Sunday, March 27, 2011

Louisiana Lagniappe 2011

The good times continue to roll here in Louisiana with more new friends, old friends and fun. We are getting new neighbors every few days with many of them being snowbirds who are slowly moving north and have to stop by for the yearly fix of Betty's famous hospitality. Some of the people are ones we have met here in the past and others are first time visitors.

We returned to Judy Bailey's home to hear her band practice one more time before their first public appearance in the square in Abbeville. Above is Judy with many of her records, awards and photos from her years in Nashville.

Some of the natural things we have seen in the area.

Center is the full moon that was the largest in 18 years, left is a small gator we often see on our daily walks and a small cypress swamp we saw in a yard. At less than an acre, the swamp was a mini snapshot of the bigger swamps we have seen. Right are two geckos just enjoying the sun and not acting as an insurance company's spokesgeckos. At Betty's you truly do feel like family. Everyone in the park was invited by Betty's aunt Irene to a gathering at her beautiful home on the banks of the Vermillion Bayou. This is the only park out of the over 200 we have stayed in where this has happened. What great hospitality.

All the people at Irene's party.

Top; Jay & Heide; Merlene, Betty, Irene & Dan; Bob & George Ann, Kendra & Denis and Jim.

Center; Jim & Judy; Tony & Mary Beth; Dave & Sarah and Cindy & Larry.

Bottom; Nanc & Cookie; Marvin & Jim; CeCe & George and Sue & Paul.

We all had a great time and enjoyed the great food.

The first pubic appearance of Judy Bailey and the Louisiana Bayou in Magdalen Square. It was a wonderful evening of music and dancing. The reaction of the audience showed that all the practice sessions paid off. The music was great with a mix of country, swamp pop, blues and rock and most of the crowd stayed until the very end.

A young fan listening to Judy.

The crowd at the concert. Everyone in the park was there along with many, many more fans. There are several new people here whose names I haven't yet learned.

We did another day trip with Richard and Valerie to New Orleans. Here are a few street scenes form the fabulous city. The architecture here is fantastic. We had a great brunch in a little restaurant that was once the home of Edgar Degas and did a little shopping in the French Market.

On the street between Jackson Square and Saint Louis Cathedral you can buy a painting, have your portrait drawn or have your fortune read.

Some of the street performers, reindeer advertising a Christmas shop and Jackson Square. NOLA really is one of the great cities in the world. It appears to be in much better shape than it was when we were here three years ago. All the homeless who were living under I-10 near downtown are now gone. We visited an area that was under several feet of water after Katrina and the neighborhood was thriving. It is great to see the city is coming back.

I am always fascinated by the size of the Mississippi. We strolled along the levee that holds the mighty river out of the city and took a ride on the trolley. The map shows where the water that flows by the city comes from and gives you a better understanding of why this river is such a powerful force. The vessels range from ocean freighters, to stern wheeler tour boats, ferries and huge barge pushing tugs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Crawfish Boil. Music & Suprises

The good times continue at Betty's with a whole new group of people. One thing we were able to participate in was a crawfish boil right here at the park. Hal, one of the RVers who is from Louisiana, had all the needed equipment and it was really neat to see the whole process from start to eating.

Top left are two of the three 30 pound bags of live mudbugs patiently waiting for their baths. Top right; Hal adds crawfish boil, salt and water to the cooler of bugs to purge the sh_t (poo) out of them. Bottom; the bugs are being moved to the rinsing tub and into another cooler to await their turn in the hot tub.
Top; we learned that a boil also requires the drinking of beer so they turn out just right. The first test batch comes out of the boiling water and are dumped into yet another cooler where Hal added some Cajun Swamp Dust to enhance the flavor. Then a few of us gather around the test run to make sure they were all cooked to perfection.

Last comes the eating of the crawdads, corn, potatoes and onions Hal also cooked up. This is definitely a roll up your sleeves meal.

We did another Saturday afternoon of Cajun music at the Museum Cafe in Erath. The band is playing in front of the mural of Grammy nominee D.L. Menard whom we met at the Museum when we visited earlier in our stay.

Some old and new friends.

Top is Nanc with Ollie whom we met on our first visit three years ago and have seen on every return visit. Next is Tom & Nancy (seated) and Tom & Marge, two couples who were at Betty's for Mardi Gras and stayed in the area for a few more days. Bottom are Ken & Barbie who were at Betty's on our '10 visit and stopped by for the music. Next are Dan & Merlene our new neighbors for the rest of our stay. Everyone now at Betty's has been here before. She sure knows how to bring people back.

Another potluck dinner was a surprise birthday party for Shirley, pictured with Betty. She thought she was going out to eat after happy hour and was shocked when the cake was brought in followed by all the food. As usual eating is a big part of the stay here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fat Tuesday and Farewell

The morning after our late night return from NOLA we were up and on the road by 7AM to go to Lafayette for the Fat Tuesday parade. The others at Betty's opted out of this early morning trip so we were on our own. There were three parades scheduled for that day but because of the threat of rain we only did the King's Parade. That was our fifth Mardi Gras event in two weeks. We had also missed a parade in Baton Rouge on Saturday because a big storm front was coming through. Twenty miles away in Rayne a tornado injured several and killed one.

As part of the pre-parade festivities there was a costume contest. Some of them were very creative. Top left to right are Balloon Man driving a balloon car, Le Petite Chaperon Rouge and the Bag Family; Leaf, Garbage, Lady and Paper. Bottom are a few adult contestants and a young mermaid. It was a fun time for the entrants and the crowd.
Top is a real Mardi Gras parade expert who had a net to catch beads over the barrier. Nanc with a couple of revelers. Bottom is our spot at the rail that we claimed with our chairs and a big umbrella. We are learning this parade routine. The mounted police lead the parade and were followed by a pooper scooper.

Some of the parade floats with the King in the center of the bottom row. There were a couple of quick showers, but for the most part the weather was fine.

More floats. The floats were nicer than the smaller parades in Scott and Church Point, but not as elaborate as those in NOLA. There were also several bands.

Nanc with our booty from five parades.

We may have to get the rig weighed. We sent a box of beads to Nanc's sister Judy for her granddaughters and plan to recycle most of the others. We had a great time at Mardi Gras and got to see a good mix of different events from the Chicken Run to the big parades in New Orleans. The Chicken Run was the most fun while NOLA had the neatest beads and trinkets and is something that everyone should see.

A few of the group who had been at Betty's for the entire month. Since most of them were leaving the next day we had a going away party with a chili pot luck and Jim C. making a gallon of his great apple pie cocktail.

Betty's on Wednesday morning after nine rigs pulled out. The only vehicles were Ruth's and Wendell's, Marvin's and ours. But, not to worry, by 3PM all the spots were full and good times at Betty's continue. We did nothing that day as we were trying to take it easy after two weeks of going, going, going. As we usually do when we stay here, we decided to extend our stay until the end of the month. We are caught in Betty's web.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NOLA Mardi Gras

We wanted to go to New Orleans to get a taste of Mardi Gras there so on Monday we met up with Valerie and Richard in Baton Rouge and rode with them into the Crescent City. They have been there many times so they knew exactly where to park so we could see two parades and get out of town before all the traffic. The parade ended at 8PM and we were in bed in Abbeville before midnight. The parades are sponsored by krewes, social clubs that are all about celebrating during Carnival. Each krewe has a different theme and the floats in that parade reflect that theme.

Nanc, Jim, Val and Richard getting ready for the parade. They are experts at claiming a spot to the point that Valerie bought a $2.00 throw away shower curtain to put on the ground to mark our territory.
This year there were 55 parades and 37 balls in New Orleans beginning on February 19 and ending on Fat Tuesday, March 8, so these people know how to parade and party. Top left are ladders with seats and safety belts so kids can get above the crowd to get beads. Top right is a permanent sign about not parking on the street during parades and middle is a car that was decorated because it was not off the street. Bottom right is a float coming out of the warehouse before the parade. Left is a float rider with a dozen bags of beads he will be throwing to the crowd. Each bag weighs 25 pounds so you can figure there must be over a million pounds of beads thrown during the parades that take place in New Orleans during the two and a half weeks of Carnival season.

When in New Orleans do what the New Orleanians do.

Actually I was just putting on my sweatshirt and wanted my Mardi Gras tee on the outside. This was the most vulgar act of near nudity we saw in the neighborhood where we watched the parade. It really is a family affair. The most violent thing that we saw happen was Nanc getting hit in the nose with flying beads. Since the beads here were bigger than the other parades we have seen, she does have a black and blue mark across the bridge of her nose.

We wondered where all the beads come from and discovered they grow them on trees along the parade routes.

The first parade was the Krewe of Proteus which is the second oldest krewe in the city. Proteus was known in Greek mythology as the shepard of the sea so the floats and trinkets they threw had that theme. Nanc got a neat stuffed seahorse that is one of the prized items they throw.

Floats from the Proteus parade.

More Proteus floats.

The second parade was the Krewe of Orpheus, the musical son of Zeus and the Greek muse Calliope. This krewe was started in 1993 with a musical theme and Harry Connick Jr. was one of the founders. The theme of this year's parade was Visions of Other Worlds and, as you can see above, some of the costumes (bottom) were out of this world. Top are the Shriner motorcycles with Nanc and Val who begged a seat. Bottom left are Nanc and Val with two of the Muff-A-Lottas, a dancing group that marched.

This parade was after dark so the pictures are not very good but it was great in person. There were many bands in this parade and the floats were the most beautiful and elaborate we have seen. Bottom center is a flambeau, a person that carries a flaming torch or flare. They are part of the tradition going back to when there was no electricity to light the way. This flambeau has money pinned to his shirt as a reminder that you should give him a donation for the group. We caught some very nice trinkets including a much valued Orpheus metal doubloon. We really had a great time at this parade as it had the best floats, beads and other trinkets of any of the parades we have seen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Courir du Mardi Gras

We all gathered for a 7AM departure to caravan to Church Point for the 50th annual Mardi Gras Chicken Run (Courir). Everyone at Betty's was invited to Mr. Johnny Stanford's farm to watch this traditional Cajun celebration. This custom dates back to the Middle Ages and is a tradition carried on by the Cajuns. Back then the poor would dress in strange costumes to mock the aristocrats while traveling from farm to farm collecting food and money.

Top, the group from Betty's settles in and do what we do best, eat and drink, while we waited for the fun revelers to arrive Bottom left, Wendell, the master chef for the day, brought his grill, ribs and pork chops while others contributed sausage, shrimp, hot dogs and boudin. Middle, CeCe, Irene and Lori show off their hats. Right, Nanc discovering that you can drink wine for breakfast.

As part of the Chicken Run tradition the Captain arrives on horseback and asks the owner, Mr. Stanford, for permission to come on his property to gather chickens for the end of the run gumbo.

The "chicken chasers" arrived by the wagon load around 11AM. They had been at it (chasing chickens and drinking) since 6AM and had already been to several farms. This added to the craziness of the whole affair.

They wear colorful fringed costumes, wire mesh masks and pointed hats called capuchons. Many show their disdain for the rich by NOT wearing the traditional green, purple and gold. Middle bottom is a beggar asking for money to help pay for the meal.

One of the wagons had a live band that played Cajun music as the revelers asked the ladies to dance. Top dancers from our group left to right are Bobby, Linda and Irene. Bottom is Betty dancing with The Captain, Diane and Nancy Doyle.

The wildest part was when the chickens (guinea hens) were released and the revelers captured them for the gumbo. Today they don't eat these particular birds as the gumbo is ready for the group at the end of the parade. But, there was a pickup that had a pen loaded with all the captured birds.

Top is the Captain with a captured chicken and the young man who got the first one. Bottom is a bird about to be released and its captor giving it to one of the Captains. Center are a few of the birds in a "pet taxi" to make them think they were just going for a ride.

In addition to the people on horses and the floats there were many walking and stopping to dance with spectators. Mardi Gras is a participation event.

A few of the more than fifty floats in the parade that followed the capture of the chickens. Many floats have generators so they can play music and most have the traditional port-o-john so they can recycle the beer. They came in all shapes and sizes and the revelers on board looked like they were having as much fun as we were watching and catching beads.

There were hundreds of horses, some with riders and others pulling wagons and floats.

And of course the goal of a Mardi Gras parade is to get beads. Top are an exhausted Bobby and Jim, Ruth, Irene and Nanc. Bottom are Nicole, Betty, Diane and Scott, and Terri and Rich. All of them weighed down with their booty. Everyone had a GREAT time and we all agreed we have never seen anything like this. This was the most fun of the five Mardi Gras events we attended. If you are ever in Acadiana for Mardi Gras make sure you see a Chicken Run.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sharing More Cajun Culture

We continue to give Tom and Georgie a crash course in Cajun culture. We went on the Champagne's Cajun Swamp Tour to get up close and personal with many swamp dwellers. We previously took the tour with Bryan in 2008 but that was in the fall and we wanted to go in the spring with the hope of seeing more gators. We were rewarded with seeing many turtles, birds, a nutria and a few gators. Bryan is a Cajun who was born and raised in Acadiana and gives an excellent tour explaining the flora, fauna and culture. Bryan's boat is designed to run in shallow water and the motor is quiet which enables him to get you close to the animals. Another plus is there are no mosquitoes here because of the tannins in the water.

Tom and Georgie enjoy the beautiful Louisiana weather.
They have done a core boring and confirmed that this bald cypress is over 500 years old.

This is a blue heron rookery. If you look closely you can see two or three birds. We also saw many egrets and cormorants.

Bryan got us real close to this heron. This makes Nanc very happy as the heron is her favorite.

A few of the many turtles that were out on this warm sunny day soaking up the warm rays.

Click on this pic to enlarge it and see if you can find the small gator.

No need to enlarge this one. Bryan said you can tell their length by estimating the distance from the eyes to the tip of the nose and just change the inches to feet.

This big boy was about twelve feet long and looked like he was eyeing us all up for an easy meal. This is a wonderful tour that we highly recommend for anyone visiting the area.

We continue to eat well at Betty's. She cooked rice and red beans as the main course for a potluck. Tom said he was starting to enjoy the Cajun cooking. Right are Rich and Terri who are making up for missing the gumbo dinner when someone indulged a bit too much. We had a great week with Tom and Georgie showing them why we love coming to Betty's; the food, the music, the culture and most of all, the people.