Crossing the Mississippi 

Leaving Orange Beach, Alabama on the way to Mississippi, you drive past a very large purple octopus in the town of Gulf Shores.  As we crossed into Mississippi, we saw the remnants of several early Mardi Gras parades on the streets of Mobile and other towns (masks and beads). We followed the rolling hills filled with farms and huge live oak trees until the fog and then storm clouds appeared. My motorcycle escort detail hustled us into Biloxi after stopping at the lighthouse in front of the Safe Harbor church.  

 Most museums are closed on Monday, but we found that the Maritime and Seafood Museum was open. It is filled with interesting history, objects and art all relating to the areas livelihood. Some of the most interesting objects include the first shrimp peeling machine and a replica of a German submarine. 

   Many Vietnamese fisherpeople who fled from the war settled in areas where they could resume their fishing activities, including Biloxi. The seafood jobs did not require immediate fluency in English. As a result, there are now many incredible Vietnamese restaurants in Biloxi. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner within walking distance to our hotel.

Lafayette, Louisiana, the heart of Acadia and Cajun country was our next stop. We crossed the mighty Mississippi River at Baton Rouge and when we stopped to get gas, not only was a gallon less than $1.50, Tony the Tiger was there to greet us.       The National Park Service has an Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette. There is a museum and a film which outlines the long history of the area. The grounds include Vermilionville which is a restored  village that represents several generations of Cajun life. There are many period costume-clad volunteers who share the history of the homes and of the cultures of the Indigenous, the French Canadian and the African and Island Slaves which blended to create the Acadian Cajun history.    We learned about the construction of the homes from the strong cyprus wood which resists warping in heat and keeps termites at bay. Also if a chimney had a white ring painted at the top, there were girls of marrying age in the home. 

We fully enjoyed a Cajun lunch in the restaurant La Cuisine de Maman.

   
Our Cajun food tour continued into the evening where we ate listening to zydeco music and were watched over by a bedecked alligator. 

   

  We completed the Cajun eating binge at Poupart Bakery and guess who got the baby in the King Cake? 

Less than an hour south of Lafayette is Avery Island. The ride here took us past swamps that could easily be navigated by those guys from Duck Dynasty. Avery Island is the location of the Tabasco factory. I have visited Hershey, Pennsylvania many times; each time, the aroma of chocolate filled the air. It remains a joyful memory. Similar but different, the minute you cross to Avery Island,  olfactory glands are attacked by the sharp aroma of Tabasco. (not such a joyful smell for me!).  The story of E. A. McIlhenny, the man who began the empire at the end of the Civil War and the five generations who have maintained and grown the business is fascinating. The island also has a rock salt mine, a botanical garden and an aviary. Whether or not you are a fan of Tabasco sauce, this is an extraordinary place to visit.  

    
    
    
    
    
   

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