Thursday, December 6, 2012

DAY 106- Starting on Louisiana…

I woke up to another rainy morning and it was very humid.  I couldn’t do a thing with my naturally curly hair.  It was definitely a hat day!  I looked up directions to a local Mardi Gras Museum but there were two possibilities for the same address that I had one was a Street and the other a Lane and they were not close to each other. I had no phone number contact for the museum.  I asked the front desk as I checked out.  The girls at the front desk said it was probably a street and in the historic downtown.  They supplied me with a map.  Now I was in business or at least I hoped.

I found thought I had found the museum but unsure I asked a security guard outside taking a smoke break.  “Yessim Mamm! You ‘sore are at the right place.”  I asked where to park because it was basically a school where it said students only parking.  He pointed at the lot and told me anywhere I could find a spot should be fine.  I got into the building and the same security guard gave me directions to the second floor.  He said to go to office 202 if the museum wasn’t open and they would open it for me.   
Photo- Inside the Mardi Gras Museum in Lake Charles.

I got up to the second floor and it was filled with Mardi Gras costumes on both sides.  It was amazing the designs and beading.  The door to the actual museum was closed so I walked down the hall and stuck my head into a doorway.  The man took my $3 and was more than willing to open the doors and turn on the lights to the museum.  It was a museum that wound its way through 6 rooms and in and out of the hallway.  There were automated mannequins that talked and told you the story of the Mardi Gras in Lake Charles which started with a small group talking on a porch in early 1960’s.  The first Mardi Gras was held in Lake Charles in 1962 and has been going since.  It is also an open Mardi Gras and anyone living in Lake Charles, MS has an opportunity to participate. 
Photos- A great deal of planning and designing that goes into the costumes.

The museum also explained what a Mardi Gras was and went into the hierarchy of the event.  I was amazed at the organizing; planning and designing that went into it each year.  There was a whole room in the museum that talked about the costuming.  It started with the design drawings, selection of the materials, and talked about working with seamstresses for the actual sewing.  Then there were the fittings to the actual individuals that would be wearing the costumes.  It all sounded very expensive.  Quite a few of the pictures were of prominent people predominately with money in the area.  But it was all very interesting to getting a little peek into this part of the southern world.

After the thanking the guy for opening the museum and the security guard, I headed to the historic downtown.  I had seen a gallery store that looked interesting the night before.  I found a parking place and went in.  All of the art was Fleur de Lis of all different themes.  There were Fleur de Lis for certain professions, sports teams (mainly Louisiana teams), animals, patriotism, and cooking.  It was something interesting that I had never seen before and they were rather cool to look at.  There were tons of numbered prints available of each and there were paint sticks with pictures and labels of what they were in each section.  I really felt rather uncomfortable the gal attending the store asked if I was looking for something in particular and then just stood nearby me holding a black cat.  I told her I was curious and was just looking; giving her a pointed look like back off girl.  She finally left to the other side of the room but still watched.  I didn’t stay long after that.

Next, I drove a short ways down Ryan Street to a Southern Spice restaurant I had seen last night when driving around.  I thought it might be a good place to have lunch and if it was any indication the parking lot was packed.  I found a place in back on the gravel under a tree.  I waited a couple of minutes for a small table to be cleaned.  I ordered the special of the day a cranberry chicken salad sandwich on a croissant with a cup of shrimp and crawfish gumbo.  The “cup” came and it was a regular bowl.  The server said that just might fill me up and that this was the cup size.  I asked if that was a southern sizing thing.  She laughed at me and I wondered if I would have gotten a bucket if I ordered a bowl.
Photo- Southern Spice has southern home cooking that tends on the heavy side. 

I took a taste of the gumbo and I could just taste the lard and salt.  OMG!  It wasn’t that it was bad but it was very different from the gumbo that I had last night and I just didn’t care for it as much.  The cranberry chicken salad sandwich came and I couldn’t pick up the croissant sandwich because the croissant was very delicate and flaky.  I cut it up with my fork.  Now this was good.  It was served with potato chips and these looked homemade.  I took a bite and could taste the lard and Cajun spices.  Please tell me that not all of these southern restaurants used lard.  Yikes, I could feel my arteries clogging!

The server asked where I was from and was surprised when I said Utah.  Wow!  That’s really up there.  Well, I said it was more west than up.  Then, she was saying the states I would have to drive through to get here and finally figured out that Utah was just above Arizona.  Well, this girl knew her geography at least.  She was sweet and even offered to get me a go cup for my diet coke.
Photo- A lovely park area along the lake in Lake Charles, LA.

I made a quick stop at a park area along the bank of the Lake Charles.  I imagine on a nice day this would have been filled but it was rather chilly and cloudy.  There were a few people taking work breaks or walking their dogs through the area.  I took a couple of pictures and was thinking of using the restrooms but walked into them and turned right back around; not clean at all.
Photo- Driving on a long bridge through swamp  land.

Driving on the way to Baton Rouge, there’s a long, long bridge area that goes over a swamp, a lake, a river, and then a shipping channel.  It must have been at least 15 miles that I was driving on a bridge.  It seemed like the never-ending bridge.  The swamp area was rather interesting scenic area to be driving over.  It made me wonder how much of the state of Louisiana was swamp.

I finally arrived at my hotel amid all of the rush hour traffic which I guess was made worse because it was raining.  The girl said that they drive crazy here when it rains and I felt like I was driving in Utah during the first snow of the year.  They were crazy!  I asked her where there were a lot of restaurants nearby and she gave me directions of 4 street lights and off to the right was a mall/ shopping area.  I had dinner at an Italian chain restaurant.  I needed a break from lard!

I left the restaurant and immediately got lost because I got turned around in the mall area.  It was still pouring rain and I couldn’t see half of the road signs.  I back tracked to the restaurant and thought I was going back the way I came but nothing was looking like the way I had driven to the restaurant.  I drove around another 15 minutes and finally just called the hotel for directions.  The gal transferred me to Bobby who asked where I was and he gave me directions back.  Bobby?  I thought if it was anywhere but the south this guy would be demanding to be called Bob or Robert.  I got back to the hotel but was definitely staying in for the rest of the night.

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