Now then, where were we? Ah yes, Vicksburg. For anyone new to the Adventures in the South travelogue down the Mississippi, you can go back to the beginning with the Prologue, or check where we left off with the Clarksdale to Vicksburg episode.
Vicksburg is generally recognised as the foot of the Mississippi Delta, the fertile plain spreading out from the Big Muddy. It’s not a Delta in the classic sense, like the Nile Delta for example, occurring when a river branches out as it nears the sea. What’s more, Vicksburg isn’t strictly on the Mississippi any more, having been left behind when the river changed its course decades ago.
Waking up in the Andrew Jackson Suite of the Anchuca B&B, we had Sunday breakfast in the airy dining room. I decided to give grits another go, this time of the cheese variety, and it has to be said they were at least more palatable than the ones I’d sampled in Denny’s back in Memphis.
|Just some of the local attractions in Lafayette that we didn't see|
And then we were off, aiming for Lafayette, a couple of hundred miles away in Louisiana. First stop though, was a Walmart on the outside of town. I’d mislaid my shaver, so needed a replacement, and we took the opportunity to pick up a spare holdall as well. And yes, the place sold guns, in all shapes and sizes.
Continuing down Highway 61, we stopped for lunch in a baking hot Baton Rouge, then took a sharp turn west to cover the last 50 plus miles along Highway 10 to Lafayette. For a substantial chunk of this the road was on stilts over the bayou, with signs periodically advertising the presence of alligators in the area, which I think was designated a nature reserve or similar. It was a dramatic example of the effort necessary to negotiate the swampy southern land.
Approaching Lafayette in the late afternoon, we were running low on petrol, and looking to the south there were dark clouds and flashes of lightning heading our way. And sure enough, before we could reach a gas station, a tropical downpour arrived. If you’ve ever visited Disneyworld, this was the same kind of rainstorm that seems to hit the Orlando area metronomically at 5pm each day in summer – short lived, but torrential. And although it soon began to ease, it was still a bit disconcerting when you were struggling to find your way around town – which was a bit of a nuisance, as Lafayette was the one place on this trip where we hadn’t booked accommodation in advance.
After taking shelter and filling the tank at a gas station, we groped our way towards downtown, expecting that to be the obvious location for a hotel or two, we tripped over a Courtyard by Marriott. Initially I went in just to see if they had a local map, but after a swift consultation we decided to take a room for the night. We were feeling tired and grubby after the drive, and all too ready to avail ourselves of the very hospitable young staff, a decent room, and even laundry facilities.
The idea behind visiting Lafayette had been to seek out some Cajun music, this being the heartland of the style apparently. This would turn out to be a bust though. After having a rest, dealing with the laundry and getting freshened up, we emerged into the lobby looking decidedly more human. “Hey, y’all clean up real good!” laughed the receptionist, which said it all about how bedraggled we must have looked on arrival.
We ordered a cab to take us downtown to a likely sounding restaurant, and had a drink while we waited. And waited. And waited. A good 45 minutes later the cab finally turned up – and got us to the restaurant just in time to be told that the kitchen was closing. In fact it seemed like the centre of Lafayette was closing all round, with the exception of a large sports bar, where we ordered a couple of beers and considered our options.
Cajun music was no longer on the agenda, we reckoned. Options to eat out looked limited. Our planning for Lafayette, we concluded, had been sadly lacking. So we cut our losses, got a cab back to the hotel, and got fed and watered on a bottle of red wine and a couple of burgers and fries, while the hotel staff gave us tips for our next destination – New Orleans.
It may sound like a total cock-up, but it was one of those bizarre episodes you look back on and laugh. Like WC Fields visiting Philadelphia, we’ve been to Lafayette. It was closed.