From Alan –
Abita Springs, Louisiana 1/29/16 – 2/5/16
Abita Springs is only about 14.5 miles from Madisonville. When we were booking places to stay, we thought that just one week would not be enough time in this area, so we found another place nearby. It is a cute little town, it has a resident brewery, and the new place is on a golf course. But the rental is a standard, out of the cookie-cutter unit in a row of units just like it. I already miss the high ceilings and wild decorations back at Sarah’s place.
We start the week with another Saturday parade, the Krewe of Push Mow. This time it is in Abita Springs and pretty much a wholesome, local affair. By 10:30 A.M. a band is cranking some Cajun/Zydeco/Southern rock in the town square. The local Ladies Progressive Club has food and drinks for sale. People in funny costumes are everywhere, strolling the crowd, bopping to the music. The corner bar is offering an overwhelmingly overloaded bloody Mary, so Marylu and I start the day with some spicy tomato-y goodness. About noon, the parade starts through town. There are a few modest floats, royalty in convertibles, marching bands, tractors, horses, cheerleaders, and little ballerinas dancing down the street. We are covered in mounds of beads in no time.
After the parade, it is back to the town square for some jambalaya and beer. The food is great and the beer is good and cheap and the day is warm and bright. Life is good here in Louisiana. Being prudent old farts, we head back to the unit for a nap. It is amazing what you can get done if you pace yourself.
Next up is the parade in Covington, the Krewe of Olympia. Sarah wrangled us invitations to a crawfish boil at a Freddy’s house, right on the parade route. When we arrive, Guy, the Boil Master, is setting up. Propane tank, massive pot with strainer to fit inside, bags and jars of boil spices, mushrooms, sausages, potatoes, corn, and bags of fresh, live crawfish. Each step of the preparation is carefully timed, tested, and tasted. Finally, just before sunset, they drag over the autopsy table. This is stainless steel and big enough to hold a large person lying down, with a drain in the middle. Perfect for a crawfish boil. Guy dumps the whole mass onto the table and the crowd digs in. Break the crawfish like so, bite the tail here, use your teeth to get the meat out, crunch and suck the head. Phenomenal! Kind of like shrimp or crab but with a unique blend of spices and herbs, hot and buttery.
And then the parade goes by. This runs probably 30 or more floats with high school marching bands and big tractor-pulled floats peopled by masked bead throwers who pelt the crowd with everything from stuffed animals to beads to foam footballs. The parade goes on and on with a rousing clamor and the fallout accumulates. Freddy’s fence is covered with hundreds of bead strings. Funky float flotsam flows forth. Whew! Another batch of boil hits the autopsy table and, even though we don’t have any room left for even a little, we settle back in to graze; biting tails and sucking heads with the natives. Despite all desire to have more beer and crawfish, again, being prudent old farts, we head back to the unit for more napping.
The rest of the week goes a little slower. We decide that there is just way too much craziness in New Orleans to visit it again this time around. By this date, there are 4 to 6 krewes parading per day, leading up to Fat Tuesday when the whole city goes into party overdrive. We hang out in Abita Springs, sampling the local food and beer, playing some golf, relaxing and taking some down time. We explore the very weird UCM Museum. It can be such a luxury, having nothing to do all day and doing exactly that.
Just for the helluvit, we go on a swamp tour. We have seen urban, so now we get to see some rural. Captain Charlie loads us into his big flat bottomed boat and runs us through rivers, swamps, and bayous, past jungles, past redneck campsites. He may sound like a Southern yokel, but he is a local and a naturalist and knows his stuff. Unfortunately, it is a cold and windy day so we don’t see any alligators or snakes. The big surprise of the day is when we get way into a remote, dense swamp. Charlie lets out a ear-piercing whistle and soon we hear brush rustling. Over a dozen big wild boars are running and swimming up to the boat. Charlie has trained them over the years to come a-running for marshmallows.
We have a couple of days open in our schedule so we make two one-day stops along the way to Galveston.
Checking through our options on where to go next, I found that Opelousas is an easy drive away and, more importantly, claims to be the World Capital of Zydeco. As part of their Mardi Gras celebration, there is a free concert by Geno Delafose and French Rockin Boogie. We last saw him in Minnesota and loved the music. The concert is in a cute little theater with just a few tables and chairs set up along the sides. Geno and the guys crank it up at 7:00 and play non-stop until 10:00. There is something about an accordian, when it is played to the max by an expert, that is unique. The sound is kind of like an organ but somehow in 3D with the vibrato. The band is seamless tight and creates walls of sound that run through the room like a train, gather up the dancers and dragging them along. The whole theater vibrates with a Zydeco heartbeat. There is a life and joy to this music that you just don’t find elsewhere.
This is a much bigger city than the last few. It appears to be well stocked with great places to eat and things to do. We only have one day, so we decide to visit some history; the Acadian Village. This is a little village of restored Acadian homes, with costumed period presenters to tell us about each building. The trapper uses flint and steel to actually make a fire for us. The fiddler cranks out some sweet old Cajun tunes. Grandmotherly ladies sit in rockers, knitting, and tell us about how the homes were laid out. We finally see concrete examples of Acadian and Creole homes and how they are different.
That night is yet another Mardi Gras parade. This is a much bigger city than Covington so the parade is longer, the crowds larger, the throws more abundant. At one point I was wishing I had a fishing net. Not for gathering mass quantities of bead, but rather for protecting face and hands against the onslaught of speeding plastic headed my way. I think we have had enough parades to last us a LONG time.