Snowbird destinations: Louisiana

More than any other state in the South, Louisiana has an appetite for food, music, and fun that is best summed up in the Cajun phrase laissez les bons temps roulerlet the good times roll. While different regions of the state put different spins on that motto, its sense is felt everywhere.

Think Louisiana, think Mardi Gras. Small town parades are numerous. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appropriately shaped like a capital L, Louisiana is bordered by Mississippi on the east, the Gulf of Mexico on the south, Texas on the west, and Arkansas on the north. The Spanish were the first Europeans to explore the area in the 1500s, but it was not until the late 1600s that French settlers named the region Louisiane in honor of the French king Louis XIV and claimed it for France. The British acquired parts of the state in 1763 but returned those to the French in 1800. Then in 1803, the United States made the Louisiana Purchase, which included Louisiana, from Napoleon for $15 million.

Let loose, talk with a southern drawl! Drink scary concoctions known as “Hand Grenades” and “Hurricanes” (with similar effects).

Think Louisiana, and you no doubt have thoughts of spicy Cajun and Creole cooking, Dixieland music, swamps and bayous, New Orleans, and Mardi Gras.

Louisiana is different from most places. Of course, you already knew that.

Counties are called “parishes,” a parochial land designation.

The historic Konriko Rice Mill Company Store in Cajun Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of all the physical characteristics of Louisiana, surely the two for which it is best known are its swamps and bayous. Bayous are slow-moving streams that are shaped like small rivers or large creeks. Swamps can be sprawling, shapeless bodies of water, much like lakes. However, swamps usually experience seasons and high and low water. Their thick stands of cypress and other water-resistant plant life look like flooded, moss-draped forests. Each season brings a new look to the swamps.

It’s all here, but Louisiana is more than this.

Sample the obvious, but don’t overlook the mansions along the Mississippi and the small towns.

And by all means visit New Orleans—it’s pronounced “N’awlins” or “N’arlens.”

NO is a rare mix of the Old World and the New. Famous for great food, cool jazz, soulful sidewalk musicians, festivals and parades, fabulous architecture, Mississippi Riverboats, and carefree atmosphere, Nawlins is a city like no other.

Done right, New Orleans is more than beads, beignets, and Bourbon Street.

Walk the French Quarter, tour the opulent homes of the Garden District, journey out to a bayou for a swamp tour, ride a riverboat.

Louisiana is a birders paradise. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For many generations, New Orleans’ mantra has been “Let the good times roll.”

You’ll see things you won’t see anywhere else.

Little doubt the stylish architecture of the Vieux Carré (Old Square) or French Quarter is one of its most compelling draws. The European-influenced homes and buildings are renowned for their graceful curves, while picturesque fences and balconies are noted for their intricate iron lacework.

When you’re ready to catch your breath, take a tour through the genteel Garden District. Unlike the French Quarter’s small, elegant townhouses, the Garden District boasts huge antebellum mansions surrounded by manicured gardens taking you back to another era. Details abound on these historic and sultry homes, including Doric columns, wide verandas, etched-glass doors, and ornate weather vanes.

To be continued tomorrow…

Worth Pondering…
Way down yonder in New Orleans

In the land of dreamy scenes

There’s a garden of Eden

You know what I mean.

—Louis Armstrong 1901-1971

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