Scams Tomorrow. Interesting place today. I realized recently that I didn’t give enough coverage to Lafourche Parish and Grand Isle in Louisiana. Ruth and I went there in 2018 and spent an entire day driving down LA Highway 1 to learn about the area. Dynamic Melissa Chiasson Durocher, who has always called this place home, runs the Bayou Lafourche Visitor Center just off I-90. She shaped our day and explained her home to us. She even gave us a sensational restaurant recommendation as we headed down LA 1 toward Fourchon and Grand Isle.
This area takes the term “Where Cajun Runs Deep” seriously with scenery, a food focus, and many festivals including a family-friendly Mardi Gras. The word Cajun is an English corruption of the French word Acadian. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, some French speaking Canadians refused to give their allegiance to the British crown and about 1/3 of them left for Louisiana where, feeling comfortable in a French culture, they settled in. It was very different from Canada but welcoming, so they practiced what they knew and influenced religion, cuisine, music, literally everything while working hard as fishermen and farmers. Their influence is seen in every bend of Cajun Bayou in Lafourche Parish, which is 35 miles south of New Orleans. Highway 1 runs along this bayou. The very French, very Cajun town of Thibodaux has become its honorary capital.
The day melted away as we explored indiginous culture like nothing we had ever experienced before. More than 400 live oak trees grow in this Parish; 100 of them are more than a century old and some of them are along Highway 1 to admire. We spent a lot of time in a Rouses Market, where locals helped Ruth learn about Cajun food, buy samples, and make us wish we were there for the Louisiana Gumbo Festival. We learned about traditional and characteristic Bayou boat building in a center in Lockport devoted to it. We investigated but did not have time for a Cajun swamp tour.
We tried to see as much as we could of busy Port Fourchon; but it’s a working port, not a tourist destination, that was much in the news when it served as ground zero during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Port Fourchon at the end of a thrilling elevated causeway is a main energy services port that supplies about 20% of our domestic oil supply. We had a delicious dinner at the Leeville Seafood Restaurant that specializes in gumbos, etouffees, and seafood.
It was late afternoon before we made it to the end of the road in Grand Isle at a state park. This sleepy but fine-looking resort town, #19 on The New York Times list of the 52 best destinations for 2020, may disappear. A sports and commercial fishing destination on Louisiana’s last inhabited barrier island, it may fall victim to a rising sea level.
Cajun bayou country is a place that, as you are leaving, you are saying to each other, “We must come back.”