This morning I headed to Lafayette, "the heart of Cajun Country and the cultural center of Louisiana's heritage." It was here that the first settlers from France arrived. After getting some dining recommendations and a map from the pleasant man at the Visitor's Center, I drove to the Acadian Cultural Center, established and maintained by the National Park Service "to tell the story of the Acadian (Cajun) people who settled the prairies, bayous, and marshes of southeast Louisiana."
|Music & Dance Halls Were an Integral Part of Cajun Culture|
You know, we are a very powerful, very proud country with many achievements, but like so many other powerful empires, it was built on the bloodshed of innocents. American colonists claimed freedom from tyranny, by themselves becoming tyrants who took away people's freedom, and they deceived with false peace treaties. They escaped religious persecution, then forced others to worship their way. And more people have died in the name of god, then in any natural disaster, disease or gun-war. We've come a long way, slowly but surely. In many ways, I am lucky to have entered this world when I did, and where I did, and I hope that as a nation and as a world, we only become more understanding, accepting, educated and compassionate as future generations lead the way.
|La Maison Broussard, Vermilionville|
Then I wandered around the museum displays and exhibits that explain the origins, migration, settlement, and contemporary culture of the Acadians and other groups who live in the Lafayette area. Before heading out, I purchased a can of "Slap Ya Mama" cajun seasoning from the gift shop, for my dad.
|Spinning Cotton, Vermilionville|
Continuing my exploration of Lafayette, I walked around Vermilionville, located just down the the street. "Vermilionville, a heritage and folklife museum, is the largest physical representation of Acadian and Creole culture in the world. On the banks of the Bayou Vermilion, the historic village contains 19 structures, including six original homes, which are filled with artifacts reflecting life in the Acadiana area between 1765 and 1890. A detailed interpretive walking brochure (in English AND French) guides visitors through the village (though in the time these homes were built, they would have been separated from each other by a mile or more). In many of the structures, costumed historical interpreters authentically demonstrate traditional crafts or musical styles."
|The Simple Life, Vermilionville|
After seeing everything from charming homes and rustic boat houses to barns and cemeteries, and listening to the costumed villagers as they worked their spinning wheel or played their instruments, I was just barely able to check everything off the list before closing time.
|"Louisiana Postcard" Mural by Robert Dafford|
I went into Downtown Lafayette and saw the beautiful murals and little shops that line fun Jefferson Street, before grabbing a happy hour drink at The Green Room, a down-to-earth bar with cheap drinks and friendly locals. I got to talking with a nice guy who's lived in the town all his life, and gave me excellent recommendations for food and live entertainment in New Orleans, where some of his extended family lives.
|Seafood Platter at Randol's|
On recommendation from the gentleman at the Visitor's Center, I had dinner at Randol's Restaurant and Dance Hall, known for its Cajun cuisine and a spacious dance floor. The seafood platter had more than enough food and variety (included frog legs - yuck), but wasn't worth the steep price of $25 + tax. The best thing on the plate in terms of flavor was the seafood gumbo =) As far as the dance floor, well, it seemed to cater more toward the older crowd, and it was fun sittin' back watching them enjoy themselves.
As became our favorite past-time, when I got back to Joel's, we drank wine and watched Nip Tuck :)