As they say down here, laissez les bon temps rouler, or let the good times roll. Although, we’re about a month early for Mardi Gras, there is still good times to be had without yelling, “Hey mister, throw me something!”
We spent our first night in Baton Rouge after eating our tried and true Cracker Barrel. We have a rule that when we travel we have to eat somewhere that we couldn’t eat back home. So it’s kind of funny that we’ve eaten here so much during this trip. I think there’s something familiar about it that brings comfort maybe.
Anyway, we got up early the next morning and drove about an hour and a half over to Avery Island. Heading out I noticed the bridge we were driving on seemed to go on and on. You know me, I have a crazy fascination with bridges, so I looked it up. Low and behold, we were on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge located in the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. The pictures aren’t impressive but the length of the bridge is, as you can see from my google search.
When you think Louisiana your mind might wonder to hot sauce and with good reason. Avery Island is home of THE Tabasco Sauce. Although, it’s called an island it’s actually a salt dome and not really even an island. It is located three miles inland from Vermillion Bay (which opens into the Gulf of Mexico) but it is surrounded on all sides by bayous, marshes, and swampland so from an aerial view it looks like an island.
Back to hot sauce, Mason and I are not hot pepper lovers but Tuck and Trevor dig them. It only cost $5.50 for the 10-stop approximately 1.5 hour self-guided tour and we were given little teeny tiny bottles of different Tabasco flavors. Score! The whole area is very clean and tidy and we were there on a Friday and it wasn’t crowded at all.
You’re supposed to start in the museum but we started in the General Store. The boys wanted to do some taste testing. I did try the Tabasco soda and the ice cream, yes ice cream, and I was done. Nothing against Tabasco, I just can’t do peppers. The fellas started working their way down the flavor bar starting at the mildest and going up. Mason tapped out at the third one, Spicy Jalapeño. He’s more like me regarding the hot stuff. Trev and Tuck made it Scorpion, their hottest. Tuck’s little face was so red. But he did it.
Then to the museum. I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, I don’t know if necessity is the right word in this case but the bland and monotonous diet in the south after the Civil War led Edmund McIlhenny to “create a pepper sauce to give the food some flavor and excitement.” Pretty neat story of how the McIlhenny family started a successful business that is still family owned today.
Then on to the greenhouse for some fun info on how the peppers are grown and a couple different stories as to where Mr. McIlhenny got his peppers from originally.
Did you know that the pepper mash is aged in white oak barrels covered in salt for up to THREE YEARS before a member of the McIlhenny family tastes each batch for quality control; all to deliver us a kick to our meals? Me neither. Tabasco is now “labeled in 25 languages and dialects and sold in over 195 countries/territories.”
Then on to the mixing room and factory. They only bottle Monday through Thursday, if you want to see the action.
It’s a pretty little area. Just FYI, if you come by for a tour, the road isn’t paved so don’t spend any time washing your car before you get here.
Our last stop was the 1868 Restaurant. We checked the reviews and some of the knocks were because the restaurant was cafeteria style as opposed to sit down. That didn’t bother us one bit. You know how Mason likes to try things. Well, when you’ve got several different dishes you want to try and one member of the family who just wants bread it becomes clear that you won’t be able to go to that many different restaurants or have that many dishes, it’s going to get pricey, and one kid will go on a hunger strike. Enter, one of the great things about this unassuming restaurant…. the Cajun Pirogue Sampler.
It came with a trio of Red Beans and Sausage, Crawfish Etouffee, and Chicken and Chicken and Sausage Gumbo ($13.50). Then we added a Pepper Jelly Boudin ($3.50), and a cup of Crawfish Corn Maque Choux ($3.50). We all shared and it was plenty of food. Tuck faked a smile for the first picture but after being made to at least try one bite of everything, his face soured and he ate a roll. But he tried it at least. We finished it off with a piece of Tabasco Spice Dark Chocolate. Now, you Nawlins fans calm down. I know you’re going to say that its not true Louisiana cooking but it is in our opinion. It’s kind of like when people call things southern. It may not be my version of southern but it’s somebody’s and it worked great for us. It gave us a glimpse of cajun at a fraction of the price at a sit down restaurant. That’s a win in my book. Mason’s favorite was the Crawfish Etouffee; Trevor’s was the Boudin, mine was the chocolate of course, and Tuck, well, I guess it would be the roll.
After the Tabasco tour, we went just right down the road to Jungle Gardens. We bought the combo ticket. The gardens were another $8 adult and $5 child but we saved $1 a ticket by getting the combo.
Okay, I’m not sure how to describe the gardens. They’re not what I thought of when I though garden much less Jungle Garden. It’s mostly green with large bamboo (64 varieties) and these big beautiful cypress trees. It’s not flowery except for the Wisteria Arch and azelas (which are not in bloom this time of year but I’m sure they’re beautiful in season) and the over 500 camellia varieties, (which some of them still had some blossoms).
Please don’t tell them my boys tried to climb the Cleveland Oak.
The Buddha statue has an interesting history. I snapped a pic of plaque as opposed to typing it. Lazy, maybe, but I like to think of it as efficient. 😉
You can walk, drive, or bike the trail. The weather was great so we walked. We didn’t know we would be walking the three miles on gravel. I wore the wrong shoes. My hips were bothering me really bad by the end but we had a wonderful stroll. If you’re in the area and like being outdoors, it’s a pretty peaceful place and it’s not real expensive. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come see it but it was a great addition to the Tabasco tour since they are right there together. We spent most of the day there between both of them just hanging out enjoying peppers and nature.
We also met this French couple that had an RV that he build and had shipped over to Canada. They are living in it seeing Canada and the US until their VISAs expire. The gentlemen spoke some English so we were able to follow most of what he said. The lady wasn’t as fluent. I don’t speak ANY French. Remember the me-speaking-Spanish-to-the French-guy-who-was-speaking-English-to-me-while-I-was-ordering-a-crepe-story from when we were in Paris? Anyway, the couple let us tour their rig. I wish I could show you pictures of the inside but I thought that might be a little forward to start snapping pics of their home. But the rig was pretty awesome. It was RV meets military style vehicle. You could do some sweet overlanding in that bad baby. I went to their blog to check out their adventures but it was in French and their Instagram account only had three pictures. Bummer.
Next stop New Orleans. We went to the National World War II Museum. Their mission is to “tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world-why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today-so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.”
Neither of us took a lot of pictures. One, the lighting was kind of dim and two, we were too busy trying to read the information to take pictures. Sorry.
Here are my thoughts on this museum.
1) It cost us about $100 to get in. Plus we had to pay $12 to park. I thought it was expensive but we also think this stuff is important so we shelled out the money.
2) The Museum is very nicely done with regards to the exhibits. Top notch.
But I have two criticisms: One, there is absolutely no good flow. We felt like everything was kind of just put together without thought to how people would mill around. You’re not real sure if you should go left, right, up, down, or into another building and the map is too basic to be helpful. Two, there is A LOT of information and the museum is large but the Road to Berlin and the Road to Tokyo exhibits felt very cramped. People are reading or viewing over one another or walking in front of one another.
3) I would not recommend this museum for small children. Some pictures of concentration camps, etc are graphic.
4) Don’t go on a Saturday. It’s busy.
5) The first thing you do is take a train “ride” where you get dog tags of an actual soldier who fought in the war. You scan those at various places in the museum to learn information about that soldier and you find out if he survived the war or not at the end. The kids loved that part.
6) There’s tons of stuff to read but they also have a lot of videos too.
7) That being said, there’s a lot going on. It can be sensory overload if that kind of stuff bothers you.
Okay on a totally random note, I have to tell you my Popeyes story. First off, Tuck likes Popeyes and after not liking the Cajun food we decided to get him some. Popeyes started in Louisiana so we wanted to find the original one. Well, the original one isn’t there anymore but there was one a couple blocks from the museum so we settled for that and off we walked. Just FYI, as is the case with many cities, there are a lot of homeless in the area just so you know if you go walking. Second, I don’t eat Popeyes often, really I think just two times on this trip. The low functioning gall bladder says, “No no no!” That being said, I obviously don’t order it often either. I’m also finding that my hearing isn’t what it used to be. Trust me, you need to know these things before I tell you the rest of this story.
I’m ordering chicken tenders. How hard can it be, right? So I step up to place my order and I can tell the lady isn’t in the best of moods or just sour in general, not sure which, so I’m smiling trying to be as pleasant as possible. I order Tucker the chicken tenders. She asked me a question and I had to ask her to repeat it. Remember, I can’t hear very well. I then realized she has asked my if I wanted spicy, mild, or blackened. I was caught off guard. I didn’t know that they came in different flavors so then I was frantically checking the board worried that I ordered some kind of sauce covered tender by mistake. I just wanted the fried tenders so after standing there for a couple seconds, which felt like an eeeettttterrrrnitttttty, I realized you can get the tenders in different flavored breading. I ordered one of them (I honestly can’t remember which one I said) I could tell the cashier was annoyed.
So I put on my best smile and asked for honey mustard. I was aburptly informed they don’t have honey mustard; they have a Mardi Gras mustard and something else I didn’t quite hear. Again, I had to ask her what she said. Man, this was going downhill fast. I can tell she’s hating me at this point and I promise you all I wanted was to order my kid some tenders and sit down. But I didn’t know what the difference in the mustards were so…like a dummy, I asked. Yep. I went there. I wish I hadn’t. She was really mad now. I promise I was not trying to be difficult. Swear! My kid just wanted tenders and honey mustard and I was just trying to get it for him. She let out this exasperated sigh, looked at me and said, “what’s the name on the order?” She wasn’t even going to try to answer my question and she was done with me.
Then I had to tell her I wasn’t done ordering. I’m pretty sure Trev didn’t want that lady knowing we were together in hopes they wouldn’t spit in his food like they were probably going to in mine. HA! She completely moved on and I had to politely interrupt to tell her I would take one of each mustard. She didn’t care. I promise I was polite, smiling, and I didn’t mean to be difficult it just kind of snowballed. When I got my order it came with BBQ sauce. Hahahaha! Trev went back and requested the Mardi Gras mustard which, by the way, is basically like a spicy honey Dijon mustard. Most awkward ordering experience ever.
Okay. Another funny food story. I forgot to tell you this when we were packing for the trip. Ever since the SPAM Museum, Mason has fallen for SPAM. I don’t buy SPAM. My mom knows this and bought Mason some individually packaged SPAM slices to take on the road. So I’m having a conversation with Mason about healthy types of meat and how SPAM isn’t really great for his body and we’re looking at the nutritional information when he looks down at the package and he says, “Look Mom! It’s good until December 20, 2020. That’s how you know it’s quality meat!” Hahahaha. Right there I knew I was fighting a losing battle and just threw the meat in the food bag to take on the trip.
Time to set sail for our next adventure. Adios.