The City Of Love
● Published by Aimee Cormier
By Shanna Perkins | Submitted Photos
“Paris is always a good idea,” Audrey Hepburn famously stated in the 1954 classic “Sabrina.” And we couldn’t agree more. The city of love is cloaked in magic and mystery, making it the ideal destination for a romantic retreat. Louisiana may lack the lights and lux of Paris, but a strong French heritage entangles Acadiana like a rose vine. This Valentine’s Day, leave the passport on the nightstand and embark upon a Parisian inspired “staycation.” Bon Voyage!
A la Maison
Waking up in a warm, shabby chic bed and breakfast and opening the window to see the morning light make its way through the city or countryside is the definitive opening credits to the Parisian dream. South Louisiana is full of picturesque bed and breakfasts and antique, metropolitan hotels. Any of these can serve as a “staycation” sanctuary.
Epitomizing the country French vision, Maison D’ Memoire Bed & Breakfast Cottages in Rayne offers guests the opportunity to meander through charming gardens by day and relax in a claw-foot bathtub by night. At Cajun Country Cottages in Breaux Bridge, enjoy morning coffee on a private pier over looking the water. For an entirely immersive experience, visit Labelle Riviere Bed & Breakfast in Pierre Part where you’ll be greeted “en Francais” upon arrival.
T’Frere’s Bed & Breakfast in Lafayette puts guests closer to town while maintaining its rustic French charm. Guests of the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette are transported abroad with the truly cool European hostel vibe and the sound of live music from the back porch. Acadiana’s city streets also offer beautiful views. Those planning to explore downtown Lafayette, New Iberia or River Ranch, should book rooms at romantic cosmopolitan locations like Buchanan Lofts, The Juliet, The Gouguenheim and The Carriage House, respectively.
Immaculately manicured lawns covered with mosaics of bright wildflowers and casual loungers soaking up the sun in a feline fashion, is a distinctly Parisian image. The desire to carve out beautiful spaces to observe nature certainly isn’t foreign to Acadiana. When visiting, be sure to bring a picnic basket and a camera because beautiful gardens and parks abound.
Jungle Gardens in Avery Island has four options for those traversing the paths on foot. Traipse through ancient oak groves, wander beneath arching wisterias or stroll past the grove of camellias. Stunning sculptures ascend from many of Paris’ most charming gardens. Sitting serenely, deep in Jungle Gardens, is an 800-year-old Buddha statue. Brownell Memorial & Carillon Tower in Morgan City also took a page out of the Parisian park playbook. Nestled in an unruly nature park on the shores of Lake Palourde, is a stark white carillon bell tower, rising 106 feet out of the swamp.
Versailles and its grounds may be nearly 5,000 miles away, but Acadiana has its own palatial manors with grandiose gardens. Franklin alone has more than 420 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of them have gardens littered with statues, fountains and enough beauty to rival that of the estates. Rip Van Winkle Garden on Jefferson Island is comparable. The property surrounding the Joseph Jefferson Mansion is said to contain “Eden-like gardens.”
The concept of joie de vivre may have been born in France, but it was raised in Acadiana. The notion that existence should be full and leisurely trickles through every aspect of life, even on to the street. If you envision yourself romantically meandering through the streets, tossing pennies in age-old fountains, sipping lattes on street-side cafes and stopping by the market for fresh croissants, you don’t have to board Air France.
Each parish in Acadiana has a unique and charming downtown area all its own. A stroll through any of them will cure your itch for urban exploration. Downtown Lafayette is perfect for a Sunday stroll. Stop by the sidewalk café Carpe Diem Gelato-Espresso Bar or Americas Coffee House before walking over to Parc Sans Souci where families watch their children play in the water fountain. Or grab lunch from a local hotspot and enjoy it over a book in the area’s darling parklet. For an elevated dose of culture, stop by the Acadiana Center of the Arts or The Lafayette Science Museum.
St. Martinville, the epicenter of French Louisiana, is often called “Petite Paris;” one leisurely lap through the city will prove why. Tourists are welcomed with a cheerful “Bienvenue” as they explore the areas steeped in more than 300 years of French history.
Parisian street markets host a bevy of fresh goods, antiques and handmade specialty items. Acadiana creates a similar experience in a rural setting. Farmers Markets, like Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm, Delcambre Seafood and Farmers Market and Teche Area Farmers’ Market have emerged across Acadiana allowing denizens and guests to hand select fresh, local items and goods.
An affinity for butter and trademark dishes that both consist of bugs aren’t the only things Paris and Acadiana have in common. While they eat snails by candlelight, we eat crawfish by moonlight. Dining for the French, and for us, is an event that extends far beyond the main course. The dining experience commonly lasts well over an hour and is always punctuated by love and laughter.
Get transported to an Old World French atmosphere at Clementine Dining & Spirits in New Iberia. Enjoy a leisurely dinner paired with the perfect wine as you talk and laugh the night away. A taste of history can be had at Café Vermilionville in Lafayette. The restaurant, which serves French delicacies like foie gras, is housed in a structure that exhibits classic French architectural design and can be dated back to the 1700s. It’s not just the name or the intimate dining atmosphere that makes Lafayette’s The French Press an excellent “staycation” destination. It’s the energy of the crowd sipping mimosas on the sidewalks and decadent menu items like croque-monsieur.
The same energy flows down the streets in front of Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge. Here you can dance the day away while you dine on beignets. At the aptly name Petit Paris Café in St. Martinville you can sip gourmet French coffee accompanied by freshly made éclairs. If the craving for baked goods persists, Pouparts in Lafayette has been baking authentic French pastries since 1967. Stepping in to Pouparts is like stepping “into a village bakery in the French countryside.”
It goes far beyond having a French meal in a restaurant with a French name. The authenticity is about sharing a meal at a slower pace with loved ones. Taking time to appreciate the food and one another. This can be experienced all over Acadiana.