Say Si to Seeing Spain

How many superlatives can we use for one country? If the nation we are describing is Spain, then we’d say an unlimited number. So, as our fellow travelers plan their coming adventures, we highly recommend looking into a Spainish fiesta…
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How many superlatives can we use for one country? If the nation we are describing is Spain, then we’d say an unlimited number.

Beautiful, seductive, historic, engaging, exciting, dramatic, enticing, delicious, charming, alluring, appealing, captivating, fascinating, intriguing, inviting, enchanting, beguiling, mesmerizing, and… OK, you get the picture.

So, as our fellow travelers plan their coming adventures, we highly recommend looking into tours of Spain 2019.

Over the past few years we have come to appreciate the advantages of taking a tour as opposed to exploring on our own. First and foremost, the planning is so much simpler. With one contact everything is taken care of.

It also means never missing the most important sites, and benefiting from the expertise of people who have “been there, done that” many times before. It is so much easier when we can relax and see the destinations we want to see worry free.

In Spain that means Barcelona and Madrid.

Barcelona:

The Catalonian capital city certainly tics off every one of those adjectives we named before, and one important one we didn’t, unique.

We know it’s a cliché, but there really is no other place like it on earth. Responsible for that as much as almost anything is the presence of so many structures by the famed architect Antoni Gaudí.

There is one that stands out above all the others, literally and figuratively, the Sagrada Família. This massive basilica is without a doubt the pinnacle of his work, and we do mean pinnacle.

Huge spires rise into the sky over fifty stories high. These frame three entry ways decorated with incredible facades depicting the birth, death, and glorification of Christ.

Inside the cathedral is equally as engrossing. Gaudí set out to make his columns rising to the heavens feel like giant trees in a forest that split like branches to support the ceiling. After some time of gazing up at the enormous tapered pillars we couldn’t help but conclude that he was wildly successful.

More of this master’s work is scattered throughout the city, with a concentration at Park Güell. In this garden not only the structures, but the entire layout of the park was his design. The result is an amazing dream-like urban getaway.

Of course Barcelona has much more to offer than eccentric architecture, a visit wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Gothic Quarter.

This is the oldest part of the city, where there are still remnants of the ancient Roman wall and several structures dating back to the thirteen hundreds.

If this is the heart of Barcelona, then the boulevard La Rambla must be the aorta.

Much more than just a street, the promenade has become like a giant open air theater for performers, artists, and especially human statues.

Madrid:

Culturally quite different from Catalonia, Madrid is quintessentially Spanish. Touring the town means visiting plazas, a palace, and the Prado Museum, because it is famous for all of the above.

From the Puerta del Sol and the bear that represents the city, to the Plaza Mayor with King Philip III at the center, to Plaza Cibeles around the amazing City Hall, each is a veritable smorgasbord for the senses. Architecture and statues galore grace them along with incredible sidewalk cafes. Whenever possible we made a point of stopping for tapas to take time to soak in the atmosphere.

Speaking of eating, we may have never seen an array of tempting taste treats like what we found at the Market of San Miguel. Much more than a typical market, Mercado de San Miguel is a place for gourmet appetites, where more than thirty vendors sell a variety of tremendous tapas with olives, artichokes, seafood, and ham.

The ham! How could we almost forget to mention the ham? Please, please, we beg of you, please do not leave Spain without trying the Iberian ham. Cured pork products will never be seen the same again once you have.

Madrid is the Spanish seat of government, and has been since 1561, so the Royal Palace reflects the status of the time when the empire was perhaps the richest on earth. However, the current Palacio Real, which is the largest in Europe by floor space, was built after a fire destroyed the original in 1734.

The Palace, with the Almudena Cathedral directly across from it, makes for yet another wildly impressive square in this city with no shortage of them.

There are only a handful of museums around the world so well known that they help to define a city, and we would definitely include the Prado on that list. While the Louvre may be more famous, it is widely held that the Prado has the world’s finest collection of European art because of the centuries of collecting by the Spanish Royal family.

None of these attractions should be missed, and every single one is a stop on the tours that we mentioned above. It is also possible to add Cordoba and Seville to the itinerary, but we have not had the pleasure of visiting them yet.

Hmmm, looks as though we will need to book another trip to Spain soon.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Solemnly Cycling Along Omaha Beach

There might be no better way to experience Omaha Beach in Normandy than to glide silently along the several miles of this unparalleled piece of history on two wheels….

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A big thank you to Backroads Travel  for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

We are fully convinced that bicycles are the best way to see most places up close while traveling. We can cover many times more ground than on foot, and those feet don’t hurt at the end of the day.

However, if we needed some reinforcement for that point of view, there might be none better than the day we spent riding along Omaha Beach in Normandy. For us there is simply no better way to have experienced this unparalleled piece of history than to glide silently along its several miles of waterfront on two wheels.

We began at one of the surviving German bunkers, where the Fifth Engineer Special Brigade Memorial stands overlooking the landing site of the Allied troops.

The feeling here is beyond profound. Gazing out over the English Channel, the power of that historic campaign was fully overwhelming. It was not difficult to picture the armada of ships dotting the horizon, but almost impossible to imagine the chaos and turmoil of the human onslaught while the liberators came onshore.

It took several minutes before anyone in our group was even able to speak.

When we went inside of the bunker and looked through the narrow slits designed to allow for outgoing gunfire, we could only think that the positioning of the bunkers made it hard to believe any allied forces ever made it off of the beach.

Just above the bunkers, the Monument to the First Infantry Division commemorates the six hundred and twenty seven members of the Big Red One’s that died freeing France in June of 1944.

From there we made our way back up to the top of the bluff where The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located. Here the graves of 9,385 soldiers, almost all casualties of D-Day or soon after, spread out over one hundred and seventy acres.

If we thought that we were emotional before, this took us well beyond any feelings we had ever experienced. To gather ourselves we took a few minutes to meditate at the reflecting pool in front of the colonnade.

Along this columned walkway there are maps detailing the military operations, a bronze statue entitled Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, and the Wall of the Missing. The wall, inscribed with over fifteen hundred names, serves as a solemn reminder of those who were lost in action.

Moving into the cemetery, we spent a while walking among and gazing across the seemingly endless rows of stark white markers, taking in as many of the names as we could, before finally deciding to move on for a look at the rest of the beach.

Mounting our bikes we rode off in silence. The pathway took us directly alongside the sand, with the sea on our right and bluffs dotted with overgrown pillboxes left from Germany’s Atlantic Wall looming above us on our left.

After a mile or so we spotted the sculpture Les Braves rising from the water’s edge. Dedicated in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the thirty foot center pillars called Rise, Freedom! stand majestically between The Wings of Fraternity and The Wings of Hope, all formed from gleaming stainless steel.

It is an awesome work of art, designed by Anilore Banon to move in and out of the water with the tide and her words describing it are much better than anything we could possibly say:

The Wings of Hope -So that the spirit which carried these men on 6th June 1944, continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to change the future.

Rise Freedom! – So that the example of those who rose up against barbarity, helps us remain standing strong against all forms on inhumanity.

The Wings of Fraternity – So that the surge of brotherhood always reminds of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves. On 6th June 1944, these men were more than soldiers, they were our brothers.” – Anilore Banon.

Slightly inland from Les Braves is another poignant piece of artwork. Yannec Tomada’s Ever Forward is a statue of a running soldier carrying a wounded comrade up from the water. The work conveys the human struggle of that fateful day with gripping realism.

Once again, the artist’s words serve to explain much better than we ever could:

“In commemoration of the determined effort by the soldiers of the 29th Division’s 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team who landed the morning of June 6, 1944 on this section of Omaha Beach, known as Exit D-1, to open the Vierville Draw behind you to begin the liberation of Europe.”

This was another spot that held us for quite some time, unable to move away, but as we finally rode away from the sea it occurred to us that bicycles were a very good way to move about this countryside.

Later we learned that some of the Allied troops had used bicycles on D-Day.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A Real Irish Pub Crawl (in Ireland, they just call ’em pubs)

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, your GypsyNesters take a look at some real Irish pubs, you know, the kind actually in Ireland—so we suppose that they’re simply called pubs.

We’re guessing none of these public houses would ever dare to ruin a perfectly good pint by turning it green… 

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Your GypsyNesters take you on a real Irish Pub crawl!

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, your GypsyNesters take a look at some real Irish pubs, you know, the kind actually in Ireland—where we suppose that they are simply called pubs.

Pubs in Ireland have been around for a thousand years and the name derives from “public houses” —the average joe’s drinking spot, as opposed to a private bar where folks were charged to get in.

Pubs are truly the places that Irish go “where everybody knows your name,” and that was quickly proved to us. Though we found ourselves in areas where tourists frequent, every bartender welcomed the locals with a warm greeting—by name—and pint of their favorite brew or spirit. Over the years many have sung the praises of bending an elbow, with some of these quotes becoming quite famous.

We’re guessing none of these public houses would ever dare to ruin a perfectly good pint by turning it green, St. Patrick’s Day or not.

Starting at the Source

The Perfect Pint Bar at Guinness Academy were we got school in the art of pouring a flawless glass of Guinness

Speaking of perfectly good pints, what better place to start our adventure than at the Perfect Pint Bar inside the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate in Dublin?

Not only did we get to indulge in Uncle Arthur’s world famous stout, we also received detailed instructions in the art of properly pouring the perfect pint.

Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse Brewery in Dublin, Ireland

St. Patrick's Tower in Dublin, Ireland
St. Patrick’s Tower was built in 1805 to grind grain, St. Patrick can be seen on top holding a cross.

From there we needed only to walk up a few flights of stairs for a visit to the Gravity Bar, high atop the Guinness Storehouse.

The panoramic windows provide some of the best views of Dublin anywhere, and they also look like the head on a giant pint of Guinness when seen from the outside.

See more about our visit to the Guinness Storehouse—including our video on how to pour the perfect pint!

Sticking with Tradition

McCann's Bar in Dublin was established in 1759

Our next stop was McCanns Bar, just outside of St. James’s Gate.

The pub has a long history dating back to 1759, when it was opened by Paddy Hannan, but even after all of these years its main claim to fame is that McCanns is the closest bar to the Guinness’s Brewery.

Location, location, location.

Inside, we were less than surprised to see which brand o’ brew was most prominent.

McCann's Bar in Dublin was established in 1759

But McCanns was also proudly advertising a new beer, Hop House Lager 13, which is also made by Guinness and only available in select pubs in Ireland.

Of course we had to try one, and found it night-and-day different from their renowned stout.

Made with Irish barley and double-hopped with aromatic hops, we would call it bright and lively, and definitely not green.

Bad Ass Pub in Dublin, Ireland
Some pubs have more colorful names than others!

Layering in Some Good Irish Grub

M.J. O’Niell’s Pub in Dublin, Ireland

When pub crawling, one needs to layer in a booze mop.

So we were glad to find that any pub worth its salt doesn’t only serve up the suds. In the fine old public house tradition they will feed a hungry traveler a rib-sticking meal as well.

For that we chose M.J. O’Niell’s in the Temple Bar section of Dublin. They came highly recommended, and lived up to their reputation.

Corned beef at O'Neill in Dublin, Ireland

We ordered lamb stew and a slab of corned beef, both with plenty of Irish potatoes, and of course, a couple o’ pints.

Picking our poison was no easy task at O’Neill’s, since they pour forty-five different brews on tap, and a bunch more in bottles, from all over the world.

Lamb stew at O'Neill in Dublin, Ireland

The Turks Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland

For comparison sake we should mention that we also had a meal at the Turks Head Pub (established 1760) a few days later.

The food, Beef and Guinness casserole and fish & chips, was classic Irish fare, while the decor was a wild mix of Turkish Bazaar and corner bar.

For a change of pace, we tried a Bulmer’s Cider to wash it down.

The Turks Head Pub in Dublin, Ireland

See a wee bit more of Dublin!

A Hero’s Beer

Crean's beer at Dingle Brewing Company in Dingle Ireland

Leaving Dublin, we drove across the Emerald Isle to the Wild Atlantic Way for a stay in the small town of Dingle.

On the edge of the village, we visited a little brewery that has recently created a crisp, clean lager and named it after a true Irish hero, the Antarctic explorer Tom Crean.

Even though Crean’s has only been around since 2011, it was a favorite, at least of the lagers we tried.

We voted it a fitting tribute to Tom, who during the Terra Nova Expedition in 1913 walked thirty-five miles across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of his fellow explorer, Edward Evans.

Our speculation was that the idea of naming it after him must have been because he would have wanted a refreshing drink after a trek like that.

David tries a Crean's beer at Dingle Pub in Dingle, Ireland. GypsyNester.com

Since we like both a beer and a good story, we set about asking for a Crean’s in every pub we popped into after that.

At The Dingle Pub, right in the middle of Main Street, they were proudly serving it, although Veronica opted for a retesting of the Hop House Lager 13. She felt it was important in the name of science.

Hop House 13, by Guinness, is only available in a limited amount of pubs in Ireland

This was our most rousing neighborhood pub experience of the trip, since a big hurling match was on the tube.

The 3,000-year-old game is hugely popular in Ireland and basically unknown elsewhere.

It looked to be a sort of cross between hockey and soccer, played on grass, where the players use sticks to try and hurl the small ball into the opposing team’s goal.

A real Irish pub crawl!
At halftime, the party takes to the street.

Much more study—and Crean’s—would have been necessary to begin to decipher the rules.

Sometimes the guys could run with the ball, and other times they seemed required to hit it, and sometimes players were allowed to completely knock silly the guy with the ball, but not most of the time.

Content that we had no idea what was happening on the field, the match gave the bar a raucous air that was good fun on a Saturday afternoon.

See a wee bit more of Dingle!

Drinkin’ in the Hardware Store

Foxy John's Pub in Dingle, Ireland is also a hardware store!

Across the street we discovered a very unique establishment.

On several occasions we had walked by Foxy John’s during the daylight hours and thought nothing of it, other than that it struck us as an odd name for a hardware store.

Then that evening we happened by and the joint was jumping.

The humble little vendor of housewares and hammers had transformed into one of Dingle’s hottest nightspots after the sun went down.

Foxy John's Pub in Dingle, Ireland is also a hardware store!

Foxy John's Pub in Dingle, Ireland is also a hardware store!

We went inside and the place was not only packed, but the crowd continued back through three rooms.

The little storefront occupied only about a quarter of the total drinking space.

As far as we could tell John had the most popular pub in town for locals to converse—and consume a pint or three.

Since our hotel was only a few doors down, we stayed for a nightcap before walking back. Later, we got to enjoy a number of tipsy serenades as the patrons filed out after closing time.

That’ll teach us to sleep with the windows open next door to an Irish pub… er, pub.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Ireland!

A big thank you to Ireland.com for providing this yummy adventure. As always, all opinions are our own.

YOUR TURN: Are you game for a pub crawl in Ireland?

Grandchildish Behavior

I’ve had two unexpected conversations recently that have given me pause for reflection. The first was with my father-in-law while dining over Mexican food in Kansas. While catching him up with our kids’ lives, he asked me if they were dating anyone of note. I told him that at the moment there were no significant others. Then, the bolt out of the blue,”Oh, you must be sad that you won’t be having grandchildren anytime soon.”

The next exchange was with my daughters, The Piglet and Decibel.

“All of our friends’ mothers are on crazy grandma patrol. How come you aren’t nagging us about having babies?”

It started out as gentle teasing, but… CONTINUE READING  >>

I’ve had two unexpected conversations recently that have given me pause for reflection. The first was with my father-in-law while dining over Mexican food in Kansas.

While catching him up with our kids’ lives, he asked me if they were dating anyone of note. I told him that at the moment there were no significant others. Then, the bolt out of the blue,

“Oh, you must be sad that you won’t be having grandchildren anytime soon.”

The next exchange was with my daughters, The Piglet and Decibel.

“All of our friends’ mothers are on crazy grandma patrol. How come you aren’t nagging us about having babies?”

It started out as gentle teasing, but during the course of the discourse I got the feeling that they might be getting miffed by my lack of interest. Even though I know – good AND well – that neither of the girls are even remotely at a procreating place in life.

In fact, one of them finds the birthing process so totally repulsive that she wants to be “knocked out like the good old days” should the event ever occur.

The truth is, if I were to start pestering them the slightest bit about producing a grandchild, I know I’d be in for a tongue lashing that only a resident of New York City could deliver. I’m not about to unleash that hound.

But I hadn’t really pondered the subject before, except in the abstract, so just the asking of the question got me thinking.

If I were to have a grandbaby, I think I would be the best grandma ever. That child would be the most loved and cherished little one on the face of the earth. I think David would be even nuttier, he’s crazy about kids and kids love him right back. It would be a battle just to pry the tot off of his aching, horsey back.

BUT, if I never have grandkids, that’s all right, too. I’m not one of those passing-along-the-genes/carrying-on-the-family name kinda gals. There’s no inherent longing in my breast – I actually view that stuff as sort of archaic. Maybe this is a backlash from the incessant hints my mother-in-law dropped as soon as David and I got hitched.

In her defense, David is the fourth of five children, and was the first to marry – she had waited a LONG time by then. All of her girlfriends were winning the Grandma Game back in a time when that baby tally really meant something.

Baby begging doesn’t seem to be as much a part of our generation’s psyche, but grandma pride seems to have survived in full force. Facebook has opened my eyes to that.

Once one of my friends becomes a grandparent, their profile becomes a never-ending barrage of baby pictures. They’re worse than the new mothers. I understand it though, I’ll probably be a photo posting maniac myself should the time ever come.

To be honest, one of the reasons for my lack of longing is unabashed selfishness. I like having my kids all to myself when we visit. No husbands, wives or diaper changes to disrupt my time with them. I feel I’m just getting to know them as adults, and I am loving the process. I don’t want to share.

Genetics may play into my thinking as well. My mother-in-law, as one might imagine, was wet-her-pants excited when I announced my first upcoming bundle of joy.

But my side of the family reacted a bit differently. My mother was properly excited, but you would have thought I purposefully dropped an anvil on my dad. He was dismayed. He had to know that I was at an age where this type of thing could happen, he just couldn’t believe that HE was.

“I’m too young to be a Grandfather!”

Like my goal had been to put the final nail in the coffin of his fading youth. Grandfatherdom seemed to be a direct affront to the vernal image he had of himself.

As taken aback as I was at the time, I have to admit that I get it today. Personality is something I’ve inherited from my Dad and – honestly – the idea of me being a grandma stings a bit. (Note to self: try to hide this little selfish feeling when you get the “I’m pregnant!” phone call).

Finally, I have to wonder how influenced by outside factors I might be. In our society, we are past the point where we need to quickly pump out babies to help out on the farm, carry on the family name, or populate our religious faith and the Wild West.

There are an awful lot of people on this little planet of ours and I have to say I’m glad we’re slowing down with the baby birthing bit.

My offspring should set their reproductive itinerary at their own pace. It is not something I need to stick my pointy nose into. The potential for disaster looms large if a person is nagged into breeding before they are prepared, whether by a parent, society or even a spouse.

If one of our babies feels the time is right to reproduce, I’ll be right there with helpful hints on nausea, mood swings, vomit stain elimination and the like.

Until then, I’ll be glad to have them all to myself.

One last thing, a quick message to my kids – are you EVER going to have a baby?! Just kidding (I think).

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: You’ve heard my opinion, how do you feel?

How to Do Mardi Gras Without Being Asked to Lift Your Shirt!

Don’t get us wrong – we LOVE New Orleans. But the thought of wading into a Big Easy Mardi Gras is something better left to young whippersnappers.

We took the rural route and learned about the wonderful goings-on in Cajun Country – what they call the REAL Mardi Gras!

Courir de Mardi Gras involves costumed men dancing on horseback, begging, and chicken chasing!

La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns A tradition older than Mardi Gras, is a communal hog butcher and meat fest.

Fais do-do See what Cajuns do once the kids go to bed… CONTINUE READING >>

With Fat Tuesday fast approaching, we dug back in our archives for this tale of festivities, revelry, and merriment. We offer it as inspiration for anyone who might be planning an adventure of their own.

Jeanerette Mardi GrasDon’t get us wrong – we LOVE New Orleans. But the thought of wading into a Big Easy Mardi Gras is something better left to young whippersnappers.

We took the rural route and learned about the wonderful goings-on in Cajun Country – what they call the REAL Mardi Gras!

Let the good times roll!

THE CRAZIEST THING WE’VE SEEN YET…
AND WE’VE SEEN A LOT OF CRAZY THINGS

Courir de Mardi Gras

We discovered a long-held rural tradition of Cajun Country, Courir de Mardi Gras, in Church Point. It translates to Fat Tuesday Run and traces its origins back to medieval France and the fête de la quémande or feast of begging.

Runners, known as Mardi Gras, ride horses or wagons through the countryside stopping to beg at farms for ingredients for a communal gumbo to be made after the run. The most common offering from the farmers is a chicken which then must be chased and captured by the Mardi Gras.

At 5 AM we were awoken by the beginnings of the revelry. Horses started making their presence known and whoops and hollers filled the early morning air. The staging area was already a sea of mud.

We watched curiously while the participants – who by tradition must be male, over 14 and in costume – registered, drank, saddled up, drank, greeted each other, drank, got geared up, drank, played music, drank, danced, and oh yeah, drank some more. Costumes are imperative to the tradition in that the identity…CONTINUE READING

You’ve gotta watch the video to believe it…it’s, well, just watch.

Chicken Chasing
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(and more history, crazy goings on and what happened when Veronica became part of the proceedings!)

MARDI GRAS DAY – A TALE OF TWO TOWNS

Chicken Kissing

Asking around, we got conflicting answers to the question, “Where do we spend the actual day of Mardi Gras?”

We had spent almost three weeks in Acadiana, celebrating all things Mardi Gras, but still hadn’t landed on where to spend the big day.

Narrowing our many choices down to two, we focused on Eunice and Mamou, because each boasted chicken chasing, a big street festival and authenticity.

We were told Eunice was both “the best – by far” and “too commercial.” Mamou, on the other hand receive reviews like “the most authentic” and “just a bunch of drunks sitting on ice chests.”

Like the idiots we are, we decided to visit both. And both… CONTINUE READING

Mardi Gras Day!
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(and more!)

A CAJUN BOUCHERIE – LET’S PIG OUT!

Backbone Stew

The Boucherie is not necessarily a part of the Mardi Gras celebration, in fact it most likely predates Mardi Gras activities here in South Louisiana, but in recent years many communities have included the old fashioned hog slaughter in their weekend of Mardi Gras events.

Back in the days before refrigeration families would get together to share a butchered hog because the meat would go bad before one family could eat it all. Before long this became a pretty good excuse to throw a little party.

Interesting and entertaining, not to mention tasty. After watching every part of the pig get cut for a specific purpose, we had the chance to sample… CONTINUE READING

Boucherie!
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(and more!)

GO TO SLEEP LITTLE ONE, MAMA WANTS TO DANCE

Straight Whiskey at Church Point Louisiana Fais do-do

“Fais do-do” is Cajun baby talk for “go to sleep” and once the kiddies are all tucked sweetly in bed, Mamma and Daddy (and Maw Maw and Paw Paw) have the chance to “pass a good time.”

We kicked off the Friday before Mardi Gras at a Fais do-do in Church Point.

We were told by a woman earlier in the day that the Fais do-do was essential for us to attend, as it was when the town “come together like family” and that we would be treated as such. And we were.

In a little town like Church Point, we normally stick out like sore thumbs, not because we’re so different as much as that everyone literally knows everyone, and we – well – we don’t know anyone. That changed at the Fais do-do.

The people of Church Point have never met a stranger, we were welcomed with open arms as everyone — from the Queen of The Courir de Mardi Gras, to the ladies handing out beer, to the mayor himself — took the extra time to make sure we had le bon temps!

Big shout out to the band “Straight Whiskey” – the real deal.

Fais do-do in Church Point Louisiana

HOW MUCH KING CAKE CAN ONE PERSON EAT?

Mardi Gras King Cake

As soon as we crossed over the Louisiana border we began seeing King Cakes.

This tradition started in France in the 1100s to commemorate the Three Kings’ visit to the Christ Child.

In Acadiana the King Cake is in the shape of a ring to symbolize a crown and decorated in Mardi Gras purple, gold and green.

A little plastic baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake and the person who’s slice contains the baby is designated as the host of the next Mardi Gras or King Cake Party.

After asking around, we found out that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the flavor of the cake. Bakeries generally fill their King Cakes with cream cheese and fruit, and some fancier versions include marzipan or Bavarian cream. The only guiding principle seems to be the colors – purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.

Mardi Gras King Cake

The King Cake can be found in this area from January 6th until Mardi Gras Day.

THE BEST BETWEEN-THE-WEEKENDS DIVERSION

Taster's Choice in Eunice

THE place to be on the Wednesday night before Mardi Gras is “Taster’s Choice” in Eunice. We headed down to the Acadian Center at LSU/Eunice to eat some of the best Cajun food we’ve ever had.

Over twenty chefs sponsored by local businesses bring their best dishes for the benefit of the Community Clinic – and a big time is had by all!

For 20 bucks each, we ate ourselves silly and were mesmerized by Marc Savoy on the French accordion playing traditional Cajun music with his family and friends – AND it was all for a great cause.

Once each guest made the rounds and sampled the food, we were encouraged to vote for our favorite dish. Here were ours:

Best sponsor name – Guidry’s Dirt Service’s Crawfish Chowder
Most clever name – Bayou Alfredeaux
All around favorite – Fruge Lumber Company’s Crawfish Étouffée Taster's Choice, Eunice Louisiana

YOU CAN GET BOOZE AT THE DRIVE-THRU WINDOW?

You Can Get Booze at the Drive Thru Window?

As a matter of fact, you can.

And not just during Mardi Gras season. All over Cajun Country all you have to do is drive up and order.

Being the curious types, we tried it on bikes.

It was about one in the afternoon in Marksville when we rolled up to the window at Daiquiri Island and didn’t even get a reaction from our server.

The drink menu was nailed to the wall by the window with concoctions called “Stanky Leg,” “Purple Haze,” and “Whoop Ass,” (among others we’re too embarrassed to type BUT there’s a pic here)!

There was no explanation as to what they might be made of, so we went with something we had heard of – a Mudslide. When asked what size, we opted to split a small – which was 20oz! Delicious and VERY potant. An adult chocolate milkshake, if you will.

You Can Get Booze at the Drive Thru Window?

Later in the day, we found another interesting establishment, The Watering Hole.

Instead of a drive-up window, we actually drove through the building. The walls were lined with refrigerator cases filled with cold beer, wine and the like. And there were daiquiris, as well. Our favorite name was “Hillbilly Suicide.”

The drink we had split earlier was MORE than enough, so we opted for a pound of crawfish scooped up out of a cooler – the biggest little mudbugs we’d ever seen. Delicious!
Daquiri Drive Thru
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(and more!)

MARDI GRAS IS GOING TO THE DOGS!

Canine King of Mardi Gras Dog Parade

Lafayette’s Krewe des Chiens Annual Dog Parade is a must-do.

This parade is geared toward children, but brings out the dog lover in all of us.

Vibrantly costumed fur babies proudly trot down Lafayette’s downtown streets as both participants and spectators.

Everyone has a grin on their snout as beads are thrown, puppies are rescued and donations are accepted for Acadiana’s less fortunate furry friends!


Mardi Gras Dog Parade, Lafayette Louisiana
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JEANERETTE’S KREWE OF EZANA MARDI GRAS PARADE

Jeanerette's Krewe of Ezana Mardi Gras Parade

Some parades are focused on floats and bead throws.

Not in Jeanerette. This little town of 6,000 throws a real show. Marching bands, twirlers and dancers of all ages fill out the spaces between the floats.

They don’t call Jeanerette “Sugar City” for nothing – this town doesn’t mess around with the treats they throw – candy, beads, stuffed animals, candy, trickets, oh, and candy. And gum.

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KREWE OF CARNIVALE EN RIO – all about the beads!

Krewe Of Carnivale en Rio

This parade IS all about the beads.

Seriously. It was insane. We had discussed ahead of time our rules of personal bead gathering, as we wanted to get a realisic idea about how many one could expect to gather.

-No picking them off the street.
-No grabbing them away from eager youngsters (think foul balls at a baseball game).
-Unless they are thrown directly to us or hit us when we weren’t paying attention, they did not go around our necks.

Even so, we could barely walk back to our vehicle – madness, sheer madness.

We should have realized something was up when we saw all of the “Throw Me Something Mister” signs and fishing nets. The winner was a kid who was holding a laundry basket affixed to a broomstick, creating a target that no float rider could resist trying to make.

By the halfway point there were nearly as many plastic bags that had held the beads floating on the wind in Lafayette as beads themselves.


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David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Delve deeper:
Visit the crazy Courir de Mardi Gras, in Church Point – chicken chasing!
Check out the authentic celebrations in Eunice and Mamou
Go hog wild at an old-fashioned Boucherie meat fest!
Watch dogs celebrate Mardi Gras at the Krewe des Chiens Dog Parade
Find out how to get booze at a drive-thru window
Join us at the parades in Jeanerette and Lafayette
Learn more about the Acadian, Canadian, and Cajun connection
See our thank you to the mysterious person at the Dog Parade who commited a wonderful act of kindness!

YOUR TURN: Have we convinced you to give rural Mardi Gras a shot? What would be your first stop? Did we miss anything?