Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grove City, Pa.

This week’s travel log took me to Grove City, Pennsylvania, where I spent the week at St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference on the grounds of lovely Grove City College. My good friend Christine drove here and met me for lunch at Four Star Pizza. After lunch, we explored the town, starting at Marilyn’s Antique Shop. Super place to browse.

Look at these darling antique purses I bought there.

There’s an old time cinema, Guthrie’s Theater, still showing new releases – something you don’t often see these days. Across the street there’s a wonderful Christian bookstore. We went to Daffin’s candy store for dessert.



What’s a small town without a big mural, right?

This photo made me feel right at home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jennings, La.

A thirty minute drive east on I-10 brought me to Jennings, Louisiana, the parish seat of Jefferson Davis Parish. It’s an old town, settled around 1881. It shouldn’t have surprised me to see the common Smalltown USA malady; closed store fronts, boarded-up windows, for lease signs. Yet it always makes me sad. But it’s obvious this town isn’t giving up easily. There are actually more small businesses in operation on Jennings’ N. Main Street than there are in downtown Lake Charles. I saw a general store or two, a couple dress shops, a children’s clothing store, a jewelry shop, a tanning salon, and a florist with a shop cat napping in the window.


They’ve done a great job dressing up the place with lots of interesting murals and this charming plaza where a sign says they have a farmers’ market each Saturday.




Jennings boasts three fabulous museums. The Zigler Art Museum houses a fine collection of various artists from Andrew Wyeth to Norman Rockwell and several local Louisiana artists such as our own Elton Louviere.


Walking over the threshold of the W. H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum takes you back in time to the early 1900s. The museum is a replica of how the store looked in its heyday. All the items are original to the store, and they sold a little bit of everything. Clothing, shoes, hats, tools, toys, tonics, tobacco, sewing notions and fabric, groceries, livestock feed. The store also housed the post office. This museum is a fascinating look into life in the early 20th century. And I learned something. Did you know Shinola was a shoe polish way back then? Hence the expression You don't know sh** from shinola. I didn't know that.


Behind the Tupper Museum you’ll find the Telephone Museum, a comprehensive collection of artifacts telling the history of the telephone. Here are two dioramas, one of Alexander Graham Bell, and a typical telephone operator.




Jennings is not the place to go for fine dining, it would seem. But I enjoyed a very nice lunch of shrimp etouffee at Evangeline’s CafĂ© and Bakery. The desserts are all made on the premises, so I couldn’t help but try one. I’ve always loved red velvet cake, and I enjoy cheesecake, but I had never eaten red velvet cheesecake. Until today. And it was delicious with a latte.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cameron Parish

Today Bob and I explored Cameron Parish. We've been on the Creole Nature Trail many times. Anytime we entertain out of town guests, we always take this scenic drive so our visitors can get a sense of coastal Louisiana. We started our journey at Hackett's Cajun Kitchen. I've driven past this restaurant numerous times en route to the airport. And it always wins awards in Lagniappe Magazine. So I've been curious to try this establishment, and it did not disappoint. The portions are huge, food is excellent, prices reasonable. We ordered plate lunches; Bob had shrimp creole, I had beef and gravy over rice, we both had banana pudding for dessert. And neither of us needed to eat the rest of the day.


From Lake Charles, at first, driving south is all about farms. Farmland, farm animals, farmers, fields. Then it quickly becomes all water and marsh grass. We drove through Big Lake, Grand Lake, Sweet Lake; places I've heard of but hadn't yet seen. They're small towns; schools, churches, farms. The requisite Dollar General.

This is a scene in Big Lake. Beach houses are so colorful.




Then we hopped on the Creole Nature Trail and headed south. This visitors' center is relatively new, and I've been wanting to check it out. I've heard it's nice. The sign said it closes at 3:00 on Fridays. We got there no later than 2:55. I think they left early today.

Cameron is not only the name of this parish, but also a small town. A very small rural coastal town that was basically wiped off the map in 2005 after Hurricane Rita. They've slowly been rebuilding. Hurricane Ike in 2008 didn't help any.


We found some fishermen on a pier. I'm not sure which was more impressive; the fish or this guy's sunburn. Yikes! (photo used with permission)


We saw lots of shrimp boats today. Fishing has not been restricted due to the BP oil spill on this side of the state. Some fish boats trolled. Hard to see it in these photos, but I think shrimp boats look like giant birds, with their nets fanned out and unfurled to the sides.



Others rested. We bought three pounds of shrimp here right off the dock. Doesn't get any fresher than that.

After Cameron, we rode the ferry over to Holly Beach. The Gulf was it's usual muddy self -- that's normal -- but fortunately there's no sign of oil here on the western edge of the state. Not yet. As you can see, I kicked off my flip flops and put my toes in the surf



Lots of pretty shells on Holly Beach.



From Holly Beach we head back north along the western edge of the Creole Nature Trail. The Sabine Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place to bird watch, look for alligators, and feed mosquitos. I saw some nutria there once, too.


Bob and I walked out onto a marsh overlook. This guy knows the routine. When the alligator saw us, he immediately swam up and stared with those pleading eyes, begging like a dog.


We stopped in Hackberry for ice cream. First at the Exxon station, which advertised "ice cream cones," but their machine was being repaired. They kindly directed us to Brown's Grocery, where the self-serve soft serve machine sat next to the cappuccino machine. Chocolate or vanilla? I had a little of each. Bob held out for Winkydoo's Malt Shop in Sulphur just a ways up the road. I told him it would be closed in the evening. And it was.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Natchitoches

Here begins my informal and far from complete tour of Louisiana. (See previous post) We ventured to Natchitoches (pronounced nack-a-dish) on Memorial Day to retrieve Eric after New Student Orientation weekend at his new high school, the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, located on the campus of Northwestern State University. Blessed by perfect weather, we aquainted ourselves with this charming town.

Natchitoches has the distinction of being the oldest town in Louisiana, established in 1714. Another claim to fame is that the movie Steel Magnolias was filmed here in 1989.

Upon Eric's recommendation, we had lunch at Mighty Max Superdogs. Great wraps, too.


Browsing the shops on Front Street.


The balconies over storefronts remind me of New Orleans.



Resting in the shade by the Visitors' Center.


Natchitoches thrives along the pristine Cane River.




A lovelyEnglish garden grows on the grounds of the Roque House, circa 1805.



The Roque House is a classic example of French Creole architecture.


Live oaks make for great tree climbing.



The great thing about Natchitoches is, we've got three years (Eric's grades 10-12) to explore this town.