During our past winter's stay at Bentsen Palm Village RV, we reconnected with Pat and Sue Genereux, a retired couple from Iowa we'd met during a stay at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville, LA in 2010. Although our initial meeting was ever so brief we must have made quite an impression. Well, if not us, then our full-time lifestyle. We gifted them our copy of Complete Guide to Full-time RVing: Life on the Open Road after they had shown a great deal of interest in learning the ins and outs of making a similar transition. Published in 1998, the book is now somewhat dated (especially chapters on communications and electronic entertainment) but it still encompassed enough useful basic information to get them started in the right direction.
Since that first encounter with the Genereuxs, we stayed in touch via email, monitoring their progress to become nomads like us and the thousands of other people who have forsaken their home "footprint". Alas, the usually reliable housing market tanked, however, not to be deterred, they concentrated on other components of going full-time over which they had more control. They wanted to be ready to move quickly when their house sold. Not if, but when
Although we failed to solve the world's problems during many lively Happy Hour conversations at Bentsen Palm Village RV, we did learn a great deal about Pat's family heritage: "les Acadiens". Stories about how the Acadians were exiled from Canada (including some of Pat's ancestors) and how they came to settle in Louisiana, bringing with them their Cajun patiots, their culinary tastes, and, their musical roots. Conversations about the latter developed into a plan for our next stop after leaving Texas: to attend the five-day (25th) annual International de Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. Pat and Sue would serve as our guides. How could we not go?
Some 180 miles and nearly five hours later after leaving High Island, we arrived at Bayou Wilderness RV Park outside Lafayette. Pat and Sue had arrived a few weeks earlier and thoughtfully arranged for us to have a site next to theirs. Late Thursday afternoon we rode with them into Lafayette to see the what all the hullabaloo was about.
|welcoming signs were everywhere|
|Scéne Popeye venue|
|beverage menu at one of several booths|
|one of many interesting T-shirts|
|Tom, Sue and Pat|
|Genereux's family dog, Gizmo minding his owner Pat|
Time passed quickly and by the time we headed back to the RV park it was way later than Carol was used to staying up. Still, her toes were still tapping when she fell into bed.
The next day, Friday, the festival began earlier at 1:00 p.m. rather than the 6:00 p.m. start from the day before. Having quickly learned that driving and parking in Lafayette during the festival was difficult and expensive, we instead drove to the University of Louisiana (Lafayette) Canjundome, the school's large sports complex. There we found free parking and access to free shuttles that took festival goers to and from downtown. All the buses belonged to the university but for the event, were leased by an area auto dealer who covered all operating costs. University students drove the buses for tips.
|a bit messy but really, really good|
|shrimp and chips|
Saturday found us meeting up with Pat and Sue and their friends Bill and Charmay at a local must-do-breakfast-at institution: T-Coons. Yikes! Authentic Zydeco cooking - a blend of Creole and Cajun exclusive to the Lafayette region. Oh, and did we mention the fabulous beignets? Magnifique!
|Tom, Charmay, Sue, Bill, Pat, in front of T-Coon's|
|in Breaux Bridge|
Strains of a soul-blues song emanating from the cramped and dimly lit Le Café caught my attention. Ducking inside I just had to see where the music was coming from. It turned out to be Donna Angelle sitting at a keyboard crooning her heart out to a crowd of patrons. I just had to have a copy of the CD she was selling. What a voice - and what an interesting background. Turned out she had been the frontman for a couple of bands (one was her own) playing a bass guitar. Highly unusual for a Zydeco group when the frontman typically played the accordion. A tragic auto accident had knocked her out of the music scene for several years and she was just now starting to get back into the groove. Would have loved to have plunked down in a corner and stayed for more but we had to get back to the RV so we could catch more of the festival.
|sound board for Scéne Popeye|
Sunday was the final day of the festival and our last full day in Lafayette. Intrigued by Pat's stories about the origins, migrations, and subsequent settlement of the Acadians (Cajuns) in Lafayette, we fit in a visit to the Lafayette Cultural Center, part of the larger Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. We had visited two other sections of the park when we were in New Orleans a few years earlier: the Barataria Preserve and the park's visitor center located in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Many of the preserve's displays along with comments from knowledgeable staff added visuals to many of the stories Pat had related. Well worth a visit if you're ever in the region.
|Tabasco by the jug|
The crowds were less, well, crowded. Pat and Sue had driven into town and parked so they offered to take us back to the Cajondome to retrieve our truck rather than our having to wait for a shuttle. On the way back to the RV park we stopped at Prejean's, another local Cajun culinary must-do for foodies like us (no we didn't have the gator). We all agreed that perhaps it was a time to take a break from eating out so much...but not until after dinner.
|Carol, Tom, Sue , Pat finishing up at Prejean's|
|street band downtown Lafayette|
|Carol and Sue ready to dance|