There is something especially evocative about all south Louisiana cemeteries, and this is no exception. Most have live oak trees which seem to be "weeping" due to the spanish moss. Also, because of the high water table, above ground burial is necessary.
St John's burial ground is the oldest in the city. The remains of a number of prominent state citizens (many of them of the Mouton family) are interred here, and I observed and photographed the grave of a rebel general from the war between the states.
This southern live oak tree* on the grounds of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist is believed to be one of the largest of its species in the USA. It is estimated to be approximately 500 years old.
Just how big is it? According to the plaque found near the tree and pictured here: "The diameter of the trunk is nine feet two inches and the circumference is twenty eight feet nine inches. It stands 126 feet high with an average spread of 138 feet. The large limb extending in a southeasterly direction has been computed by engineering consultants to weigh 72 tons."
What kid would not love a chance to climb that monster tree?
* Southern live oak tree: Quercus virginiana, an evergreen oak tree native to the southeastern United States. Other species of evergreen or live oak exist in other parts of the country.
Originally called l'Église St-Jean du Vermilion, St. John's was the first church in Lafayette parish. Property for its first building was donated in 1821 by Jean Mouton, the city's founder and father of Alexandre Mouton, a US Senator and 11th governor of the state of Louisiana.
The current edifice was completed in 1916, in the Romanesque Revival style. We found the interior of the cathedral to be less than impressive other than the German-made stain glass windows portraying the life of St. John the Evangelist.
Nancy and I were far more fascinated by the Cathedral Oak, adjacent to the church, and the cemetery behind the church. I have made separate tips for these.
Added to National Register of Historic Places in 1979
I was really impressed with this zoo. It looks like a podunk little thing off the side of the road, but that's because the natural landscape is incorporated into the zoo. There is an incredible array of species and types of animals (including tigers, Australian kingfishers, monkeys, and African animals), and there are employee-led talks twice per day. My favorite part was feeding the lorikeets. There's a big enclosure that holds about 5 kinds of parrots (all quite small), and you can go in and feed them a fruit mixture for $2 apiece. They will perch on your wrist, on your shoulders, and sometimes on your head, and they're very friendly birds. Only 20 people are allowed in at a time (they do the feedings twice a day), so if you're really keen on doing this, make sure you're there early. The zoo also has a kiddie train that runs a short track for $2, showcasing many of the animals.
Cajun Country Swamp Tours..."eco" tour with Walter "Butch" Guchereau...a delightful, knowledgeable native of the area. Gives a profwessional swamp tour aboard an open Cajun crawfish skiff thru a primitive area. You get to see the "Real" swamp! A 2 hour tour at a very reasonable price by a really "Nice" guy!!! We've done all kinds of local 'water' tours & this was by far the best we have ever taken. Highly recommended!!!! Technically in Beaux Bridge, but only minutes from Lafayette via interstate. You have to call for reservations & he will give you directions if you don't have a flyer with the map.
The Acadian settlers also had a strong love for music. Creole and Cajun music is great to listen to and is frequently very lively. The guy I met here playing music. D'Jalma. plays in a band called Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys. Check out their CD. There is also a Performance Center on site where they have concerts, dances, poetry readings, perform plays and other cultural attractions.
Another thing emphasized by the early Acadian settlers was education. Vermillionville has recreated a schoolhouse along with a cooking school for learning how to prepare those tasty Creole/Cajun dishes.
The Chapelle des Attakapas is a reproduction of the Catholic Churches at Pointe Coupee (1760) and St Martnville (1773). Religion played an important part in the Acadian lifestyle and the church was a focal point of the community.
Inside the houses are numerous household items from the period showing what life was like in the area during this time. People in period costume are in many of the houses to explain how the items work and how the Creole and Cajun settlers lived. Many of the houses also have equipment showing how the artisans worked with wood, leather, and metals to make items for the houses, farming and art. The first photo shows a weaving loom from around 1850.
Vermillionville has a number of authentically recreated houses from the early settlement of Creole and Cajun people in the area. The houses have been recreated as close as possible to the original designs using the same materials. The Beau Bassin House was built in 1840 and used a combination of Creole and Greek Revival architecture. The Fausse Point Home was once the home of Amand Brossard son of the Acadian Resistance Fighter Joseph Broussard. The Maison Boucvalt is a classic Acadian small house design. The Maison Mouton is a reconstruction of a four room homw from 1810. The oldest home in the park is the Maison Buller from 1803.
The water and swamp areas of this part of Louisiana attracted the Creole and Cajun settlers. Vermillionville is appropriately located on the Bayou Vermillion and Petit Bayou. The abundance of water also gives a home to the many beautiful plants used to landscape the grounds. The Interpretive Walking Tour brochure also names the plants you will see as you walk through.
Vermillionville is a kind of living history museum designed to preserve the folklife and culture of the Attakapas area between 1765 and 1890. The area was home to many Creole and Cajun settlers that formed lively, close-knit communities with a vibrant culture. The park is laid out like an historic village, contain eighteen structures, including six restored original homes. In many of the structures, costumed interpreters demonstrate traditional crafts or musical styles. I really enjoyed my visit here. The Visitors Center is designed after a Creole plantation house, and contains a nice gift shop. Pick up the Interpretive Walking Tour Map and enjoy! Vermilionville is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Admission is $8.00 for Adults; $6.50 for Seniors (65+ years); and $5.00 for kids 6 to 18; children under 6 are damitted free.
Avery Island is a must see if you visit Lafayette, its straight south on the Coast in Vermillion Bay. There is a free tour in the Tabasco hot pepper factory and all kinds of floura and fauna with tons of imported bamboos. Also a Huge BUDDA looking out to the Gulf Of Mexico.
Lafayette is known for its terrific festivals. Three of the most famous:
Crawfish Festival: This festival is actually just a few minutes away from Lafayette in Breaux Bridge Louisiana and takes place the first weekend in May each year. This festival is one of the largest and the crowds are very large. Crawfish dishes of every kind imaginable are served. There is also a heavy dose of great cajun music and culture.
Festival International de Louisiane is held the last weekend in April every year in downtown Lafayette. Entertainment from all over the world converges in Lafayette for a huge party. Food, music and fun from all over the world.
Festival Acadien is held in Mid-September in Girard Park in Lafayette. This festival truly embodies all that is Cajun. This is actually a music, food and cajun cultural arts festival combined into one. The best foods, bands and crafts are here all in one place.
Book hotel rooms in advance for any of these because they run out easily!!! Come on down cher and pass a good time with us!
I have lived in Lafayette my whole life and this is truly a great place! Mardi Gras is absolutely one of the cannot miss activites here!
Our Mardi Gras is second only to New Orleans! We have parades the Friday, Saturday, Monday and of course Mardi Gras Day! Mardi Gras in Lafayette is alot more family oriented so you don't have all the flashing and nudity to deal with. However it is just as much fun!!! There are alot of throws and we have a huge carnival with a bandstand that plays all different types of music. My in-laws came to Mardi Gras from Kansas last year and they just had a blast!!! If you want to come and spend Mardi Gras with us though you need to book your Hotel early because they run out of rooms every year.