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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Iberia, Louisiana

Tuesday February 11,2014  Second day at the Clarion Inn in Lafayette 4PM CST

Ohhhhhhhhh, cold and rainy!  38 degees and it poured all night. Today there were periods of drizzle and periods of deluge. Simply not a great day for tooling around but we have some favorite stops in New Iberia and decided to hit them, at least. Weather is supposed to improve tomorrow and we’ve got a few new places to check out. So, we’ll be spending another night. I do realize that complaining about rain and cold when some of you are getting buried in snow and below zero temps is a bit insulting, but we traveled a great distance to leave that behind and so far I’m not warm! Have to get the sweaters back out soon,

Our first stop –Konriko—which is the product name and the name of the company store. The rice mill, however, is still called Conrad Rice Mill because of its historical standing. It is the oldest continuous operating rice mill and it uses the belt driven power system that was installed in 1912.  We took a tour a few years back and it is fascinating. This visit had the same objective of our visit two years ago—to replenish the spices and sauces that we’ve depleted.

In addition, we picked up several shot glasses for our friend who collects them. I liked a pair of Mardi Gras Fleur de Lis earrings and two small porcelain dolls in Mardi Gras regalia. I also gathered up a selection of post cards—mostly for my photo albums –but also to send my sister and aunt. Betsy never picks up the mail—or rarely, so I don’t send them to her. I’ve sent Valentine’s Day cards that she has picked up in March along with her St Patrick’s Day card!

When we were checking out, we met and talked with Dynell La Biche—who told me how her first name was spelled and let me struggle with the surname—she was impressed when I asked if the Biche was capitalized. She also thanked me for asking before I opened a packet of a post cards that was labeled “50” with a date. It appeared to be part of their inventory system so I asked if she wanted me to take off the rubber band and the label if I removed a card. Seemed commonsensical to me! In addition, she explained the derivation of the Konriko name. Kon for Conrad, ri the first two letters of rice and ko for company. Mr Conrad named the brand before selling the mill to the Daniels, who own it now, he just changed the “C”’s to “K”’s.

Our conversation, Dynell, Bill and I,began with our sadness that it was so cold that we weren’t going to go out with Butch this year on the swamp. Not only is it cold but wet and damp and we know that the alligators don’t like it any better than we, so there’d be little to see. She agreed and said many tourists come and are very angry that they don’t see any alligators in La, but they don’t move and neither do crawfish when it is cold.

She then told us that she and her husband used to raise crayfish. She told us that some people raise them in the rice fields and others in ponds. They had a pond. She said that small alligators get into the ponds so you have to be careful when you put your hand in to get the traps. She also told us that her husband rigged up a PVC pipe gadget with holes in it, into which he’d dump the trap. The smaller crayfish would go through the holes and back into the pond and he’s toss the larger ones into the boat. One day she’s gathering traps with him and he tosses the bugs behind her and she looks back and there  is a snake. You wish you could have seen her tell us how she kept moving forward while looking backward to get away without tipping the boat. Moccasin, which is poisonous, though she said she could care less—she likes no snake. I caught her picture as she was telling another snake story—standing in the yard looking up at her sister in the window when she heard hisssssss. She looked down and there right next to her a big snake. Her sister asked what was wrong and she didn’t want to talk—didn’t want to attract that guy—he slithered under the garage and –here is where I got her—she said—a snake!!!!!

It was about this time I asked her name and she said that her husband is related to Evangeline—she was a La Biche. Dynell is related to many of the old Cajun families—she said she is Cajun through and through—Guidry, Thibodeau ( pronounced the French way –Tibodeau ), and DuFresne. She complimented us on getting the whole tradition of Arcadia in the shot glasses: one with the seafood, one with the Fleur de Lis, one with Konriko and one with a gator. I think Jeff will like them. She also told me that my earrings were new—they just came into the store yesterday.

She asked if we’d ever come to Mardi Gras and I said no, though I have no interest in New Orleans Mardi Gras, I’d really like to see the Courir de Gras of Arcadia. She said she thought Moumou might still do it. With that she got a brochure with all the Mardi Gras events in the area. My goodness, they start right after Christmas—no more just the day before Lent begins. As a matter of fact, when we stayed in Slidell they’d had a parade already.

( Watching the weather report—snow, sleet and freezing rain in the Carolinas and Atlanta again tomorrow. They are predicting power outages that could last for days. There will be freezing rain tonight in Opelousas which is just north of Lafayette—25 miles maybe. This is crazy stuff!)

By this time, we were old friends and Dynell whipped out a notepad and pen and started to tell us where to go in Lafayette to see the main drags. She grew up on Pinhook and said when she has oysters she goes to Shucks in Abbeville, which the bookstore man told us several years back. When she goes out to eat she goes to Ligneaux. I told her that we’d been told about Shucks before but not Ligneaux. Told her we go to Poor Boy’s—she nodded but didn’t comment. Not sure what that means but she says she goes to Ligneaux so I’m thinking we are going to try it tomorrow. She also mentioned Randol’s which I’ve never gone to—thinking it was like Mulate’s –lots of locals but lots of tourists too. The fact that she didn’t mention Mulate’s for Cajun music and dance makes me think we may have to check out Don’t know if we’ll do both this trip but one or the other. Bill wants to see the Syracuse game tomorrow so it will be hard to listen and watch at Randol’s at 6:30 when the game begins at 7! Borden’s Ice Cream Parlor, Keller’s Bakery, Guidry’s Hardware, museums—so many things and I want to go to Bayou Teche Brewery, too. May have to stay here for a week!!

What an absolute delight is Dynell. We bid her a reluctant farewell and headed up the main drag to Bojangles but not before stopping along the way and taking pictures of the Steamboat house, which is for sale—sigh—it’s neighbor on the Teche and a couple of cottages across the street. Then on the main street the Evangeline theatre and on the corner, Bojangles sushi bar where we each had a dozen oysters on the half shell. Our waitress, who is a local has never eaten either oysters or clams. He boyfriend loves oysters—told her to start with a fried oyster po’boy with the mayo and lettuce etc. She can progress to the raw ones.

Our final stop—Books on the Teche—I always buy a James Lee Burke here where he lived and wrote. The book lady told me that the Burke’s are in their 70’s and decided to stop keeping two homes, so they’ve sold their New Iberia home and moved to Missoula full-time. They have a daughter and grand children there and wanted to be closer. As she said, they never lack for a place to stay when they do visit Louisiana.  I love this store because it carries many Louisiana authors and I love finding books about the area by people familiar with it. As a matter of fact, Elizabeth Nell Dubus is James’ first cousin and is also in her 70’s. Apparently, as the lady put it, Elizabeth is putting things aside now. That includes writing. Books on the Teche has copies of the other two books in the trilogy and if I like her work they would be happy to send them to me. There was also another book, this one brand new, Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile. She will be at the store next week—I would go to see her but know we won’t be here. It sounds like an interesting book, in that it goes into the growing and processing of cane in addition telling a story of some of the families who grow it in a novel form. Will wait for the paperback but won’t forget since there is a note in my purse notebook.

By the end of our visit, the sky had opened up once again and we decided to head back to the motel—where it is warm. We crossed the street in front of Victor’s where I’ve never eaten. Linda and I back in 2007, I think it was,were looking desperately for someplace to lunch in New Iberia—nothing was open since it was past lunch and too early for dinner. A sign in Victor’s window said Dave Robicheaux eats here. I said, who the heck is Dave Robicheaux?  Had never read Burke at that point—heck,  hadn’t heard of James Lee Burke any more than I had of ole Dave! As for closing, even Bojangles is open 11-2 and then 5-10 so if you want late lunch you’d better pack a lunch at home.

We don’t live far from the airport where there is a huge fleet of helicopters which are used to shuttle the men and women out to the Gulf oil rigs. It appears to be a cargo airport—not much traffic and what I’ve seen has been cargo flights including Fed-Ex ships. Returned to our room, but kept the patio door closed though I pushed the curtains way back to enjoy the daylight. It is dusk now and the rain has stopped once more, but it isn’t over until tomorrow afternoon. Oh, well, NCIS, NCIS-LA and Person of Interest are on tonight so we’ll be happy. Well, I will be anyway—Bill won’t make it all the way through them.

So, on that note, I’ll close once more wishing you all a safe and warm evening—KandB

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