Let the Good Times Roll

  • Start: New Orleans, LA
  • End: St. Francisville, Louisiana
  • Last Modified: 2011-11-22 18:21:49
  • Total Mileage: 374 Miles
  • Number of stops: 16

Description

There's only one rule in southern Louisiana: leave your cares at home. Diets, stress, moderation, and inhibition take a backseat on the drive from New Orleans to St. Francisville, where everything from eye-popping parades to gator-filled swamps to filigreed plantations make for the definitive southern escape. Start the journey in New Orleans' famous French Quarter, where neon signs hang on wrought-iron-porched mansions in an unlikely mix of kitsch and class. Tennis shoes are the only transportation needed in the Quarter: Royal Street's antique shops, Bourbon Street's jazz clubs, and a host of cafes, boutiques, galleries, and French groceries are all within a few minutes' walk of Jackson Square, the epicenter of the tourist district. While there, check out The Cabildo, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803, and The Presbytere, which houses a fantastic collection of Mardi Gras gear. One of the tastiest hand-held meals in the city is served around the corner from the Square at Johnny's Po Boys. Huge, flaky rolls overflow with fried oysters and an enormous dousing of mayo. With almost everything on the menu ringing in at about $7, it's a diet for the wallet -- just maybe not for you. Almost every cobbled street in the Big Easy houses some eclectic museum or another, and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is one of the best. Take a time machine back to the 19th century, when bloodletting, leeches, snake oil, and voodoo concoctions were all legitimate medical remedies as evidenced by the museum's vast collection of potions and medical devices. Other unique exhibits worth checking out: the spooky trinkets at the Voodoo Museum and the eerily lifelike New Orleans historical figures at the Musee Conti Wax Museum. Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams used to visit the dimly lit Napoleon House Bar and Cafe for inspiration, and the creaky, weathered eatery remains a haunt for writers and artists of all persuasions. The original owner of the 200-year-old building, New Orleans Mayor Nicholas Girod, was a great Napoleon Bonaparte admirer. Local legend says Girod even organized a rescue to save the doomed leader from exile on Elba and bring him back to New Orleans, but the little Emperor died before the rescue could be completed. Still, the place oozes regal spirit -- patrons sip drinks called "Pimm's Cups" made from an 1840s recipe while Beethoven symphonies waft through the air. The muffuletta -- flatbread piled with ham, Genoa salami, pastrami, Swiss, and provolone, then spread with olive tapenade and drizzled with olive oil -- is outstanding. Just about every building in The Big Easy has a ghost -- and a story behind it. Tragic tales of unrequited love, forced separation, and treacherous crime are best heard on a Haunted History tour ($20, depart from Rev. Zombie's Voodoo Shop, 723 St. Peter St.). Good-humored tour guides certainly have a shtick, but are more than happy to expound on the paranormal side of the Quarter (just hope they don't tell a story about your hotel). From New Orleans, head southwest on US 90 to the town of Morgan City. The "Black Gold Rush" began here in 1947 when the Kerr-McGee Rig No. 16 struck offshore oil. Tour the "Mr. Charlie," a working offshore oil rig that serves as a training center and houses the International Petroleum Museum (at the intersection of US 90 and the Intracoastal Waterway). Heading north again, follow the scenic, winding contours of LA 182 along Bayou Teche toward New Iberia. (Teche is the largest bayou in the state, named for an Indian word meaning "snake.") New Iberia's claim to fame is the fabulous Shadows-on-the-Teche, a gorgeously restored 1834 plantation home complete with an array of live oaks dripping with furry, gray-green Spanish moss. This wouldn't be Cajun country without the region's hallmark dishes: crawfish etouffee, boudin, gumbo, and jambalaya. And many residents swear by Konriko rice, produced locally in New Iberia at the oldest rice mill in the country.

Stop #1:

The Cabildo
New Orleans, LA

Stop #2:

The Presbytere
New Orleans, LA

Stop #3:

Jackson Square
New Orleans, LA

Stop #4:

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
New Orleans, Louisiana

Stop #5:

Johnny's Po Boys
New Orleans, Louisiana

Stop #6:

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
New Orleans, Louisiana

Stop #7:

Napoleon House Bar and Cafe
New Orleans, LA

Stop #8:

Musee Conti Wax Museum
New Orleans, LA

Stop #9:

Shadows-on-the-Teche
New Iberia, LA

Stop #10:

Conrad Rice Mill/Konriko Company Store
New Iberia, LA

Stop #11:

Tabasco Factory & Country Store
Avery Island, LA

Stop #12:

Jungle Gardens and Bird City
Avery Island, LA

Stop #13:

Vermilionville
Lafayette, LA

Stop #14:

Atchafalaya Experience Swamp Tour
Lafayette, LA

Stop #15:

Old Governor's Mansion
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Stop #16:

The Myrtles Plantation
St. Francisville, Louisiana
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