Roger here... After traveling through Houston
and viewing the home of the Houston Texans from the interstate,
we left the state of Texas after three months and traveled through coastal Louisiana to spend three nights at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville, Louisiana - the most Cajun of Cajun places. (Dianne here: We went from Mission, TX where all the names on every sign were Spanish, to Cajun Louisiana, where all the names on every sign were French.) You know how some places just seem comfortable; well, Abbeville is definitely one of those places.
This is such a special place that it deserves two blogs. We'll update part two as soon as we get a chance.
I'll start by describing Betty's RV Park. If Abbeville feels comfortable, Betty's feels like home - BECAUSE OF BETTY. Betty's park only has fifteen full hook-up sites, and they are located on gravel in what was at one time Betty's back yard. No real amenities here, except, of course, for Betty. When we checked in at 4:00 p.m. she helped us back into our spot and then encouraged us to set up quickly because happy hour in the back room of her house was at 4:30. The "Betty's" experience is like visiting a treasured family member. All the guests attend happy hour every night. She "holds court" over her glass of wine, giving advice to everyone about what to see and where to eat in the area.
One evening she announced that she would lead an excursion to the business of a man who digs cypress wood out of the swamp the next mornin'. Another night she let us know that there would be a pot luck the next evening, and that she would provide specially-cooked venison. The highlight of every happy hour is her sense of humor, her laughter, and her genuine love of people. By the time the happy hour ends, everyone in the group knows everyone else - a very unique place that is rated as one of the top 25 RV parks in the country for its social atmosphere. It is easy to understand why.
During our first full day in Abbeville, the major attraction was a visit to the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island, just twenty miles away. What a neat place! When we paid the one-dollar fee to enter Avery Island, the toll taker showed us the level of water (about six feet) from the last hurricane where levies now protect the historic factory. As we exited the car in front of the factory, other than the view of the classic buildings,
the first sense to enter the brain was the smell of Tabasco. It was just so cool.
factory tour was interesting. Did you know that the peppers are aged for three years with vinegar in used (cleaned) Jack Daniels whiskey oak barrels? The factory on Avery Island is the only place where Tabasco is processed? Avery Island was originally a salt mine (still is) and salt from the salt dome underneath the island covers the casks during the aging process?
We were able to get a
good shot of hundreds of Tabasco bottles as they wound their way through the plant.
The trip to the factory store
was an additional highlight. We were able to sample all the Tabasco products, including Tabasco ice cream (surprisingly good), before making several spicy purchases, including Tabasco t-shirts and beach wear. The one-dollar entrance fee to Avery Island turned out to be a good deal for the Tabasco company, as we dropped more than a few bucks in the factory store. (Dianne here: We also purchased some Tabasco chocolate and a Tabasco sucker to take with us to our daughter and granddaughter in Florida. They sell lots of unique items in the gift shop, and I'm sure you can buy them on line if you are interested, because I found a used Christmas catalog in the parking lot that had blown out of somebody's car).
On the way back to Abbeville, Dianne spotted an above-ground cemetery in the small town of Delcambre.
She got out of the car to take several photos. Similar cemeteries in New Orleans are considered dangerous for visitors - ideal places for a mugging -
but not here. Just a quiet place to reflect upon the unique culture of this area.
Before we returned to Betty's, we decided to eat a late lunch in Abbeville. After an internet search, we selected
Dupuy's (pronounced Dew Pwees, with the accent on the second syllable). It was a great choice.
These Cajuns truly know how to eat - amazing food. We both had a cup of crab and corn bisque; delicious. Dianne had a grilled shrimp po' boy. I had the best crab cake that I have ever eaten, smothered with a Cajun shrimp sauce
(and half of Dianne's po boy). The waitress talked us into sampling a dessert. Dianne picked out the pecan tart a la mode. Oh my goodness, it was better than chocolate - high praise from me.
We needed groceries, so we made a quick stop at Robie's Market on the way back to Betty's. We had to hurry - didn't want to be late for happy hour. I'll let Dianne tell you about this unique grocery store that will be a required stop for future visits.
Robie's wasn't a huge market, just a small, local grocery store. Among the delicacies we saw while shopping there were rows and rows of pickled quail's eggs, lots of jars of prepared roux, prepared ready-to-eat muffaletta sandwiches, and very good prepared deli salads. Since we knew we'd be traveling for several days and needing quick-to-grab meals, we stocked up on the ready-to-eat items. Delicious! Even the chicken salad had a real "kick" to it.
At one of Betty's happy hours, some of our fellow travelers (many of whom come to Betty's every year), told us there are a few items we just had to try, so we went back to Robies and stocked up on some Cajun essentials: "Slap Ya Mama" seasoning, a jar of "Sloppy Boudreaux" sauce, and something called "Sweet Treat." (It's a cinnamon-sugar mixture with vanilla).
At the end of one of the grocery aisles, there was a huge display of big bags of rice. I thought to myself, wow, people buy rice in big bags here. Then I turned down the next aisle, and discovered that in addition to that display, there was row after row of nothing but different kinds of rice. I just had to take a picture of it, because I'd never seen anything like it in any grocery we'd ever been in.
The side trip to Betty's RV Park in Abbeville was something Roger really, really wanted to do. (He's a lot more social than I am.) I wasn't as enthusiastic about it, but I have to say that within two minutes of arriving there (and especially after the first happy hour!) I felt right at home and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. You truly do meet the nicest people in this lifestyle!