After another three months of hiatus, I am pressed more than ever to publish the next of our travelogues, the reason being not so much the sizable backlog of unpublished trips we have amassed in the past year, but a slew of projected travels, now that we have become Californians and are, as such, in a perfect position to extend our explorations to the West Coast.
This post is about Louisiana, which we visited along with Mississippi in the fall of 2015. It became evident at early stages of planning that the bulk of the trip’s destinations would be in New Orleans, not to mention the dubious worth of the rest. In retrospect, the latter concern proved unwarranted.
Initially, our journey was to commence in Shreveport, but at the last minute we reversed the direction of our route to stay off the course of bad weather, which is how Lafayette took the front runner’s spot.
We were going to spend but a few early hours in the city, for its attractions list featured only a handful of items. The first few of those further convinced us to do away with Lafayette in the shortest time possible. Take the sight of the Cypress Lake on the University of Louisiana’s Campus, for example.
The display of old rural life at Vermilionville was also less than exciting.
Things started finally looking up as we reached the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
The Acadiana Center for the Arts also had a thing or two with which to gladden the eye.
Other places of varying degrees of interest also popped up here and there, amending our fairly weak Lafayette itinerary.
In the end, those little finds were the reason we left Lafayette if not in high then at least slightly elevated spirits despite the early setback.
Baton Rouge is probably the second most interesting city in Louisiana after New Orleans, not the least owing to its French name (that sounds way chicer than its crude English translation—“red stick”) and the status of a state capital.
By a well established tradition, our visiting-a-capital-city routine involves taking a photo of the Capitol building. And while the aesthetics of the one in Baton Rouge leave much to be desired, the Capitol still appears on three of our photographs, thanks to the beautiful parks it is beset by.
In contrast to the homely looks, the inside of the Capitol is not only better ornamented, but serves a relevant tourist function in that it gives a glance into the workplace of the Louisiana legislature
and makes available a handy observation deck that towers over the city:
Back at the ground level, we made for the St. Joseph Cathedral just a couple of blocks away.
It was followed by Louisiana’s Old State Capitol, which Mark Twain once described as the “ugliest thing on the Mississippi.” (Clearly, he had no idea of what kind of architecture was about to come.)
In fairness, the interiors were very well adorned despite the odd exhibition hosted on the ground floor.
For the final stop in Baton Rouge we chose the site of USS Kidd. Truthfully, it happened to be our final stop because we could not get to Mike the Tiger Habitat on Louisiana State University’s Campus due to a big sporting event.
Before we reached New Orleans, our plan was to visit one or two of the old southern plantations that Louisiana is famous for. Luckily, there are plenty of them along the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge.
If not for flocks of tourists adhering to the must-do-in-the-South agenda, plantations today would mostly be desolate and unexciting scopes of land. At least for us there was little business visiting a plantation other than to capture an iconic view of a plantation house emerging at the end of a long alley darkened by shadows of mighty bowing oaks. What we found at the Houmas House Plantation, albeit delightful, was not exactly that.
Their visitor center showcases a perfect assortment of typical southern knick-knacks, though.
On the way to Vacherie we descried sites of massive road and industrial infrastructure.
And took a peek at the Oak Alley Plantation grounds, which were a lot more in line with the classical depiction of a southern plantation in the popular culture.
As alluded to in the beginning of this segment, New Orleans yielded a disproportionate amount of photographs as compared to the rest of the cities in our itinerary, thanks to its rich and diverse culture and inexhaustible bohemian vibe. Consequently, I decided that New Orleans merits a post of its own, making it part two of the two-part Louisiana series. But sit tight because part one is far from over.
After parting with New Orleans, but before heading east to the coast of Mississippi, we made a somewhat lengthy detour to behold the roadside wonder by the name of Abita Mystery House.
A landmark by all accounts, this oddity consists of a handful of houses (gift shop included) sitting on a plot of land upwards of half-an-acre, stuffed—indoors and out—with trinkets, rarities, and obscure concoctions of varying social and cultural pretenses.
Great for a family visitation or a memorable selfie session, Abita Mystery House is certainly worth adding a few dozen miles to the odometer whenever driving at the outskirts of Lake Pontchartrain.
Our penultimate stop in Louisiana was fortunate and disappointing at the same time. I am referring to the site of death of the infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and the Ambush Museum dedicated to the cause.
It was fortunate because despite much of romantization and cultification that ensued from the cold-blooded murder of the sweetheart bandits’ lives, it is nonetheless a page in American history that we got to revisit by just being there, driving the dusty rural roads and picturing how the events played out on that fateful day some eighty years ago.
And disappointing because the museum closed down early due to a leak in the ceiling, and the ambush marker had long been defiled by shameless graffiti “artists” (though mostly on the rear side of the stone).
We spent the last afternoon of the trip in Shreveport, twenty miles off the Louisiana-Texas border. Either exhausted from the road or still bummed out over Mississippi’s marked wretchedness, we were acting a bit scattershot and maybe even indifferent regarding the remainder of our journey. It is a pity we wanted to rest more than to explore, for there was plenty worth exploring in Shreveport.
Having mustered up last of our energy and enthusiasm, we made it to the Long-Allen Bridge for a respectable panorama of the city.
Caught a glimpse of the First United Methodist Church, proudly reaching up as the centerpiece of Route 79.
And made an honest attempt to locate the Meadows Museum of Art on the campus of Centenary College of Louisiana. But ultimately failed and ended up photographing random outdoor art.
Finding suitable accommodations at a reasonable price proved to be a hassle, but with some persistence we managed to secure a room in an agreeable hotel with an operating pool (much to our surprise). We took advantage of the auspicious arrangement and promptly came down for a long soak. Well after the nightfall, relaxed and happyfied, we returned to our room and positively called it a day.