A Canuck in Cajun country
Nova Scotians have an almost instinctive affection for Louisiana, ever since the ancestors of our Acadian people were deported from Nova Scotia by the British in the mid-1700s. It’s quite incredible they were able to survive in an area with weather and conditions that can be unforgiving; think intense heat, swamps, alligators and mosquitoes in the summer months of southern Louisiana.
In 2018, it’s easy to navigate and drive along the byways of southern Louisiana, now all interconnected. You may see familiar names popping up along the highway like Boudreau & Thibodeau’s Cajun Cooking in Houma, for example. Many names are reminiscent of the families in Yarmouth, the Municipalities of Clare and Argyle and Cheticamp in Nova Scotia.
Driving northwesterly of New Orleans, the Acadian/cajun presence begins to be felt in Avoyelles Parish. We stopped for lunch at the Fresh Catch Bistreaux in Marksville and had our fill of shrimp and crawfish, complemented by Spring Bayou Blonde local beer.
In Iberia Parish, a stop at the Tabasco plant on Avery Island and a drive through the beautiful Jungle Gardens, are must-sees.
I’m no fan of spicy sauces, but even I was tempted to try the Tabasco Ice Cream (delicious)!
The town of New Iberia is a bit like a throwback to the 1950s with its colourful downtown ringed by stately homes; the oldest rice mill in the country (next to the Konrico Company store — who knew?), and Clementine on Main, a great restaurant where a mix of French and English is heard along with a rousing trio of Cajun musicians.
In Houma (Terrebonne Parish), it’s almost a requirement to see the famous marshes and swampland, commonly known as “the bayou.”captain Billy Gaston, who owns a custom-made boat that sits about 35, proudly proclaimed his Acadian heritage to me and was our affable host for the two-hour tour. I’ve never seen alligators that up close and personal, or swamps that reminded me of everything from old horror movies, to National Geographic specials. It was loads of fun.
Before leaving Houma, you may want to observe one of 37 Acadian monuments found worldwide that tells the story of the Grand Dérangement. It’s a replica of the Deportation Cross seen at Grand Pré here in Nova Scotia, but honours the Acadians’ odyssey to this part of Louisiana.
Closer to New Orleans is Jefferson Parish, and the best spot to eat would have to be Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in Metairie. The charbroiled oysters, alligator tacos and nuggets and the “fleurde-lis” shrimp were mouth-watering. Metairie is a bit of a satellite city to New Orleans, so, if accommodation in “The Big Easy” is scarce, and shopping too crazy during any of the many festivals, head for Metairie.
I’d love to write a great deal on New Orleans, but space won’t allow in this column. Keep in mind that if you decide to take in Mardi Gras next year (Tuesday, March 5) start planning now. The season (and parades) begin a couple of weeks beforehand, and space fills up quickly in downtown hotels. I enjoyed staying at The Jung Hotel and Residences (a restored grand hotel from 1925) but there are others in the New Orleans Hotel Collection, which are more boutique-style and right in the French Quarter.
One iconic restaurant in New Orleans is Brennan’s, with prices perhaps more reasonable at brunch than dinner. And for a fun, foodie evening, make a date at the New Orleans School of Cooking, as you’re taught how to cook in both Cajun and Creole styles.
Bruce Bishop has been involved in the travel and tourism industry since 1994 as a freelance writer, editor, author and publicist. He is currently an independent travel consultant/agent based in Halifax and can be reached via www.bishoptrips.com.
An alligator greets us during the Cajun Man’s Swamp Tour in Gibson, Louisiana.