Thursday, July 29, 2010
Sulphur became a town around the early 1900s and thrived on the nearby sulphur mines. The business became lucrative when German immigrant Herman Frasch invented a new method of mining the mineral. He pumped steam into the ground, liquefying the sulphur, then pumped the liquid to the surface. I wonder what the area smelled like then. I don’t know what year the sulphur mines closed.
We had lunch at Cajun Charlie’s. They’ve got a nice buffet. Good food. This was one of the first restaurants Bob took us to, even before we officially moved to Lake Charles three years ago, to give us a “taste” of our new home. I remember finding it all quite novel and fascinating, trying crawfish, fried alligator, gumbo, and etoufee for the first time, listening to Cajun music, seeing the antique pirogue (pee-row, a Cajun canoe) hanging from the ceiling, and browsing the gift shop. Mmmm, they have the best bread pudding. But is there something symbolic about a restaurant that sits right next to a graveyard?
There’s a little shop on Maplewood I’ve passed dozens of times and have always been curious about. Eighty One is an antique/gift/art shop that even the boys enjoyed browsing through. If you like fleur de lis, this is your place. They’ve got lots of them. Even now having been there, I’m still curious. I want to know why it’s called Eighty One. The lady working there said she didn’t know, that the owner will only say it’s his IQ. They’re moving soon to Ryan St. in Lake Charles.
We went to Henning Cultural Center, an art gallery with regularly changing exhibits. The boys enjoyed the current show, called “Chaos Theory.” It’s all comic strip and cartoon characters, super heroes, and video games.
Next door is the Brimstone Museum, dedicated to the history of Sulphur. We were told the exhibit is “in progress.” Currently, there are a few photos of the sulphur mine, early photos of the town, and a small corner of dental and medical equipment.
Thank goodness dentistry has made great strides over the past century.
Here’s a hunk of sulphur in a display case.
A real gem in Sulphur is Frasch Park. This complex is well-known for its ball fields. Many big-time little league championships are played at this facility. There’s a public golf course. I might play there someday. In the fall. When it’s cooler. But mostly we like the park for SPAR (Sulphur Parks Aquatics and Recreation), aka a waterpark.
Just down the road from SPAR is Winkydoo’s Malt Shop, a delightful ice cream parlor. We stopped on our way home. Awesome chocolate malts.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
From the outside, it appears to be large. But this museum, free to the public, is small and sadly in need of some serious TLC. Next to the museum several train cars stand guard. I suspect they may sometimes open these cars for viewing, possibly for groups, but the day I visited, they were locked up tight.
Each spring the town sponsors the Louisiana Railroad Days Festival on the museum grounds. Here’s a stage and backdrop.
If you’re hungry in DeQuincy, you’re limited to either the usual fast food, a couple of take-out BBQ joints, or a diner called Fausto’s. I enjoyed a decent burger there. Next door there’s a Dairy Queen. Big plus in my book.
Behind Fausto’s and DQ, you’ll find Nichol’s Dry Goods, one of those stores that sells just about anything and everything; hunting and camping equipment, home furnishings, gifts, school supplies and uniforms, jeans and boots. Lots of jeans and boots.
Miller’s Livestock Market is another interesting attraction. Auction every Saturday morning. Six bucks will buy you a cute baby goat.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The Randolphs enjoyed their new home, hosting parties and entertaining guests, until two years later when the Civil War broke out. Mr. Randolph fled to Texas to maintain their livelihood, leaving Mrs. Randolph to run Nottaway, including over 100 slaves. Of their three sons, the oldest was killed in battle, one died of malaria before ever seeing combat, and the third survived and came home.
South side of the home.
View from the north side.
This ballroom highlights the tour.
Unlike many historic homes operated and maintained by a historical society or museum, this antebellum home is privately owned by an Australian investor, and it’s obvious Nottaway is a resort-style business. There’s a nice restaurant. A day spa, pool, gift shop. The management caters to weddings and other special events. In many historic homes, touching anything at all is strictly forbidden in order to protect the antiques and integrity of the home. But not here. Our tour guide carried a water glass and sat it on a piece of antique furniture in every room. You could see the visitors checking for water ring marks. All the bedrooms in the house, including those on the tour such as the one below, can be rented for overnight use. Just be out by 9:00 when the tours start.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Possibly St. Martinville’s greatest claim to fame is the Statue of Evangeline, the Acadian heroine immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1847 epic poem by the same name. Fictional Evangeline and her beloved Gabriel become separated during the Acadian deportation. She spends her life in search of him. In the end, living in Philadelphia and working at a hospital for the poor, Evangeline finds Gabriel on his deathbed and he dies in her arms.
Based on this poem, in 1929 Hollywood came to St. Martinsville and made a silent movie starring Dolores del Rio. She fell in love with the Acadian people and donated this statue to the town.
Also impressive is the oak tree made famous by Evangeline’s saga.
This bust of Longfellow stands near the tree.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
We stayed at Maison Des Amis Bed and Breakfast.
Two hungry cats live in the back yard. And a fig tree grows with the most delectable figs hanging from its branches like giant teardrops of pure sugar. We plucked them from the tree and popped them whole into our mouths. Sweet! Here’s the view from the back of the house. The fig tree is center left.
And the view of the bridge from the gazebo. The bridge "sings" when vehicles cross it. The faster the speed, the higher the pitch.
This delightful town consists of a few restaurants, most notably Café Des Amis – more on that later – several gift shops, and oodles of antique stores. One can browse through Breaux Bridge an entire day. My favorite antique shop is Le Napolean, where I bought a lovely framed Audubon print of a roseate spoonbill.
Folks in Cajun country sure know how to have a good time. In between numbers, dancers would sit down and grab a few bites of catfish, crawfish, or gumbo. Then back to the dance floor as soon as the band struck up the next tune. They danced a Cajun version of the Electric Slide which was great fun to watch. (Bob doesn’t dance.) The Cajuns exclaim “Ay-YEE.” Akin, I suppose, to the Texan Yee-Haw. Unless you know the language, forget about understanding the lyrics, but you can’t help but want to dance.
Upon recommendation from a friend, for dessert we tried the Praline Supreme. Vanilla ice cream topped with pecans and laced with rum that packed a supreme kick.
The “breakfast” part of Maison Des Amis Bed and Breakfast is at Café Des Amis, just around the corner.
In addition to the two breakfasts, we ate dinner there Friday night. Breaux Bridge being the “crawfish capital,” we ordered crawfish etoufee and it was fabulous. But the highlight of our visit to Breaux Bridge surely was Café Des Amis’s famed Zydeco Breakfast. Every Saturday morning, a zydeco band – today Same Ol' Two Step -- plays in the front window and the people come out to dance. Some eat breakfast, too. But mostly dance.
I ate a Cajun breakfast staple called couche couche (coosh coosh). It’s similar in texture to mediterranean cous cous, and essentially is grits cooked down till it’s thick and dry. By itself, it’s bland and tasteless. But I can eat anything if there’s enough milk and sugar on it.
The place is jam packed by 8:00. Standing room only. We were lucky to get a table. Amidst countless cups of coffee, (they ran out of mugs and served our coffee in a high-sided Styrofoam bowl) mimosas, bloody marys, and bottles of Bud Light flowed. Revelers so crowded the dance floor they could hardly move. But they managed.
Friday, July 2, 2010
This corner of the Keystone State, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, boasts lush deep woods, clear streams and rivers, and spectacular vistas. I love this part of the country – except in winter. Connellsville hugs a scenic section of the Youghiogheny River and is steeped in rich history dating back to 1806. Our tour starts with lunch at Canelo’s Mexican Restaurant. Great quesadillas and good guacamole.
Here’s my alma mater.
We stopped at Connellsville Bottling Co., a beer distributor, so I could buy a case of my favorite beer, Penn Dark, made at Pennsylvania Brewery in Pittsburgh. A bit of explanation for my Louisiana readers . . . in Pa., one can’t simply walk into a grocery store, gas station, or pharmacy and buy a six-pack. No, in Pa., if you want to buy beer for home imbibing, you either have to buy it by the case at a distributor, or buy bottles individually at a bar at the going rate. When I lived here, I didn’t think much about it. Just the way it was. After living in a reasonable state for three years, I find the Pa. policy quite inconvenient.
As a testimony to the historical nature of Connellsville, this old train station has been preserved and currently houses an impressive stained glass store. Sadly, the store is going out of business.
One of my favorite things, and one of the things I miss the most, is the biking/hiking trail that runs alongside the river. In Connellsville, it’s called the Yough River Trail, but it’s a segment of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 318 mile long rail trail connecting Pittsburgh and Washington, D. C. I’d like to take this trip sometime in my lifetime. When we lived in Pittsburgh, the trail wasn’t quite complete. But we often rode the trail between Connellsville and Ohiopyle.
In 2008, the folks in Connellsville wanted to spruce up the trail, so they commissioned a few artists to create these beautiful works of art along the trail. The stained glass is significant because glass works play a role in Connellsville’s history.
It’s hard to see in these photos, but atop the paint on these silo-like structures are thousands of pieces of stained glass. Sparkly!
Next stop, the high school stadium and the “Johnny Woodruff tree.” John Woodruff is one of Connellsville’s claims to fame. In 1936 at the Olympics in Germany, this hometown hero won a gold medal in the 800 meter race. Each gold medalist received an oak sapling from the Black Forest, a gift from Germany’s government. John brought the tree home and planted it beside the stadium where he got his start. Today the tree is a historical landmark. I sold John’s fascinating story to Highlight’s For Children in 2008. Text of this article available upon request.
And tomorrow I return to Louisiana!