Louisiana and the Canada Connection
Louisiana: there is a strong connection between Louisiana and Canada. A good number of people in the Louisiana area came from Canada! We recalled learning this in history at school, but had completely forgotten about it, or at least I did.
French-speakers from Acadia (now the Maritime provinces of Eastern Canada) were called Acadians. The Acadians were exiled from Eastern Canada when the English took over Canada and expected the French to adopt their religion and their politics. This occurred from the early to mid 1700’s. When the Acadians refused to adopt the Protestant religion, they were expelled from the country.
Those Acadians travelled across the U.S. and became the Cajuns in Louisiana where they have developed their own dialect, Cajun French, and what the Cajuns also developed was a vibrant culture including their own unique Cajun folklore, music and cuisine. Inspired by this re-found knowledge, we were excited to tour some other areas of Louisiana outside of Nawlins’.
Driving along towards Breaux Bridge, we were truly in Cajun country, complete with swamps. Swamps were even visible between the modern divided highway.
There were signs for things we have never even heard of… like Boudin Cracklins’, and funny town names like Atchafalaya.
We wandered around Breaux Bridge for bit when we met Marilyn, a lovely super-friendly woman in The Clock Shop.
Now for lunch, and to taste real Cajun food at Des Amis Cafe in Breaux Bridge.
So many tempting dishes to try: Fried Green Tomatoes, Craw Fish Cornbread, Turtle Soup, Duck and Andouille Gumbo, Oysters, but we finally decided on Turtle Soup and Eggplant with Craw Fish Etouffe and Craw Fish Au Gratin. Both delicious.
For Dinner, we just had to stop and try the “All you can eat craw-daddies”!
Crawdaddies are ugly. There is no way around that fact, but they are tasty little critters if you don’t look at them while you struggle to peel them. T was crazy about them; I found them a bit fishy and just OK. Craw fish are similar to small lobsters or crayfish, and you need to order about 10 pounds just to get enough meat for a snack. Apparently there are hundreds of different species of crawdaddies as well.
We wanted to go on a Bayou Swamp Tour, but by the time we found Basin Landing, outside of Breaux Bridge, it was too late to go on a tour. Still, we could easily see the bayou basin swamp. Mesmerized by the soft blue drama we stood there and gazed at it for over an hour.
Continuing on through Cajun Country towards the Opelousas, here’s what the countryside looked like.
Note the sign, Cajun By Nature.
A small tree.
No trip is complete without a little construction delay.
The next day we arrived in Opelousas, a town with a sad and horrifying past. In 1868, a White Mob in Opelousas, Louisiana, killed nearly 300 Blacks over the right to vote.
Boudin and Cracklins
Temporarily mortified recalling the ugly facts about Opelousas, we soon forgot about it when we saw this sign, and stopped to get some snacks. The had everything from frog legs to rabbit to crawfish-stuffed chicken, all frozen, plus a take-out cafe on the side with a few tables.
So we tried some tasty Boudin Balls, the King of Cajun Food, a rice and pork sausage breaded and deep fried. This was a Cajun staple when the Canadian Acadians moved to Louisiana and used this as a way to stretch their food dollars. I also tried a Sweet Potato Pie, but was not so impressed.
Cruising along in our rental car, the fascinating old signs and stores never ceased, and it reminded us of old movies we had seen of the U. S. old South. It is still the same. We passed through towns like Washington and Ville Platte, until we came to Mamou, the Cajun Music Capital of the World.
More small trees.
Yup, rice paddies in Louisiana. Who would have guessed? But they certainly do have water everywhere, even if it is swampy alligator water.
Mamou, Cajun Music Capital of the World
It was here in Mamou that we met a wily Louisiana woman and her son in her Mom’s Flea Market. What a character she was!
“Where y’all from?”
“Yeah, some people in here from about tha in Canada the odder day… Germany, I thinks.” Her son tried to correct her, but she waves him away.
“What y’all gonna buy? There ain’t nothin’ but junk in here, but people come in heah and buy useless stuff all the time. I have a hair pointmen shortly and me son is going to drive me. “
So if you ever find yourself in Mamou, stop at Mom’s Flea Market for a lively and entertaining visit.
We had fun talking to them; they were so full of life. Wandering around Mamou we saw posters of many famous Cajun Music musicians and historic buildings.
Driving on through Eunice and Sunset, more intriguing sights and signs.
This bakery store sign says, “Installing a new mixer, will open Thursday.”
Bayou Swamp Tour
Finally we got to the Bayou Swamp Tour, Champayne’s Cajun Swamp Tours.
Our swamp guide couldn’t have been more typical Southern Redneck hillbilly, complete with over-size dirty overalls and missing teeth. He laughed about,
“Nothin’ better ‘n sittin’ out here fishin’, with a case a beer. Course sometime it’s more beer than fish we get!” This was followed by his own hearty laughter.
These bayou swamps are hauntingly beautiful, and deadly quiet.
“Keep yer eyes peeled for gators – there are plenty of ’em!” our guide said.
There were more alligators than you could shake a stick at, and we were often only about a stick away!!!!
Sometimes we got caught in the low-hanging branches of the hairy trees.
Back on shore I don’t mind sharing that I heroically wrestled an alligator to the ground and held his mouth open to show you his nice white teeth.
For more info on Champayne’s Alligator Tours: Champayne’s Swamp Tours.