Water, everywhere. A river, the Mississippi, affluents so large you could call them rivers themselves. Louisiana has this sort of irresistible attraction, incarnation a certain myth of America.
Maybe it’s that in the heart of this water country beats the frantic rhythm of a city, New Orleans. A city of music, very particular architecture, almost Caribbean, in a liberated atmosphere so different from the rest of a heavily policed USA.
A bit north of Louisiana stretches what the Americans call the Deep South. The South of century-old oaks, of rockin’ chairs creaking on old porches, of lavish plantation houses when not rusty mobile homes. An old country in this new world, which once built its opulence on the oppression of others. A counter model shaken by the Civil War, prolonged by segregation, and that still hasn’t really invented for itself a new path to prosperity that would rime with equality.
And then, the South of Louisiana. That of alligators, of translucent light in between giant cypresses. That of French people abandoned long ago by their king, of Acadians come Cadians come Cajuns who, chassed from their lands in what is now Canada, had to resist in a hostile environment to find their place in the Great Southern sun. Minority among minorities, links were weaved between these castaways with some black slaves and Houma Indians.
In Louisiana, civil rights and music, those two common principles, often intertwined, will never cease to guide you through this touching Deep South.
THINGS TO DO IN LOUISIANA
National or State Parks
National or State Parks and National Monuments are rigorously protected. In reality, there are no major differences between the two. The first are create through a vote from Congress, the second by decree voted by the US president himself. They are managed by the same administration, and very strict regulations preserve them from human degradation.
And yet, Americans have managed to fit in all possible commodities: you can spend the night in a fancy cabin (bathroom, shower, kitchenette, TV…), under a tent or in a caravan.
To sleep in the park in full season, it is best to book well in advance, or show up early in the morning if booking is not possible.
America The Beautiful Pass
This golden ticket, sold at the entrance of each park, gives access for a year to all parks and national monuments in the USA (limited number of entries). It costs 80$ for a car, the pass holder and three additional people maximum (under 16’s don’t count). Worth it only if you plan to visit other parks outside of Louisiana.
In every park, there are one or several Visitor Centres, where you’ll find a general map of the site, a good choice of topographic maps (hiking, horse trails, bikes, kayaks…), some lovely postcards and well-informed nature guides.
It’s the first place you should head to when you arrive. It is also the starting point for visits, and a gold mine of information. Most of them even included actual small museums.