Friday, August 26, 2011

Welcome to Cajun Country

Today we left the big city for a weekend get away in cajun country! I instantly fell in love with the whole cajun life style, they are such fun people. It was so fun to learn about their history and their culture and then have the opportunity to go out and experience it all first hand and to meet and mingle with some of the locals.  It was definitely the highlight of the entire trip! 

On our way out to La Fayette we stopped off in Baton Rouge to take a tour of the state capital building, it is the tallest state capital building in the nation. The front steps list all the states in order of when they became a state, I thought that was a cool feature.

The building has as beautiful interior, all the decorations incorperate things about the state.  For example the ceiling in the house of representatives is made out of sugar can bagasse, which is what is left over when sugar cane is juiced, it is painted to look like tapestry.  They also like to use it because it is very good at absorbing sound.  The window supports are wrought iron and have magnolias, the state flower, throughout the design.  There are also a lot of cat tail motifs, which they use to symbolize the bayous and swamps that the state is so famous for. All the murals in the main entrance are scenes from Lousiana and US history. It was very interesting to learn about. 

In one of the rooms there is a pencil stuck in the ceiling.  There are a couple of stories of how it got there.  One being there was an argument and it got thrown up there out of rage, another being a bomb was wired in that room and the explotion was small enough the it caused very little damage but it flung the pencil into the ceiling.  Whatever the truth maybe I think its funny that they keep it there.

September 8, 1935, Huey Long, the 40th governor of Louisiana was assassinated at the State Capitol.  he had been attempting to oust a long-time opponent, Judge Henry Pavey. "House Bill Number One", a re-districting plan, was Long's top priority. If it passed, Judge Pavey would be removed from the bench. Judge Pavey's son-in-law, Dr. Carl Weiss, had been at the State Capitol waiting to speak to Long. He tried to see him three times to talk to him but was brushed off each time in the hallway by Long and his bodyguards. At 9:20 p.m., Dr. Weiss approached Long for the third time and, according to the generally accepted version of events, fired a handgun at Long from four feet away, striking him in the abdomen. Long's bodyguards returned fire, hitting Weiss 62 times and killing him. Long was rushed to the hospital but died two days later.  Pictured below is the hall way where the assassination took place, there were over 100 shots fired between the body guards so the walls are covered in bullet holes, all the black marks are where the bullets hit the walls.
Then we got to go to the top to see the view from the tallest capital building in the United States, it was a pretty great view.

Statue of Huey Long in the front courtyard.

Then we drove a little further to our lunch stop at La Maison De Begnaud.  This was such a fun little place, it is a heritage cultural center whose mission is to perserve the cajun culture.  Some of the things they offer are, french with friends on tuesday nights, cajun jammin sessions every friday night out on the porch, as well as  Culture, Heritage Workshops teaching such topics as, Rual Cajun Mardi Gras or Harvesting Rice / Crawfish or Cajun / Zydeco Music.  It is such a great cause and it is run by Big Momma, who is the definition of cajun.  They had prepared a lovely lunch for us, it was all classic cajun dishes and we ate out on the porch.  Then they invited us inside or a lesson on cajun/zydeco music.  It was very interesting, cajun music is centered around the accordian, cajun accordians were brought over to Acadiana in the 1890s and from there became the staple of acadian/cajun music.  They had a band of a fiddle, guitar and accoridan to play examples of different types of music, it was so fun!  They are trying to prepare us for our night out on the town tonight, they are taking us out cajun dancing and they are trying to make sure we don't stand out too much from the locals.

After our fun and informative lunch stop we continued our journey to La Fayette.  When we arrived we visited The Vermilionville Living History Museum & Folklife Park which is an operating unit within Bayou Vermilion District created to preserve and represent Acadian, Creole, and Native American cultures within the region. It provides Lafayette residents and visitors from all over the world a wonderful opportunity to view a lifestyle as it occured during a time period spanning from 1765 to 1890. Vermilionville is the largest physical representation of Acadian and Creole culture in the world. The park sits on a beautiful tree-covered 23-acre site on the banks of the Bayou Vermilion in the heart of Lafayette, providing a place for music, food expression, cultural exchange, historic architecture and much more.

Here we rotated through three different areas of the center.  My group began with a tour of the village which explained what life was like during the 1700 and 1800, then we took a boat tour down the bayou then ended with cajun dance lessons once again trying to prepare us for tonight!

I included the above picture just because our boats "captain" is in the background.  I'm sad we didnt' think to get a picture with him after our boat tour, he reminded me a lot of Tommy off of Swamp People if any of you watch that show, he was hilarious and just so cajun.

Then it was time for our night out on the town.  We were anxious to put all of our education to good use.  We went ot Mulate's for dinner for the full on cajun experience.  I can say, without any reservations, that this was my favorite part of our whole New Orleans trip. It. Was. A. BLAST! Oh so so fun! I am so glad that they spent the day preparing us for our night out so we didn't look like deers caught in a pair of cajun headlights.

There was a band playing cajun and zydeco music and they served authentic cajun food, which is basically anything fried.  We ordered one of every appitizer, so as to experience it all.  We ordered fried crawfish tails, fried catfish, shrimp wrapped in bacon that was then fried, fried hush puppies and to finish it all fried alligator.  I was excited/ nervous to try the alligator, it is just such a staple out here in cajun country, it was pretty good!  But then again it was deep fried and smoothered in tarter sauce so I'm pretty sure anything cooked that way would be delicious.
The Alligator

Mulate's is known for it's dance floor, it is jammed packed all night long.  Linda, our tour director, had hired too professional cajun dancers to come and dance with the members of our group to help us get over any dance floor phobias we might have.  So I was out on the dance floor being twirled around before we had time to order our diet cokes.  The pros were a cute little married couple, that split up and asked everyone on our tour to dance throughout the night,  I was the first one he asked to dance and boy he was a good dancer!  He made me want to get up and dance every song!

My dad really got into the cajun waltzes.  It surprised me becuase he normally hates to dance, and tries to avoid it at all costs.  But he really liked the cajan waltzes so we danced the night away!  It was so fun to see him so excited about it.

For my main me I got shirmp, and of course it was deep fried, how else would it be prepared?

The locals that were there were so fun to watch, they are just such happy, fun loving, family oriented people!  The dance floor was never empty.  There was a senior class from a high school about an hour away there celebrating the beginning of their senior trip.  They were such awesome kids, the boys asked all the girls to dance and were out there every single song of the night.  I was proud of those high school boys, I don't feel like that would have happened at my high school, the boys thought they were too cool for school and would never have danced that much.  At one point in the evening one of the cute boys came and asked me to dance!  What a stud, how many high school boys do you know would walk over to a table full of strangers and ask someone to dance.  He was so nice and fun to dance with, what a cutie!

To end the night on a sweet note we ordered pecan pie for dessert, a Southern classic.  Try as I might I can not describe how much fun I had that night!

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