A different world exists in the Cajun country of South Louisiana. It's one that moves to the rhythm of Acadian culture (descendants of the French-speaking people who settled in the area in 1755), exotic foods, and enchanting ambience. In these small parts, about 120 miles from New Orleans, you'll find a distinctive French flavor that rivals the fanfare of the Big Easy.
As dreamy as the area is, no one comes here expecting to sleep the day away. So for inexpensive accommodations, try the Comfort Suites on State 14 and U.S. 90. Call (337) 367-0855 or 1-800-517-4000; rates range $67-$182 in New Iberia. It's close to the interstate, which makes exploration of the region hassle free.
Delve into Acadian culture by way of the knife and fork. Images of simple yet well-seasoned dishes bearing fancy French names flood the minds of those who crave Cajun cuisine. The French House Restaurant in New Iberia offers lunch specials such as stuffed catfish or crawfish étouffée accompanied by salad and iced tea ($6.95).
Ask any of the locals, and they'll tell you life in the bayou sure is sweet. South Louisiana has more than 200 years of history in the sugarcane industry. Sweeten your day with a visit to the former sugarcane plantation Shadows-on-the-Teche. The manor, built by planter David Weeks in 1834, sits on the banks of the winding Bayou Teche. The house is full of fine china and antique heirlooms.
A simpler way of life awaits at Lafayette's Vermilionville, a 35-minute drive from New Iberia. A reconstructed Cajun community, the site contains an art gallery featuring the work of local artists, a bakery offering Cajun cooking demonstrations, and live music. "No real Cajun band reads music," attests Lafayette native Ryan Simon.
If that is the litmus test for genuine Cajun musicians, then Jambalaya, the in-house band at locally owned Randol's Restaurant, passes with flying colors.
Randol's features mostly seafood, so indulge in the steamed crabs or crawfish with fresh potatoes, onions, and corn ($12.95).