco sauce. The factory has always been on the island and although now the peppers are grown in other areas, all the seeds for these peppers come from the island. We took an interesting tour and sample some of the other sauces and salsas that Tabasco make. Very challenging and hot to say the least. Norm even tried the Tabasco icecream - can you believe they make icecream with jalapeno peppers? We would have enjoyed going to the jungle garden however the heaven's opened and it bucketed down so we had to cut short our visit.

Much to Norm's disgust on the way back to Abbeville we stopped at a cemetery. He thinks it is very ghoulish to take an interest in the graves and mausoleums. Obviously the Louisiana cemeteries are above ground due to all the very low lying areas. It was really interesting and some of the graves were over 150 years old. Some of them didn't even have bodies in them!! People had obviously bought their plot and had the headstone made with their names on just the details would have to be completed when they kicked the bucket. Now that is what I call organised!

The next day we visited an old plantation house which really surprised me. Did you know that many of these plantation homes, while they look enormous, are actually only one room deep? The disappointing thing I found, and I do understand why, is that you can't take photos inside these homes. There was so many interesting things that I would love to have been able to share but never mind, outside photos will have to be enough.

Our next stop was the Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island (another salt dome). Just check out the reception committee on the steps of the restaurant where we had lunch!! The gardens and buildings on the island were just beautiful however it has another claim to fame.

In the 1980's Jefferson Island was being mined for salt and Texaco (oil company) was drilling for oil just off the island. Long story short - it is believed that the drilling pierced the salt dome causing it to flood. The water in the river started flowing backwards as it filled in the salt dome, barges and the drilling rig were sucked into the whirlpool created and a house and a new reception centre on the island were also sucked under never to be seen again. In fact all that is left of the house is the chimney sticking out of the lake. The good news was that all the mine and oil workers were safe and no lives were lost. It took over two days for the lake to refill after the catastrophe.

This was to be our last excursion in the Abbeville area as the next day we bid Betty and her wonderful RV Park adieu, as we moved out to go to N'awlins (for those Australians read New Orleans!).

What to say about New Orleans? First impressions. Dirty, roads in great need of repair, buildings boarded up or needing to be bulldozed, footpaths that are in dire need of fixing. But oh boy is there so much more to this place!

There are some countries, cities etc on this earth that when you visit you just have to do the touristy thing. When in Paris you visit the Eiffel Tower, the Seine and the Louvre for example. When in New Orleans you have to visit the French Quarter! So that was our first destination.

When in the French Quarter everyone has to have beignets (French doughnuts) and coffee at Cafe du Monde. However, we didn't realise that on a Saturday not only is it inundated with tourists, all the locals head there as well, so rather than stand in a queue for ages, we walked down to Bourbon Street where we were told there was another restaurant that also served beignets and the chicory coffee that Cafe du Monde is famous for. I have to say eating the beignets is quite a challenge. Just don't breath in as you eat them as they have about 2cm of icing sugar on top and it is easy to choke. Also you have to be careful otherwise you end up with a lap full of icing sugar. Not easy to eat!

We strolled along Bourbon Street which was quiet at that time of the day however still very interesting - if you could call it that. It would be very different at night! We visited the St Louis Cathedral - just amazing but what struck me was the carnival type atmosphere out the front of the cathedral. All along the pavement there were palm readers, tarot readers and fortune tellers set up with their chairs and tables and were charging people for readings. I heard one woman say hers cost her $45. Hmmm. Seemed an unusual place to have fortune tellers!

We stopped a bit further on to watch some young guys who were street performers. They did some amazing rap type dance moves and had a really entertaining spiel as they went along. Unfortunately, it was freezing standing in the wind and cold so we had to move on before they had finished.

We ended our first trip to the city with a short stroll along the riverwalk before we headed back to catch the shuttle back to the RV park.

On Sunday the six of us left early for the Oak Alley and Laura Plantations. These were two extremely different plantation homes.

Oak Alley was built by whites and Laura by creoles and according to the guide - white people had white houses and creoles had coloured housing. While both houses were very beautiful I found Laura to be the most interesting with its convoluted history and the characters who lived there. Mind you the avenue of centuries old oaks going from the river to the house at Oak Alley was truly amazing.

While I won't pretend to know all the details, the construction of homes in this area is quite an engineering feat as the ground is mud and soil down one mile deep so the footings of these houses are unbelievable and when you consider that they were constructed in the 1800's and are still standing today despite hurricanes, fires, floods etc the builders certainly knew their business. Where were they when I wanted to build my house???? Laura was almost destroyed by fire and is currently in the final stages of being restored.

Both houses were sugar plantations but on Laura some of the slave houses have been retained, the old fruit trees and vegetable gardens are still there and you can take photos on the inside of the house! Oak Alley was very elegant with tall pillars and while, for a time, it was neglected and even had stray cattle inside the home it has been beautifully restored.

Wow! I have finally finished documenting this week and it is Saturday already! Maybe I should just go ahead and start my next blog! So much for getting it done earlier in the week. You can blame our partners in crime - the Bennetts and the Elams - as I am sure if they hadn't dragged us kicking and screaming around to all these wonderful places this blog would have been done a great deal sooner! Yeah right!!!!

Take care friends and family. Stay safe and healthy and if you can't work out how to leave a comment, please let me know (by email paula2gray@hotmail.com and I will try to help.

Bye for now and my next blog will be coming to you from Mississippi. Love and hugs from both of us.

PS. I do apologise if I have made grammatical or spelling errors in any of my previous posts, I have just learned that I haven't been editing them correctly. So there I guess we learn something new every day but having told you that now I have no excuse for any errors. Well maybe I will just be in such a hurry that any errors may just slip through. Haha

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