First Impressions of Louisiana

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
Trip End May 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Welcome to Louisiana!

What brings you to Louisiana, you ask?

Camfel was brought in by the school system in Ascension Parish. Think of it like a school district. In fact, here's how wikipedia explains what a parish is:

"A parish is a territorial unit that was usually historically served by a local church. In some countries a parish (sometimes called a "civil parish") is an administrative area of civil government. Parishes of this type are found in England, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the U.S. state of Louisiana, Estonia, and a number of island nations in the region of the Caribbean."

Hah-- see that? Louisiana is weird. This will be the first of many times we find that Louisiana is, well... weird. Exaggerated by the fact that their beloved football team, the Saints, has finally made it to the Sup[erbowl for the first time, like, ever. It's crazy here.

But charming at the same time.

Two immediate observations about Louisiana: 1) The weather is beautiful. 2) It's wet. Every ditch in the ground has water in it. Since practically the entire state is under sea level, you can't dig a hole a foot deep without it filling up with water. This is interesting: For this reason, cemeteries preserve bodies above ground. The vast majority of coffins are kept in cement containers above ground, or are stored in walls of memorial buildings. See attached pictures. Kinda cool.

We couldn't find affordable lodging online for our week and a half stay in the Parish. So, when we arrived in the town of Gonzales (the central hub of our Louisiana tour), we drove around to a few pre-planned hotel options. We must have driven nearly two hours back and forth between hotels in order to find the best value--sure, we wanted under budget, but we also wanted comfort if we were to call it home for over a week. We settled on a five-day stay in Supreme Inn and Suites in Gonzales. It was rather a nice room, especially for our purposes. And we only booked five nights because we planned to take off for New Orleans for the weekend. Perfect.

Busy week ahead! Here's a quick summary of the early part of our stay in Louisiana:

The Parish booked Camfel to do assemblies in two schools per day, one show each school. Unfortunately, the times we commonly in the early morning (8:00), and then late afternoon (1:30). That meant that when all was said and done, we had between 2 and 3 hours of break every day. And the schools are no more than 10 minutes apart. So, we bought sandwich makings and kept them in our portable refrigerator (thanks to Kelsey's parents for the Christmas gift). Then, during our lunch breaks, we drove to the second school, parked in their parking lot, and sat in the back seat while we ate sandwiches and played cards. Fun.

I usually introduce the shows to the kids. Kelsey wanted to introduce the show today, but she was so used to hearing my intros, that she said "I'm Mike, and this is my husband Kelsey..."
Hah! She corrected herself, of course, but not before giving us something to laugh about.

Overall, however, these schools seem to be a little less accommodating to us, since they didn't directly book us. They aren't as invested in us being there. Sometimes we feel more like we're an inconvenience to some of these larger schools.
But regardless, we've already met a whole lot of neat people.

We talked to one vice-principal after our show, and we asked him for some local restaurant recommendations. His best recommendation was to Mike Anderson's Seafood. Fortunately, that was a name with which we were familiar. For one, our hotel clerk gave the same recommendation when we asked her as we were checking in. Second, Mike Anderson's is a mile down the road from our hotel. Cool. We'll call it a date.
The vice-principal didn't stop there, however. Come to find out, his father is a Louisiana historian. Therefore, he had a whole lot more information to offer about cajun and creole tradition. We learned that creole developed from the mixing of French and Spanish cultures. The food is generally defined by a red sauce. Cajun, on the other hand, is derived from French Canadian influence. Cajun food typically is based in a brown sauce.
So... that's a little Louisiana lesson for ya.

Like I've said, our New Year's Resolution is to eat more local food. Louisiana has made it easy on us. As we were driving into town on Sunday, we stopped to eat at Bonanza Steakhouse buffet. It was just some homecooked soul food. All we could eat, and we enjoyed every bit.

But nothing tops Mike Anderson's. The night after its recommendation, we dressed up and treated ourselves to a seafood date. We explored some authentic Louisiana cuisine.
We enjoyed char-grilled oysters, broiled Black Drum fish with crab and shrimp, and pasta with shrimp and crawfish.
PS, Louisiana loves its crawfish. They are inflatable mascots, they're painted on signs for insurance companies, they're fried, broiled, boiled, sauteed, and, well--kinda gross to think about.
But! If you're eating them, and they don't look like a crawfish, they're actually very good! We loved all of the food we tried. Kelsey especially loved crab, and we were especially surprised by the oysters. Awesome.

So yeah.. we're here in Louisiana. We're liking it. More to come.
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dougdomeny on

Those above-ground burials give a new meaning to "6 feet under" doesn't it? My business trip to New Orleans with Itran (long time ago) was one of the nicer trips. Good food. Interesting sites. There are side-wheel river boats, very long bridges, trolley cars and those above-ground crypts. Bourbon St. had great architecture (cast-iron railings, etc), live Jazz, and a mix of porn and "Jesus saves" papers blowing in the street.

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