SUMMER IS THE HIGH SEASON for baseball, three months with the children, and yardwork, all corporal punishment of the severest sort. Also, it’s a time to spread out the maps and feverishly plot The Getaway.
Instead of the usual two-week trip ordeal, we suggest breaking up the summer monotony by taking several shorter trips of four or five days. By September, the whole thing will seem like a long nap between delightful play periods.
LOUISIANA CAJUN COUNTRY
Nowhere in the continental United States can you change cultures quite so dramatically and quickly as by traveling east of Beaumont into Southwestern Louisiana and the milieu of the Acadian French.
One hundred miles east of the Texas-Louisiana border via I.H. 10 begins the region where in 1765 French Acadians exiled from Nova Scotia found refuge. Beginning at Lafayette and extending south and east along U.S. 90 to New Orleans, the Cajun French influence dominates every aspect of life.
Lafayette, the “City of Flowers,” is the urban gateway of the Cajun country and your tour should begin here. Then follow U.S. 90 south and east along famous Bayou Teche, taking an occasional side trip to visit the unique and historical cities of this region:
Lafayette. I.H. 10, 105 miles east of Texas. Home of Evangeline Downs, a beautiful racetrack which is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from April through mid-September. The grandstand, club house and box seats are air conditioned. A substantial rival to New Orleans for excellent Cajun restaurants. You should try a mixture of redfish, shrimp, oysters, cooked in white wine, poured over rice known as Court Bouillon (pronounced Coob yon) at Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse or the Cafe Normandie. Home of the University of Southwestern Louisiana and headquarters for over 300 petroleum companies, Lafayette combines the modern Louisiana of 1973 with the historical ambience of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Breaux Bridge. Ten miles east of Lafayette on I.H. 10. “Crawfish capital of the World,” it says in French over one of the bridges crossing the Teche.
On the menus in Breaux Bridge, they are served up stewed, pied, pattied, boiled and fried. Try this delicacy at Mim’s in Breaux Bridge.
Last March a major segment of I.H. 10 from Lafayette to Grosse Tete near Baton Rouge was opened. If you are going on to New Orleans through Baton Rouge, you can cut 45 minutes off your traveling time and see the beautiful Atchafalaya swamp wilderness region.
St. Martinville. Fifteen miles south of Breaux Bridge on State Highway 31. The center of the famous Evangeline region. Behind St. Martin of Tours Church (built in 1765) is the grave of Emmaline Libiche, the heroine of Longfellow’s tragic poem of disappointed love. A few squares away is the beautiful Evangeline Oak and across the Bayou, Longfellow-Evangeline State Park. Picnic shelters, barbecue grills, tables and tent and trailer camping areas are available. There is an Acadian House Museum, built in 1765, and a nearby craft shop. In St. Martinville, try the excellent Acadian pastries at the bakery (open 24 hours a day) on the square across from St. Martin’s Church.
New Iberia. Eight miles south of St. Martinville on U.S. 90. Although settled by 300 Spaniards in the eighteenth century, nothing Spanish remains except on Iberia Street, crossing Main where the street sign is in the founder’s language. The beautiful ante-bellum mansion, “The Shadows,” is open every day except Christmas from 9 to 4:30. Hotel Frederick is the place to eat. Try the Crawfish Etouffe (chicken and crawfish fat, celery, onions and onion tips, bell peppers, worcestershire and tabasco sauces).
Seven miles southwest of New Iberia on Highway 675 and 14 is Rip Van Winkle Gardens, a beautiful collection of plants and tropical foliage from all over the world. It is open all year round from 9 to 5.
Avery Island. South of New Iberia seven miles on State Highway 83. A 4,000-acre salt dome known as an island because it thrusts 196 feet out of the salt marshes. It was the Confederates’ only source of salt and today is leased by the International Salt company. Across the road is the world famous McIlhenny Company, home of the bottles of fiery Tabasco sauce derived from special peppers grown on the island. Tours of the plant are welcome.
Delcambre. Several miles southeast of New Iberia. Small fishing villages on Bayou Carlin where each August the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet takes place with a three-day carnival.
Cypremort Campground. A beautiful campground and recreational area, 16 miles southeast of New Iberia on State Highway 319. Three hundred camp and trailer sites with electricity, rest rooms and showers, grocery stores. Located in the heart of the Bayou region, it offers, within walking distance, a combination of the best salt and fresh water fishing in southwest Louisiana. The surrounding Vermillion and Cote Blanche bays are ideal for skiing, swimming and boating. Charge to camp is $3 a car per day.
Fifth Annual New Orleans Food Festival. Should you continue east on U.S. 90 to New Orleans, don’t pass this up. The Crescent City is world famous for its food; here is the opportunity to try shrimp remoulade and crabmeat; stuffed red snapper, flounder, speckled trout; pompano en papillote, tangy shrimp creole on plump pellets of Louisiana rice; crawfish bisque, a soup full of crawfish heads stuffed with meat of the tails. From June 29 through July 1 at the Marriott Hotel and the Rivergate Exhibition Center. Admittance is 50¢: advance ticket books for all three days can be purchased for $2.50 by writing Box 2410, New Orleans, La. 70116.
GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
We really travel to try to get a grip on the sense of place; to learn from people and places, from the landscape what that mysterious quality is that is “Texan” or “Louisianian.” Some of it is urbane and cynical: a few brassy cities shining and stinking like a dead catfish in the sunshine.
Again, some parts of East Texas are gentle and somehow forgotten, nodding in the warm sunshine like the old timers who scratch themselves and play checkers