I just returned from a whirlwind trip around Louisiana with a different location each night in a bus with 30 other writers. The pace of these trips is truly exhausting, so I try to limit them to one or two per year. The rest of the year, I prefer to create my own trips or go with less than 10 people like in Malaysia and Kentucky. The end of the trip was especially painful, as I got an allergic reaction that covered my face. And I was still hobbling around after my foot surgery. It’s safe to say I pushed myself a bit too far.
It was a part of a press trip for Travel South, a showcase of visitor’s bureaus and companies within the region. Shreveport was the host, which is where we spent most of our time, but we covered every area from the northwest to the southeast. Some stops were in bigger cities like Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans while others were in small towns like our swamp tour in LaPlace or walking around charming Natchitoches.
I’d never thought much of Shreveport, known for its gambling, but I was surprised at how much it charmed me. It has history, like being where Elvis rose to fame and a surprising amount of great restaurants. I went on two separate food tours, where I ate boudin, beignets, the best ever gumbo, and my very first crawfish eating experience.
I arrived at the peak of crawfish season and while I’d had it in other dishes, I’d never done the peeling and eating myself. Kim’s Seafood was the best of all places for it to happen, as the owner is a total crawfish eating pro. The Vietnamese family-run restaurant first opened in New Orleans, but fled due to Katrina and then again in Galveston before ending up in Shreveport. Their po-boys are just as good.
Monroe was one of our brief stops, including a stop at the Duck Commander Warehouse and tour of their facilities. Then it was time for a visit to Biedenharn Museum, a museum devoted to the first bottler of Coca-Cola. Across the river is West Monroe, the smaller sister city that has a street devoted to antiques, shops, and restaurants.
I was surprised at how many places in Louisiana were used as filming locations, but none more than Natchitoches, the inspiration and filming location for Steel Magnolias. It was a small town full of bed and breakfasts and shops, but it also had the über modern Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, which was inspired by the movement of the river.
Louisiana may be known mostly for its food and music, but it’s the water sources that have had such an impact on it. The rivers have brought trade and the Atchafalaya Basin is home to species of birds like the pelican, the state bird, and marine creatures like alligators, fish, and crustaceans. We stopped at a visitor’s center to admire the wetlands.
One of the final nights in Louisiana was spent at Blue Moon Saloon, a hostel/guesthouse and music venue that brings in artists from around the world. I wasn’t in the best condition to spend the night dancing, but it’s certainly somewhere I’d like to go back to. I loved my week in the state, even if it was exhausting because the people are so passionate about where they live. I hope to spend more time there soon!
Have you been to Louisiana? What was your favorite place?
For more on places to travel in Louisiana outside of New Orleans, read my post for Roam Right.