Saturday, April 30, 2011

Giant Worlds

Usually, we do a bit of research before visiting a known destination, such as Lafayette's (LA) Science Museum and Planetarium.

However, this visit was different.

We had been drawn to the building because of its newly-renovated exterior. So, after a Friday noon musical per-formance in the nearby park, we met a person who worked in the museum as we passed the building's rear staff entrance.

After a brief conversation, she urged us to consider coming in on a Wednesday afternoon for the planetarium show late in the afternoon.

Not until we arrived did we realize that the special traveling exhibit was entitled "Giant Worlds."

"'This exhibit answers questions like how did our solar system form and what are giant planets made of?' said Kevin Krantz, the exhibit's curator. The exhibit has three areas: 'Family of the Sun' teaches you about the formation of the solar system (photos left and below); 'Meet the Giants' explores the beauty and secrets of the giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus; and finally, you'll be able to discover 'New Frontiers' in a fantasy ride past the giant planets" (Jenise Fernandez, museum's web page).

In this exhibit, "Friend or Foe?", the person is asked to place two larger planets in orbit around the sun. The white masses are ice balls. Depending on the placement of the planets the gravitational pull of the planets on the screen can send the ice balls into space, can cause some of the balls to crash into a planet forming a source of water, or can absorb one of the other (smaller) planets.

When I did this, I received the following message: "Congratulations! The great worlds have cleared out the solar system. While collisions may still occur, they'll be less frequent, giving life a chance to evolve."

Quite a message in those few words. I wonder if they originators of this exhibit realize the implications of this "game" and its message.

Another game, a virtual pinball game, showed the effects of different forms of gravitational pulls on an object.

This exhibit (left) shows the picture of what can be seen if our eyes were able to process longer wavelength, i.e., infrared, light, which corresponds to heat energy. Infrared photos of Jupiter were also shown.

Displays of the giant planets and a video featuring photos of these planets taken from satellites and from the Hubble Space Telescope. This is a photo of Jupiter (above) from the video and I believe this is a photo (left) of one of Jupiter's moons, Io, which has continuously erupting volcanoes.

We missed a lot more information on The Giants in order to attend the planetarium presentation.

This photo is the only one that I took. I think holes had been drilled into the dome-shaped portion to show the night sky above us. Once the lights went out and the presentation on the constellations began, I was absorbed with the "skies."

The Planetarium presentation was excellent. Now the next step is to find an area away from the lights of a city to view the stars and constellations. But I still thought we missed a lot during our all-too-short visit. Even this photo of a beautiful Hubble Space Telescope picture of the Whirlpool Galaxy seems incomplete, because I have no other information about it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Learn From Our Mistake,...

and don’t harbor a grudge.

Let me take you back to the Friday before Mardi Gras in Lafayette (LA). Our plan was to park in the Albertson’s parking lot, have a light dinner at 2Paul’s Radically Urban Barbeque, and then walk to Johnston Street to view the parade. Just one hitch to this plan. 2Paul’s was closed that evening while they were selling BBQ at Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette at Cajun Field. Our dinner choices then became a pizza buffet place and a fast food Chinese place. Have you ever had a fried wonton that you swear had been heated in a microwave? That’s reason enough to harbor a grudge.

But finally our hunger for BBQ wore us down, and armed with great reviews for this place, we headed off to 2Paul’s.

“The two Paul's, Gary PAUL Roy from Oklahoma City, and Marilynn PAULE Fournet Adams from Lafayette, share a middle name. (That's right, her middle name is PAULE.) They also share a restaurant. Together they saw that BBQ was missing in Lafayette and pulled together a bright new concept that blended traditional Texas-Oklahoma-style smoke with authentic, homemade Cajun sides and seasonings…The smoker's running out back 24/7 and inside, they’re making every side, sauce, and dessert every day. It's always fresh, it's always good, and it’s way radical” (from the restaurant’s web site).

When you walk through the doors, the first thing you notice is the smell of smoked meat. Then you notice that 2Paul’s isn’t decorated like most BBQ places. Modish prints adorn the brightly colored walls that are offset by bright red painted trim.

On one wall are hung two large signature or autograph or message boards, containing messages from recent diners. On this same wall are funky and somewhat industrial looking collages that we surmise (but aren’t certain) are made from computer mother boards and computer repair tools. Not you’re Texas-style BBQ joint.

Before placing your order at the counter, it behooves you to take a menu, find a seat, and spend some time considering all of the options. For meats, you can chose from ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket, sausage, turkey breast, shrimp, and pork tenderloin. Sides include rice dressing (a Cajun favorite), potato salad, Asian cole slaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, fries, and chips. Onion rings are an extra charge option.

You can order just meat, combo plates (one, two, or three meats) with two sides, sandwiches (including a hamburger), and BBQ topped salads. In fact, the Cajun Foodie and other on-line reviewers specifically mentioned the salad topped with beef brisket. I don’t think it was the brisket salad a near-by diner was enjoying, but her salad was certainly large and looked ultra fresh.

After much menu study, we were ready to send Chuck to the counter and order. I was going to have that day’s special of a pulled pork sandwich which came with the home-made fries and a beverage. To this I added a side of the Asian slaw. Chuck chose the two meat combo plate with brisket, sausage, potato salad, and baked beans. While he was ordering, I noticed onion rings being served to the table in front of us. “Look at those onion rings.” I said when Chuck returned to the table. He promptly turned around and went back to order onion rings.

One of the many things we liked about 2Paul’s is that the meat comes to your table “unsauced,” so you can “sauce it yourself” with one of their three home-made sauces (Pepper Jelly, hot, and mild) from bottles on the table. Really good BBQ doesn’t need to be drowned in sauce. The sauce is just an enhancement for the meat.

We’ll start with the onion rings. It should be a law that every restaurant owner who wants to serve onion rings come to Louisiana and learn how to make a proper ring. Is it the thin beer batter used here? Is it the Cajun mastery of the art of frying? I don’t know, but Louisiana onion rings are in a class by themselves, and these were no exception. A thin crisp batter sheathed sweet and mild thin rings of onion.

Everything on Chuck’s plate was delicious. The sausage was smoky and peppery. The potato salad was dressed with creamy mayo and—unusual for here—didn’t contain any sweet pickle. The beans were both sweet and, I suspect, made with one of 2Paul’s homemade sauces.

And the brisket. Why do we only find good brisket outside of Texas where brisket is supposed to be the BBQ speciality? I think it has to do with fat. Or the excess thereof in Texas. We learned that 2Paul’s only uses the lean end of this cut of beef and that their beef is Certified Angus. Yes, the lack of fat does make for a slightly drier brisket, but this is easily resolved with the application of a slight amount of sauce.

Now for my meal. The homemade fries were a thicker-cut waffle fry and were lightly sprinkled with Cajun seasoning. The Asian slaw didn’t have much Asian flavor (i.e. soy, sesame, ginger, garlic), but contained bits of crushed uncooked ramen noodles and peanut slivers. I would have liked a more intense flavor, but maybe this would have done battle with the BBQ flavors.

The pulled pork was magnificent with just enough smoke flavor that was enhanced with just a touch of the mild sauce. It was moist and juicy and had just enough bark edges to keep me happy. The downside was the roll. And you know that I consider a good roll to be the foundation of a good sandwich. It was too soft and too dense. Maybe toasting would have helped some, but I doubt it.

As we were leaving, we had the chance to briefly talk with Marilynn (Paule) Adams (left in photo), who told us that she grew up playing in the apple orchard where the shopping center now stands. Well, she and her partner certainly know BBQ and Cajun flavors. If not for the roll, this would have been 5.0 Addie BBQ. Still, it deserves 4.5 Addies and our promise of a return visit.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Photographs, Please

"Near the southernmost part of Louisiana's delta country lie a series of five wooded "islands" which rise up above the grassy marshlands and prairies that surround them. From 50 to 100 feet above sea level, these areas of high ground are as high as they are because they are sitting on top of mammoth, immovible columns of salt, which hold them up above the surrounding countryside. These monoliths of salt are two to three miles wide and five miles or more in depth."

We had driven to Jefferson Island to see Rip Van Winkle Gardens. Our sources of travel destination recommen-dations thought that the several gardens of flowers would be in bloom.

"In one century, Jefferson Island has moved from a place of tangled forests and marshlands frequented by buccaneers to one of pastoral quietness. The serene atmosphere has been created by the island's Eden-like gardens, which symbolize the natural landscape and yet reflect the fine art of landscape development."

Well, the setting was certainly serene and the walk around the pathways that connected the gardens encouraged a slow meandering pace. However, the flower gardens on that mid-April day were basically... well,... green.

The flowers shown here were special. They represented glimpses of color that had to be discovered among the green of new plantings.

"The exotic Rip Van Winkle Gardens is a massive scale-down from wilderness to flower in a design of interlocking small gardens, splashes that seem like passing suggestions of Paradise and responses to a need for peace and beauty.

"Atop a coastal salt dome on Lake Peigneur, Rip Van Winkle Gardens is 25 acres surrounding the Joseph Jefferson Home, built in 1870 by acclaimed American actor Joseph Jefferson. Jefferson purchased "Orange Island" in 1869 and built his winter home here for 36 winter respites from the stage. Though Jefferson performed a great many roles in the theaters around the world, it was the role of Rip Van Winkle, as adapted by Jefferson from the Washington Irving tale that ensured Jefferson's fame. He played the role more than 4,500 times" (

Our drive up the lane had taken us past live oak after live oak before reaching the black wrought iron gates at the entrance.

Our walk around the Joseph Jefferson Mansion featured close-up encounters with more centuries-old live oaks.

At one of the highest points on the island stands the Joseph Jefferson Home. The 22-room mansion reflects Moorish, Steamboat Gothic, French and Southern Plantation styles and features a fourth-story cupola.

We had a tour of the Mansion, but we were not permitted to take photographs inside. This policy was especially unfortunate because of the beauty of the murals, furnishings, and family items in the home.

Our tour leader, Ed, was one of the most knowledgeable guides we have met. He spoke in a casual, unrehearsed style that made us feel as though we were visiting his own home and family.

The members of our group asked several questions, and Ed responded with detail, using the person's questions to add anecdotes to the factual informa-tion.

Ed was such a storehouse of information that we believed that we could join him for 10 tours and learn something new on each tour.

As we headed out the mile-long driveway, we passed peacocks which acted as though they had the run of the grounds.

On both sides of the road, ponds, surrounded by cypress trees, provided "viewing stands" for these spoonbills as they bid us farewell.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Will Admit…

to being cranky. It had been a long day in the car and part of me just wanted to go home. But part of our plans for the day called for an early dinner at Shucks the Louisiana Seafood House in Abbeville before heading home to Duson.

We had heard rave reviews of Shucks from the work campers parked next to us at the RV park and the reviews on all of the major web sites that we use for guidance (trip advisor. com, urban, were over the top. So I have to think that my less than enthusiastic response to this restaurant may be the outlier.

You walk through the doors and find yourself in a large square room. There are no low walls, no dividers, and no plants to relieve the Spartan look of this space. One end of the room is dominated by a large bar and flat screen TV.

What passes for decorations were the multiple neon signs advertising Tabasco and brands of beer hung on a corrugated metal wall. As a salute to the local heroes, one beer sign read “Go Saints.”

Since we arrived at just past 4:00 p.m., only two tables were occupied—one by two quite elderly men enjoying raw oysters and another by a couple eating… well, I don’t know what they were eating.

Shucks, as the name suggests, is all about oysters. In addition to the traditional oysters on the half shell, there is a list of char-broiled oysters that included: Traditional with garlic butter, grated Romano and parmesan cheeses; Oysters Rockefeller with a creamed spinach topping and Italian cheeses; Oysters Shuck-a-fella with a cream-based topping with crumbled bacon and chopped mushrooms; Candied Oysters with feta and bleu cheeses and topped with a sugar cane pepper glaze; and Oyster Supreme topped with shrimp and crabmeat in a roasted red bell pepper and sherry cream sauce.

From the appetizer list, the Sassy Shrimp (deep fried and drizzled with the sugar cane pepper glaze) and the Strips & Claws (fried catfish and fried crab fingers) had some appeal. Some, but not enough.

Neither of use wanted a full meal, so we both decided to look at the sandwich menu. After rejecting the shrimp patty burger, the grilled chicken breast, and the hamburger, we both settled on po-boys. It would be the catfish for Chuck and the oyster for me.

These weren’t the largest po-boys we have seen but were reasonable for the price. Of the two, Chuck’s was clearly the superior with good-sized moist and flakey catfish filets in a light cornmeal coating.

For an oyster house, the oysters in my po-boy were a disappoint-ment. They were definitely on the small side, and because they were so small, many were definitely overcooked and tough. I had expected more.

Both sandwiches came with a small side of decent, but not extraordinary, coated fries.

Maybe it was my attitude, but I was not impressed and only confer Shucks 2.5 Addies.


or a little something extra.

If we leave Duson needing to purchase new wardrobes, part of the blame goes to the great restaurant food we have eaten. But a majority of the blame goes to donuts. Yes, donuts. And not just any old donuts, but the finest donuts you will find anywhere. Meche’s Donuts.

“Jane and Ewell Meche opened the popular donut shop in 1970 and now their children each operate one of the three locations, Guilbeau Road, Willow Street and Rue Louis, to serve all of Lafayette. Not only does the business appeal to families, it operates much like a big family itself…Not only are the co-workers like a big family, but also their customers. Olita Cormier, a Meche’s employee for 21 years, recalled a young man who first came in as a high school student at St. Thomas Moore, served in Iraq, and returned to Lafayette and continues to eat breakfast at Meche’s” (

Our addiction began with Mardi Gras. We wanted a King Cake and learned that Meche’s had been voted the best in Lafayette. So we walked into the Guilbeau Road store and left with a delicious cake—and donuts.

That day we tried the devil’s food cake glazed and the traditional cake donut with chocolate icing and peanuts. We have also tried the blueberry cake glazed donuts and the apple fritters. All were good, but we keep coming back to the devil’s food glazed. In fact, we bought a dozen today and half of that dozen will be gone by tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Point

Located about 50 miles south of Lafayette (LA) via LA 90, LA 83, and LA 319 is the town of Cypremort Point. The last few miles of the approach into town pass through salt marshes.

The Point, as the locals call it, extends into Vermilion Bay, separating Weeks Bay to the northwest from West Cote Blanche Bay to the southeast.

The Gulf of Mexico is about a 10-mile boat ride through Southwest Pass, just west of Marsh Island. And when talking about the Gulf, there is the ever-present possibility of hurricanes.

This risk, and the extensive salt marshes, may explain why Cypremort Point is the only town located near the Gulf between Cameron and Grand Isle that can reached by car.

Steps to counter the effect of the storm surges caused by the high winds have been taken by building homes on stilts. The "first floor" is either open and used for storage or screened in and used as a patio.

Others creatively meet the require-ments for storm surge protection by building a concrete slab and then parking their RV (their living quarters) under a canopy. A couple of the more colorful homes on the outskirts of The Point are the one named
(above) and the one named Port Off (sic) Call (right).

At the main intersection of town is this indication of the town's primary industry--fishing. We are guessing that these traps are crab traps.

Also, harvesting shrimp, crawfish, and oysters combine with sport fishing to provide a lot of activity around the town's docks.

This row of homes along a very short channel from the Bay and

this home at the point of the land had views that would prompt one to say, "This would be a wonderful place to live."

But we suspect that a person enjoying a moment of daydreaming about that lifestyle would be jolted back to reality by the information in the scene on the left.

It was hard to imagine the scene when anything less than 12 feet off the ground was under water (Rita 9-23-05). Other recent daydream shatterers were Ike (9-12-08) and Gustav (9-1-05).