Culturally diverse, totally different, and with a seemingly endless capacity for ‘les bon temps’, there is nowhere in the United States like Southern Louisiana.
If you’re looking to see another side of the America you know, this is the place to be surprised. Your journey will start in the intoxicating city of New Orleans before following the River Road north along the mighty Mississippi with its historic plantations. Finish your trip in Acadiana, the heartland of Cajun Country and home to yet another distinct cuisine and musical heritage.
Your base for the next few days, the boutique Soniat House, is the perfect counterbalance to the hustle of New Orleans. Leafy courtyards and shady balconies overlooking a secluded French Quarter backstreet are the name of the game here.
On your first morning you’ll be met by your local New Orleanian guide for a private walking tour of the historic French Quarter. You’ll wander the pretty streets, stopping at different landmarks, while your guide sheds light on the rich history of this fascinating city. Finish your morning with lunch at one the Quarter’s many great restaurants.
This afternoon take the historic streetcar to the lovely Garden District, home to colonial mansions, pristine gardens and radiating southern charm. We’d recommend wandering the pretty streets under your own steam but a guide can also be arranged.
The following day, depending on your interests, spend the morning visiting one of New Orleans’ great museums, such as the Historic New Orleans Collection, or simply wander the French Quarter, visiting its many galleries and shops. Take in the stunning Jackson Square and make sure to stop for coffee and beignets at the world famous Cafe du Monde.
That afternoon, take to the waters of the mighty Mississippi as you board the Steamboat Natchez, a steam-powered sternwheeler. Stand on deck as you get a unique perspective of one of the world’s busiest ports.
Tonight is all about New Orleans’ most famous export, jazz. Head to the well known Preservation Hall or venture further afield to a smaller venue to catch one of New Orleans’ up and coming acts.
The River Road Plantations
After breakfast at Soniat House, you’ll leave New Orleans and drive north along the River Road, which follows the course of the mighty Mississippi. Along its banks, many still surrounded by fields of sugarcane, sit a series of stately plantation houses that provide an important insight into the South and the darker side of its history.
From the personal storytelling of Laura, a Creole Plantation, to the picture postcard live oak avenue at Oak Alley, each plantation has a different history, unique architecture and offers its own perspective on Louisiana’s past. We’ll choose the plantations that best suit your interests.
After a late lunch, continue your journey west as your route threads its way through the swamps and waterways of the vast Atchafalaya Basin towards Lafayette and your base for the next couple of days, Maison Madeleine.
Breaux Bridge and the heart of Cajun Country
Days 5 & 6
The area around Lafayette, the heartland of the French-speaking Cajun culture, is fascinating. Distinct from the Creoles, the Cajuns (or Acadians) were French Catholics exiled from Nova Scotia by the British. While pretty rural towns, old plantations, and the verdant landscape of rice fields, bayous and the maze-like Atchafalaya Basin are reason alone to visit, it’s the Cajun way of life that is so inviting.
Spend a morning with a native Cajun on a private boat tour of the beautiful Lake Martin. Your naturalist guide will take you through cypress and Tupelo gum trees draped in the ever present Spanish moss. The Louisiana swamp lake is home to 205 different species of birds and you’ll also have the chance to see beaver, nutria and otters. Back at Maison Madeleine that evening, it’s time for a cooking class as you’re joined by a well known local Cajun chef who’ll help you prepare local favorites like crawfish etoufee or chicken and sausage gumbo.
That next day visit Lafayette itself, head to the small town of Breaux Bridge or, in all likelihood, take a trip to one of the local festivals that take place on almost a weekly basis during spring.
Finish your stay in Acadiana with a visit to a local Cajun restaurant and treat your taste buds with spicy boudin, gumbo, and crawfish prepared every which way, and while the night away to the accordion and fiddle heavy sounds of zydeco.
Bayou Teche and the Salt Domes
From Breaux Bridge you’ll head south, along the Bayou Teche, and pass through the pretty Cajun towns of St Martinville and New Iberia. In the latter, pay a visit to Shadows-on-the-Teche, one of the more intimate and enlightening of Louisiana’s plantations. Set on the banks of the bayou, it’s a beautifully preserved home that provides a fascinating portrait of the Weeks family that made it their home.
Stop for lunch at Jefferson Island overlooking Lake Peigneur and home to the magnificent semi-tropical Rip Van Winkle Gardens as well as the Joseph Jefferson Mansion. On your way back to New Orleans, you’ll also pass Avery Island. Like Jefferson Island, it is not really an island but one of five heavily wooded columns of salt that rise several hundred feet above the surrounding marshland. Avery Island is home to the Tabasco Factory and to this day every bottle of Tabasco is produced here at the factory.
Enjoy one last night in the French Quarter before making your way the next day to the airport for your onward flight.