Reign the swamp

Take a dive into the cul­ture and ter­rain the Ca­jun Bayou has to of­fer

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Travel - By Paris Wolfe en­ter­tain­ment@news-her­ald. com

The Ca­jun Bayou — just 35 miles south of New Or­leans — isn’t just a place, it’s a cul­ture.

Here you’ll find a 100mile stretch of back­coun­try beauty pep­pered with small towns and pop­u­lated by folks of Ca­jun her­itage. It’s im­por­tant to note that Ca­jun is a dis­tor­tion of the word Aca­dian. Say “Aca­dian” three times fast, and pretty soon you’re say­ing some­thing close to “Ca­jun.”

Con­trary to some as­sump­tions, the Ca­juns are not Amer­i­can In­di­ans. They are de­scen­dants of French peo­ple who set­tled in Aca­dia — now Nova Sco­tia, Canada. In the mid-18th cen­tury, the Bri­tish took over the area and re­set­tled many Aca­di­ans to France, the Car­ib­bean, Bri­tain and along North Amer­ica’s east coast. Some of th­ese North Amer­i­can ex­iles found their way south, and about 60 years later nearly 4,000 Aca­di­ans had set­tled in Louisiana.

In the semi-iso­lated marsh­lands known as the bayou, Aca­di­ans adapted their French his­tory to lo­cal re­sources and mixed in Amer­i­can In­dian prac­tices to cre­ate a dis­tinc­tive cul­ture. Con­tri­bu­tions from this cul­ture are found in re­gional mu­sic, cui­sine, lan­guage and life­style. The first thing vis­i­tors here no­tices might be a French-in­flu­enced names of places and peo­ple.

Our Ca­jun Bayou ad­ven­ture started at mid­day in South­ern Marsh RV Park in Cut Off, Louisiana. We were a lit­tle ap­pre­hen­sive about the lo­ca­tion, know­ing it was be­hind a casino. We needn’t have wor­ried. The casino was the size of a chain restau­rant, not the full-sized con­ven­tion cen­ters we en­counter closer to home. We heard and saw noth­ing of the gam­bling crowd.

Af­ter park­ing the RV and trailer, we rolled out the mo­tor­cy­cle and headed north to Thi­bo­daux, Louisiana, to learn more at the Aca­dian Wet­lands Cul­tural Cen­ter. There we traced Ca­jun hous­ing, cloth­ing, re­li­gion, food and mu­sic through the cen­turies. And, be­cause it was Mon­day, we watched lo­cal mu­si­cians gather at 5 p.m. for a Ca­jun Mu­sic Jam. The sound is usu­ally com­posed by ac­cor­dion and fid­dle.

Din­ner was Ca­jun gumbo, the wait­ress’ mom’s recipe at The Vene­tian in Thi­bo­daux.

The next morn­ing we rolled east to Air­boat Tours by Arthur in Des Alle­mands, Louisiana, about 45 min­utes from New Or­leans. We were early, so I had time to chat with name­sake Arthur

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