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America’s Byways~ Louisiana Part 2

Author: Pj Little
Date of Trip: December 2009

After we visited the American Rose Garden Center we checked into our room and then went to the casinos. I didn’t particularly care for Harrods, or the Isle of Capri but I came to life at the Horseshoe and we stayed way too late.

The next morning we checked out early and drove down 1-49 with a goal of going to New Orleans. I never did quite get there but we did stop at Natchitoches ( where the movie ‘Steel Magnolias” starring Julia Roberts was filmed. Located on the Cane River, Nachitoches is the oldest continuously settled community on the Lousiana Trace. It is very quaint and French Louisiana with its wrought iron balconies and mossy trees. Mansion tours are nearby.

We continued on and I stopped a few miles south at St. Francisville and grabbed a snack while we refueled and I learned of a old Catholic Church on top of a hill. It turned out to be a ghastly steep road but worth the trip to finally reacho Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel Church and entered circular brick courtyard surrounded by wrought iron railing. A caretaker ready to leave took pity and opened the church to us, the tired wayfarers, while he repeated historyfor us in the some of the many relics.

Built before the Civil War, some of the pews are original. The marble angels that sit on pillars on each side of the steps to the choir loft were sent by the Sisters from Rome after the war, and more. It was an awe inspiring experience I never forgot. .

We continued on and stopped at Baton Rouge for a bite before we ended the early afternoon in a small oceanfront hotel in Biloxi. The next day I spent quite a bit of time at the wharf feeding bread to the gulls and watching the locals catch prawns in the Gulf while my mate rested. That afternoon we went to the aquarium and stopped for the show with a porpoise that then played catch with the audience. I never thought I would live to see a porpoise open its mouth on commande to have its teeth brushed.

It was quite a show to watch a handler check the health of a trained porpoise. Checking the teeth is just one item on a long list of commands they are trained to perform during a health check. Then we went to a casino for lunch and ate a mountain of fresh shrimp. Then it was $6 per person.

We ate dinner at a small steakhouse on the beach and then gambled.The next day we played slots in the morning and I bought The Little’ New Orleans Cookbook. We gambled and ate casino food one last time before we headed west on I-10 for Texas and home. It was a New Orleans style buffet that was wonderful. I still remember the macque corn choux (mock shoe) and flan.

Everything we saw, every place we stopped on the Gulf: including the hotel, and all the casinos, was completely destroyed by Katrina and Rita.

When we returned three years after Katrina, New Orleans was a ghost town. There was one bar open on Burbon Street at noon., There were still a lot of large dumpsters filled with broken pieces of wood, chunks of plaster, kitchen sinks with plumbing. I didn’t see a taxi, a bus, or a trolley in operation. We were lost and found a Walgreen’s drugstore that was open. I picked up a Picayune-Times Newspaper and got directions. We stopped for gas at the only station open on the way out of town. We ate a late lunch at the only buffet in Gonzales. The food was amazing. We ate a late dinner in Texarkana and arrived home some ten hours later.

I have two cookbooks, a jar of file powder and some great stories. Louisiana is by far one of the most interesting states I ever visited from the rose garden to the Big Easy, to its lakes and rivers, to its history, foods and peoples. .

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