Thursday, April 29, 2010

Caught in Betty’s Web

Yes, indeed, we’ve been caught in Betty’s web, and a delightful one it is.   Betty is a ball of fire and fun, making sure her guests are well cared for and that they experience the culture of Abbeville and Southern Louisiana in the finest manner.  We were very happy campers!!

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Shadows and Betty's 046Betty serves her homemade Gumbo!!! 

Shadows and Betty's 029 Carol likes corn on the cob almost as much as shrimp!!

There is so much to see, do and learn here….so much history, from the  Indians to the French, Acadians and Spanish…. such a proud and treasured culture from the people who still speak French with a pronounced accent AND a bit of a drawl, and who make music, food and dancing an important and integral part of their lives…..and they just love sharing it with those of us who come in search of it!!

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Learning about the agriculture and farming,  and way of life…just tasting the  fresh and delicious Creole food is a never ending joy.   The warmth and welcome that these folks extend to you is  hard to describe….it  makes you want to be a better person, and to savor the simple delights of life, and share them as these folks….Creoles, Cajuns…Louisianians do……and you really do not want to leave.     Betty’s web, is indeed, a fine place to be!!!

Parting was sweet sorrow, but we had the BEST send-off team….

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our own personal driving instructor…….

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do you recognize this guy???? How ‘bout those shoes???

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And this team s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d- across Betty’s drive….


really made us hate to leave….but there we go down the road!!!   Red Bay, Alabama in our sights!!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chasing Alligators...Chompinn’s Bayou Tour

Champagnes Swamp Tour

We mentioned “chasing alligators”….and we did spend a day doing this!!! A beautiful, sunny day with Bryan Champagne…(pronounced “Chompinn” by Bryan, and all Cajuns, in his rolling, French Cajun accent) on St. Martin Lake Bayou. He takes about 14 people out for a swamp tour, in his little flat bottom “pirogue” and hunts down the biggest alligators in the bayou, along with turtles, snakes (yuk!), birds and water fowl.Bayou & cypress tours 034

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Bayou & cypress tours 049 Tommie Sue was our bait, since she was wearing purple…and we all know alligators LOVE purple! (Well, it sounds good!)

TS almost jumped out of the boat when the big guy above thrashed his tail next to her and splashed into the water!

Bayou & cypress tours 056Bayou & cypress tours 050 Above a juvenile Blue Heron in the swamp grass….and below Mama duck tends her nest.

Bayou & cypress tours 071 Below, Bryan Chompinn identified a Cow Bird.Bayou & cypress tours 041

There are no mosquitoes on this ride, as the swamp is full of Black Gum trees, and the leaves of the Black Gum act as deterrent to mosquitoes.

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The towering Cypress trees were abundant in the bayou. Many of the old plantations and buildings were constructed of this almost indestructible wood, and remain in good condition today, due to it’s resilient qualities.

Bryan Chompinn gave us a wonderful inside glimpse of the Louisiana bayou, wildlife and flora and fauna….it was fun chasing the alligators and we lived to tell about it!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cafe Des Amis…dancin’ on Saturday morning

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Zydeco  music is something like Rhythm and Blues with a cajun flair and a Caribbean beat….it’s hard to describe but it is fun and catchy and you just can’t help but be happy when you’re around it.  The band plays a Squeeze box and a washboard, along with their instruments.   In the little town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana there is a famous place….Cafe Des Amis , and we knew that you had to go early on a Saturday morning for the Zydeco band, so it was high on the list of things to do in Cajun country.

So it was, that we all got up at 5:30 Saturday morning and piled in the cars heading up to Breaux Bridge for  breakfast and dancing.  TS, Carol and I looked at each other, kind of bleary eyed….thinking  “this better be good”!   And oh, was it ever good!!!

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Arriving for our spot in the waiting line around 6:50 (yes, that is AM!), there were already about 40 folks ahead of us. When the doors opened at 7:30 we were lucky to get a table…the place was packed to overflowing with twice that many still waiting to get in!!!

The band started tuning up and we ordered Beignets, coffee,  and tea for starters.  (You must eat slowly so you can stay for the dancing as long as possible!)

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Around 8:15 the Zydeco band announced “If you are not dancing, please don’t stand on the floor”, began their first song and the whole place started rocking! 

Indeed, if you were standing up, someone would grab your hand and drag you to the floor to dance to the cajun calypso beat!!!   Old and young,  friends and strangers, everyone was dancing to the music!!  Before long, Carol was out there  hopping with the best of them!!  Bob and I did a little dancing too, but decided it was almost dangerous out there….cajun feet in cowgirl boots were stompin’ everywhere!!   What fun!!! :)

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They serve lots of Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Cosmos,  with breakfast…which was a wonderful Crawfish Etoufee omelet with Andouille Sausage Cheese grits…My, was it good!!! 

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This was a  Saturday morning to be remembered forever!!! We laughed and were mesmerized by the music, people and food (and of course each other!)   Yes, indeed, we are going to miss this lovely little part of the world!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Suire’s Grocery…a special Cajun place

Suire's 017 After a busy day on the Bayou boat tour chasing alligators, we decided a little dinner back at  Suire’s would be just the thing.   Winding thru the crawfish ponds and rice paddies,  we set out to find Suire’s  (sounds like beers) once again and we arrived at the little cajun eatery.

Suire's 016 Having eaten here  before and being smitten by the delicious fish and shrimp, we knew we’d be back for more.   Not only is the food fantastic, the people are just incredible.   Joan is the order taker… and she still does it just like her Mama did; the way she’s been doing it for the last 34 years…. and she hopes to  do it for 29 more (her exact words).  She remembered us from the days before, and  with her gentle,  not-quite-French cajun accent, she took our order, and then brought a big bowl of the finest Shrimp Gumbo we’ve ever tasted!!! Brown, smooth and smokey, with lots of shrimp and fresh rice to dump in…..UmUm good!!! Staying to chat with us, she talked a bit about how she and her sister run the store, with her sister doing most of the cooking (she is one fine cook!).  

Suire's 012                                    Bob and Joan 

On the board  walls were framed write-ups by The New York Times, and several other notable papers. 

Suire's 014  On the tables you’ll find  salt and crushed red pepper shakers (not your usual pepper shaker!), rolls of paper towels and bottles of hot sauce on top of bright,  colorful crawfish table spreads.

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Shortly after delivering the mouth watering gumbo, Joan arrives with platters of shrimp and fish….some of the best we’ve ever had….and it is just slightly spiced…ever so gently,  that even those of us without a “hot” palate can love it!   Joan continued talking; about the filming crew that was in last week from America’s Heartland, to do a special on Suire’s, and how she had to show them how she “bags” an order.   Just another day for her, it seemed.   Then we asked about a photo on the wall of a vintage truck and RV….it sure did belong to Bob and Jan VandenBorge, whom we had just spent five days with in Boerne….such a small world!!   Joan says to tell them “Hi”!!

While waiting for our food, another local, who introduced himself as Howard, chatted with Bob about his  crawfish farm.  He educated us well on the rigors of farming crawfish. Many farmers will alternate planting rice, then after it’s harvested, they will flood the fields and the crawfish, that have burrowed about 18” deep to hatch their young, will then rise to the surface and feed on the leftover rice straw. Howard pulls his crawfish pots  (183 of them) about every 3 days and nets about 1lb. per pot…now that’s a lot of crawfish! The locals here are very warm and friendly and will gladly engage you in conversation, sharing  stories of their work and themselves graciously.

Oh, and we returned  yet again, for a last lunch with Joan; we just had to try that Turtle Sauce Picante…..who would imagine that turtle would taste just like slow roasted beef?….it was  slap-yo-mama good!!!  In a robust, satisfying creole gravy that was not-too-hot but just right!!!  They sell this in pint containers, frozen-to-go….but they were out of it…so she just ladled some up and put it in a container for us, to go along with the Shrimp Gumbo that is already traveling along.

We  are going to miss many things about Abbeville; Joan and Suire’s is at the top of the list for certain!!  Cajun…. Creole….GOOD!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Albania Plantation on the Bayou Teche


After a busy day with Tobasco, Creole food, and fresh French Bread, we continued on to the little town of Jeanerette.   While touring the  Jeanerette Sugar Museum, the hostess suggested we drive a ways down the road to view Albania , a  Greek Revival sugar cane plantation.  Although not open to the public, it is acceptable  to stop out front for photos.  The owner, Hunt Slonem ,  a world renowned  Manhattan artist in the abstract impressionist style, purchased the 12,000 square foot mansion about 1o years ago and has beautifully restored it.  He has been known to invite strangers into his lovely home for personal tours.

So down the road we went, in search of Albania, and shortly we were parked in front of this lovely home…Tobasco and Sugar Cane 080

…taking photos from the roadside….. and the next thing we knew, TS and Harrell beckoned us into the drive, where we had been invited to come in for a personal tour!

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Carol, Molly and TS on the steps

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So, we parked under the canopy of cypress and live oaks….

….and were welcomed inside to view this lovely home.




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Harrell pauses in the Parlor of Albania

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Artwork of Hunt Slonem graces a settee in the anteroom (above)

Tobasco and Sugar Cane 098 The rear verandah overlooks the Bayou Teche and lush grounds.

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Tommie Sue and Harrell rocking away at Albania

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Molly chattin’ up Hunt for a moment

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A huge sugar kettle guards the side yard

And this was the parting view of Albania on the Bayou Teche…

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So ended a wonderful and busy day, taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of the Bayou, and a very special one, as Hunt Slonem kindly shared his home with us, giving us a glimpse of  a lovely old jewel in Cajun sugar cane country.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Down on the Bayou….

Heading East after the little Rally in Boerne, we were on the way to the little Louisiana town of Abbeville, and Betty's RV Park .

Betty’s place is more like a Bed and Breakfast than a campgound…with just 16 or so sites, and with her back porch and patio as the daily gathering area, you quickly get caught up in Betty’s web of all things welcoming, friendly and Cajun, here in Vermillion Parish, the heart of Cajun country.


Betty shows her painting on local Cypress wood

We met Tommie Sue and Harrell and Dennis and Carol here to spend a week enjoying the culture, music and food of the Cajuns and Acadians. We had our first history lesson of the Acadians when we visited Nova Scotia a few years back and learned more about the exile of the French Acadians from their homeland with many resettling to the Southern region of Louisiana. Here they made new homes, preserving their delightful heritage and spicy culture and music, while embracing the local bounties, including crawfish and seafood.

We had lunch at Suire’s Grocery….. an unassuming country market with the menu painted on the outside clapboards……

Boerne  and Betty's

……which has gotten rave reviews by the New York Times for it’s amazing Cajun country cooking. Shrimp, crawfish, catfish and alligator po’ boys are their specialty so we all had some and it was slap-yo-momma good!!!! With just a hint of the Cajun spices in the lightly fried batter…..Mmmmmm good eating!!!

Tuesday we headed out to tour the Tobasco factory on nearby Avery Island. The McIlhenny’s have been growing peppers and making their famous hot sauce here since 1868.

And had more Cajun seafood at the Bon Creole Lunch Counter….. and just a little clowning around to go with lunch!!

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Then we headed to the town of Jeanerette, on the Bayou Teche, and a stop at Lejeune's Bakery, where they’ve been baking fresh French Bread since 1884.


The brick oven you see in the center photo is the oldest brick oven, still in use, in the Country. The aroma of freshly baked bread and gingerbread is delightful….so we all left with fresh warm loaves under our arms!

Next we toured the Jeanerette Museum, where we learned much about the long history of this tiny town, known as Sugar City, because of it’s long association with the growth and processing of sugar cane.

The old cypress house is the Jeanerette Museum….Tobasco and Sugar Cane 058

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…we dubbed this The Sugar Shack…but it is really the Paymaster’s shed from the Foundry. (Another cypress structure)

Below, a bit of Southern lore……..

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…and elaborate Mardi Gras costumes from year’s past….

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…hmm…..wonder where Tommie Sue got those beads??????

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Stay tuned for the next stop at Albania Plantation , where our amazing tour guide, Tommie Sue, raises the bar to a new level!!!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!