A Canuck in Ca­jun coun­try

South Shore Breaker - - AUTO - BRUCE BISHOP THE DIS­CERN­ING TRAV­ELLER bruce@bish­op­trips.com

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.

Bruce Bishop

An al­li­ga­tor greets us dur­ing the Ca­jun Man’s Swamp Tour in Gib­son, Louisiana.

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