What can you tell me about Cajun Country?

Old Mar 30th, 2005, 02:50 PM
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What can you tell me about Cajun Country?

I'm looking for a fun, laid back day trip outside New Orleans. I grew up in the area and have been back to visit several times, so I've done a lot (plantation tours, swamp boats, etc) but never taken a day to visit "Cajun Country." What does this entail? Is it a fairly authentic experience or has it been overly tainted by commercialism? What can I expect to see? Which town/area would you recommend? Thanks!!
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Old Mar 30th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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Well, I apparently now live in the "Heart" of Cajun Country - Lafayette, but I have to admit that I'm no expert. I've been here a year and still seem to escape back to NO on weekends!
But, I can give you some ideas and places to search and for sure tell you that I don't see a lot of commercialism here.
I have heard varying definitions of "Cajun Country" so are you looking for Cajun music/dancing, just a feeling of the "old way of life", anything specific you hope to get out of your trip?
Lafayette has a great website www.cajunhot.com that explains areas, tour options, etc. I suggest starting there.
A truly authentic experience would have to include Breaux Bridge and a meal at Cafe des Amis. If you come on a Saturday, you'd have to be there mighty early (at least 8am but I suggest earlier from what I've heard) for opening at 8:30 for the Zydeco breakfast. Supposed to be the best time in the area, though I haven't been yet. I can vouch for the food b/c I've been on Sundays but never for the music. Also, there are bands on Wednesday nights most of the time and always a few groups dancing.
I would suggest a trip to Acadian Village to tour the homes. www.acadianvillage.org
Another meal option in Lafayette is Blue Dog Cafe. If you are familiar with the "blue dog" paintings this might be of interest to you. George Rodrigue is from Lafayette and the restaurant is good and there is an "art gallery" as well. I wouldn't place this high on the list or restaurants unless you know the paintings and would like to go for that reason. There are probably better options if you are only in town for 1 day. To me, it's like eating at Hard Rock cafe instead of something more authentic, but that said, the food is good!
Depending on where you want to go & what you want to see, New Iberia has a nice downtown and a good restaurant - Clemetine's. You could visit Avery Island and the Tabasco factory if you have never done that. Also, in Morgan City, there is the Mr. Charlie, which is an oil rig museum. An interesting thing to see if you have never been out in the Gulf. Just a walk on the seawall and dock along the Atchafalaya River to see the shrimp boats come in with their catch is still fun after all these years.
You can find all of these things on cajunhot.com.
I assume you are familiar with the area, but just an explanation - you could take I-10 into Breaux Bridge & Lafayette via Baton Rouge and then take Hwy 90 from Lafayette through New Iberia, Morgan City, Thibodaux, Houma back to NO.
Thibodaux is another of my favorite towns. Beautiful homes, Nicholls State University and a great (small) museum at the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. lafourche.com
All of these areas are where the French settled and are "Cajun" in a way but each is different.
I hope this might give you a few ideas!
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Old Mar 30th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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I also like to go around Abbeville. We used to eat at Black's when we went there. Loved to listen to the great accents. Another place we suggest to people going to the Lafayette area is Vermillionville. It is also a folk life restored village. Here is their website.
www.vermilionville.org/
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Old Mar 30th, 2005, 10:25 PM
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In Lafayete we took a boat ride and it was alot of fun. I don't remember the guys name but we had a great trip and saw 2 bald eagles and lots of wildlife and birds. I
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Old Apr 6th, 2005, 01:16 PM
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I live in north Louisiana, morehouse parish ( the sportsman's paradise)I am 2 blocks from the south's largest sporting goods outfitter ( Simmons Sporting Goods, who holds the annual big buck contest ) There's plenty of wildlife. We like to just take the 22 out and target shoot beer cans alot. Every sunday we have live music on main street in historic down-town Bastrop. Can't think of much else at the moment..
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 07:17 AM
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neworleanslady - Thanks for the great info - I went to the website you indicated and requested a vistor brochure. As far as what I'm looking for, I'd like to have as much of as authentic cajun experience as possible (I prefer to walk through a recreated town than go to a museum about it). I have this image in my mind of really casual restaurant - wood floors, hoppin' zydeco music, flowing spirits, and open windows with a breeze and moss covered trees outside. I'm not interested in running around doing too much, but I'd like to get a feel for the way of life.

I suppose I should just consult a map, but is Middendorf's anywhere around these parts (Lafayette)? We'll only have a car for a day and I've never liked catfish anywhere as much as do at Middendorfs!
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 07:41 AM
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I second the suggestion to go to Avery Island. Gives "factory tour" a whole new meaning! Looks like you are going waaayyyy back into a bayou rather than the Tabasco headquarters. Really enjoyed it!

snowrooster, I've stopped in the type of restauraant/ joint you describe...but with locals, so can't help with specific names/ locations.
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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Here's a link I found about Avery Island that's kinda cool - http://www.marin.cc.ca.us/~jim/ring/tabasco.html


and the official Tabasco site -
http://www.tabasco.com/

and here's a link to zydeco restaurants and clubs - http://www.bme.jhu.edu/~jrice/NewFiles/SWGuide.html

Have fun!
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 08:40 AM
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Middendorf's is about an hour North of NO. "Across the pond" which to you would be on the Northshore of Lake Ponchartrain.

I am trying to decide what I would recommend for your one day...

Here goes:
1) Thibodaux/Houma. This is about an hour drive SW from NO. I would suggest lunch at Bubba's II (there is no Bubba's I). I had lunch there 2 weeks ago for the first time in a couple of years and saw it through new eyes due to out-of-towners at the next table. As the name suggests, this is NOT a fancy restaurant! There is a section with tables that "hangs" over Bayou Lafourche. While we were there, the waitress pointed out the 3 year old aligator they feed regularly who hangs out on the bank of the bayou. We saw turtles on rocks and swimming and plenty of ducks and other birds. We take this for granted, but the visitors next to us were amazed. I guess it is a cool thing! And, the FOOD (forgetting the important part!) is great. Just go for it and get the seafood platter!

The Jean Lafite Wetlands Center is across the bayou from Bubba's. You could make a quick stop in there (more for the interesting people working than to "tour a museum") and take a walk on the deck over the bayou. You could drive &/or walk the streets near downtown to see restored buildings and homes.

From there, you could drive along the bayou North towards Napoleonville or South towards Grand Isle or to Houma. Towards Napoleonville, you could see Madewood plantation (though I know you've seen some already). Grand Isle is a small (1500 people) fishing/recreational community. (It's about 1 1/2 hours from Thibodaux.) There is not much "to DO" there but definitely is a laid back area. Camps, fishing, beach, Gulf of Mexico.
30 minutes from Thibodaux is Houma. Houma has a restored downtown area with shops, restaurants and a beautiful square at the courthouse.
30 minutes West is Morgan City. This is where I am from and have a new found appreciation when "going home" to visit my dad with my sister & her kids. They love to walk on the seawall and see the shrimp boats, walk past the old fire station and to the park. MC has also revived the downtown area. Tarzan was filmed here and more recently the upcoming All the Kings Men with Jude Law, Meryl Streep and others.

I'm at a loss of what to suggest to do, though it sounds like you want to just wander through the day and see where it brings you - all of these places are like that.

2) Lafayette- Breakfast/lunch/dinner in Breaux Bridge at Cafe des Amis and a walk around the downtown and near Bayou Teche. Lafayette to Acadian Village. Abbeville, as benj suggested, and a meal at Blacks.

You're making me appreciate what I have around me! I need to take advantage of these things more! quot;>
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 08:52 AM
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Happy to answer your question about Middendorf's restaurant. It's in the part of Louisiana offically known as Cajun country, but it's farther north than the more interesting parts. From New Orleans or Baton Rouge, take I-10 or I-12 toward the city you aren't in, and then cut off at I-55 toward Manchac. That means you go south if on I-12 and north if on I-10. Take the Manchac exit off I-10 to the east side of I-55 where a road leads to Middendorf's just south of the exit. Manchac is a settlement in the small strip of land between Lake Ponchartrain and Lake Maurepas, and it's just about halfway between N.O. and Baton Rouge. It's a good place to eat, but it's not really any better than most good restaurants in southern Louisiana.

But for the kind of experience you want, I would suggest you head farther south toward some of the towns already named plus a couple I'll also name: St. Francisville and St. Martinville are nice towns with many B&B's and are interesting to visit for a real Cajun ambience. Even smaller towns such as Labadieville, Napoleonville, and Des Allemands are always great for more of the Cajun environment. Get off the interstate and onto the smaller roads to experience more of Cajun country. Good luck.
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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I posted just after neworleanslady's most recent entry and realized that I have given you directions to what I consider the "original" Middendorf's restaurant. I didn't know there was one in Covington/Mandeville now. I also failed to notice that you have a car for only one day.

For only a day, make it as long a day as possible and head southeast along one of the smaller highways (there are several) toward Houma and Thibodaux. Stop at any interesting looking town along the way, but you probably won't get any farther than Thibodaux before needing to go back. Good luck.
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 09:09 AM
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Wayne, there is no Middendorf's over here on the Northshore. Believe me, I'd be there. There are the 2 buildings by Manchac as always. I guess looking at a map it technically is on the N part of the Lake but not as we envision the Covington/Mandeville northshore.

Snowrooster, I believe you'd enjoy Vermillionville because it has more of a Williamsburg reenactment type feel rather than a walk through museum type place.

Have a great time & eat some for all of us!
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 09:14 AM
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Okay, I definitely need to look at a map!! If I recall, they build a new Middendorfs right next door to the origianl so there are two side by side. It sounds like there is another somewhere else now? The one I've been to is after you travel the length of the Ponchetrain Bridge.

neworleanslady - I used have a friend at work from Morgan City (Mary Helen) and I believe she and her pilot husband recently returned to the area - not sure how big a town it is.

I'll post back w/more questions, I'm sure, once I take a gander at a map and figure out what is doable. However, if someone knows what town the original Middedorf's is near, that would be great to know (I want to go to the one I know for nostalgia - in addition to the great catfish, of course!).
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 09:29 AM
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Mary Helen Porsh (sp??)? That's the only Mary Helen that comes to mind. Morgan City is a SMALL town BTW.

Isn't it funny how you move away and meet someone from near your hometown and become friends? A friend from the pop. 1500 Grand Isle moved to Nyack, NY and met a girl from Metairie & they are now best friends. The friend asked if I knew "Sponge" from MC. Yes! Neither of us know his real name anymore, but we were definitely talking about the same person.

Check the map - none of these places is more than 2 1/2 hours from NO and you'll find plenty on the way!
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 09:39 AM
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So I just went and searched through my old excel files from work to figure out her Mary Helen's last name - it is Russell, but that's her married name. I went to grade school in Metarie (Kehoe France).
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 09:58 AM
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Can I join the small world club??!!

Although I am a born and bred Cheesehead, I lived in Morgan City for a few months.

Well, to be more precise, I lived in Bayou Vista and taught at Berwick Junior High School. I still keep in touch with friends I made while there.

On that note, I would recommend your itinerary that travels through Thibodaux and Houma and along Lafourche Parish. My friends were from the area south of Houma along Hwy 1, or "down the bayou" as they called it with their thick Cajun accent. I don't think it gets much more authentic.
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 11:26 AM
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Welcome xxxx!
To be more precise it's "down DA by-ya"! I have lots of friends from there as well!
Thanks for the clarification. I still can't get my boyfriend to understand the difference between MC/Berwick/BV/Patterson. He thinks we should all know each other. He must miss the big river in between!
I have lots of teacher friends and my mother taught - I'm sure we know some of the same people!
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 01:00 PM
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I have to admit as I drove the back road from my apartment in BV to Berwick Jr. High, I never exactly did figure out the difference bwtn Berwick and BV. Sugar cane sure looked different than cornfields at the side of the road!

My friend went on to teach at Berwick Jr. and then Sr. High. She is now a guidance counselor in Patterson--at the jr. hi. I believe.

It's been 10 years since I've been back to visit--trying to convince DH.
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 01:31 PM
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Ha ha ha! Berwick is the 1st exit off the bridge and BV is where the Wal-Mart is. Not sure of the line other than that myself!
Send your DH this thread and maybe he'll see all the things to do and want to come down!
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Old Apr 8th, 2005, 02:41 PM
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Just to set you folks straight----I never said Middendorf's is in the Covington/Mandeville area. It was neworleanslady who made this incorrect statement in one of her posts. I correctly identified the location of Middendorf's as Manchac and gave directions on how to get there.
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