Over the Bayou and Through the Swamp

My friend Sabine, French and unflappable, introduced me to the phrase.  “Plus ça change,she’d murmur with a wave of her hand, “plus c’est la même chose.”  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sometimes that’s true. My great-aunt Fannie, who just happened to be in the Louisiana State Capitol the day Carl Weiss put a bullet into Huey Long, never tired of telling the story. He wasn’t the first or the worst of the politicians she’d known, she liked to say, but he certainly set a standard of some sort for those who followed. Rolling her eyes heavenward as she ticked off the names of politicians who’d ticked her off, she’d heave a great sigh and remind us:  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

More recently, several of us were sitting in a restaurant when another friend began fussing at the sight of some scantily-clad young lovelies lounging at the bar. “Who let them out of the house looking like that?” she said. “I don’t know,” said another. “Who let us out of the house with our skirt waistbands rolled up and our bobby sox rolled down?”  We grinned at one another, and it occurred to me to think again, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

Unfortunately, when Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr introduced the now-familiar epigram into his satirical journal Les Guêpes in 1849, he neglected to include its natural corollary. Sometimes, the more things change, the more things change. There’s nothing we can do about it, and nothing ever will be the same again.  Nowhere is that reality more visible than at holiday-time.

During this first Christmas season since my mother’s death, I was tempted by three common options available to anyone faced with radical and irreversible change. I could pretend nothing had changed. I could try to re-create the past, or I could denigrate the life we’d shared, asserting against all reason it had no value and wasn’t worth remembering.

None of those options seemed desirable – or even feasible – as another friend and I talked over our situation. With no family of her own, Carolyn had spent many years at our holiday table and her own Christmas celebrations had been equally disrupted by Mom’s death.

We needed a fourth option.


In the week before Christmas, I discovered that fourth option. Browsing online for information about piñon, one thing led to another until I found myself reading about traditional bonfires in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Since the 1800s, huge Christmas Eve bonfires have burned along the Mississippi River levee in towns like Lutcher, Vacherie and Gramercy, guiding Papa Noël to the bayous – sometimes a hundred fires, sometimes more.

Bonfires? I thought. On Christmas Eve? On the levees? I’d never heard of such a thing. I looked at a map. I browsed some articles. I picked up the phone and called Carolyn. “Listen,” I said. “we can sit home this Christmas and stare at each other, or we can head over to Cajun country and enjoy the bonfires.” “What bonfires?”, she asked. “Never mind,” I said. “I’ll explain later.”

Within an hour, plans were made. I called Breaux Bridge, to see if a room might be available at my favorite old City Hotel, now Bayou Teche bed and breakfast. Mary Lynn’s laughter rippled all the way back to Texas.  “What kind of question is that? Of course there’s room at the inn. Even if there weren’t, you could stay in the shed with the pirogue!” 

At that point, I would have settled for a shed with a pirogue.  Sometimes the only good answer for too much change is a little more change,  and a Cajun Christmas sounded exactly right. We left early, on the morning of the 23rd.

One of the joys of traveling light – without much luggage and with no expectations – is that you can turn on a dime, and retrace your steps.

Just as we pulled into the driveway at Bayou Teche, my cell phone rang. It was Mary Lynn, our weekend hostess and social planner extraordinaire. She came straight to the point. “What are you doing tonight? Surely you don’t have plans?” “No,” I said. “We don’t have plans. We’re barely out of the car.” “Good,” she said. “Get unpacked, freshen up and be ready to leave at 4:30. You’ll follow me to the bank, and then I’ll lead you over to Lafayette – we’ll take the back way, so you miss the shopping center.”

“That sounds fine,” I said, “but we just came through Lafayette. Why are we going back?” The woman with an answer for everything had an answer. “This is the last night for Noël Acadien,” she said, “and I’ve got tickets for you.”

I’d not heard of Noël Acadien any more than I’d heard of the bonfires, but one thing I’ve learned is never to question Mary Lynn. She arrived to explain that Lafayette’s Acadian Village decorates every Christmas with a half-million Christmas lights and everyone goes to see them. She gave us a map so we could find our way home after we’d enjoyed the attraction, and a suggested itinerary for the rest of the evening: we should come back, dine at Café Des Amis and then head straight to La Pousierre, where Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys were holding court.

Galveston’s Moody Gardens may have a million lights, three pyramids and a full-sized paddle-wheeler in their holiday display, but Noël Acadien had bon temps, and they were rouler-ing.The bayou-and-swamp emphasis was everywhere, with lighted alligators, frogs, woodpeckers and pelicans – not to mention a farmer chasing a rabbit from his garden with a hoe and Santa in a pirogue pulled by a set of truly fine gators.

After an hour or so of looking, we headed back to Breaux Bridge, ready for dinner. Main street shops were staying open late; the smell of gumbo and sounds of Zydeco filled the air. Ironically, we couldn’t find anyone at Café Des Amis able to tell us what a pousse café might be, even though we assured them it was Cajun enough for the iconic Clifton Chenier to have composed a waltz about the drink some call the apex of the bartender’s art.

Chagrined by their lack of drink knowledge, our servers shared a little information about one of our best discoveries of the trip: Gâteau de Sirop, or Syrup Cake. While they wouldn’t turn loose of the actual recipe used at Café Des Amis, they agreed with what seems to be a consensus that Steen’s Syrup, and Steen’s alone, should be used in a proper cake.

Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup, first produced in Abbeville, Louisiana in 1910, is the only U.S. cane syrup still manufactured today and is recognized by Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste as an endangered regional food product. Use a different syrup and you may have a fine cake, but you’ll not have Cajun Gâteau de Sirop. (As luck would have it, in 2009 “Marcelle” managed to twist the arm of Dickie Breaux, owner of Café Des Amis, who gave up the recipe. It was published in the Times-Picayune, and as soon as I lay my hands on some Steen’s Syrup, I’ll be busy in the kitchen.)

Friday evening, as we dallied over our Gâteau de Sirop and coffee, a fellow diner mentioned we should be sure to watch for cane wagons and mills on our next day’s drive. The sugar cane harvest is winding down, but there’s still activity in the area, and a working sugar mill is hard to miss. Great, rising clouds of steam can be seen for miles, and trucks piled high with raw cane are everywhere.

This year, there are smiles, too. Kenneth Gravois, a sugar-cane specialist with the LSU AgCenter says while the total tonnage of cane harvested per acre will be somewhat average, weather conditions combined to produce a high-quality crop. He estimates an increase to 230 pounds of sugar per ton of cane in 2011, compared with last year’s production of 226 pounds per ton.

Just as we were finishing our second cup of coffee, Mary Lynn breezed in and proceeded to give us a tutorial in Zydeco Breakfast 101. The staff already was moving back tables to create a dance floor – in only hours, Café Des Amis would be filled again with patrons, eating, dancing and celebrating life in a weekly ritual that pulls folks from Houston and New Orleans just for the pleasure of it all.

As we left the café, Mary Lynn made sure we understood the cardinal rules – Be there very early, start with beignets and don’t order until the music starts so you can keep your table! - and then left us to our own devices.

Not quite willing to take on La Poussiere at such a late hour, we headed home, and burst into giggles when we found our first gift from Tee Jules’ Cajun Twelve Days of Christmas. True, it wasn’t snuggled into a fig tree, but there it was – a crawfish in a Christmas tree.

Little did we know the next day would bring shrimp, poule d’eau , cypress knees, Fleurs de lis, oysters and crabs, a clue to a marvelous pirogue story (if not the paddles), a few decorative duck decoys and some (presumed) shotgun shells in the back of a hunter’s truck.

And we still hadn’t gotten to the bonfires.

(to be continued…)

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.
Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 11:09 pm  Comments (56)  
Tags: , , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: http://shoreacres.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/over-the-bayou-and-through-the-swamp/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

56 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Stop! I cannot believe this!! You hit the jackpot with this idea, and I can hardly wait to see the next installment. I don’t know whether we’d discovered one another at the time I made my first trip to the Louisiana Bayou (and environs), but, to give you an idea what a trip down memory lane this was for me, if I’ve done this correctly, you can click here. Among other things, you’ll see mention of Brazos Huval, whom we heard play around a bonfire (this was springtime, but I gather they’re big all year in those parts), and who also plays with the Mamou Playboys. Breaux Bridge was a favorite town, and we have vowed to go back (including to the fabled Café des Amis).

    We also stayed a few days in a houseboat in the Atchafalaya Basin and had a fabulous time (though there are some things to consider if you decide to do this—feel free to e-mail me to check in about that). About that, click here.

    Oh goodness, you do have me going, but the bottom line is this: what a wonderful way you chose to spend your Christmas holiday! Warm regards, and to a happy and adventure-filled New Year.

    • Susan,

      In fact, I found you last spring, during the flooding of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya. I was looking for something having to do with the basin, and your “Raining Acorns” popped up. So I’ve read those posts, and now have re-read them, and am right happy to have done so.

      I have to laugh at your first paragraph – its length and breathlessness remind me of myself, when I start telling my bayou stories. I still haven’t done more than a desultory analysis of what it is about the place that transfixes me so, but I imagine that will come along eventually and land here.

      I’ve been to Bayou Teche and Breaux Bridge four times now, and further down into the Bayou Dularge area twice. There’s a book title floating out there in the ether – focusing that a little is one of my new year challenges.

      Anyway, because I’d found your posts earlier I knew you’d enjoy this. Here’s to a new year filled with such joie de vivre!

      Linda

      • Oh, yes, I do remember that, now! And yes, what is it that makes one breathless–worlds within worlds, like no other, I suspect. I like the idea of your New Year project. Good luck with that!

  2. We lived in New Orleans for a while. To say they know how to live life and celebrate is an understatement. The lights, the music, the cane syrup! Enjoyed this part – waiting for the next. Great start for a new year!

    • philosophermouse,

      What a lucky person, to have that opportunity to live in NOLA! I know far less of that culture now than I do of bayou life, but the willingness to live and celebrate surely is shared.

      For those of us who have to content ourselves with visiting, once never is enough. I’m not sure a hundred visits would be enough – every time I spend time there, more avenues for exploration open up. I’m glad I’ve got a new year to work with!

      LInda

  3. Expecting a call on at least the 22nd next year.
    I have known of the bonfires for a long time not sure why.
    The cane harvest vaguely reminds me of my long summers in the hay fields and bean fields. Got lost once between Red Stick and Grand Isle saw a lot more of local and locale than I needed on 14 hours of driving already.

    Nap time, the year will start without me holding it back.

    • blu,

      The cane fields surely can remind an old midwesterner of a good corn field. All that plant growth, higher than your head – perfect for hide-and-seek, and perfect for getting lost in a time or two as a kid.

      The first time I was over there, I was driving down the Teche, looking at the harvested fields and thinking, “What IS this?” I finally stopped at a house and inquired. The poor woman gave me a look like I’d just dropped off Mars. “That’s CANE, cher!” That’s when I got my first taste of syrup, too – she was making pancakes for her kids and invited me in.

      Back roads beat freeways every time, even though I have to drag out my old saying from time to time: “I’m not lost. I just haven’t decided where I’m going.”

      Happy New Year!

      Linda

  4. This has made me nostalgic for home. I will be in the Bayou in a few weeks to celebrate my birthday with my family. I hate that I missed the bonfires in Grammercy this year. Where I live now, Papa Noel gets lost. No river. No fires. No bateau. No alligators. It is a wonder children here ever get presents.

    Have a bright and brilliant New Year!
    Red.

    • Red,

      Oh, my. I’m glad I could give you a little taste of home, even if it comes wrapped in a bit of nostalgia. It’s wonderful that you’ll be home for your birthday – I know there will be plenty to celebrate.

      When I was a kid, we always drove to my grandparents’ house on Christmas morning, and lusty renditions of “Over the River and Through the Woods” were part of the in-car ritual. Maybe by next year, “Over the Bayous and Through the Swamps” will have turned into a whole song. If it has, I’ll be singing it!

      Happy New Year – and happy birthday, too!

      Linda

  5. It’s like Louisiana’s best-kept secret, Linda, because I know NOTHING about any of this. WOW. Good for you to find a fourth option, to the enjoyment of us all.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR. It’s here!

    • Ginnie,

      Amazing as it may seem, the friend who went along with me on the trip lived in Baton Rouge for years, and still knew nothing about the bonfires. I know so little of Cajun culture I shouldn’t hypothesize, but I do suspect a natural reticence and a desire to keep traditions intact has contributed to a lack of knowledge on the part of the “outside world”.

      Well, that and the fact that life on the bayous and in the swamps isn’t the most accessible for outsiders! I found, and lost, a link to a tiny church back on a bayou in the area I traveled this time. It’s accessible only by boat, and was a real beauty. I guess I’m going to have to spend some cold winter nights going back through my links, looking for it!

      Happy New Year to you and Astrid! This is the year I’m going to get organized!

      Linda

  6. I am so copying this link and sending it to my brother and sil whose son goes to Loyola. They used to spend time in Laredo, but with all the “troubles” there, I know this will appeal to them. I can’t wait for the next post. Thank you! Delightfully told.

    • georgette,

      Thanks for passing on the link. There was a time when many of us thought nothing about a little pre-holiday shopping run to Nuevo Laredo, but those days are gone. Sad as that is, it’s wonderful there are other intriguing places to explore.

      I know this – writing about such travels is as enjoyable as the travel itself. It’s the next best thing to jumping into the car and heading right back to the bayou. I’m glad you liked this “installment”.

      Happy New Year to you and yours!

      Linda

  7. Oh, Linda, what an extraordinary idea! What a perfect way to create your own Christmas complete with the best soundtrack in the world and the food’s not half-bad either! I think you were just brilliant to come upon this idea and carry it off with such panache and a good friend, which makes the sharing all the greater!

    Like others, I, too, am eager for part two of your story — and part three, if one is to come! Love the videos, love everything about it! Must share this one with Rick, another LA fan!

    • jeanie,

      It really was the best of both worlds – the familiar and the unique. I’ve been to the bed and breakfast often enough to know where the coffee filters are, and I’ve learned enough about Louisiana to know where some really good people are. What better, than to put myself into the middle of that familiar place, and see what happens?

      And you, my crafty friend, will enjoy seeing the souvenirs I brought home – Christmas tree ornaments you can see here. I got the poinsettia made from crawfish claws and the snowflake made from gar scales. They’re not only beautiful, they make me laugh every time I look at them.

      You didn’t have such a bad Christmas yourself – those cookies sure looked good! Happy New Year!

      Linda

      • Those are GREAT! I would have a hard time deciding which to get! Perfect and I’m glad they make you laugh — they’re perfect!

        • And perfection’s hard to come by!

  8. I can’t wait to read about your experience with the poule d’eau!!!!!

    • Bayou Woman,

      One poor, lonely poule d’eau! They’re the funniest little birds in the world – such fun!

      Take a look at the link to the Christmas ornaments above. You’ve probably seen them, but of course I thought of Kim right away. She wouldn’t want to duplicate what those folks are doing, but ornaments of some sort might be good sellers in her shop next year.

      Here we go, into a new year. Who knows what’s next?

      Linda

  9. A great advantage of the Internet is the way one thing can and so often does lead to another, and in this case it led you out of cyberspace and into the Cajun spaces of Louisiana. The way you listed your three initial choices and then insisted on discovering a fourth sounded Zen-like to me. As for talk of a pirogue—maybe aided by references to all sorts of foods—I couldn’t help but think of pirogi, which may be kosher but certainly not Cajun.

    • Steve,

      What a perfect way of putting it – out of cyberspace, into Cajunspace. And as far as the internet goes, there’s another entirely humorous aspect to this. Since my return, every web page that includes advertising seems convinced my deepest desire is to purchase Tabasco sauce!

      Interesting, your Zen reference. I call myself an “intuitive planner”, though I don’t call myself that in public, much, because I can’t explain what it means. Suffice it to say “what to do for Christmas?” was the question for weeks, and when “Louisiana bonfires” popped up, I recognized them as the answer. From the outside, such a decision can look like irrational impulse, but it really isn’t.

      Pirogi – yum! I had a Polish friend from Chicago whose Christmas eve menu always included those little gems, made by her own hand, along with opłatki, or Christmas wafers.. So many traditions, so little time!

      Linda

  10. Oh, my gosh! How great was this idea!

    “Sometimes the only good answer for too much change is a little more change.”

    Well, ain’t that just the truth? Trying to re-create something we once had seldom works and trying to banish the memory never works. Acknowledging the past while moving forward is the ticket. Your enjoyment leaps right off the page… err… monitor. I’m so glad you found just the right way to celebrate the season.

    • Bella,

      And you know, the experience was made even more delightful by the fact that Mom and I had stayed at the same bed and breakfast. Her memory was a natural part of the fun and celebration – though I suspect she was happy to be with us in spirit only. She wasn’t fond of Cajun food. ;)

      I’d better go get started on the Blackeyed Peas and Cabbage, so I’ll have plenty of luck and money to do more of this in the new year!

      Linda

  11. You can’t get more upbeat than Zydeco. What a great idea for a Christmas when you needed to celebrate a different way.

    I have a sister in Tampa, the Lightning Capital of the World. One of my favorite memories is when we visited and went to Ybor City, dancing to BeauSoleil in the pouring rain during a storm. I didn’t care. I was enjoying the music too much. My only precaution was to dance next to a tall guy so he could be lightning rod if needed.

    • Claudia,

      That’s one of the things I like about you – you’re so darned practical! I suspect himself had no idea he was serving as a human lightning rod.

      You have to dance to zydeco, even if you only dance your fingertips across a table. Like Cajun music, it’s grounded in the life of real people. Way back when, before Dickie Breaux owned Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge, Cleoma Breaux and her husband Joe Falcon were among the earliest to record Cajun music. How cool is that?

      Happy New Year – and keep on dancing!

      Linda

  12. What a wonderful Christmas! I’ve not traveled much in the States, but Louisiana would be where I’d go if I had the chance. This sounds like something out of another world, really! And you’re fabulously good at telling the story. Happy New Year to you!

    • Deborah,

      It amazes me when I stop and think that in the same four hours, I can be in San Antonio or Breaux Bridge. Despite its heritage, history and Hispanic influences, San Antonio still is recognizably Texas. In Breaux Bridge, it is another world, albeit an open and receptive one.

      I suppose that’s the reason I prefer plotting and planning ways to explore this country in the years I have left for travel. Many of my friends are dreaming of France, Italy and other far-flung destinations. There’s not a thing wrong with that. I’ve been to many of those places, and would enjoy seeing them again.

      But there are worlds much closer at hand, just as interesting and far more affordable – not a negligible concern! I’m anxious to continue exploring in the New Year. And if you ever decide to come to Texas or Louisiana, let me know. We could pass a good time together!

      Linda

  13. It must have felt odd, this first Christmas without your mother. From your recounting of it, and from the videos here, though, you obviously had a great new Christmas experience. With that music, food, Christmas lights, etc, it looks fabulous!

    All the best for this new year…

    • Andrew,

      The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were a little “off” – it was the feeling we get when we’re climbing stairs and think there’s one more step, and go off balance. But Christmas? It was wonderful, as was the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

      And now we have a nice, fresh year – and a whole world of subjects for writing and photography. I suspect you’ll have as much fun through the year as I did on my trip. My best to you and yours!

      Linda

  14. that’s such a wonderful post! There’s so much fascinating information on local customs.

    Happy New year!

    Juliet
    Crafty Green Poet

    • Juliet,

      After reading so much about your wonderful – and quite different! – world, it’s a pleasure to be able to share a little of mine with you.

      I’ve been having a nagging feeling that you have bonfires, too, and of course you do – Bonfire Night on November 5. Guy Fawkes, and all that. Apparently the custom endures in England, Newfoundland, and other places. It will be fun to learn a bit about that as I continue on with the travelogue!

      Best wishes to you and the Crafty Green Boyfriend for the New Year!

      Linda

  15. I have not the faintest idea of what you are speaking here; the phrases, the dishes, the folk, the place names, etc. etc., all might as well come from another planet, as far as I’m concerned. It is, however, as fascinating as an account about life on another planet would be.

    If only I could have friends like yours, people with whom to celebrate whole-heartedly, joyously, with abandon and taking pleasure in every sight and sound.

    The decorative lights you describe would make me sneer disdainfully, if I saw them anywhere round here, which only goes to prove, that there is a time and a place for everything.

    Tell me more!

    • friko,

      How you make me laugh! It’s very much another world although, unlike Mars or Jupiter, it’s very much easier to reach.

      There are three fairly familiar phrases that capture much of the Cajun attitude toward life. One is “joie de vivre”, or “joy of life”. Another is “laissez les bon temps rouler” ~ let the good times roll!
      And we can’t forget “allons danser” – let’s dance! Each of them points to that whole-hearted pleasure and joy you noticed.

      It’s a world made for participation, not detached observation. And in many ways, it’s a very kind world, filled with honest and straightforward people – which only contributes to its appeal.

      On the other hand, the Cajuns and the land are inextricably joined. The slow destruction of the Louisiana wetlands is not merely an ecological problem, it’s a threat to an entire culture. With so many threats around them, it’s even more remarkable that life goes on as it does.

      I hope your New Year is filled with pleasure and joy – and there surely will be more stories to come!

      Linda

  16. That sounds like a FABULOUS Christmas! I would love to do something like that with Mike – with our mothers gone Christmas has felt awfully odd the last few years.

    • Bug,

      “Odd” is a good word for the feeling. I think taking off was easier for me than it might have been otherwise because I’ve got some experience of being in “different places” for holidays.

      I can tell you this – I’ve never landed in a different place, as I did this Christmas, without experiencing some completely unexpected delight. I highly recommend it!

      Linda

  17. What a great way to spend Christmas. I have never been to the Southern States, but I read a lot of books by Frances Parkinson Keyes years ago and was fascinated by the description of life there.

    • Granny Anne,

      You would like it – particularly the restored plantations, and the beautiful formal gardens. In the spring, it’s as though torrents of blossoms pour down: azaleas,roses, wisteria, honeysuckle. There are beautiful iris in the swamps, and the oaks draped with Spanish moss – a natural world fully as delightful as the human community I described here.

      You even could take a cruise through the bayous – but your vessel would be a bit smaller than those you’re accustomed to!

      I’m so glad you stopped by – you’re always welcome!

      Linda

  18. I am so very happy for you. I love every part of your adventure; from the lights and music down to the ‘gators and crawfish. Most of all I am happy that even though your Mom was gone this Christmas, she was still with you in spirit.

    I would happily eat her portion of the food, though. After reading I am now starving. ;)

    • Kit,

      And starving for good reason! That’s some fine food being served on the bayou. One of my truly intriguing discoveries this year is a “connection” between the Swedish food I grew up with and some Cajun delicacies. Boudin blanc is Swedish potato sausage (Potatis Korv). The obvious change is the Cajun use of rice rather than potato. And I’ve always turned my nose up at head cheese, only to find it’s called sylta in Sweden, and I scarfed it up at my grandmother’s table every Christmas. Live and learn!

      It was a wonderful trip – obviously stuffed full with good things, since I couldn’t get it all into one post. I trust your holidays were fun as well – best wishes for the New Year! (May you never run out of coffee!)

      Linda

  19. Your comment over at PD spurred me to add a little night music to the sidebar . . . love that cajun waltz! (PS, as you’ll see over there, I am dismayed to learn about this Spotify/Facebook hook-up. Wasn’t the case when I joined. I’m not on Facebook, either. Too bad!)

    • Susan,

      There have been times I’ve been unable to post a comment on a site because it had to be done through Facebook, but this is the first time I’ve been unable to subscribe to a service. We all make our decisions – I made mine re: FB, and Spotify made theirs. Too bad they won’t be getting my money for the upgraded subscription.

      So nice to see the Cajun waltz added to your sidebar. Thinking about the history, I can’t help but imagine an Acadian-Austrian connection. I’ve read that the French colonists who settled the Canadian maritimes – some of whom subsequently landed in Louisiana after the Dispersion – came primarily from French cities. They surely danced to some elegant waltzes there, and brought them here, to be transformed.

      “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, indeed!

      Linda

  20. Hi Linda,
    What an excellent idea not to sit at home at Christmas.

    I had no idea that Christmas celebrations in Louisiana were so different. I really appreciate that you thought to take us along with you. I loved the music, the scenes of the Bayou, the cane syrup story, and Christmas ornaments that are so funny you laugh when you see them.

    I’m looking forward to reading the next part. I know Guy Fawkes bonfires, but I don’t know bonfires at Christmas…

    btw I have a gift for you at my blog

    • Rosie,

      You’re a “peach”! Thanks so much for the gift – I’ll respond at more length over at your blog.

      I wish I could have taken you along in real time. You would have been delighted by the color, the kindness and the sweet pulsing of life throughout the area. The visit to the Acadian Village was a special reminder of Christmases past, and a thrilling affirmation that such Christmas celebrations still exist – it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen so many families taking the time to enjoy something together. Because you simply walk through, you can go at your own pace (rather like a museum!) and it was delightful to see the kids ooh-ing and aah-ing while their parents beamed.

      I had a vague sense that bonfires are important in other cultures, but it took a bit of research to turn up Guy Fawkes day. A somewhat different background and meaning for those!

      Thanks again for the lovely gift, and my best wishes for the New Year. There’s no way to know what it will bring, but here we are – and here we go!

      Linda

  21. A wonderful piece of southern americana. I really like reading about life in the south. It is intriguing. And I love the way you write about a topic and interject how it relates to your life. This is a real talent. Beautiful!

    • Wild_Bill,

      The inter-weaving of person and place is a gift you have, yourself. We’re shaped by childhood places, but we can be re-shaped later, and trying to understand a person without taking account of the worlds that have shaped them seems to me a little short-sighted.

      The south isn’t to everyone’s taste, of course, but I love all aspects of it. Without meaning to offend anyone in Chicago, Bangor or San Francisco, I love this line from a 1995 letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “The South is a place. East, west, and north are nothing but directions.”

      I’m so happy you liked the post, and wish you all good things in the coming year!

      Linda

  22. Brava, Linda! What a wonderful way to spend the holidays. Can’t wait to read the next installment (you’re killing me with those hints)!!

    • ds,

      It was wonderful – not in a manic, gotta-have-a-good-time-to-forget kind of way, but in a quiet, let’s-see-what-happens-next kind of way.

      I even brought home two decorations for the Christmas tree – a poinsettia made of crawfish claws, and a snowflake made of gar fish scales!

      I know your holiday was wonderful, if just a touch manic (in a good way). Best wishes for the coming year – and lots of skybluepink mornings!

      Linda

  23. Linda, What a wonderful piece about Joyeaux Noel in the Land of Acadianne! Lafayette and Breaux Bridge (for those of you not fortunate enough to know, that’s pronounced Bro Bridge) are wonderful any time of the year, but at Christmas time, they are even mo’ better! Next you have to try to get to a real country Cajun Mardi Gras, it’s nothing like New Orleans’ Fat Tuesday.Thanks for bringing me back home. J.

    • J Boudreaux,

      When I fell in love with Acadiana, I fell hard. My first trip to the area was because of Longfellow’s “Evangeline”. I ended up being far more intrigued by Scholastique Picot Breaux and – well, one thing has led to another.

      I’ve been thinking about Mardi Gras a bit, but there are other things I’d like to do, too – like getting over to Lake Martin when the rookery is active. Choices, choices. Whatever I do get to experience, I’ll be sharing here for sure. That’s half the fun – giving other people a taste of the wonderful home you have!

      Thanks so much for stopping by – you’re always welcome!

      Linda

  24. Oh, just wonderful, Linda! I was a bit worried about you, this your first Christmas on your own. I’m so glad you had a colorful Christmas holiday on a road trip with a friend, experiencing never before sights and sounds, and that you didn’t need to stay in the manger. ;)

    This travel post is marvellous. You’ve been to more places and seen more spectacles in a week than me in years staying in Cowtown. An Acadien Noel… sounds fascinating. I can’t wait to read and see the sequel… the bonfires.

    • Arti,

      I confess – I kept my counsel on this so you’d just “discover” the post. I knew you’d be delighted!

      You know the old saying about life being lived forward and understood backward. When Princess came into my life, I had no idea where we’d be off to, and certainly didn’t anticipate a trip to anywhere over Christmas. But she made it possible, and as you’ve already seen, it was more than worthwhile!

      I am beginning to understand how people need to write travel books, though. You mention what I did in a week – we only were gone three days, and this post covers only the first eight hours’ events! Goodness me! Of course, we were aided and abetted by dear Mary Lynn, who truly is the “hostess with the mostest”!

      I’m really quite excited about the new year, and was especially pleased to hear your plans for finishing your “project” if all goes well. Who knows what that might lead to for you?

      Happy New Year!

      Linda

  25. Beautiful, can’t wait for part two! I love Louisiana. When stationed in Pensacola FL, I used to travel there on long weekends with some friends of mine. My barracks friend Jennifer Fontenot was from Deridder, Louisiana, and I have many fond memories of her and her family’s hospitality. What fun you’ve had! ~ Lynda

    • Lynda,

      Fun, indeed! So much so that this is going to turn into a three-part, not two-part series. Who knew you could cram so much into such a short time?

      Part of the attraction, for me, is that so much history is still accessible there. Of course it is in other places, too, but there’s a cohesiveness that seems unique. Beyond that, there still are people who not only know about “the old ways”, but are actively seeking to preserve them. It’s quite a unique place.

      I don’t think I’ve ever known a person who didn’t enjoy their time in Louisiana – except for one friend who was rolling through the state just a little too fast. ;-)

      Linda

  26. I was not sure what was going on while trying to figure it out on y our blog but now it is making sense!
    What a great idea!!!!

    • Patti,

      I felt like a genius by the time it all was over. Sometimes impulse does beat planning, hands-down.

      Not only was the trip a marvelous way to deal with the “Christmas problem”, it was so interesting and stimulating I know it will lead to other journeys, and other stories. It was just fun!

      Linda

  27. [...] three entries about a Christmas-time trip into Louisiana’s Acadiana. Click here for Part One: Over the Bayous and Through the Swamp Click here for Part Two: Rising and Shining – An Atchafalaya Tale Comments are welcome. To [...]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,020 other followers