Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cajun Mardi Gras 2013 - Experiences Beyond the Courir

My last several posts describe the experience of my friend David and me in Cajun Louisiana for Mardi Gras 2013 and our participation in the Faquetaigue Courir de Mardi Gras. This post will describe other aspects of our experience in Cajun Louisiana, besides the Courir.

RAYNE, LA. We stayed at the Best Western in Rayne LA. This turned out to be a good choice. Rayne is on I-10, just beyond Lafayette LA. A short drive north from Rayne are the towns of Eunice, Mamou, Church Point, Basile, Iota, and others - many of which have Courirs de Mardi Gras.

THE FROG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. Rayne LA is the Frog Capital of the World! The frog motif is everywhere! David and I ate in the Frog Cafe across from the Best Western, where the breakfast menu features meals called Bull Frog Breakfast, Toad Breakfast, and Tadpole Breakfast, each with varying amounts of eggs and other breakfast items.

ZYDECO BREAKFAST AT CAFE DES AMIS. On Saturday morning, February 9, we got up early and drove to Breaux Bridge LA for the amazing Zydeco Breakfast held every Saturday at Cafe des Amis. The music is lively, and people dance right between the tables. The dancing gets wild and furious, and the floor actually shakes!

RICE FIELDS AND CRAWFISH. As we drove through the Cajun Louisiana countryside, we saw acres of rice fields, all flooded in order to catch crawfish.

ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART - GRAND COTEAU, LA. We drove into the grounds of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, LA, a beautiful boarding school in the country. This is a sister school to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, which I attended from pre-Kindergarten through 12th Grade.

LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY EUNICE (LSU-E). I also drove around the campus of LSU-Eunice. It's a fairly small campus and was quite deserted due to the Mardi Gras holiday.

EUNICE BOUCHERIE AND BACKBONE STEW. On Sunday, February 10, we spent some time in Eunice LA, where a boucherie earlier in the day had yielded a variety of pork dishes. I tried a bowl of backbone stew, which was absolutely delicious! It relaxed me for the rest of the day!

PRAIRIE ACADIAN CULTURAL CENTER - EUNICE, LA. This Cultural Center has many resources to understand the traditions and culture of Cajun Louisiana. It is here that we saw the very interesting and informative video Dance for a Chicken: The Cajun Mardi Gras and met a woman named Bursia who crochets and quilts at the Center and has many pieces of her beautiful work on display and for sale. Bursia also provided information about the Courir de Mardi Gras, as she had grown up with the tradition.

THE MISSED CHURCH POINT COURIR DE MARDI GRAS. We thought we would watch the Courir de Mardi Gras held in Church Point LA on the Sunday before Mardi Gras, February 10, but when we arrived in Church Point, we found that the Courir had already passed. However, we had an even better experience! We saw a costumed Mardi Gras walking along the highway and asked him about the Courir. He told us that it was over and asked us if we could give him a ride to Higginbotham LA, a small nearby town. He had missed the bus that would have taken him home and was faced with walking for miles to Higginbotham! We gave him a ride - and enjoyed talking with a Mardi Gras from the Church Point Courir! He was eager to share his very conservative political opinions with us, to which we simply replied, "Hmmm" and "Ah." When we got to his home, he hopped over his fence and waved goodbye to us.

CHEF ROY'S FROG CITY CAFE. This is a recommended restaurant in Rayne where we didn't get a chance to eat because it was closed a lot of the time we were there. The hours didn't correspond to the times when we were actually in Rayne - plus Chef Roy's is normally closed on Mondays and was closed on Tuesday, February 12, for Mardi Gras. However, I would really like to eat there in the future.

D.I.'S RESTAURANT. We didn't manage to eat at D.I's, either, but this is also a place where I would like to eat in the future. It's on Highway 97 in Evangeline LA, but really it's a restaurant out on a country road in the middle of rice fields - yet I hear it's always crowded. (It reminds me of Middendorf's Restaurant in Manchac LA - closer to New Orleans - sitting out there on the shore of Lake Maurepas. The directions page of Middendorf's website includes instructions on how to get there by boat. And it's always crowded.) We were told that, near Mardi Gras, D.I.'s has a dinner event where Mardi Gras from one of the nearby town Courirs come through and interact with the diners.

L'ACADIE INN. I want to end with a word about the very friendly family-owned and -run L'Acadie Inn on the outskirts of Eunice LA. The proprietors, Kelly and Lance Pitre, are incredibly welcoming and hospitable. They facilitated our participation in the Faquetaigue Courir de Mardi Gras. If I stay in Cajun Louisiana again, I would love to stay at L'Acadie Inn. I could tell that the Pitres really take care of their guests.

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