They tried to plan our whole trip for us, those Southerners. Buy tickets for events they weren’t even joining us for. Call around for dinner recommendations even when we weren’t staying at their B&B. Such hospitality before we even landed on Louisiana terra firma. Or, should I say, terra aqua? so much of the place under water or just a thin skin of land floating on it.

It was our first trip away, and we’d agreed to share the window seats. Weather well we did the travails of travel and arrived late but ready to the Big Easy where Allison gracefully chauffeured us through downtown streets already cordoned off for Sunday’s game.

Lap of luxury historic hotel as our landing spot we headed out for a drinking to the wee hours of the night bar to bar and band to band jaunt that took us well into Sunday.

Then, the game. Cloistered in a pack of enthusiastic red and gold fans we bussed to Happy’s and were ensconced in the private upstairs lounge complete with a wrought iron balcony overlooking the bustling booming walk to the Superdome.

We took advantage of N’awlin’s open container law (as in it is recommended you have one while out in public) and headed into the lovely stadium. Loud. Unique concessionaires. And “Who Dat?” everywhere until of course the Niner’s won, then it was “Who Dat??? 49ers – Dat Who!” but we kept quiet on the walk home just to keep ourselves bodily intact.

A luscious evening then unfolded with a bottle of champagne and a trumpet/banjo natural bass trio at Arnauds where Jasper the Captain took good care of us, then a long walk the entire length of Bourbon Street for another round on Frenchmans. Got back before 3 AM this time and hit the sack to rest up for our next adventure.

You haint visited Cajun Country until you actually get into the country, and so we did, driving westward toward Abbeville to stay in converted servant’s quarters at the Rip Van Winkle mansion and gardens. Its “high ground” there, being at the dizzying elevation of 50′ above sea level – the land heaped up resting on 5 mile deep salt columns near the shores of Lake Peigneur which adjoins the property and was accidentally once drained in a matter of hours when mining in the salt columns nearby punched a hole through the crust under the lake level.? We arrived to the surprise of the only other guests there being from Paso Robles when they are not sailing the seas on the world’s only residential cruise ship (think: condos meets Love Boat).

A quick visit with them on the porch then we headed out on our own in the dark night to dine at a packed Shucks in Abbeville and were beyond well taken care of by Miss Morrisey who piled on the “sugah”s and “baby”s till I thought I would burst. The locals eyed us sideways from under their large cowboy hats or duck huntin caps knowing we were out of towners as we tasted our first alligator, sassy friend shrimp and the best bread pudding and hard sauce we’d try on the trip. Returning back through the locked iron gate, down the drive lined with 350 year old oaks, we covered the car to protect it from pecking peacocks and walked the dark gardens and lake shore in the moonlight wondering about ghosts. As a friend of mine later said about the plantations: “they’s all haunted shugah, just some of dem ghosts is bettah behaved than othahs.”

Plans to go fishing the next day were foiled by windy weather but we convened with our Baton Rouge friends Scott, Allison and Amy just the same.? They brought along Chris and Dan, a french cajun dance couple who ensured we all got on the dance floor at Point Breaux, formerly Mulates, a local institution of french cajun culture which hosted bands even on Tuesday nights and served what I thought were very large portions of gumbo that the locals were quite nonplussed about.

We squeezed in some more south on our last morning, hunting down Miss Brenda’s Dine in and Take Out (across from the parts yard in New Iberia) and a sweet stop at Morning Call for my first beignets of the trip. At every gas station quick mart we saw at least one Gallo brand wine for sale – including my favorite: Night Train Express.

Yet more travel travails awaited on our journey home with west coast storms shutting down SFO at just the wrong time. Pam was our hero and came and fetched us there late. In return she was the first to hear our ghost stories on the way home and about how welcomed and warmed we felt by our time in Cajun Country south.

Us too.

Full set of pics here.