Disclaimer: This post was written by my loving wife, Meredith.
Meredith and I had been counting down the days until the DeYoung family would be in town for a vacation. They ended up driving all 973 miles from Fort Wayne, IN to Baton Rouge in one night, arriving around 10pm, leaving enough time to unpack the car and have a small snack before bed. Unfortunately Meredith had to work the next day, so she was not able to join us for doughnuts at Tiger Deauxnuts or tour the Louisiana Art and Science Museum with us. The weather was also surprisingly cold for this time of year: in the 60s, cloudy, and extremely windy which did not make for a great initial introduction to the South. But for dinner we warmed up with a traditional southern dish, red beans and rice with andouille sausage.
Friday the weather started to warm back up so we made a trip out to the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center to see some wildlife – including lots of turtles, some snakes, and even a barn owl. We were all mesmerized watching the full grown owl gracefully glide between cypress trees. After lunch and a mini nap we made a stop at the LSU lakes to play on the beach, feed the birds, and play on the large playground. While out that way we also showed them some staples of LSU’s campus including Tiger Stadium, Mike the Tiger’s habitat/statue, and the Indian burial mounds – which made for a fun time climbing up them to then run on down. And what better way to finish the day then to stop at the local snowball stand. We couldn’t decide what flavor Evelyn should get, so she ended up getting a rainbow. An excellent decision. I tried my favorite flavor for the first time that day, kiwi.
Every Saturday morning in downtown Baton Rouge is the farmer’s market, located only two blocks from home. On top of that if it’s the first Saturday, they add in live music and several booths of local artists. So we spent the first part of our morning listening to music, exploring booths, and trying some gelato made from Ponchatoula, LA strawberries. After everyone had woken up a bit, we walked down to the levees to visit the USS Kidd – a U.S. Navy destroyer ship commissioned in World War 2 that is now stationed permanently on the Baton Rouge Mississippi River levees as a memorial to Louisiana WWII veterans. It is the only existing destroyer ship to have not been remodernized, retaining it’s original WWII appearance. The Kidd also has a special mooring system allowing the Kidd to float with the regularly fluctuating water level in the Mississippi River. We took a self-guided too that gave us access to walk nearly every inch of the ship.
Liz and Nate picked a great weekend to tour the Kidd, because also in port and available for a tour that weekend was the El Galeon, an 16th century Spansih Galleon Replica ship. Galleons were boats that took the lead role in trade and cultural routes from the 16th to 18th century. The specific replica was constructed in 2009 and has since covered 48,000 nautical miles. That evening we strolled through Arsenal Park – located just one block north of us – the park was an important military post during the Civil War. In fact, it was the site of the Battle of Baton Rouge in September 1779, the only battle of the Revolutionary War fought outside the original thirteen colonies. The kids were pretty tuckered out after our long day of walking so we set up the Eno hammock and ate some desert under the palm trees.
On Sunday Nate had a biking road race in LaPlace, LA just outside New Orleans. Nathan is on a very competitive cycling team back in Fort Wayne, IN in which he is required to enter so many races a year, so he decided to go rouge and participate in a race down here. He did awesome, taking 1st in his category. I was just proud of him for surviving the heat/humidity down here. Following his ride we stopped by District Donuts, an artisan doughnut shop in New Orleans known for over 100 different types. That day we tried key lime pie, whiskey ginger, chocolate sprinke, and classic vanilla. We decided to spend the rest of our time in New Orleans at the the Audobon Zoo. Even with all the choices in animals, Evelyn was probably most excited to ride the carousel and I felt truly blessed that she chose me as the adult to ride with her. Meredith’s favorite part was the Louisiana swamp section, full of wading birds, turtles, Louisiana black bear, and even a leucistic white alligator. Leucistic is a genetic mutation that causes translucent skin and blue eyes in alligators. Out of the projected 5 million American alligators in the United States – they believe there are less than 15 with this genetic condition.
The next day Meredith went back to work and the DeYoung family started their drive back to Indiana. We are so grateful they made the trip to see us and it was an honor showing them our favorite parts so far of Cajun Country. We are expect our next visitors in early July – Meredith’s parents!