French Quarter photography by Dwight Casimere
NEW ORLEANS--Louisiana has all of the qualifications to have itself named a sovereign country. It has its own languages and dialects, regional cuisines, music and culture, as distinctive as any found in Europe. In a recent national tour, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, spread the word about the many exciting festivals and diverse sights and sounds that the state has to offer.
"Most people will be surprised at how diverse Louisiana is," stated Misty Velasquez, Director of Programs and Services for the Department of Culture, Recreatioln and Tourism. "Most only associate Louisiana with New Orleans and the French Quarter, but even venturing just a few miles outside the city, you can be thrown into a completely different experience in terms of cuisine, culture and the visual landscape.
Case in point; the Lafayette area. "When you come to Lafayette, you'll see areas of misty swamps and lush, over-sized vegetation that will have you thinking you're in the rainforest in South America or walking somewhere on a distant planet." said Ben Berthelot, Executive Director of Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. " The visual effect is almost hypnotic!" So is the food and the music. "Lafayette is home to some of the most authentic Louisiana music you will ever hear. The "King of Zydeco" himself, Clifton Chenier, is from St. Landry Parish where both he, and Zydeco music were born. Audiences around the world consider him music royalty." The Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center is the repository for all things relating to Zydeco and the culture that surrounds it.
Besides 2013 being the Year of Louisiana Music, Cuisine, Culture and Nature Festivals abound throughout the state, the most recent being the New Ortleans Wine and Food Experience in New Orleans. Memorial Day Weekend.
Lake Charles, Louisiana is often described as the epicenter of Cajun Country and is recognized around the state as a major stop on the "Boudain trail," named for the local sausage produced there which is a distinctive mix of ground pork and livers or crawfish, mixed in with rice and Cajun seasonings. Boudin are considered the 'national dish" of Cajun country, and can be eaten for breakfast or lunch, or anytime snack.
If you're looking for live music or some gaming action, head to Lake Charles' casinos. L'Auberge Casino Resort is famous during the summertime for the Liquid Society's Party by the Pool, a poolside concert series held every Thursday night. If you'd like something a little more adventurous, head out on the Creole Nature Trail, where you can see live alligators or stroll remote beaches.
The Great River Road area is home to the distinct South Louisiana sound of swamp pop. Mix rock n' roll with a little bit of R and B, country, Cajun and Creole influences and you have the Swamp Pop sound. Originated in the '50s, Swamp Pop has gained national recognition with such hits as Phil Phillip's Sea of Love. The Swamp Pop Music Festival will be held in July in Gonzales.
Livingston Parish is home to some of the Bass fishing to be found anywhere. Just minutes from Baton Rouge, it offers more than 400 waterway miles and a host of exciting experiences for campers and naturalists at Tickfaw State Park. Take a ride on the Tiki Zip Line or watch a Ciuvil War Re-enactment before heading out to Livingston's charming antique district and for dining at its terrific restaurants, bed and breakfasts and new hotels.
Baton Rouge area and its West Baton Rouge Parish is the home of James "Slim Harpo" Moore, a self-taught harmonica player and guitariost who became a swamp blues great. The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of his hit "Shake Your Hips." Philip's gravesite is considered a local shrine and can be found in the Mulatto Bend Cemetary in Port Allen.
Shreveport-Bossier City area is a Sportsmen's Paradise, with its waters flush with bass, catfish and bream. Superior Duck Hunting attracts top hunters from around the globe. To the east are the architecturally significant prehistoric mounds. Created by pre-historic people more than 3,000 years ago, the mounds stump archeologists. They are considered the oldest earthen mounds in North America.
Save the best for last! After all that trekking through the swamp and bass fishing, it's time to kick back and relax in one of the most luxurious hotels in all of America, the Hotel Monteleone. Founded in 1886 by Antonio Monteleone, a Sicilian shoemaker, who arrived in America's most European City, New Orleans, and bought a modest-64 room hotel on the Corner of Royal and Iberville Streets. His simple lodging later morphed into an historical landmark that is one of the last great family-owned and operated hotels in the city and is recognized world-wide as the sparkling "jewel in the crown" of the French Quarter.
Catch the Robin Barnes Jazz Quartet or Lena Prima, daughter of the great singer and trumpeter Louis Prima and The Prima Musical Legacy in the world-famous Carousel Bar and Lounge, home of the Sazerac cocktal, or dine on some of New Orleans' best cuisine at the Criollo Restaurant. Executive Chef Randy Buck has been named 2013 Chef of the Year, by the American Culinary Federation, New Orleans Chapter, placing him in the pantheon of the Great Chefs of New Orleans such as Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer, Emeril Lagasse and John Besh.
Hotel Monteleone is designated a Literary Lasndmark, because of its history of welcoming countless authors over the past century. In 1951, two of America's greatest authors, called the Monteleone home, William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. Faulkner received the French Legion of Honor Award there. Tennessee Williams mentioned The Monteleone in two of his plays, "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Rose Tattoo." "In Cold Blood" author Truman Capote claimed to have been born there.
With its entrance on Royal Street and its prime location at the very start of the French Quartert, the Hotel Monteleone is the perfect place to being your New Orleans experience. Who knows, you may be inspired to write a famous book or play yourself, or at least learn to singalong Fats Domino's"Blueberry Hill" with one of the talented street musicians that line Royal Street.
at the fabled entrance to Hotel Monteleone