Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Loving Lafayette

It was all about the twanging today: accents, nerves, music, frogs. The Southern accent is real and charming, and never more so than when delivered by a courtly gentleman with a white goatee and twirled moustache who would be politely scornful of my reference to Colonel Sanders, though it’s irresistible.

Coerte set up the Atchafalaya Experience which is now run by his son Kim, but he came along today as we spent over three hours alternately skimming and pootling around part of the immense Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in the US. Tannin-stained waters reflected cypress trees hung with Spanish moss, purple hyacinth flowers were blooming, ospreys whistling back at Kim from twiggy nests at the top of trees, colonies of wood storks lurched into flight as we approached, flamingo-pink roseate spoonbills crossed against a blue sky. Of course all this beauty was incidental to our hunt for alligators, which were elusive thanks to the high water level flooding their muddy banks – but I did see the snaggly swirl as a big mother (you could supply the hyphenated bit if you want – it would be accurate) disappeared under the water, her babies scattering. It was a good trip – fun, informative and entertaining, and I recommend it.

It was so hot and sunny that I got sunburnt, and the little kids back in town were making good use of the fountain at Sans Souci Park. The streets there were quiet at 5pm and I thought it was early for things to have shut up – but of course it was just the doors that were closed, to keep in the air-conditioning. Lafayette is a pretty place, small enough for people to say hello to a passing stranger, big enough to supply any tourist’s need, whether for character buildings, impressive cathedral, well-presented museums, tempting shops, good food, music.

Having jangled my nerves by driving myself around on the wrong side of the road, it was a relief to tuck into some tasty crab cakes at Randol’s and watch a bunch of oldies show off their fancy footwork dancing to the Cajun band that was playing. Some of them are apparently so keen that they come every night to twirl and trot. They were bolder than the younger crowd at the Blue Moon Saloon back in town, who stood around tapping their toes at the Cajun jam session in progress – evenly divided between guitars and violins, and led by the man with the squeezebox – but were a bit too shy to do more. Shame – I’d’ve liked to see some action from the girl in the strappy dress and red cowboy boots.

And finally, there was twanging from the frogs in the little swamp beside the hotel, an invisible chorus in the hot and steamy night.

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