The drive on Monday to Baton Rouge went smoothly, again just a shade over six hours of drive time. We passed through familiar territory, particularly stretches of the I-10 having come this way a couple of times in our travels last year. This is bayou country, with long sections of roadway built on bridges, much like traversing the Florida Keys.
We pulled into Baton Rouge not long after 2pm and drove straight to our home for the next two nights, the Best Western Chateau Louisianne, located a convenient 15 minute drive from downtown and the Mississippi River. Modestly priced compared to other lodging in town, our spacious suite like room made for a good place to stay with the exception of an incredibly uncomfortable couch, a less than adequate mattress, and suspiciously discolored tile in the bathroom.
We unpacked, straightened up and with plenty of daylight left to us drove west to the river, finding a convenient parking spot almost directly across the street from the Old Capital Building.
As it was Monday many popular sights were closed and so we choose to walk a circuit around the downtown area, up a hill to the eastern edge, walking on Royal Street past the Old Governor’s Mansion. We made our way over to 3rd Street and continued north, checking out the various bars and restaurants located along the way looking for potential dinner spots.
A few blocks up the street we spotted the Draft House and stopped in for a cold one, taking a short break to figure out our plans for the evening. With 95 taps offered, finding something flavorful to drink wasn’t an issue and we settled in at a high top table with our beers and made use of our phones to research food options nearby. We quickly decided to have one good meal out and delay that experience until the next day; I then used Open Table to secure a reservation at Juban’s, one of the highly rated restaurants in Trip Advisor.
Having settled on our fine dining experience we discussed our choices for the night and decided to walk back the way we came to a place we’d seen earlier, Frostop, known for their burgers, po-boys, and root beer floats. We had a very good meal for this type of food; here’s my review from Trip Advisor
Let’s be honest. You don’t go to these places for the ambience. Part of the outdoor awning has been trashed by the top of a truck. The booths may be the originals, laminate peeling off of the tables, the bathrooms bordering on health code violations. But what good food at a great value. I had the Whole-lot-of burger special and my wife a half catfish po-boy. Portion sizes are large and the food is prepared with love and care. The staff is very friendly and we just felt welcome here. Our burger, fries, drink, half catfish po-boy and a large root beer float came to a shade under $19 and i won’t need to eat again until mid morning tomorrow. Stop by if you are in the area. You won’t regret it.
The next morning, I took the Toyota in for its 50K service, easy enough to do with a dealer just 10 minutes away. While I waited in the service lounge reading and plinking away on the computer, Joanna had a nice work out in the fitness center at the Best Western. Car ready to go I returned to the hotel and then we made our way back downtown for our first stop of the day, the Old State Capitol. Opened in 1852, it served as the home of Louisiana state government until a new building was constructed in 1932.
A remarkable example of Gothic Revival architecture, the free self-guided tour of its interior and attendant museum of Political History was time well spent.
Designed in 2010, the Museum includes immersive exhibits showcasing the building as an architectural treasure and displays that highlight Louisiana’s political history, including an interactive gallery featuring past Governors and a comprehensive section on the infamous Huey P. Long.
Needing a bit of lunch before pushing on to our next destination, we walked up Lafayette Street to Florida to stop in at Poor Boy Lloyds which was highly rated in Trip Advisor. It was crowded when we arrived but we quickly placed our order with the very friendly counter person; an Alligator Sausage Po-Boy to split and a Coke Zero to drink. We found a table and when our sandwich arrived dove in to enjoy the mild gator sausage on freshly baked French bread, fully dressed with lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomato. The heart of this type of sandwich is the bread and it did not disappoint; crusty exterior with a fluffy interior that held up well to the ingredients placed inside.
Quite full, we walked back to the car and drove a few miles east to our final stop of the afternoon, the LSU Rural Life Museum. Located in the middle of a large expanse that was the Burden Family’s Windrush Plantation, all of the property was donated to the LSU in the early 1970’s to be used as a museum, gardens, natural wilderness area and for agricultural research, which today includes plant pathology, horticulture, agronomy, engineering and forestry/wildlife.
The museum is immense, holding hours’ worth of objects depicting rural life; we spent about ninety minutes walking through the exhibits, touching upon roughly a third of it, before exiting the building to take in the outdoor displays. This portion of the museum consists of homes and outbuildings built in the 18th and 19th centuries and is divided into three areas:
The Working Plantation illustrates the life of working people on a 19th-century plantation, with a main focus on the lives of enslaved persons. The complex buildings include a commissary, overseer’s house, kitchen, slave cabins, sick house, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, sugar house, church, and grist mill.
The Southern part of the outdoor museum includes several cabins and outbuildings, including the Neal home, a dogtrot house; the Stoker barn; the Stoner Atherton Cabin; and a pioneer cabin originally located in Washington Parish. This section highlights the contributions of mainly American settlers to Louisiana in the northern and central part of the state in the 19th century.
The Acadian or Cajun portion of the outdoor museums consists of two Acadian style homes, one a replica and the other built by the Bergeron family between 1800 and 1815 on Bayou Lafourche and moved to the museum in 2005.
It was a beautiful afternoon weather wise and we thoroughly enjoyed walking the property, immersing ourselves in the lives portrayed by the buildings. After another ninety minutes or so we’d covered the bulk of the displays and left for the Best Western to relax a little before heading over to Juban’s where we had reservations at 7:00pm.
Rated highly by Trip Advisor and the AAA, we found the restaurant without much difficulty and entered its nicely appointed interior. Our waitress may have been new on the job; not completely familiar with the offerings but extremely engaging and attentive, making for an enjoyable evening. We started off by splitting a cup of gumbo (smoked chicken, roasted duck, Andouille sausage), then enjoyed our entrees, the Poisson Meuniere (pan-sautéed fresh Black Drum fish with Creole Meuniere, steamed jazzmen rice and Chef’s vegetables) for Joanna and for me, the Veal Oscar (pan sautéed flour dusted veal cutlets, lump crab, veal jus, asparagus, béarnaise, truffle mash potatoes).
For our fine meal out, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Our first exposure to Drum fish, known throughout the gulf, we’d subsequently encounter it a number of times and be impressed with it at each occasion. The veal cutlets were hearty and substantial offset nicely by the truffle mashed potatoes. Although full, we couldn’t help but order the Bread Pudding for dessert and wasted no time demolishing this prime example of the category, moist with a delicious caramel sauce that left you scraping the bowl to get at the last of it.
Back at the hotel we prepared for an early start the next day given the closure of the I-10 at the Texas/Louisiana border due to flooding of the Sabine River. This would add some more hours to what was already going to be a long drive to Corpus Christi. We arise, shower, pack and be downstairs for the start of breakfast at 6:30 am aiming for a 7:00 am start. Our heads hit the pillows and tired from a long day of walking and pleasantly full from a good day’s eating, sleep came easily. These the types of days that traveling can bring, full of life, food and knowledge.
Draft House: https://www.facebook.com/drafthousebar
Old State Capitol: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Louisiana_State_Capitol
Huey Long: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huey_Long
Poor Boy Lloyds: http://www.poorboylloyds.com/
LSU Rural Life Museum: http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/rurallife/