LOUISIANA 
 

6th - 22nd July:

The Greyhound bus pulled into the Seattle depot at mid-morning and we got off, feeling rather stiff and weary. Too tired to comtemplate catching another bus service and with no cabs in sight, my MOTH and I impulsively decided to lash out and hire a limousine to get us to our next destination - the Red Lion Hotel. We had a reservation there as that was our rendezvous venue to meet up with Nell and her family. You could imagine how pissed off we were when we ended up at the Double Tree Hotel instead! It turned out that our chauffeur was new to his job and didn't know that the hotel had a recent franchise change. So there we sat while the apologetic chauffeur went into the reception to remedy the situation. By now my MOTH and I were bitterly regretting our impulsive move but there was not much we could do except to ignore our thirst and hunger and wait...

Call it fate, call it what you will, but as we were lamenting our sorry situation, I glanced at a vehicle that had pulled up beside our limousine and who did I spy??? Yes, our dear friends! They too, made the same mistake!!! So, imagine if you could, the scene in the driveway of this hotel - two friends who had lost touch for the last 26 years finally meeting again - plenty of hugs and tears amidst screams of delight. Once the location confusion was sorted out, we travelled in convoy to our original intended rendezvous point - the Red Lion Hotel. After lunching together, our friends went back for a siesta while my MOTH humoured me in my desire to "check out the stores". We met up for dinner with our friends at a Thai restaurant nearby and an early night was had by all as we wanted to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first thing next morning for our flight to Lafayette, Louisiana. There to greet us warmly were the rest of Nell's family, so naturally we all had aching jaws by the end of that day!.

From the snowy mountains, lakes and awesome waterfalls of Canada to the hot and humid flatlands and bayous of Louisiana - definitely a shock to our systems. After the drastic adjustment to the climate, we got busy with more of the eating business: I dealt with the Asian fare (yes, more fried rice, curries and a lso a Chinese seafood steamboat, fried noodles, crab foo-yong and chili crabs) while Nell's children treated us to deliciously home prepared local fare of crab bisque in bread bowls, fish fries, chicken and duck gumbo, kebabs, etc. Man, talk about great tucker!!! In between eating, we would drag out the set of Mahjong tiles that Nell had kept and play the Chinese game, just like we used to do in good old Singapore. Ah what great fun we had... Rachael, another of my Internet friends, took time off from her busy schedule to come and visit while we were staying at Nell's home. She is a delightful lady and I am so glad that we finally got to meet. Oh, the magic of the Internet...

Having heard so much from Nell about the great fishing scene, we decided to part with an exorbitant sum of money in the purchase of appropriate fishing licences and a couple of compact fishing tackle sets for travellers. We then jumped into Nell's car and off we went to Grand Isle, positively salivating at the thought of feeding our faces with crawfish! Unfortunately, we found out that we had missed out on the crawfish season (about two weeks too late) but Nell's nephew (who lives on the island) got busy on the phone and managed to get 10 lbs of it to share among the three of us. They were delicious!!! [Crawfish are similar to what we call "yabbies" in Melbourne.] I now have a recipe for crawfish boil which I must try out one of these days... It certainly won't be the same but definitely worth a try. We settled in for our first night there in Nell's camper, parked on her nephew's property and had planned on getting a good night's sleep so we could try our luck at fishing bright and early the next mornig. Sound sleep did not come about however, as we were viciously attacked during the night by an army of ants that had perhaps come in to avenge the crawfish we had consumed. My poor MOTH was worst hit with some of the bites forming painful blisters. 

While on Grand Isle, we had a go at fishing for speckled trout but despite making all the right moves with flicking of the rod, etc... the fish were able to swim around us in relative safety.  To make up for it, our crabbing attempts were VERY successful - just walked out to knee deep in the very warm water and scooped the crabs up with a net. Talk about easy and fun. On the way back to Lafayette, we stopped at a seafood distribution place and bought a bunch of fresh green prawns (shrimps, as they call them in the U.S.) so I could whip up a feed of sweet and sour prawns. Everyone was suitably impressed with this dish (and the chili crabs were a big hit, too) so it was decided that we would make another trip to Grand Isle before our visit was over. This time Blaine decided he would come along as well. Yay!!!

A few days later, we set off again (this time in two vehicles) for Grand Isle. Again, we didn't do too well with the flicking of the rods although Blaine did prove that there actually ARE speckled trout in the water, with a few fine samples to show us. [No, the bloke in the photo showing off his trout trophy is not Blaine, but Don, his older brother.] By this stage I had lost interest in trying to catch fish, delighting instead in netting more crabs! It was suggested that we could try a spot of night fishing - now that sounded like a heap of fun... so after a light dinner, we eagerly set off with hopeful hearts. We all had our individual head lights on show the way in the dark and also to leave our hands free to reel in the big fish. Not ten minutes into this fishing adventure and I realised it was not a good idea AT ALL! The mosquito repellent we had liberally used was more of an attractant, drawing all the mozzies within a ten km radius to where we were!!! Man, they were so bad I almost got carried away by a couple of them! Sure was glad I had put on a bit of weight by that time. On our second day there, we just concentrated on netting more crabs - now THAT was fun. The only "painful" part was the cleaning of the crabs we had caught but the eating part far outweighed the cleaning...

No visit to Louisiana would be complete without seeing New Orleans, so off we went for a day's outing. As our visiting time in LA was fast running out, we couldn't allow a bit of rain to ruin our plans so twelve of us set off... armed with all available umbrellas in the various households! After the hurried purchase of several rain ponchos when we got to the French Market, the rain stopped! Lunch was had at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, where I sampled some soft-shelled crabs (yum!!!) and 'gator bites (not so yum). We spent the best part of the day buying stuff - Mardi Gras trinkets, Cajun recipe books and various souvenirs to take home. Of course we had to stop at the renowned Cafe du Monde to sample some beignets (pronounced "ben-YAYS" - rectangular doughnuts without holes, served fresh and hot with lashings of powdered sugar). After checking out the surrounding areas and many, many clicks of our cameras, we reluctantly headed back to Lafayette. I would love to be there in the carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras time...

           

It sure was great catching up with old friends after all these years. We reminisced about the good old days, we talked, we laughed and made many happy memories to last us until we meet again. Before we could get too accustomed to eating yummy gumbos and crab bisques (and remember all the rules to playing Mahjong), it was time for us to depart... We were up with the larks on July 22nd and were driven to Lafayette Airport by Nell, with her dear daughter, Mary, making a special trip to the airport to bid us farewell. Needless to say, more tears were shed... I hate goodbyes so we said, "See ya later" instead! 





         


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