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Louisiana Tours – Allen Acres

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Louisiana Tours Allen Acres

While researching Beauregard and Allen parishes recently I stumbled upon Allen Acres outside the town of Pitkin. This bed and breakfast sounded so interesting that I reserved a room to surprise my wife for our anniversary celebration. It looks to be a fantastic base camp for Louisiana tours of the adjourning parishes. Charles and Susan Allen have spent years developing this haven. Dr. Allen is a noted authority on native plants and leads tours visit rare ecosystems in the area. Their preserve sounds like a great place to unwind.

Allen Acres

On the 26 acre property and closeby there are many unique sights to see. Day time activities include hikes, egg gathering, butterflies and wildflowers. At night there are hikes, stargazing and bonfires. The property has been developed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. It is designated as a State Natural Area. Skywatching in this area is stellar because of the absence of light pollution in this rural setting. The Ouiski (Whiskey) Chitto Creek, a clear spring fed creek is a short walk away.

Kisatchie National Forest

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant – Photo by Charles Allen

From Allen Acres we can easily explore Kistachie. The border of the  national forest is just yards from the property. Attractions include areas like Cooter’s Bog for plants and fireflies;  Longleaf Vista Recreational Area for unique vistas and Kisatchie Bayou for  fishing and wading. Cooter’s Bog covers over 130 acres. It is known for pitcher plants like the  carnivorous “horned bladderwort.” Dr. Allen leads tours of this area.  It’s a haven for butterflies.  Due to it’s very unusual topography this National Forest is the home of vistas not  often seen in the state. At Longleaf we can hike the buttes. Also this is rated as  the best place to stargaze in Louisiana due to the absence of night time lighting.  Kisatchie Bayou features clear water and a waterfall. It’s a great place to just sit and relax or wade in and even fish if you want to. One other feature unique to this forest is the Wolf Cave in the forest near Pitkin. The cave has a small entrance. There is evidence in the cave of past use by nomadic people and outlaws. Be sure to bring a flashlight and watch out for critters.

Leesville

Tour Louisiana Vernon Parish Courthouse

Built in 1910

Leesville is closeby. The beautiful historic Vernon Parish courthouse is located in the center of the historic business district. From the courthouse other sites in downtown are a pleasant stroll. There are several restaurants, an art gallery and antique stores nearby.

 

Mamou

As the song says, “why’d you go and leave me in Big Mamou?” It’s a great place to visit on a Saturday morning. Fred’s Lounge is the home of the KVPI AM 1050 Cajun Music Radio Show. The lounge is visited by locals, tourists and foreign visitors – all looking for a taste of authentic Cajun culture – and leaving well satisfied.

After a morning of Jolie Blonde drive to T-Boy’s Slaughterhouse for boudin then head out on the Cajun Prairie.

Ville Platte

Ville Platte (flat town) is a little further east from Mamou. Visit Teet’s Food Store, founded in 1955 by Teet Deville and his wife Ruby. They still use the original recipes for smoked sausage, tasso and smoked ponce.

Home Again

Whether you are spending one night or spending a week in the area Allen Acres is a delightful spot to visit as you tour Louisiana. On the road home reminisce and  share your stories of adventure. When you travel in a vehicle from Riverside Limousines remember: “we drive… you have fun!”

Louisiana Tour – Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes

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Louisiana Tour – Southwest Louisiana

Continuing our Louisiana tour we’ll visit the heel of the boot – the southwestern parishes: Calcasieu and Cameron. Traveling in one of Riverside Limousines comfortable, chauffeured mini-buses will give you time to visit and plan your agenda. The southernmost part of “no man’s land “; these parishes were carved out of what was the original parish of St. Landry. We’ll start our day at Sam Houston Jones State Park outside Moss Bluff.

Calcasieu Parish

It’s about 2.5 hours from Baton Rouge to Moss Bluff. Originally named for a Texas statesman, the park was renamed for a Louisiana Governor from Southwest Louisiana. After our drive we can stretch our legs on the trails and enjoy the sights the park has to offer. Several trails take you into the park and give access to wildlife, flowers and the water. 

From the park we’ll travel north to DeQuincy (birthplace of Smiley Louis – “I Hear You Knockin‘”)and visit the Railroad Museum. Kansas City Southern Railroad completely rebuilt this station in 1923. Now a museum, the station is an outstanding example of the Mission Revival style of architecture. It’s on the National Register.

Heading for Lake Charles we’ll drive through rice country. When we arrive in Lake Charles, it’s lunch time. We’ll head for Southern Spice at 3901 Ryan Street. The food is very good and down home. They offer “home cookin”, seafood and steaks in a relaxed atmosphere. Their Seafood Stuffed Pistolettes are a real treat. From the restaurant it’s about 15 minutes to our next stop.

Louisiana Tours

On display Lake Charles La

The USS Orlick was built in Orange, Texas and launched in May of 1945. A Gearing Class Destroyer, this ship saw action in the Korean War, Vietnam, and in the Turkish Navy. Now temporarily berthed in Lake Charles it is being restored by volunteers and looking for a permanent location. Touring the vessel while under restoration gives visitors a unique perspective and glimpse behind the scenes of this piece of history. Volunteers lead the tours and the fees go toward the expense of restoration. 

After our tour we’ll head for Aunt Ruby’s Bed and Breakfast on Pujo Street in the historic Charpentier District of Lake Charles. Opened in 1911 after much of downtown was destroyed by fire, this was the first boarding house in the city. It has been remodeled. Reviewers emphasize the service received and the outstanding breakfast.

Check in, freshen up, rest, walk the historic neighborhood until it’s time to leave for supper. We’ll head to Vinton (as far west as you can go and still be in Louisiana) for supper at Comeaux’s Restaurant. Originally opened in 1994 they have changed names several times. From their Facebook page, their mission is: Comeaux’s Restaurant stands for “good food for good times”.  Our mission is to provide “UNCOMMONLY GOOD”, AUTHENTIC CAJUN FOOD at a reasonable price, while providing a genuine Cajun experience. 

After supper we’ll return to Aunt Ruby’s. There are places to go close by or we can sit on the porch and unwind. Next morning, after our gourmet breakfast (it really sounds outstanding) we’ll head out to see alligators and other wildlife.

Cameron Parish

 Alligator’s are big business in south Louisiana. I think when people hear Louisiana, the top five things that come to mind are: Mardi Gras, New Orleans, LSU football, Duck Dynasty and alligators (maybe alligators first.)

Louisiana Tours

Sonnier’s for A+ Boudin

On the way out of Lake Charles we’ll stop and stock up on boudin and other refreshments at Sonnier’s Sausage and Boudin. The Boudin authority, boudinlink.com gives them an A+ – it don’t get much better than that “cher.”

There are several swamp life tours to choose from. GROSSE SAVANNE (big pasture) ECO-TOURS offer tours lasting 2 hours to a full day general tour, customized tours and birding trips. This place has a very high WOW factor. Airboat and Alligators on Grand Chenier is part of a alligator farm/processor with one hour tours leaving each hour. 

Our route to the tours will be via The Creole Nature Trail. Described as 180 miles of oohs, aahs and wows, there are numerous places to stop from beaches to nature walks. A free tour app is available to guide our way. And when you are done, your chauffeur will drive you home!

As you enjoy your Louisiana Tour in Calcasieu and Cameron Parish remember “we drive – you have fun!”

 

Tour Louisiana – Evangeline Parish

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Evangeline Parish

Evangeline Parish was created by a dividing of St. Landry Parish in 1911. The story goes that folks in Ville Platte and Mamou had to travel too far to do business at the parish seat. They felt they were being overlooked for opportunities in the parish. Join us as we tour Louisiana.

Named for the heroine of Longfellow’s poem the residents  are said to claim themselves the “most Cajun” of all. A real blending of cultures, Evangeline claims the most French spoken, best gumbo, best boudin, the best music and the best whatever else. Who knows, they just might be right – let’s find out.

Louisiana Tour

RLS Sprinter on Louisiana Tour

In this parish there’s the “wild side” like food and cajun music and there’s the “wild side” like the Louisiana State Arboretum and the Native Plant Heritage Garden.  A mini-bus from Riverside Limousines with a professional chauffeur a great way to see the parish. You visit with friends, listen to music, watch a video, eat a snack and leave the driving to us.

Mamou

Mamou is about 2 hours from Baton Rouge. The town has been immortalized in the song, “Big Mamou?”  If we leave before 7:00 a.m. we can get to Fred’s before 9:00 a.m. and enjoy music and Cajun dancing. The live band starts at 8:00, (yes, that’s 8:00 a.m.) It may be standing room only by the time we arrive. When we leave there we can drop our luggage at Cazan’s across the street from Fred’s if we plan to spend the night.

Ville Platte

Boudin Tour Louisiana

Serving A+ Boudin

Leaving Mamou we’ll stop by T-Boy’s Boudin and Crackin’ to put some of his A+ boudin (sausage made from pork, rice, seasoning and spices) in the ice chest as we head for lunch at Cafe de La Salle in Ville Platte. According to Acadiana Table’s “Faces and Places” they are hard to beat for “true Cajun food” Their smoked ponce is one of the best he’s ever had. Ponce is a sausage stuffed pig stomach. In addition, the buffet has items like hen gumbo, mustard greens and corn macque choux. Sounds mouth watering.

After lunch we’ll explore the State Arboretum at Chicot State Park. After enjoying the arboretum well explore the town and stop in the local seasoning producers - “Slap Ya Mama’s”, Jack Miller’s and Kary’s Roux. Another place we can visit is Teet’s Food Store. They are known for foods like cracklins’,hog head cheese, tasso, meatballs and ponce.  We’ll stop by the Swamp Pop Museum and then drive the Zydeco Cajun Byway back to Mamou. Check in, rest, freshen up, walk around the town and get recharged for supper.

Sunset Tour Louisiana

We’ll head to the Crawfish Barn for great Cajun Food. To begin we can share appetizers like “The Big Mamou” or “Shrimp Evangeline.” When it’s time order entrees when can choose platters of crawfish in season or specialities like “The Mixed Grill (oysters, shrimp, catfish)” or “The Cajun Ribeye (16 oz ribeye topped with crawfish ettouffee).” For dessert there is “Banana’s Foster Cheesecake” or Bread Pudding.

After a busy day our beds at the Cazan will be especially welcome.

Baton Rouge

After a good nights sleep we will enjoy coffee and a leisurely breakfast at Cafe Mamou before heading back to Baton Rouge with our memories and Cajun groceries. The trip to Evangeline parish has been a Cajun music and food tour.

In Riverside Limousines mini-bus there is lots of flexibility for your small group tour. As your group enjoy the sites and meet some of the locals, they will discover new places of interest. Our professional chauffeur will adjust the itinerary to suit your interests. As this part of your Louisiana tour ends and you relax on the way home remember: “we drive … you have fun!”

John Kelton

 

Staycation – St. Landry Parish

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St. Landry Parish

While writing this article I became aware that I’ve been driving past some of Louisiana’s amazing treasures on the way to North Louisiana. Several communities in these parishes are notorious as “speed traps.” Maybe I’ve been too distracted looking for radar guns to “see the flowers and smell the boudin.” On this tour we’re gonna s l o w down and “pass a good time”.

Bring danc’n shoes and your squeezebox.  Riverside Limousine Service will be your designated driver because with all the adventure you’re gonna be tired “chere”. And we’ll put an ice chest in the luggage closet ’cause you’re gonna want to bring some food home.

While this parish is close enough to visit for a day, there is so much to see, do, eat, drink and hear – you really need to make it an overnight(s) road trip. To personalize your tour and see as much as possible we’ll sit down with you and help plan your group’s itinerary. We’ll join the Boudin Trail in St Landry Parish – Krotz Springs. This is gonna be a Cajun immersion! 

From Baton Rouge we’re going to take Hwy 190 and cross into St. Landry Parish at Krotz Springs – our first stop. We’ll get boudin for breakfast. The boudin at Kartchner’s Grocery rates an “A+.” Several sausage makers in St. Landry Parish have this high distinction in common.

Boudin - Louisiana Food

“A+” Boudin – Kartchner’s Grocery – Krotz Springs La

Our next stop will be Bourque’s Superstore on Saizan Ave in Port Barre – another “A+” Boudin maker. We can get some and also pick up Jalapeno Sausage Cheese Bread for our picnic lunch later in Arnaudville. Before we get back on the road we’ll drive by the mouth of Bayou Teche.

In route to Bayou Teche Brewery we’ll swing through Grand Coteau. It’s known for it’s spiritual retreat center. It also hosts the annual Sweet Dough Pie Festival. 2ooo years ago this long ridge was the western bank of the Mississippi River. Perhaps we can find some of those pies before we leave!

From there we’ll go to Arnaudville for a beer from Bayou Teche. With the refreshments collected earlier we’ll have a picnic lunch and visit local shops like Tom’s Fiddle and Bow, Little BIG Cup and museums like the NUNU Collective. This is one of the oldest towns in the state.

Louisiana Flowers
Monkey Flower – Louisiana

Tired yet? In Washington we’ll check into the Country House Bed and Breakfast where we’ll spend the night – relax, refresh and get ready for the evening in town. 

Once this tiny town was the second busiest port in the state. 80% of the town is on the National Historic Registry. For our evening a trolley is available and perhaps the local tourism director will give us a tour. For supper we can choose from places like the Steamboat Warehouse and Cafe Opera.

The next morning we’ll travel on part of the Zydeco Cajun Prairie Scenic By-Way to Melville and Cannatella’s Grocery & Hardware built in 1924. This was a river port town built where the railroad crossed the Atchafalaya River.

Louisiana Birds

Hummingbirds fighting – Louisiana

Or we can drift over to Eunice to see the Cajun Prairie Habitat. This project seeks to restore wildflowers and plants native to the area. The original prairie once covered 2.5 million acres. The 10 acre site can be explored on pathways and guided tours can be arranged.

Next we’ll go into town to visit the Liberty Theatre home of ”Lesse Le Bon Temps Rouler” Cajun & Zydeco radio show. Close by is the Cajun Music Hall of Fame.

It’s time for lunch – Billy’s Boudin and Cracklin’. Billy’s recipe was graded “A+.” I’m sure there will be a lot of lip smacking and “smack talk” as we talk about the one’s we’ve tried on this trip.

There are so many more things to see here; how much time do you have. When we have to head home – relax, “we drive … you have fun!”

 

 

Staycation: Beauregard & Allen Parishes

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A visit to these Southwest Louisiana parishes is an early 20th century history lesson. These parishes were part of the disputed “Neutral Ground – No Man’s Land” between what was in 1807 the United States and the Texas territory claimed by Spain. It was then as it is today primarily rural, agricultural, timbered, and sparsely settled. So invite a group of your friends and enjoy the adventure in a mini bus from Riverside Limousines.

BEAUREGARD PARISH:

Beauregard was used for army training maneuvers prior to the US entry to WWII. To support the troops, citizens in the DeRidder area supported one of the first USO facilities where soldiers could go to for recreation. Today the USO hall is a memorial to men from the area who gave their lives in the war. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the timber in area was thoroughly “clear cut” – so much that it resembled a defoliated battleground. Lumber mill towns were set up and once they ran their course became only memories. A particular pattern of wood found it these old forests, ”curly heart pine” has been used to decorate homes in the area. During the Depression, CCC and WPA projects  – schools, the airport and murals in the Courthouse and Old Post Office were authorized. The Beauregard Parish Museum, in the old railroad depot built in 1927 houses the area’s history.

Parish Jail

Gothic or “Hanging” Jail

The Beauregard Parish Jail was built in 1914. Called the Gothic or Hanging Jail, it is unique in design and notorious for hangings were held in the building’s spiral staircase. If it is open for tours it’s a must see. (Picture from KPLCtv.com) The largest town in this parish, DeRidder – is Dutch for The Knight. The town was named for the sister-in-law of a Dutch railroad financier. The parish was established January 1, 1913. While visiting sites we’ll stop by Two Sister’s Pecan House Restaurant for an unhurried lunch. Highly rated on TripAdvisor for great food this business features regional favorites like gumbo and their special cornbread. After exploring DeRidder we’ll drive to Allen Acres Bed and Breakfast to spend the night. The Allen’s have spent years developing the 26 acre wooded paradise. It is listed as a Louisiana State Natural Area. Gardens grown to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, walking trails and spectacular trees adorn the property. You can even walk to the Ouiska Chitto Creek.

ALLEN PARISH:

After breakfast the following morning we’ll head for Oakdale to the Leatherwood Museum the home of the Allen Parish Welcome Center. This two story home served as a boarding house, hospital, home and now a museum with exhibits on medicine, Mardi Gras and .

Canoeing

Canoeing the Ouiska Chitto

From Oakdale it’s a short drive to Mittee and the Ouiska (Whiskey) Chitto Creek. This waterway is designated as a “Scenic River.” Itis spring fed, clear, cool water and highly regarded. The canoe trip will take about 5 hours. Along the way we can rest on white sand beaches, fish and cool off in the water. Once we take out and shower we’ll load up for the trip home. As always there are numerous sites to see in every Louisiana parish. RLS will be happy to work with you to customize your tour and make it a personal experience. Remember, “we drive … you have fun.” P.S. If you want to enjoy a Christmas Festival schedule your staycation for after Thanksgiving and visit the community of Elizabeth for the Official State designated “Christmas in the Country.”  On the first Saturday of December the town has it’s annual Christmas parade which is preceded by a week of events and a 15 mile trail ride. There is primitive camping, concerts, as well as a 5K and fun run.

Staycation – Avoyelles & Rapides

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CREOLE STAYCATION

Civil War sites, fantastic cuisine, 12 Years a Slave house, museums, a safari park, the birthplaces of famous leaders – a short drive from Baton Rouge. Riverside Limousines can plan a tour just for you. And, it’s especially nice to have someone else to drive you home at the end of a long day. Are friends and family from out of state in town for a wedding or holiday? Call Riverside to take them on a tour of fascinating attractions in Avoyelles and Rapides.

Avoyelles Parish

Avoyelles is a rich gumbo of culture and history. Leaving Baton Rouge we’ll cross the Mississippi on the new bridge south of St. Francisville and take Highway 1 through beautiful Pointe Coupee (cut point) Parish the cross the Atchafalaya River at Simmesport

While Avoyelles is considered part of Acadiana, the parish is more appropriately Creole than Cajun. Settlers directly from France and Spain settled in the area long before the “Acadianes” were forced from Nova Scotia and began their trek to south Louisiana. The parish was named for the friendly inhabitants present when settlers arrived.

In 1864 the Union Army’s Red River Campaign took General Nathaniel Banks through Avoyelles as an attempt was made to capture Shreveport – which was considered key to controlling Texas. Gen. Banks commanded the ground forces. Rear Admiral Porter commanded a fleet of steamboats with 210 guns that attempted to navigate the Red River. 

Turning off Hwy 1 on to Hwy 451 we’ll enter Big Bend near Moreauville – a community of historic attractions: the Adam Ponthieu Store, Big Bend Post Office Museum, Sarto Old Iron Bridge and Lake Juneau Safari Resort. It’s like going back in time to the 1920′s. The store displays historical memorabilia and the curator, Jimmy Bernard is on hand to tell the story of the community and explain the use of various tools. 

There are numerous historical sites and homes throughout the area. We can sleep with the animals at the Safari Park or there are several bed and breakfast homes in the area. The Honeysuckle is the home of nationally known Cajun dancers Deanna and Paul Beach. Located in downtown Marksville near the Red River Grill is Maisonnette Dupuy home.

 

Red River Grill

Red River Grill

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame athlete Al Moreau grew up and attended high school in Marksville. In Marksville we can visit the Pre-historic Indian Site, the Tunica Biloxi Cultural and Educational Resources Center and the Marksville State Historic Site. Once we have completed this part of our parish tour we’ll check in to our lodgings, freshen up and head to the Red River Grill for supper. With appetizers like Chicken and Andouille Gumbo this restaurant stands out as a memory maker.

The next morning we’ll get back on the road and head for Bunkie. In 1853, Solomon Northrup published his memoirs, “12 Years a Slave” documenting his experiences as a kidnapped and enslaved “free man.” For 10 of those years he was owned by Edwin Epps at a plantation on Bayou Beouf near Bunkie. The house that Northrup helped build was moved to LSU Alexandria and rebuilt for display as a museum. Due to the condition of the house the project was more of a reproduction than a restoration. The original site has been reclaimed as farm land.

Rapides Parish

This region of the state is known as the “piney woods.” Long Leaf is the home of the Southern Forest Heritage Museum. The timber industry was and is an essential component of Louisiana’s economy. This museum was developed from the site of the oldest complete sawmill complex in the south. This 67 acre site is the display for mills, equipment, trains, pictures and tools used this industry.

Another name for Louisiana is the Sportsmen’s Paradise. Fishing is an important part of that paradise. The Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery in Forest Hill is key to managing and maintaining freshwater fish populations in state waters. The hatchery also is instrumental in supporting a threatened species – the paddlefish. At Booker Fowler we can see the hatchery in action and visit an information center about maintaining fish populations.

On the way to Alexandria we’ll have lunch at the Lea’s Lunchroom in Lecompte on US Hwy 71. I wanted to say original location but that was in Chenyville. Since 1928, Lea Johnson’s family has been serving their special ham sandwiches and pies. They have kept the menu simple, been named the “Pie Capital” of Louisiana and are still a family business.

 

Epps House

Epps House

When we reach LSU-Alexandria campus we’ll stop to see the Epps House. This is the reconstructed house Solomon Northrup during his 12 year enslavement in Louisiana. All that remains from the original home are the central dividing wall and exposed beams. While working on the house Northrup became friends with the carpenter who eventually passed on Northrup’s letters and led to his freedom. 

In Alexandria we’ll visit the home of Cajun Pawn Stars, “Silver Dollar Pawn & Jewelry. We can browse 20,000 sq ft of famous memorabilia like Japanese Tanker uniforms, Paladin Lunchboxes and much, much more.

Another must see site is the Kent Plantation House. The tours of this classic French Colonial style home highlight both unique features and local history. The home is one of the oldest homes in the state. Before leaving Alexandria to return to Marksville and our bed and breakfast we’ll go by the Hotel Bentley to see if it is being remodeled. Supposedly it was in process and scheduled to open in late 2013.

Alexandria is close enough to be a convenient return drive to Baton Rouge. Worn out from the adventures of two days – you can relax without the hassle of driving. Enjoy refreshments, tell stories and decide where to go next time.

Remember, “we drive … you have fun!”

Staycation – Desoto, Sabine & Vernon Parishes

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Staycation: DeSoto, Sabine & Vernon Parishes

During Spanish, French and early American ownership, the western border of Louisiana was called the “Neutral Ground, the Neutral Strip, the Neutral Territory, No Man’s Land and the Sabine Free State. During this period of dispute Spain and the U.S. agreed that settlers and RLS Sprinter - Staycationmilitary operations would not be allowed in the area. This disputed area became a home to outlaws and semi-legal settlers alike until the Sabine River was agreed upon as the legal border in the Adams – Onis Treaty ratified in 1821. 

Today getting there in comfort is easy and a lot more fun in one of Riverside’s mini buses. With seperate luggage compartments and in the 18 and 24 passenger vehicles overhead storage for coats and packages there is plenty of room for what your group wants to take and memories they want to bring home. While on tour the professional chauffeur will keep the floors swept and ice chest full.

DeSoto Parish

About an hour south of Shreveport, the origin of this parish’s name is a topic of debate. One camp links the name to the Spanish Explorer De Soto. The other argues that credit for the name more appropriately links to Marcelle DeSoto, an early settler.

Our first stop is the site of a decisive Confederate victory, the Battle of Mansfield. This action late in the war prevented the Union from capturing Shreveport and controlling Texas.

Leaving the battle field we will lunch at Barbecue Haven. The ratings for their food are more like ravings from devoted fans. It’s said that this is Denzel Washington’s favorite barbecue restaurant.

Then procede to the Rock Chapel at Carmel Built by Carmelite monks in 1891 as a retreat for prayer and fasting the chapel it was in use until a fire in 1904 destroyed the monestary with which was affiliated.

From the Chapel we’ll work our way to the Village of Grand Cane. Once a cross road for travel to Texas the community dwindled when the Texas and Pacific railroad went out of business in the 1950′s. In 1993 funding was provided for the restoration and historical preservation of the community. Lod and Carole Cook donated the house which was the relocated to it’s current site and named the Cook-Hill Bed & Breakfast.

The village offers art galleries, antique stores, historical building and great restaurants. For supper we’ll go to Nonnies Place located in the historic Rick Brother’s Building with it’s beautiful, Louisiana themed murals.

The next morning starts with a lazy breakfast at Cook-Hill. The group can explore historic landmark and Main Street businesses like “The Wanderer” which features hand-made pottery, local artworks, gifts and oddments. Purchases can be safely packed in the roomy luggage closet of Riverside’s Sprinter or Mini-bus.

While the group shops, your professional chauffeur will pick up lunch for the group from Village Cuisine & Catering. Once everyone is on board and purchases are packed away you’ll enjoy visiting about what you’ve seen and eating a wonderful meal while traveling.

Sabine Parish

FortJesupKitchen StaycationOur first stop after lunch will be the Fort Jesup State Historic Site. The fort was built in 1822 to protect the United States western border. Zachary Taylor established and commanded the garrison. Under his oversight, law and order was brought to the “Neutral Ground.” The historic site features the original kitchen building restored to it’s original look, a recreated officers quarters and museum.

From the fort it is a short drive to Many where we’ll embark on a Sunset Tour of Toledo Bend. As your group enjoys the beautiful sunset with wine and cheese the captain will point out special features and the lake’s history. Once we return to the dock your group can relax while your chauffeur returns you safely to Grand Cane.

Vernon Parish

Day 3 we’ll check out of Cook-Hill and drive to Vernon Parish, the “Wild flower capital of Louisiana.” The area offers outstanding bird watching and sites not usually identified with the Bayou State.

Just before entering Vernon Parish we’ll stop at Hodges Gardens State Park. Openned to the public in 1956, the park is home to a variety of native and imported plant. A sand stone quarry and surrounding natural rock formations are the backdrop for it’s beautiful gardens.

Places to see in the parish include the Ft. Polk Museum, The Museum of West Louisiana and New Llano, a utopian community from the early 1900′s.

Ft. Polk is now the home of the Joint Readiness Training Center,. Originally “Camp Polk” the base was built in 1941 to prepare troop for deployment in WWII. Currently the center is used to train troops in highly realistic settings. Villages similar to those where troops will serve are constructed and locals serve as role players to familiarize trainees with scenarios they expect to encounter.

When the group is ready to clean up, rest and get ready for the evening we’ll check-in to the Booker-Lewis Hotel. The hotel is actually a bed and breakfast consisting of several historic buildings. Highly rated: the hotel, it’s restaurant and pub make it a very unique destination. Live music is offered some evenings. There are a variety of rooms to choose from.

After a wonderful evening, a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast we’ll load up the Mini-bus for the last leg of our tour. Your chauffeur will replenish the ice, water and cold drinks. Your group can add their choice of beverages. On the trip home we will explore Wolf Cave and Cooter’s Bog in the Kisatchie National Forest.

When thinking of Louisiana, caves don’t usually come to mind – but we do have them – they’re just hard to find. Leaving Leesville we’ll drive through the forest to Wolf Cave. It’s a short hike from the parking area. In the cave there is evidence of use by primative people. During the “Neutral Strip” period it was also used by outlaws. It is reportedly the longest cave in Louisiana. 

Our last stop, Cooters Bog is know for beautiful flowers and birds. In the Calcasieu Rangercooter%27s bog staycation resized 600 District it features a variety of many different plants and flowers. Be prepared to walk where it may be wet.

Leaving “No Man’s Land” we’ll head home. Your chauffeur will drive so you can recap with your friends all the interesting sites you have seen and experiences enjoyed. Once back in town we’ll drop you at your house, assist you with your luggage and packages and make sure you are safely home.

Remember – “We drive…you have fun!”



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Staycation – Grant, Natchitoches, Red River

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There’s a chocolate cake you buy at the store … and then there’s a chocolate cake you make during Hurricane Issac with Hershey’s Especially Dark Chocolate and a poured icing with pecans, granulated sugar (because you don’t have confectioners sugar in the house) and coconut.

There’s a vacation full of technology and thrill rides … and then there’s a staycation immersed in reality and history and especially dark chocolate memories – in Louisiana.

Traveling with your group in one of Riverside Limousines’ professionally chauffeured mini buses allows you to sit back and enjoy your trip. You can listen to music, view videos, visit intensely and enjoy refreshments. At each stop the chauffeur will help you with packages, luggage and exiting the vehicle. The chauffeur will keep the vehicle fueled, refreshments on ice and the trash picked up. All you need to do is enjoy and explore.

Natchitoches, Grant, Red River Parishes are all part of the older, historic, deep south. Established in 1714, Natchitoches is the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase. Los Adeas, thirty miles east of the Sabine River was the official capital of the Spanish province of Tejas (Texas.) Events in these parishes were pivotal in ending reconstruction efforts following the Civil War. This is all part of Louisiana I never knew.

Natchitoches Parish

Known as the bed & breakfast capital of Louisiana, this town is also known for Christmas lights, meat pies, Northwestern Lousisana University and festivals. It’s the home of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Folk Life Festival. We’ll stay in Natchitoches and venture out into Red River and Grant Parishes. Your group can split up and stay in several of the numberous bed and breakfast homes.

LaSportsHallofFameTimothyHursley2014 is it’s tri centenial. Created April 10, 1804, Natchitoches Parish is one of the original 12 parishes. It is one of two Preserve America communities in the state. There are so many things to see and do in this area your group will need a special strategy of sampling many sites and choosing where to spend significant time; like shopping. In our Sprinter or Mini-Bus the group has a lot of schedule flexibility.

Once your group has checked in we’ll stroll downtown and then gather for a guided tour or boat tour of the Cane River followed by supper at Merci Beaucoup on Church Street. It serves Cajun Food and the famous food of Natchitoches – meat pies. Afterward we’ll visit the Pioneer Pub to sample their beer selection.

Grant Parish

After breakfast at our seperate B&Bs the second morning we’ll get onboard and travel to Colfax, the site of the Colfax Riot or the Colfax Massacre depending on your source of history. Reconstruction was a turbulent time while the south struggled to recover and political conflicts were constant. Parishes were realigned by the Union protected Republicans and Carpetbaggers to strengthen their voting bloc. Elections were contested and both sides vied for control. In Colfax both sides gathered supporters; both sides were led by veterans of the Civil War. In the insuing melee an estimated 100 blacks, and 3 whites were killed. There are only a few reminders of this pivitol event remaining.

Colfax is the home of Fairmont Plantation a working cotton plantation and the home of Plantation Pride Pecans. It was in built 1869 and is also a bed and breakfast. Your group can shop the store for pecan products and treats. 

FairmontPlantationHome resized 600

We’ll return to Natchitoches and get cleaned up for another night on the town. There many restaurants to choose from. We’ll try Mama’s Oyster House/Papa’s Bar & Grill.

Red River Parish

The third day we”ll start out in Coushatta, the parish seat of Red River Parish. This parish was one created after the Civil War to support the Union’s effort at “reconstruction.” As an unintended consequence, it was also the birth place of The White League; formed to protect white interests. One famous carpetbagger, Marshall H. Twitchell from Vermont spent 11 turbulent years as Provost General for the Freemen’s Bureau, State Senator, plantation owner and businessman. After an attempt on his life that resulted in the amputation of both arms, he left the state.

Staycation Ed Lester Farm

Agri-business is still the backbone of the area. We can  visit Ed Lester Farms and enjoy fresh seasonal produce and fruit from historic Cabin Point Plantation.

To end the day we’ll drive to Kisatchie National Forest to see it’s unique terrain and if you still have enough energy stay to stargaze. Kisatchie is noted as “the best place for stargazing in Louisiana,” due to the altitude and absence of artifical lighting.

Return to Baton Rouge

After a good nights sleep and breakfast your group can decide what they want to see before we return to the Capital City.

Remember, with Riverside, “we drive … you have fun!”

 

Staycation – Caldwell, LaSalle & Winn Parishes

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Driving north through Central Louisiana into the Piney Woods it’s easy to think this is how it’s always been. Passing through small towns now famous only for their speed traps there is a deceptive feel of backwards. But, when I begin to peel back the layers of time it’s eye opening. Just thinking about visiting these parishes evokes an eerie sense of walking on history – like visiting a Civil War Battleground where 1000′s fought and many died; their blood soaking the ground.

Traveling with our group in Riverside Limousine’s Sprinter, Turtle Top, Limo Coach or Mini Bus allows us to watch documentaries, listen to related music or even hook up a laptop to review historical documents. In the Mini Bus we can even get a “step on guide” to share the local history over the PA system.

Caldwell Parish

Most Louisianians know very little about their own state history. If asked where Atlanta is or what Urania is named for they would simply shrug their shoulders. A staycation to Caldwell, LaSalle and Winn parishes will be a road trip of discovery. To begin we’ll drive to Columbia on the banks of the Ouachita River.

Riverfront Park StaycationLike other places in the area, in the past this town was very important. Described as beautifully preserved and aggressively maintained by louisianatravel.com, Columbia is the home of the Louisiana Art and Folk Festival. Columbia was the home of Gov. John McKeithen and Sec of State Fox McKeithen. Governor McKeithen was a decorated WWII veteran.

While in town we’ll enjoy the Riverside Park, Martin Homeplace, Schepis Museum and spend the night at the Captain’s Quarters. We’ll check out the entertainment at the Watermark Saloon which is the oldest saloon on the Ouachita dating back to steamboat days.

La Salle Parish

If we time it right we can enjoy bluegrass in Urania. Named after the Greek mythical muse of astronomy by visionary forester Henry Hardtner and industrialist William Edenborn this community was on the forefront of 20th century southern forest reforestation. Hardtner; a lumberman, police jury commissioner, state representative, state senator became well known for his reforestation efforts. Years have changed the community but traces of former resorts like White Sulphur Springs, a WWII POW camp at Whitehall and forest related industries can still be found.

Those not involved in forestry have little appreciation for how important the timber industry is in our state’s history. The early timber industry literally changed the face of Louisiana with virgin forests clear cut. Edenborn with Henry Hartner led the way in renewable resources. During the 1930′s and early 1940′s a summer camp for Yale Forestry students was held here. In the early 1900s Teddy Roosevelt hunted in the area. Several leaders from the area attended Roosevelt’s Conservation Conference.

Winn Parish

Long dining room setWinnfield is the birthplace of Huey P. Long and Earl Long; OK Allen was born in Winn Parish. Several other governors were born in neighboring parishes. It’s not surprising that the Louisiana Political Museum would be located there too. As the City of Winnfield’s website says, “In some ways visiting the city of Winnfield, La is like taking a step back in time.”

German Immigrant Industrialist William Edenborn owned over 1,000,000 acres in the state. He lived on a farm south of Winnfield he named Emden. We’ll search for the farm and other locations mentioned in histories of Winn Parish.

The shift in attitude experienced when learning about amazing past events is to the change in attitude when you meet an old man – then learn he was a medal of honor winner in WWII. Uncovering buried history is like finding buried treasure. Louisiana has lots of buried treasures.

When we are done treasure hunting pack up and head back to Baton Rouge in one of Riverside’s professionally chauffeured vehicles. Remember, “we drive … you have fun!

 

Staycation – Concordia & Catahoula Parishes

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When I’m out of state and mention Louisiana the conversation goes to New Orleans and Mardi Gras. That’s because over the years those are the stories that have repeatedly been told. Other areas of the state have stories too. The oldest city is Natchitoches not New Orleans. The third city was Opelousas. In exploring the Bayou State I’m amazed how much of our history is hidden or forgotten. It’s time to re-tell the stories.

The Tourism Week barnstorming trip around the state in May 2013, my eyes were opened to Concordia Parish. Until visiting Frogmore with the group my exposure to this area was limited to getting through it as fast as possible while watching for speed traps. After that short visit I realized I really needed to slow down and smell the magnolias.

CONCORDIA: 

Concordia Parish (Latin for “harmony”) has a unique and colorful past. Frontiersman Jim Bowie with his Bowie Knife fought what came to be known as the Sandbar Fight following a duel in 1827. He lived in central Louisiana before moving to Texas and fighting at the Alamo. The Sandbar fight is reenacted each fall in Vidalia during the Jim Bowie Festival. On our way to Frogmore we can go by and see the site by the river. 

Frogmore near Jonesville is an 1800 acre working plantation. When there is cotton in the field to be picked, visitors can try their hand picking cotton – hands on history. The house was built by Daniel Morris in 1818. It was one of 18 plantations owned by John Gillespie in the 1800′s. Now this property is a one of a kind illustration of a historical and current cotton plantation. The restored buildings include slave quarters, the plantation store and church. Different tours feature various events acted out in period costumes.

After enjoying the plantation grounds and tours we’ll drive into Jonesville for lunch at Jackie’s Riverside Steak and Seafood. The Little River into the Ouchita and then becomes the Black River before joining the Red River. This restaurant is highly rated for food and friendly service.

Delta Music Museum StaycationRest and regroup on the way. It’s time to head for a glimpse of Louisiana’s musical past in Ferridaythe home of the Delta Music Museum. Famous musicians and cousins Micky Gilly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggert all called this area home. Talented musicians and popular in different music genres, all three are internationally know. Exhibits representing Blues, Rock, Gospel and Bluegrass show the variety of musical styles represented in our state.

While in town we can also visit The Jerry Lee Lewis Museum. Run by a cousin this site preserves more personal memorabilia. In addition his cousin gives her first hand account of this flamboyant performer’s youth. Also featured is Jerry Lee’s sister, Linda Gale Lewis who is also popular to international audiences.

For supper we’ll head to Duck’s Nest II on beautiful Lake St. John. This ox bow lake is a popular spot to catch blue catfish. But we’re going to let someone else catch the fish. Instead we’ll relax at the outdoor tables and watch the sun go down over the lake. For an appetizer we can share their seafood platter then follow it up with individual entrees. Bon appetit’.

CATAHOULA: 

The next morning we’ll explore the Sicily Island area of Catahoula Parish. After a good nights sleep and our morning coffee we’ll head for the Skillet Cafe for breakfast.

Sicily Island Hills StaycationPrior to the state tour all I knew about Sicily Island was they were a 1A high school. There is a lot more to know about this area. DeSoto explored this area. A Jewish farming colony was attempted here. The Catahoula Cur has it’s roots here. And the flood of 1927 covered all but the highest points of this parish.  In Catahoula Parish History it is noted that in 1835, 243 bear skins were shipped on keel or flatboat. Settled early in Louisiana’s historic past this is the heart of “Sportman’s Paradise”

Our destination after breakfast is Sicily Island Hills WMA. This is an extremely rugged part of the state. It supports a very diverse selection of plants and animals including some endangered species such as the Cooper’s Hawk and the Louisiana Slimy Salamander.

This area is close enough to Baton Rouge to make a day trip and there are things to see that will fill several days. In our 24 Passenger Mini-Bus the whole family or a group of friends can travel together. Refreshments can be brought on board and supplies for a base camp stored in the luggage closet.

Remember, “We drive … You have fun!”