In Houma, La., a real Cajun town just 57 miles southwest of New Orleans, passing a good time is what life is all about.
Houma is located in Terrebonne Parish, in the heart of the Louisiana wet lands, (Please read below about the vanishing wetlands) home to some of the best fishing, birding and hunting in the country. The state motto for Louisiana is “Sportsman’s Paradise, and Houma may have been the inspiration for that phrase.
This is a unique slice of America and provides its visitors with a little bit of everything that makes the Cajun lifestyle so interesting and entertaining.
It’s not often that you can fly into a large metropolitan airport, rent a car and in less than a hour be smack dab in the middle of a culture that holds onto its roots so rigidly. It’s as if Cajun existence is at stake. And truth be told that is what is hap pening in southwest Louisiana where the native born Cajuns who have lived and prospered in this part of the country for centuries.
Fading quickly are the French speak ing elders who made their living off the land either as fishermen, hunter/trap pers or farmers. It’s a sign of the times but for those living in Houma, the one overriding attitude you’ll find everywhere is summed
up in the phrase — “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” which means “let the good times role.”
Life in this part of the country is meant to be enjoyed and boy do they enjoy it!
Thibadeau’s Cajun Cooking and see why people come out “happy in the face.” If it’s season, you must try the boiled crawfish, a local favorite and a wonderful mix of spice and fun. Make sure you have plenty of cold Abita beer on the side. For dessert, the beignets topped with ice cream will knock you back in your chair.
A Bear’s Restaurant is family owned and operated and is also a local favorite. The place was packed when we were there and the menu features many authentic Cajun dishes. Be sure to try their shrimp gumbo and save room for bread pudding. Bayou Delight is the perfect name for this restaurant. Located outside of Houma on the way to the fish camps at Cocodrie, they serve fresh seafood and offer daily specials to the locals who love this place. The fried catfish was superb!
Eating out is a part of any vacation and Houma has many other wonderful restaurants in addition to its Cajun
You get the sense things you see today are the same as they were 50 years ago. For a great example of this you must
visit the Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery Store in Cocodrie.
Built in 1914, this is more than a grocery store, it’s more like a general store where you can buy pots and pans and hardware and just about anything you need when you out in the boonies as they are. They have a sign out front that says ‘If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” It’s a marvelous slice of Americana done Cajun style!
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For a totally cool and unique swamp walking
tour you must check out Wildlife Gardens.
Betty Provost will guide you through her 30 acre
swamp; you will see
a trapper’s cabin, her
famed and beloved alligators, Hel
en and Troy, as well lots of other wild life. There are guest cottages available for those who long for an adventurous stay in the swamp.
for fund raising events and socials like dances and picnics. The whole community comes together culminating in parades that feature ornate floats carrying the members in full costume who treat the spectators with copious amounts of treasure in the form of beads, stuffed animals and toys. Having been to many New Orleans Mardi Gras parades, we can tell you the Houma version is more family oriented but with all the pomp and energy of any New Orleans parade. Plus they throw a lot more stuff! You will need an extra suitcase to bring it all home or do like we did and ship it home via UPS. Mardi Gras 2010 is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Oh my oh my oh. dominiquesbistro.com/
This part of the country is so different and so much fun; it really is a hidden treasure for those travelers who are look ing for an experience like no other. The people are genuine, the food is delicious and the natural beauty of this area is unlike anything else. Do yourself a favor and plan a trip to a Cajun Mardi Gras. And like they say in Houma, come pass a good time!
Houma is located in Terrebonne (French for Good Land) Parish and more than 65% covered by water and wetlands. The available land is disappearing as Mother Nature continues to take back what was once hers. This area has been labeled as the fastest disappearing land mass on Earth.
Hurricane coastal erosion contributes to the problem but in the meantime, this areas provides some of the more spectacular and unique scenery in the country. Bayous are slow moving rivers that work their way through this part of the country delivering not only a food source for the inhabitants, but a transportation system as well. Houma has five bayous running through it allowing access to the Gulf of Mexico and as a result creates an important livelihood for residents who support the oil industries off shore rigs. Work boats ferry materials, food and labor to the rigs and in return the oil companies are investing capital to support the local economy and are doing a lot in preserving the wetlands.
There are many scenic tours of this area and they are not only entertaining but quite educational as well. Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum is located in downtown Houma and provides an excellent presentation on the history of the area, the challenges it faces and how the people have adapted to these challenges. A very entertaining interactive museum chronicles the history of the economic and social culture of this area.
Louisiana is the drainage gateway to the Gulf of Mexico for the Lower Mississippi Regional Watershed. The Lower Mississippi Regional Watershed drains more than 24 million acres in seven states from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.
It will be gone in less than 50 years. Coastal Louisiana has lost an average of 34 square miles of land, primarily marsh, per year for the last 50 years. From 1932 to 2000, coastal Louisiana lost 1,900 square miles of land, roughly an area the size of the state of Delaware. If nothing more is done to stop this land loss, Louisiana could potentially lose approximately 700 additional square miles of land, or an area about equal to the size of the greater Washington D.C.-Baltimore area, in the next 50 years.
Louisiana's oil and gas infrastructure is responsible for 17% of the domestic oil and 25% of the natural gas produced in the United States. The wetlands are home to this production and act as the first line of defense in protecting the facilities from floods and hurricanes.
It's not just Louisiana's problem. To dismiss the erosion of coastal Louisiana is to dismiss an issue that will create a chain reaction affecting all of the United States.
Over time, the geological force known as the Mississippi River gradually deposited enough sediment into the receding Gulf of Mexico to create tens of thousands of square miles of land all the way down to what is the present mouth of the river. Levees were built and shipping channels were kept open via jetties causing the Mississippi to drop its sediment into deep water. Those levees and jetties stopped sediment from feeding the deltas, thus causing the land to sink and coastal Louisiana to begin disappearing.
Making New Orleans vulnerable, well over a century ago, also created tremendous value to the United States. New Orleans is the busiest port in the U.S. - 20% of all U.S. exports and 60% of U.S. grain exports pass through it. Off the coast of Louisiana oil and gas wells supply 20% of domestic oil production - the largest percentage produced domestically. But canals and pipelines were dug through the land to service the oil industry, greatly accelerating the erosion and depleting the land that once protected the entire region from hurricanes by acting as a sponge to soak up the storm surges. That is one thing the energy industry and environmentalists agree on.
The other thing they agree on is that the problem is easily solved by managing the land loss and protecting the Louisiana coast and New Orleans. Protection for the region including coastal restoration, storm-surge barriers and improved levees would cost an estimated $40 billion over a 30 year period. The consequences of dismissing the problem: less international competitiveness; higher energy prices (already demonstrated in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita) and more vulnerable energy supplies; astronomical cost of having to rebuild the United States' largest energy and port infrastructure elsewhere. The U.S. energy needs alone call for action in restoring and preserving the Louisiana wetlands.
So how does the restoration get paid for and, more importantly, who pays it?
"States get 50% of the tax revenues paid to the Federal Government from oil and gas produced on federally owned land. States justify that by arguing that the energy production puts strains on their infrastructure and environment. Louisiana gets no share of the tax revenue from the oil and gas production on the outer continental shelf. Yet that production puts an infinitely greater burden on it than energy production from other federal territory puts on any other state. If we treat Louisiana the same as other states and give it the same share of tax revenue that other states receive, it will need no other help from the government to protect itself."
- Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and John M. Barry
Each day delayed makes it harder to restore the wetlands and protect Louisiana, the region, the nation. It is time for action.
Voice of the Wetlands founder and president, Tab Benoit, spent time in March with renowned American journalist, Dan Rather. Benoit gave Rather a first-hand look at the rapid erosion of Louisianas coast and wetlands with a boat tour through the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge. The tour was filmed for an upcoming episode of Rather's Dan Rather Reports that airs weekly on the cable channel, HDNet. Voice of the Wetlands was established in 2004 as a volunteer-based non-profit, focused on driving awareness about the loss of the wetlands in southern Louisiana. VOW was started by musician Tab Benoit who was born and raised in Houma, LA - one of the communities born of the wetlands. A coalition of local artists and business leaders recognized the urgency to save their homes and the culture of southern Louisiana.
Rather and his team recognized the crises but became more intrigued when they learned the Army Corp of Engineers decided not to use dirt from dredging to help sustain the eroding coast. "We heard that there was a relatively simple way to significantly slow coastal erosion," said Andrew Glazer, producer of the upcoming news segment, "but that it couldnt get off the ground because of some sort of bureaucratic deadlock, and were interested to know what was really going on."
Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman, Garret Graves, recommended Rather speak with Benoit. It is widely known, particularly throughout Louisiana, Benoit is a tireless advocate for the preservation of Louisianas wetlands. "The rapid erosion of south Louisiana's wetlands has turned my home into the New Atlantis. Places where I used to camp as a kid 20 years ago are now under water," says Benoit. "At a rate of one acre per hour, we are losing a unique culture, heritage, and territory that is individual to Louisiana and the United States. This problem is real, its happening, and its fast." Benoit jumped at the chance to be a part of the story to further educate the national public about the crises that affects more than Louisiana residents. He wanted to make sure Rather and his crew had the complete picture and took them on a boat tour through the wetlands along the coast of Terrebonne Parish.
Rather and his team also spent time on Isle de Jean Charles, the southern most tip of Louisiana's rapidly vanishing wetlands that has been inhabited by Native American Indians for 170 years, as well as taking an areal tour of Port Fourchon and the Grand Isle area.
Rather, who anchored CBS Evening News for 24 years, is now the managing editor and anchor for the cable channel HDNet's Dan Rather Reports. The television news magazine focuses on presenting hard-edged field reports, in-depth interviews and investigative pieces that emphasize accuracy, fairness and guts in their reporting. Hopefulling word will continue to get out and a difference will be made.
The statistics are startling:
Please visit Voice of the Wetlands for more information, to contribute to the cause or plan your trip to the annual festival.