Get away to Lafayette, La., for the shops, food, and outdoor adventures.
Springtime is about new beginnings. Creatures wake up, get outside, shed an old coat or skin for a new one, and find fresh places to feed.
For two-legged creatures, the weather is temperate and just about right for a road trip. If you’re looking for a quick getaway this spring, look no further than Lafayette, La. Here you’ll find beautiful outdoor spaces, places to shop for spring coverings, and some distinctive restaurants.
Lafayette’s wild side
It seemed that we were about as far back in the woods as we could have been. Already several turns off the last marked road, we were now driving on dirt roads with little proof of human interference.
In truth, we were not far off Interstate 10 and only minutes from the town of Breaux Bridge. Our SUV passed a rustic fishing shack that served as a “welcome center” for another swamp tour, but we parked by a tree and a picnic table being used as a meeting place for feral cats.
A truck pulling a crawfish skiff showed up minutes later. A man wearing a floppy hat said nothing as he worked to put the boat in the water, maneuver it to the place near the tree and cats, climb out, and hang a sign. He silently ate his breakfast–some of which the cats later enjoyed–and then invited us to climb into the boat. “Take your time and be careful not to slip,” were his first words.
But don’t let first impressions fool you about Shawn Guchereau. A lifetime of living on and working the river gives him the experience to show visitors the wild side of Lafayette. His family business, Cajun Country Swamp Tours, was started by his father, Butch, who has degrees in botany and zoology. For the next two hours, Shawn guided his charges through a surreal Lake Martin swamp.
He assured us that, if we were to get out of the boat, we’d stand in water that might reach our knees. We cruised past ancient cypress trees, plants, and alligators, plus an amazing variety of birds.
An afternoon at Vermilionville
After the swamp tour, we visited Vermilionville, a living history museum and folk life park. It’s located across from Lafayette’s airport on a 23-acre site along the banks of the Bayou Vermilion. Restored original homes, artisans, gardens, and other lovely outdoor settings tell the folk stories of Acadian, Creole, and Native American cultures from 1765 to 1890.
The park hosts events throughout the year, and March will have music, cooking demonstrations, and an Easter celebration on March 29. Visitors will learn how to color Easter eggs with natural dyes.
Where to eat and shop
Animals will greet a new season by molting or shedding fur, so why not drop the heavier winter togs and find yourself a few new pieces for your spring wardrobe?
Get a look at local styles by exploring the shops at Main Street at River Ranch or nearby Parc Lafayette. A great selection of graphic screened T-shirts, which pair nicely with spring blazers or sweaters, are found at Parish Ink at the River Ranch development. Hip and affordable fashion for men and women is available at Maven. For accessories, check out the selection at Kiki. Owner Kiki Frayard and daughter Katie Culbert feature Louisiana artists in their chic boutique.
At Parc Lafayette, stop in Sky Blue, a clothing studio with a fun mix of vintage and contemporary women’s apparel and accessories. I loved the vintage hankies.
A visit to the Brick & Spoon restaurant that’s known for its breakfast and brunch should include a Bloody Mary. Kick start your Saturday or Sunday with one of these cocktails that can include garnishes such as smoked sausage, picked green beans, onions, and just about everything but the kitchen sink. Also try some of Chef Jonathan Kastner’s specialties. Deviled on the Bayou is a dish comprised of Tasso-deviled eggs, fried oysters, and Sriracha aioli. For sweeter fare, the white chocolate and bacon bread pudding was just about the best thing I’ve ever eaten for breakfast.
Spring also means lighter brews at Bayou Teche Brewery, which crafts ales to complement southern Louisiana cuisine. Sample seasonal brews at many Lafayette restaurants or travel to the brewery in Arnaudville.
Good food and drink, diverse shops, and a culture tied to the land come together to make an enjoyable getaway to Lafayette.
Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler magazine.
Mar/Apr 2014 Issue
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