After 5 days in New Orleans we ventured north/west into cajun country upto New Iberia. Now the guidebooks and the local tourist websites present a rather rose tinted and romantic view of the region. The reality is very different. The road from New Orleans to New Iberia and Lafayette is an Interstate-no issues there-but for kilometre after kilometre it is fringed by really unattractive strip development by the offshore oil industry operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Pipeline storage facilities, safety training acadamies, core analysis laboratories, heavy equipment storage facilities, specialist service after service and to top it all hundreds of very large hoardings advertising the services of compensation attorneys. " Injured in an offshore accident?-Call Ambulance Chaser and Associates on 1800 HELP".
A vivid reminder that amongst many other ills the US has a major problem with the rapacious legal profession.
Sadly I took no photographs of this extensive rural blight but anyway it would have been impossible to convey it in photographs
We stayed at a very new Holiday Inn Express on the outskirts of New Iberia. The friendly receptionist gave us a map of the town which looked like a map of a country village in England. We drove into the town late in the afternoon expecting to find at least a couple of restaurants as well as interesting buildings to look at. The approach up a highway lined by car yards,fast food outlets, gas stations and sundry other businesses was not promising and it did not get any better as sadly the map and the tourist websites were a severe case of overpromising and underdelivering. Historic New Iberia is an illusion. It is shuttered and very rundown. It has suffered the fate of so many rural towns across the world. The population has declined and businesses have migrated to the outskirts and the downturn in the oil price has really hit local employment and the local economy generally.
I took three photos in New Iberia itself. Here is the first.
It's not difficult to visualise the Evangeline theatre in its full glory but sadly those days are long gone. We did find somewhere to eat but that's another story and at least the local beer was excellent and the bar/ restaurant had this line up vintage bar stools.
One of the claims of New Iberia is that it has the oldest operating rice mill in the US-photo below. Well it is still operating and it has an very good factory shop but it is difficult to understand how it is still operating as it is so dilapidated. A big storm and it will end up being the oldest once operating rice mill in the US.
The principal reason we travelled to New Iberia was to see a bayou close up and go on a swamp airboat tour into the Atfchafalaya Basin. We saw alligators, of course,but none of the much hyped colourful bird life. The basin is impressive although a very long elevated section of interstate highway through part of it rather spoils the wilderness effect.
The Landing near Henderson where we took the tour had a rather melancholic air and I cannot see any of these outboards ever spinning their props again.
The bottom photo shows a fishing hut out on the bayou. Personally I would go stir crazy if I had to spend more than a couple of hours out there but apparently these weekenders are highly sought after. And what about the alligators? Fancy lying in bed and hearing noises in the night. No, not for me.