Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Gallery, Louisiana, Travel | 32 comments

Just west of New Orleans, I-10 travels across the vast Atchafalaya Swamp and into Acadiana—also known as Cajun Country. Life is different here. The language is a lilting French/English patois. The music is a vibrant and plaintive mélange of accordion and fiddle. And the food is a delicious melding of locally available ingredients, most notably crawfish, smoked meats, and rice.

Underlying everything is a sense of “joie de vivre” that infuses daily life—a joyful exuberance that is readily extended to visitors. This was our third visit to Cajun Country—and it won’t be our last.

We booked four nights in the heart of Cajun Country at Poche’s Fish’N’Camp—our favorite spot in Breaux Bridge. And quickly realized that once again, we didn’t give ourselves enough time here. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, just missing the weekend gatherings where people of all ages convene in cafés, bars, and dance halls to make music and dance. (We experienced a Cajun Saturday morning music jam on our last visit a couple of years ago. You can see a short video here.) From now on, we’ll make sure that we arrive prior to the weekend. Even better, we’ll stay a full week.

If nothing else, the Cajun culture is a testimonial to the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of community. In the mid-1700’s, the Acadians were driven out of their chosen homeland of Acadia (present day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), where they had happily and peacefully lived for 150 years. Their villages were burned, families split up, and thousands perished as a result of the inhumane conditions they endured during the deportation.

Along the coast, bayous, and upland prairies of south Louisiana, a few thousand Acadians found refuge. I can only imagine what a shock it must have been to start all over again in hot and humid Louisiana, replete with alligators and other swamp terrors. The Cajuns are a resourceful lot, though—they fished, hunted, farmed, and set about recreating their Acadia (“idyllic place”). And alligator ended up on the menu.

Despite missing the weekend community gatherings, we found plenty to occupy ourselves. We visited the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, a small National Historical Park. The displays are lovingly crafted from heirlooms donated by the families who settled here. There’s also a rather morose half-hour film that focuses on the tragic history of the exiled Acadians. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much attention given to their resilient spirit and the exuberant culture and close community they’ve created après exile.

Louisiana Regions MapDespite the attempts of the government in the early 20th century to “mainstream” the Cajuns (including forbidding French to be spoken in schools), the culture thrives today. In 1971, one-third of the state was recognized as “Acadiana” by the Louisiana State Legislature.

A visit to Vermilionville—next door to the cultural center—is a delight. We spent half a day wandering through the living history museum on the banks of the bayou, where costumed staff, craftspeople, and musicians go about the activities of 18th-19th century daily life of south Louisiana with great authenticity. And we also spent part of a day walking the trails at nearby Lake Martin and Cypress Island, where we were happy to see thousands of nesting egrets and herons (albeit far-off views).

We were there mid-April, at the height of crawfish season when the crustaceans are at their largest and fattest. Once considered a poor-people’s food (the term “mudbug” is still commonly used), the Cajuns took to them with relish, and crawfish are now celebrated as a delicacy. We set out to buy crawfish for dinner. “Y’all want tree or five pounds?” inquired the young man with a warm smile and a delightful Cajun accent. “Want dem medium or spicy? Spicy are hot hot,” he warned. Actually, I’d been thinking one pound, since it was only the two of us. But three pounds turned out to be just the right amount.

Mudbugs look like miniature lobsters, and the tails (which contain the sweet, tender meat) make up only one-third of the creatures. We peeled the meat out of the tails and made crawfish étouffée for dinner that night, a classic Cajun dish. It begins, like all Cajun cuisine, with sautéing the “holy trinity” of onion, celery, and bell pepper, and is seasoned with a healthy pinch of cayenne. It was delicious.

About the RV Park:

Poche’s Fish-N-Camp is a very nice RV park with level concrete sites situated around fishing ponds. The park offers full hook-ups, good Verizon, a nice laundromat, and peaceful surroundings. It’s in the boonies, but only about 5 miles from the town of Breaux Bridge, and 10 miles from Lafayette. You’re in the heart of Cajun Country here. With Passport America, it’s a bargain at $20 per night.

Next Up: A Birder’s Paradise: High Island, TX

Altar In A Cajun Home

At Vermilionville, An Acadian Village

A Typical Cajun Home

Docent Spinning Wool

Handmade Quilt And Homespun Clothing

In The Herbalist's Cottage

Schoolhouse In Vermilionville

Trying To Eradicate The French Language

It's Not Cajun Music Without An Accordion

Lovely Little Church

Inside The Church

In The Garden Of The Church

At The Acadian Cultural Center

Display Of Cajun Musical Instruments

Overlooking Lake Martin

Some Of The Wildlife Found At Lake Martin

Iris Blooming In The Cypress Swamp

Nesting Great Egrets

Turning The Eggs

Poche's Fish-N-Camp

Our Site At Poche's

Peaceful Spot At Poche's

Happy Hour Includes Cleaning Crawfish

That's A Lot Of Crawfish

Crawfish Etouffee

Louisiana Regions Map

Altar In A Cajun Home
At Vermilionville, An Acadian Village
A Typical Cajun Home
Docent Spinning Wool
Handmade Quilt And Homespun Clothing
In The Herbalist's Cottage
Schoolhouse In Vermilionville
Trying To Eradicate The French Language
It's Not Cajun Music Without An Accordion
Lovely Little Church
Inside The Church
In The Garden Of The Church
At The Acadian Cultural Center
Display Of Cajun Musical Instruments
Overlooking Lake Martin
Some Of The Wildlife Found At Lake Martin
Iris Blooming In The Cypress Swamp
Nesting Great Egrets
Turning The Eggs
Poche's Fish-N-Camp
Our Site At Poche's
Peaceful Spot At Poche's
Happy Hour Includes Cleaning Crawfish
That's A Lot Of Crawfish
Crawfish Etouffee
Louisiana Regions Map
Altar In A Cajun Home thumbnail
At Vermilionville, An Acadian Village thumbnail
A Typical Cajun Home thumbnail
Docent Spinning Wool thumbnail
Handmade Quilt And Homespun Clothing thumbnail
In The Herbalist's Cottage thumbnail
Schoolhouse In Vermilionville thumbnail
Trying To Eradicate The French Language thumbnail
It's Not Cajun Music Without An Accordion thumbnail
Lovely Little Church thumbnail
Inside The Church thumbnail
In The Garden Of The Church thumbnail
At The Acadian Cultural Center thumbnail
Display Of Cajun Musical Instruments thumbnail
Overlooking Lake Martin thumbnail
Some Of The Wildlife Found At Lake Martin thumbnail
Iris Blooming In The Cypress Swamp thumbnail
Nesting Great Egrets thumbnail
Turning The Eggs thumbnail
Poche's Fish-N-Camp thumbnail
Our Site At Poche's thumbnail
Peaceful Spot At Poche's thumbnail
Happy Hour Includes Cleaning Crawfish thumbnail
That's A Lot Of Crawfish thumbnail
Crawfish Etouffee thumbnail
Louisiana Regions Map thumbnail