Tuesday, July 23, 2013

False River and New Roads

“Step off the beaten path, and re-enter the world of 19th century Creole Louisiana in New Roads, Louisiana, where relaxation is the rule and history and tradition are abundant.”

This statement confirmed the suggestion of a very helpful consultant at the Commission when I asked: “What are some areas around Lafayette that you would recommend for a day trip that would include history and good food?”

Her answer: “One of the places I would recommend is New Roads.”

Armed with her suggestion, the July/August copy of Louisiana Kitchen and Culture, and information expanding on today’s opening quotation from newroads.net, we set off for New Roads.

Heading thirty-five miles east of Lafayette on I-10, followed by another thirty miles or so north on highways 3000, 76, 77, 78, and 1, passing green open spaces and
buildings serving as local bulletin boards,
brought us to one of the oldest communities in the Mississippi Valley.
Le Poste de Pointe Coupée (“The Pointe Coupee Post”) was founded in the 1720s by settlers from France. The post was located upstream from the point crossed by the explorers, immediately above but not circled by False River. The name was linked to the area along the Mississippi northeast of what is now New Roads.
About 1776, a Chemin Neuf, or "New Road", was built connecting the Mississippi River with False River. The post at False River became known as New Roads.

At one point while I was photographing the downtown area, a car pulled up in front of the bank where I was standing. The gentleman emerged and began walking toward the bank. Noticing that I was looking across the street with my camera poised, he asked, “I can move my car (the dark one in the photo below) if you would like.”
I thanked him for his concern, but assured him that that would not be necessary.

That offer and the fifteen-minute conversation that followed was another example of Cajun hospitality. After learning where we hailed from, he proudly touched on the “must see” sights of his hometown.

He urged us to take time to see the interior of St. Mary of False River Catholic Church.
(We were not able to see the stained glass windows in this 1907 Gothic-style church, because there was a funeral service in progress.)
On the subject of other places to see, our “stranger-turned-guide” strongly urged us to have lunch in town. He suggested Morel’s on the waterfront or
Ma Mama’s just down the street. But he said the best place for lunch was (see tomorrow’s entry).
We talked about our impressions of our travels through Cajun Country and the people we’ve met. Just before we parted, my “stranger-turned-friend” recommended heading out of town and “just before the railroad tracks, turn right and take the road along the eastern side of the lake.”

Before taking that drive, I took a few minutes to appreciate the many similar encounters with the people in the parishes surrounding Lafayette. The friendliest and most welcoming people we have met in our five years of traveling.

Before continuing our drive, we walked through this small park with benches to view this well-worn mural.
So as we headed out of town, we passed Kutz by Kurt
and wondered if that was Kurt in the window playing the guitar.
Raymond’s Friendly Family Pharmacy appeared welcoming
as did the murals on one exterior wall of the pharmacy.
The 1902 Romanesque Revival architectural style of the Pointe Coupee Parish Courthouse stood as a strong anchor of the community.

Interestingly, False River is actually an oxbow lake that was once the main channel of the Mississippi River in this area. It was cut off from the "mighty Mississippi" in about 1722 when seasonal flooding cut a shorter channel to the east.
False River is nearly 0.5 miles wide and 22 miles long, encompassing approximately 3,000 acres (louisianatravel.com/reasons-to-love-new-roads).
As we passed the homes on the eastern shore, we could easily see the attraction of the lake.

So, we learned that history and tradition are abundant in New Roads, but how about the food.

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