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Friday, February 20, 2015

All Around Lafayette, etc

Friday February 20, 2015 Comfort Inn Room 103 Early, Texas

On Monday the 16th, thinking that we’d missed all the Mardi Gras hoopla to be had in Lafayette and environs, we went to Wal-Mart to pick up some replacement drinks for the cooler and some laundry items to do the wash. I also picked up some gold and purple nail polishes to create Mardi Gras nails for “ the day” and also to go with the earrings I’d picked up in Eunice (where I also replenished my muscadine jelly supply). Then it was off to Shucks. Dave, one of the owners was there, so I chatted with him about the celebrations and he suggested that we head to the Cajun Dome area where the parades end and the festival is going on. The place was packed but eventually we got a table and Courtney was our waitress. She is the black girl who had the purple bow in her hair when we were there in the Fall, Barb. She is such fun—laughing and just kidding all the time—she is just such a ray of sunshine, you can’t help but feel terrific. Or, should I say, more terrific, since the food is definitely a spirit lifter. Bill had his dozen oysters on the half shell with a cup of crawfish etouffee. I had six and then fried oysters and onion rings. All washed down with constant refills of sweet tea. Since we wanted to avoid the crowds on Johnston we headed back over to New Iberia. Stopped at my favorite bookstore, Books on the Teche and picked up my next James Lee Burke, Purple Cane Road. I am so far behind!!!!! Also asked Lorraine if she had Queen Sugar in paperback since the book came out last time I was there and she’d told me the paperback would be issued soon after. She was out but said she’d have it in a couple of days and could send it to me. I asked if I could pick it up in March and she said sure. Her husband, Howard, came out of the back room and we four chatted about books, Acadiana, our trip and my visits to the bookstore.As a matter of fact, it was Howard who suggested Shucks to us. We’d been going to the Oyster Bar across the street from them and Howard said—go –to—Shucks in Abbeville. We’ve been going there ever since.

Turns out there is a bit of significance of Shucks to them—seems Howard was there with a men’s group to which he belonged. Lorraine was also there for the event as the date of one of Howard’s friends. They met that night, he called to ask her out and that was it. They’ve been married for 35 years. One daughter lives in Fl and the other in Az. She was on the phone  when I walked in and I thought I heard her mention Shucks—well, she was speaking to the girl from Az who had just flown into New Orleans with her family. The Fl girl and family was already here. They were all going out together but on Thursday—she was making the plan—everyone was going to Shucks together. Soooo, locals really do go there but we knew that from our many visits—it is almost all local folk.

Saying our goodbyes, I walked Bill into the shop next door where I bought a cherry wood roux spoon. Do not ask how much it cost—but how can I make my gumbo without an official roux spoon???

With all the driving from Lafayette to Abbeville to New Iberia and all the eating and visiting the day was pretty done. Besides the weather report said that there would be thunderstorms and high winds around 3pm so we headed back to the motel. At almost three on the dot, the heavens opened up. Bill dropped me off under the front door canopy and parked Douglas Bristlecone in the lot. We made no effort to bring anything in from the car, including my new book. It poured for hours and in the morning, Doug was so clean, all the salt and dust gone and he sparkled in the sun.

While passing through the lobby I noticed some Mardi Gras brochures for the area. We decided we’d head down to Jeanerette, south of New Iberia and more rural and see their parade and festival. I’d painted a gold stripe at the base of my nails and a sparkly purple glitter at the tips with the base coat in green. In 1872 these colors were chosen to honor Grandduke Alexis Romanoff, who was visiting during Mardi Gras and whose house colors they were. Green represents faith, purple signifies justice and gold is an emblem of power. So, with my earrings jangling once more we were off. We’d been there before since LeJeune’s bakery is there and it has been making French bread for over 100 years. We’ve enjoyed a loaf or two in the past, but it was not to be today—the bakery was closed. As a matter of fact, there was no evidence of any kind of fest. So we stopped at Robie’s market to inquire about the parade’s location. Met a wonderful man, Mr LeBlanc—who told us that he assumed, being from Vermont or Massachusetts, maybe, that we’d say Le Blank. We quickly relieved him of his lack of faith in our familiarity with French name pronunciation or lack thereof. We had a wonderful chat with him about living in Jeanerette and being a local Acadian. He also told us that the parade had been earlier than published and that the parking at the festivities would be almost impossible so late—that we'd have to walk a half mile or farther. He was more than willing to lead us out to the site, since he said the roads were confusing but knowing we didn’t want to walk so far and then walk around the fest and walk back to the car, we thanked him profusely and declined. Picked  up a small King Cake and a huge bag of long grain rice, locally grown and less than $5 !!!  The same size bag at home is costing over $15. By now it was around 1 and it was going to be a zoo in Lafayette, too. So, having no better alternative we headed out to Shucks!

Always the go to plan, when things fall through. Being the actual day, the place was really jammed—a very long wait but lots of people with whom to chat. The old man who was a submariner, the grandmother with Chloe who’ll be 2 in July and Javen who flirted with me ( around six years old) outrageously. Finally, Trish escorted us to her table. She remembered me and Barb from the Fall, when she waited on us at the window table. This time I had my six but a large bowl of crayfish etouffee which comes with the creamiest potato salad cup I’ve ever had. It was the perfect meal since, though sunny, the day was only in the high 40’s low 50’s and windy. Bill had his usual meal of a dozen and a cup. Once more the day had gotten away from us but once more we’d had a fabulous time, touring the area and chatting with the people who live there. We were scheduled to leave on Wed but decided to stay one more day—it is always hard to leave.

Even though we really didn’t experience any of the excitement of the season, except for the stop in Eunice, we do now know where things take place and what the best way is to find a good place where Douglas can be left safely and we can enjoy the fun without walking miles and miles. We will plan to return again during Mardi Gras and really see parades, a courir and, most importantly to me, listen to the music and watch the people dance to it. It was amazing that the whole atmosphere of the place was different on Ash Wednesday. Did not find a Church nearby to get to Mass, since again, the Mass times were not posted anywhere. Disappointing.

Went over to Keller’s but they were closed. Then we stopped at the New Iberia Bank and opened a checking account. Nice to have a local connection since we spend so much time here. Mme Henrietta Hollier, with her large smudge of ashes, helped us get it set up. Once more it was almost 1130 and that is when Lagnieux opens and stays open only til 1:30 so off we raced to Ridge St and oyster po’boys and sweet tea. They have a wonderfully full buffet but lots of things I’m not really fond of. It is truly a hit and while we were in the original dining room, it was easy to see why they’ve added another room. There is a market next door, theirs. Since last year someone must have thought they were in reverse and drove into the market. The damage was extensive enough that the owners took the opportunity to enlarge the restaurant rather than replace the damaged section of the market. Wise move, I’d say.

After eating we returned to the motel to pick up all the things we’d placed around the room, do the laundry and plot our departure route on the next day, when we were to head across the Sabine and into Texas.

The breakfast at the Clarion is Lafayette is very poor to say the least on a good day and non-existent on a bad one. We ate our Florida grapefruit with honey and drank their coffee, which is truly excellent. And then, it was time to leave one of our favorite places until we return on the way home in March. I will continue the blog on another entry dealing with Texas. But for now, I’m going to take a break and eat the wonderful Black Forest Cheesecake Bill just brought me from Prima Pasta the restaurant next door. Until then, hopefully, I’ve filled you in on the pictures you’ve seen from Louisiana.

Take care from the Resting Traveling Two Peas.

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