Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.

Hauntings, History, Chocolates & Cheese: In Vermont’s Green Mountains

          I follow the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe, Vermont where I’ll be spending the week. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, about Emily. As I go to shut my door, I suddenly hesitate, listening to an internal voice telling me not leave my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere. Who is even around on this narrow road? Even Emily has been gone since 1844.

          That’s where I’m wrong. Emily, it seems, despite her sorrows, has a mischievous streak. She wouldn’t take my car for a joyride—after all back in her day it was horse and buggy not Rav-4s. But she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.

          Who was Emily and why has she spent almost 180 years doing these things? In Stowe I learn there are several tales, all with the same theme. Jilted or maybe mourning her dead lover– Emily either hanged herself from the single-lane, 50-foot-long bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people sometimes hear a woman’s voice calling from the other end of the bridge—no matter what side they’re on–and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car. As for the romantic name of Gold Brook, the answer is prosaic enough–gold once was found in the water.

          But those who live in Stowe, Vermont, a picturesque 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, don’t let a ghost, no matter how fearsome she might be deter them from selling Emily’s Bridge products such as t-shirts, puzzles, paintings, and even tote bags. Etsy even has an Emily’s Bridge Products section. I wonder if that makes Emily even angrier.

There are no ghosts as far as I know at Topnotch Resort in Stowe where I’m staying. It’s all hills and history here and each morning, I sip on the patio, sipping the locally roasted coffee named after the nearby Green Mountains.

Located on 120-acres in the foothills of Mount Mansfield on what was once a dairy farm, the sleek resort still has traces of its past in the silvery toned whitewashed barn and vintage butter tubs found in the resort’s public rooms counterpoints to the sleekly designed furniture that manages to be both cozy and comfy at the same time.  

The local and locally sourced mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.

But before heading into town, I have the resort’s experiences to explore.

Though I haven’t played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northwest and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.

As we work on general ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand.

“It’s all about muscle memory,” he tells me noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game, as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.

Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity — a gentle horseback ride on one of the experienced trail horses at the Topnotch Equestrian Center— seems perfect.

We an hour-long path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge—one that isn’t haunted–spanning the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.

Then it’s on to my own self-created food tour. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe, I watch as salted caramels are hand dipped into hot chocolate and ponder the difficult decision of what to buy. It’s a delightful place, in a century old building, with wooden display cases and such yummy and intriguing chocolate fillings such as blue cheese using an artisan blue cheese made by a local creamery.  Who could resist?

Following the winding Hill Road, I stop to chat with Molly Pindell, who co-owns, with her sister Kate, the 27-acre Sage Farm Goat Dairy. We walk amongst the Alpine goats that look up from the sweet grass and fall apples they are munching on to watch us. Goats, Molly tells me, are friendly and loyal. Think dogs with horns.

          After watching the goats frolic, we head to the creamery where Molly needs to pack up her latest cheese, Justice, a 100% raw goat’s milk, bisected by a layer of vegetable ash, and aged just over 60 days. It’s truly a family farm with Molly’s husband Dave and their two children and Katie’s partner Bob, the couples live I think how great would this life be? Cute goats, great cheese, and a chance to get back to the land.

          Though, on second thought, milking goats everyday early in the morning when it’s cold and snowing may lose its appeal pretty quickly. Better just to buy goat’s cheese at wonderful places like this.

          To relax after my endeavors, I head to Topnotch’s spa for their signature massage and then a swim in the slate lined outdoor pool. Slate being another Vermont product. I have just enough energy to end the night as I began my morning, sitting on the patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside, while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.

The following recipe is courtesy of Laughing Moon Chocolates.

  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 1¼ pounds Yucatan chocolate chunks
  • 1½ ounces sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • ⅓ ounce or 500 milligrams Elmore Mountain Therapeutics CBD oil or other CBD oil

Pour the cream into a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until it begins to steam (190 degrees). Turn off heat and add the chocolate, butter, and liquor, stirring with a wire whisk until mixture is blended smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Add CBD oil and whisk well. Pour mixture into shallow baking dish and let cool overnight. When ready to prepare, scoop chocolate mixture with a spoon and roll in cocoa powder.

Additional flavor options are endless! Some favorites include:

Chamomile and Lavender: Steep ⅛ cup tea with the cream on low heat until it steams. Strain into a larger pot to remove herb or tea. At Laughing Moon, they use Vermont Liberty Tea Company’s Moonbeams and Lavender.

Maple: Add Vermont maple syrup to taste.

Substitute vodka with raspberry liqueur, peppermint schnapps or a liquor of your choosing for a subtle additional flavor.

Board the Belle of Louisville for a Halloween Cruise on the Ohio River

It’s not too late to book passage on the Belle of Louisville for one of their Halloween-themed cruises. Built in 1914, the Belle is now the last authentic steamboat from the great American packet boat era, a time when these medium-sized boats designed for domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation plied the waters of European countries and North American rivers. Both a National Historic Landmark and an icon of the Louisville waterfront, the Belle is the most widely traveled steamboat in American history.

October 30: Hull-o-ween Family Cruise

 A family event, guests get to explore the 107-year-old boat accompanied by their very own Ghost Guide, stopping along their journey to hear terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Beyond the spooks and frights, the cruise also includes Halloween-themed crafts, activities, music, and at the cruise’s end trick or treating.

Costumes are encouraged but not required. This Hull-o-ween Family Cruise takes place on Saturday, October 30 from 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (15-64), $34.99 for seniors (65+), $14.99 for kids (5-14) and children 4 and under are free.


October 30: Haunted River Cruise

Come aboard the historic Belle of Louisville and meet your Ghost Guide who takes visitors on a tour while telling terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Continue on to the Captain’s Quarters for a Tarot care reading by a mysterious psychics. Need a drink? Head to the Ballroom Deck for cursed cocktails, costume contest, and music by DJ Jill at the Halloween Dance Party.

This adults-only (ages 21+) cruise departs at 8 P.M. and returns at 10 P.M. Costumes are encouraged for this Halloween cruise, but not required. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (21-64) and $34.99 for seniors (65+).

Why Not Begin or End the Trip with a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel

While visiting Louisville, either book an overnight at the iconic Brown Hotel or at least stop by long enough to enjoy their famous Hot Brown invented by the hotel’s Chef Fred Schmidt in the 1920s who went way beyond anything a like typical sandwich or bacon and eggs to serve to late night guests.  Instead, he whipped up a concoction that would become famous throughout Kentucky and beyond—an open faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and a delicate but rich Mornay sauce,

  • 2 oz. Whole Butter
  • 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Whole Milk
  • ½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese
    Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2‑3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

 For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape – then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish in the oven. Suggested bake time is 20 minutes at 350º. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove from oven, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness

A Norwegian farm girl, her family so poor, they often went hungry, is seduced by a rich landowner’s son. But despite her dreams, he has no plans to make her his wife. Abandoned, she sees only one path forward or she’ll sink into the black hole of her family’s poverty. But her first goal is revenge and after the landowner’s son dies a horrid death amidst whispers of poison, she boards a boat and sails to America. Norway’s gain is America’s loss.

Her name changed many times through the years but after the mysterious deaths of two husbands, numerous men, women, and children, she goes down in history as Belle Gunness.  An entrepreneur whose business was murder, Gunness felt no qualms seducing men for their money and dispatching them with her axe—filling her farmland with her victims.

As her crimes were about to be discovered, her solid brick home burnt to the ground and workers battling the smoke and flames discovered the bodies of her three children and a woman without a head.  Was it Belle  or did she get away with one more murder, absconding with close to a million dollars. It’s a question the world has been asking since 1908.

America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness (Indiana University Press/Red Lightning Oct. 4, 2021; $20).

What people are saying about America’s Femme Fatale.

“Ammeson uses astute research and punchy prose to chronicle Belle’s transformation from destitute farm girl to one of history’s most egregious female serial killers. . . . Compact and captivating, this salacious tale of murderous greed during the early twentieth century will be devoured quickly by true-crime fans.”– Michelle Ross ― BOOKLIST / Amer Library Assn

America’s Femme Fatale is the detailed story of Belle Gunness, one of the nation’s most prolific mass murderers. Ammeson recounts the horrific events with dry wit and corrects many errors found in previous accounts. Gunness stands out in an infamous crowd because she was a woman; she killed men, women and children rather than choosing from among one narrow section of victimology; and her murders seem to have been rooted in greed rather than lust, the serial killer’s usual motive.– Keven McQueen, author of Murderous Acts: 100 Years of Crime in the Midwest

Tune into Hoosier History Live on October 23rd to hear host Nelson Price discuss Femme Fatale with author Jane Simon Ammeson. The show airs live from noon to 1 p.m. ET each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis. Or stream audio live from anywhere during the show.

Ahoy Maties: September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day

No, I didn’t know there was an International Pirate Talk Like a Pirate Day (IPTLAPD for short) either.  Luckily Mindy Bianca alerted me that it was a global event and gave me some background. Created by two friends in Oregon back in 1995. I shiver my timbers (whatever that means) just thinking of all those IPTLPAD good times I’ve missed for the last 26 years.

               But not anymore! I’m up to date on IPTLPAD and Mindy has kindly pointed out places with historical ties to pirates as well as destinations which feature pirate-related events, tours, restaurants, and attractions.

               Mindy wants to assure anyone who asks that she knows that pirates aren’t good guys and gals.

               “They were scallywags who did things that would certainly not make their mamas proud, so we’re not here to celebrate their achievements … just to acknowledge their existence and the role they played in history,” she says, adding that pirates, no matter how bad they were, are certainly part of our pop culture.

               So all hands on deck as we get started with our tour of all things pirate with a look at coastal Louisiana where  pirate Jean Lafitte is legendary and intertwined with big moments in Louisiana’s history.

Not a whole lot is known about the early years of Lafitte, who claimed to be born in France–but can you really trust what a pirate tells you? We do know he ultimately made his way to the Gulf of Mexico with his brother Pierre to make his fortune—but not by hard work. Among his most horrible act was smuggling enslaved people.

“His bad behavior worked to Louisiana’s incredible advantage during the Battle of New Orleans, the final conflict of the War of 1812. Lafitte agreed to fight on the side of the Americans – General Andrew Jackson gave him the choice of assisting the American cause or going to jail – and the Americans were victorious against the British in great part because Lafitte and his buccaneers knew the bayous and waterways so well,” Mindy tells me. “It certainly didn’t hurt that they were no gentlemen; they ignored the established rules of engagement and used whatever means necessary to get the job done. The pirates led the British into the swamps, for example, and ambushed them or just let them get lost among the alligators and snakes.”

After all, pirates operate on the principle of “dead men tell no tales.”

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Throughout Southern Louisiana

*Please note that this region was recently impacted by Hurricane Ida, so now isn’t the best time to visit. Please put these on your list to visit in the future!

In his later years, Jean Lafitte established headquarters in Galveston, Texas, so he spent some time near the southwestern part of Louisiana. But in his earlier years he dominated the southeastern part of the state, where today you’ll find four of the six sites of his eponymous national park. Two of those park sites are within MBPR’s client destinations.

The Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Lafourche Parish are also known as Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou. Though the center itself, located in the town of Thibodaux, focuses on the region’s Cajun heritage, rangers there tell us that Bayou Lafourche, the body of water for which the parish is named, was among Lafitte’s preferred smuggling routes. He’d load and unload his cargo at the mouth of the bayou. But he and his band of pirates also aided the U.S. by preventing the British from accessing the body of water during the Battle of New Orleans. It’s a job they took very seriously indeed.

Over in Jefferson Parish, in the little town of Marrero, the national park site is called Barataria Preserve and it offers an incredible peek inside the wild wetlands of Louisiana. The preserve features 26,000 acres of bayous, swamps, marshes and forests that are home to plenty of alligators, plus more than 200 bird species and an array of plants and wildflowers. Wander along its boardwalk on a self-guided tour or accompany a ranger on a Wetlands Walk (tours are offered at 10 a.m. every Wednesday through Sunday) and it’s easy to see how Lafitte and his hearties could easily vanish in these swamps.

The Town of Jean Lafitte

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

*Please note that this region was recently impacted by Hurricane Ida, so now isn’t the best time to visit. Please put this on your list to visit in the future!

                Jean Fafitte is one of two towns in Jefferson Parish named for Louisiana’s favorite pirate (the other is just called “Lafitte.”) The region was a huge draw for Lafitte who found its bayous, swamps and waterways the perfect cover for his illegal activities. He favored places on Bayou Barataria, whose dark depths hide all kinds of secrets. Visitors can tour the region’s mysterious swamps (alligator sightings guaranteed!), enjoy some of the best seafood ever, and learn the history of the people who make their home here.

Jean Lafitte Harbor is one of the stops on the new “Soul of the South” tour itinerary, which was designed to help visitors learn the many untold stories of Native, Creole and African Americans in South Louisiana. The harbor is located along Lafitte’s favored smuggling routes.

Louisiana Pirate Festival – held annually in May

900 Lake Shore Drive, Lake Charles, Louisiana

                Lafitte was a busy, well-traveled guy who sailed along and through the waterways of the state’s southernmost reaches. Legend has it that as he and his band of buccaneers were making their way west toward Galveston, enemy ships gave chase. To avoid being captured Laffite and his crew hid amongst the waterways of what would become Lake Charles. According to legend, their very favorite hangout was a place now called “Contraband Bayou,” an apt name given that Lafitte and his crew were reputed to have buried a treasure trove of silver and gold there.

This legend is celebrated in early May with the Louisiana Pirate Festival, which takes place on both land and sea. A highlight of the event is the reenactment of Lafitte and his band taking over the city, complete with cannons firing and the mayor “walking the plank.” Costumes are encouraged, and the event features live music, plenty of rations and grog, carnival rides, and appropriately themed pirate booty for purchase.

Louisiana loves a festival, and the Louisiana Pirate Festival in Lake Charles is one of the best.

We’re changing course now, away from Jean Lafitte and Louisiana and sailing on to other parts of the country, not all of which have their own pirate history but do subscribe to the theory that it’s “a pirate’s life for me.”

Wilmington Pirate Festival – held annually in June

Wilmington, Delaware

                The Kalmar Nyckel is the official Tall Ship of Delaware, a sailing ambassador that serves as a floating classroom and encourages visitors to learn about the maritime heritage of Delaware and its historic ties to Sweden and Finland. The ship is a replica of the original Kalmar Nyckel, which was known as the “Swedish Mayflower” because it brought the settlers who founded the colony of New Sweden here in 1638 and thereby established the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley. That wasn’t a pirate ship, but today’s Kalmar Nyckel hosts a Pirate Festival each June just for fun. Guests can climb aboard the ship for cannon and craft demonstrations and a variety of pirate-related activities. On select weekends when the ship is docked in Wilmington (it often travels throughout the Mid-Atlantic), visitors can also go out for pirate sails. This month’s 90-minute sails will depart on Sunday, September 19 (International Talk Like a Pirate Day!) and 26.

Pirates Ahoy! – held annually in July

Frostburg, Maryland

                We’re not sure that pirates knew anything about reading and writing then that the letter X marks the spot. But the tiny pirates you find in Allegany County, on The Mountain Side of Maryland, definitely enjoy a good book. This summertime event hosted by the Children’s Literature Center of Frostburg State University is expected to return to its usual roost along Main Street of Frostburg (in 2021 the event moved to a park as a COVID precaution) on July 6 next year. Full crews of costumed lads and lassies and their parents take part in all manner of buccaneer activities, including pirate-themed crafts and treasure hunts. A children’s book author is always invited to present a reading and book-signing of their pirate-themed book; the 2022 author has not yet been announced.

Just one of the crew of small pirates who descend upon Frostburg, Maryland for the adventure of reading.

Ahoy! Pirate Tour

Mobile, Alabama

              One of the oldest city’s in the U.S.  Mobile was founded three centuries ago, and as an important port on the Gulf of Mexico, it’s certainly seen a pirate or two. No make that a lot more. To prove our point, consider the following. In 1711, British privateers pillaged neighboring Dauphin Island. In 1815, Jean Lafitte (yep, him again!) and his brother Pierre sold their ship, the Adventurer, in Mobile. River pirates such as Paddy Scott raided cargo barges as they tried to make their way to and around Mobile. The stories of these 18th- and 19th-century pirates and more are recounted during a 90-minute walking tour around Mobile’s waterfront. A costumed guide offers guests a step back in time back, teaching them to talk like a pirate and sing a sea chanty while also giving them a few “pointers” in sword fighting.

Mobile

A Bounty of Pirate Activities

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

                Local lore tells us that the bays and coves on the north side of this part of coastal Alabama once provided shelter to pirates and privateers who sailed their ships into countless protected areas that hid them from view. Modern-day visitors looking for a taste of the pirate life can grab a bushwacker (a favorite local cocktail) and burger at Pirate’s Cove restaurant near the town of Elberta, which is about a 30-minute drive from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and an even shorter boat ride. The dog-friendly atmosphere assures that your best first mate can come along on the adventure, too. Back in Orange Beach, the youngest swashbucklers enjoy climbing aboard the Pirate Cruise that leaves Hudson Marina at Skull Harbor. They take to the high seas with a crew in full garb and learn about the pirates who once sailed these waters. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, those lads and lassies might also appreciate the Pirates & Princesses Breakfast served at The Hangout, a legendary restaurant in Gulf Shores. For one of their famed cocktail recipes see below.

Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, a Dolly Parton Company

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

                What’s Dolly Parton’s connection to pirates? Well, like Dolly, the swashbucklers in her employ are a fun-loving crew … multi-talented and great at keeping an audience entertained. The first Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show opened in 2011 in Myrtle Beach, which has plenty of ties to Captain Edward Teach, a.k.a. “Blackbeard.” At the dinner show, a modern-day Blackbeard leads two incredibly athletic crews, the Sapphire Pirates and the Crimson Pirates, who battle on deck, in the water and in the sky above a pair of full-sized pirate ships docked in a 15-foot indoor lagoon. The show features acrobatic competitions and an original music score by Dolly and Mark Brymer. The show also includes a four-course pirate feast. Who knew that pirates enjoy buttery biscuits and crispy fried chicken as much as landlubbers do? The Myrtle Beach theater proved so successful that in 2019 Dolly decided to bring the show to Pigeon Forge, already home to her Dollywood theme park. In November and December, the fun-loving pirates in Myrtle Beach truly get into the holiday spirit, adding a little “ho-ho-ho” to their usual “yo-ho-ho.”

Leaving the continental United States, we set sail for  the Caribbean.  

Sunset Resorts

Negril and Montego Bay, Jamaica

Pirates abounded in Jamaica in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. One, Henry Morgan, even became the island’s lieutenant governor. But perhaps Jamaica’s most famous pirate was “Calico” Jack Rackham, who’s credited with introducing the now-famous Jolly Roger flag. Jack, who is said to have earned his nickname because of his preference for calico clothing including his underpants, and his band of pirates made themselves at home in Negril while they pillaged merchant and fishing vessels along the north shores of Jamaica.

His crew included two female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who were said to be much more ruthless than any of their male counterparts. Calico Jack and members of his crew were captured in Negril, which is where today you’ll find Sunset at the Palms, an adults-only, all-inclusive resort. Its family-friendly sister properties in Montego Bay, Sunset Beach Resort, Spa & Waterpark and Oasis at Sunset, share a campus that features a pirate-themed water park.

The Buccaneer

Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

This luxury resort on St. Croix gets its name from buccaneer Jean Martel, who in the early 1700s made his fortune hijacking ships in the waters surrounding Jamaica. When Martel traveled to St. Croix for supplies, Jamaican officials received a tip that he was in the Virgin Islands and sent a warship into Christiansted harbor to capture him. Trying to escape, Martel ran his ship aground just off Beauregard Bay, right where one of the resort’s beachfront restaurants sits today.

Martel along with some of his crew were able to escape in one of the pirate’s sloops, but others were forced to hide on the island as authorities confiscated their remaining ships. As for the gold? We don’t know as no record exists that it was ever discovered. But then would you admit it?

Anyway, for the last three centuries rumors have run rampant that the gold is buried somewhere on the island. When the Armstrong family opened The Buccaneer in 1947– the resort is still owned by the Armstrong family and is run by the third generation–guests often spent their days searching for the gold. They never found it, nor did the construction crews who built Beauregard’s on the Beach, the restaurant that sits where the treasure is said to have been buried.

And here’s a final entry you probably didn’t expect:

Pittsburgh Pirates Artifacts at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown has nothing to do with pirates … unless you count the name of one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams represented at its famous museum dedicated to baseball. But why are the Pittsburgh Pirates called Pirates? The team used to be named the Alleghenys, but according to Major League Baseball, it’s due to their habit of plundering players from other teams that they became informally known as “pirates.” The team officially took the name in 1891. The Hall of Fame and Museum is a treasure chest of baseball artifacts, and the “Starting Nine” is a collection of nine key artifacts from each Major League team. Among the nine items currently on display for the Pirates are Roberto Clemente’s retired #21 jersey; Willie Stargell’s 1979 World Series bat; and an incredibly rare Honus Wagner T206 baseball card, considered one of the “Holy Grails” among card collectors.

Avast, me hearties.  We hope you’ll celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day in style! Wear your calico bloomers, perch a parrot on your shoulder, watch a few of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise movies, and above all, avoid walking the plank.

Surf’s Up Cocktail from The Hangout

Yield: 1 serving.

Fill a 12 ounce glass with ice cubes. 

Add: 1 ounce Bacardi light rum, 1 ounce Malibu coconut rum and 1/2 ounces peach schnapps. 

Then carefully, to keep colors as separate as possible, pour enough pineapple juice in one side of the glass and cranberry juice in the opposite side to fill the glass. Top with a generous drizzle of Blue Curacao. Garnish, if desired, with an orange slice and a cherry, which you stick on the end of a straw.

Best destinations for traveling gourmets

If you believe that every meal when you travel should be sublime then you’re in luck because BSpoke Travel has curated a marvelous list of Italian—and one Moroccan—hotels and restaurants that’s perfect for traveling gourmets.

Borgo Santo Pietro, Tuscany, Italy

At Borgo Santo Pietro a team of farmers, culinary gardeners, and talented chefs work together to create an ultimate Michelin-starred dining experience. Meo Modo offers a well-balanced gourmet tasting menu with a right proportion of vegetables, protein, and carbons. Borgo estate’s productions include over 300 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, cheese, and meat.

If you are fancy for more traditional Italian food Trattoria sull’Albero offers a menu with a wide selection of pasta dishes, main courses, and antipasti made only from the fresh estate’s products or bought from local producers.

Nordelaia, Piedmont, Italy

This new boutique hotel situated in the UNESCO world heritage site of Montferrat, deep in Italy’s Piedmont wine country, has two restaurants curated by a head chef and mentor Andrea Ribaldone and a resident chef Charles Pearce. Two restaurants L’Orto and The Bistrot combine the authenticity of Piedmontese cuisine with the experimental ambition of modern fine dining.

L’Orto Restaurant is a relaxed fine-dining concept. The menu is based solely on freshly caught seafood from the Ligurian coast and locally grown vegetables.

The Bistrot offers a more informal experience, focusing on Piedmontese ingredients, culture, and stories of the region. The main approach chosen by the chefs is respect for the traditions of the region while experimenting and pushing boundaries.

Ciasa Salares, Dolomites, Italy

Run by the Wieser Family ever since its establishment in 1964, the hotel is well known for its outstanding wine cellar and food experience.

Cocun is a wine-cellar restaurant with over 1900 labels, 24,000 bottles from every corner of the world, and a voyage over 1,000 culinary latitudes by the cold cuts, the cheeses, and the 15 dishes prepared with carefully selected ingredients.

        Nida is the cheese room and boasts a selection of 65 raw-milk cheeses, jams, chutneys, and jellies.

  Nodla is the chocolate room, where you can dive into a world of no less than 120 different kinds of chocolate.

Other dining options include a new Sori Restaurant with the sun-kissed Infiní “Eat on Beat” Terrace and Bona Lüna Dine Bar – perfect for early-evening aperitifs or after-dinner drinks.

Capri Tiberio Palace, Capri, Italy

Capri Tiberio Palace, the iconic property located just a few steps from Piazzetta, is known also for its fizzy splendid style inspired by La Dolce Vita. At Terrazza Tiberio the Executive Chef Nello Siano offers a new menu inspired by the Mediterranean diet but with an unexpected international flavours.

Fairmont Taghazout Bay, Agadir, Morocco

Nestled in the heart of Taghazout Bay, the resort sprawls on 18 hectares of olive groves and argan gardens with the Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop, Fairmont Taghazout Bay features a wide variety of culinary experiences through different themed restaurants and bars:

•          Morimoto restaurant – modern Japanese cuisine with fresh ingredients in an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere;

 •          Beef & Reef – Mediterranean cuisine where seafood and meat dishes are presented with unexpected pairing suggestions;

 •          NOLA bar – a wide selection of original and creative cocktails and a list of premium spirits to be paired with chocolate and cigars.

Vilon, Rome, Italy

Vilòn Roma, located steps away from Palazzo Borghese and Via Dei Condotti, is now known for the restaurant Adelaide that just won the prize as one of the best places for all’amatriciana – a famous traditional Roman dish.

The menu changes according to the seasons and includes Roman classics with modern twists. Sunday’s lunches are dedicated to “Il Pranzo della Domenica” when, according to the local market’s offer, Executive Chef Gabriele Muro expresses his creativity at the best.

Maalot, Rome, Italy

Located in the original residence of Gaetano Donizetti Maalot Roma is primarily a restaurant, and then a hotel. Designed to celebrate life and social gathering, Don Pasquale is set to be an all-day dining experience for locals and hotels guests. Named after one of the most renowned works of Gaetano Donizetti, the restaurant menu pays homage to the tradition and attention to what the new modern food lovers are looking for.

Expect Maritozzo con la Panna, Pizza with Mortadella, and a vast choice of cooked eggs reinvented with roman traditional ingredients. Lunch and dinner options include a wide range of vegetables from local producers to meet the needs of modern trends. And do stay for an aperitif – Maritozzo Salato is a must-try!

Because I always like to include a recipe, here is one for Gricia from my acquaintance Katie Parla, a food writer and author of Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City: A Cookbook and Food of the Italian South Recipes For Classic, Disappearing, and Lost Dishes: A Cookbook who lives in Rome. The following recipe was featured in her story, When I First Moved to Rome, I Found the Sunday Dinners I Never Had, sponsored by Lagostina.

“This classic Roman pasta sauce always features Pecorino Romano, guanciale, and plenty of black pepper,” writes Katie. “But if I’m making a few dishes for a dinner party, like this Roman-style stuffed zucchini, I’ll often enrich the pasta with the insides of the zucchini that’s leftover from the recipe. After all, there’s no sense in wasting the cored inside of the zucchini, which is suited to cooking in rendered guanciale fat until creamy. Toss the zucchini and guanciale with the pasta (a large, round type of pasta called mezze maniche), plus a little bit of pasta water, and stir it vigorously until a thick sauce forms.”

PREP TIME: 10 minutes

COOK TIME: 25 minutes

SERVES: 4 to 6

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 ounces guanciale, cut into 1 1/2 x 1/2-inch strips
  • Cored insides of 6 zucchini, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni, mezze maniche, paccheri, or other tubular pasta
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the guanciale and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini, season with salt, and cook until the zucchini is softened and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt the water. When the salt has dissolved, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water to the skillet with the zucchini and bring to a simmer. When the pasta is very al dente, drain, reserving the cooking water. Add the pasta and another ladle of its cooking water to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring vigorously, until a thick sauce forms, adding more water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency.

Remove the skillet from the heat and, add 3/4 cup of the Pecorino Romano, and mix thoroughly. Season to taste.

Plate and sprinkle each portion with some of the remaining Pecorino Romano and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

They Ate What? Antique Cookbooks and the Meals of Olde

Still cursing at yourself for the extra helping of potato salad and sweet tea not to mention the second piece of blueberry pie at the family picnic last week?  Well, imagine how you’d feel after attending this 1450 banquet, held in England for the enthronement of an archbishop where guests munched on 104 oxen, six ‘wylde bulles,’ 1,000 sheep, 400 swans and such game birds such as bustards (larger than a turkey), cranes, bitterns, curlews and herons.

“Our ancestors had gastronomic guts,” Anne Willan tells me as we chat on the phone, she in Santa Monica, California where there’s sunshine and me in the cold Great Lakes region.  I find it fascinating to read old menus and descriptions of banquets and feasts and for that Willan, founder of famed French cooking school École de Cuisine la Varenne, recipient of the IACP Lifetime Achievement Award and author of more than 30 cookbooks, is the go to person.

Even better, after collecting cookbooks for more than 50 years and amassing a collection of over 5000 tomes, several years ago Willan and her husband, Mark Cherniavsky immersed themselves in their antiquarian cookbook library and came out with The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook (University of California Press $50).

“Seals were eaten on fast days along with whale, dolphin, porpoise and thousands of other fish,” says Willan. Hmmm…that’s different than the macaroni and cheese and fish sticks I used to eat at the homes of my Catholic friends on Fridays.

Here we peruse four centuries of gastronomy including the heavily spiced sauces of medieval times (sometimes employed because of the rankness of the meat), the massive roasts and ragoûts of Sun King Louis XIV’s court and the elegant eighteenth-century chilled desserts. One for the interesting detail, Willan also tells the story of cookbook writing and composition from the 1500s to the early 19th century. She highlights how each of the cookbooks reflects its time, ingredients and place, the  recipes adapted among the cuisines of Germany, England, France, Italy and Spain as well as tracing the history of the recipe.

Historic cookbooks can be so much different than ours, ingredients unfamiliar and instructions rather vague. For example, Willan points out the phrase “cook until” was used due to the difficulty of judging the level of heat when cooking a dish over the burning embers in an open hearth. It wasn’t until the cast-iron closed stoves of the 19th century that recipes writers begin were finally able to give firm estimates for timing.

For food historians and even those just appreciative of a good meal, the book is fascinating. For me as a food writer, I wonder about covering a dinner where birds flew out of towering pastries, seals were served and eels baked into pies and it was often wise to have a taster nearby in case someone was trying to poison you.

The following recipes are from The Cookbook Library.

Duxelles – Mushroom Hash

Duxelles is a classic French preparation of butter-cooked chopped mushrooms flavored with shallots. It is said to have been created by François Pierre de la Varenne. La Varenne’s book, Le Cuisinier Francois (The French cook, 1651), was one of two books  Willan says strongly influenced the evolution of French classical cuisine.  You can use the duxelles to make mushroom tarts, as a stuffing for fish and even put it in spaghetti sauce.

  • 1⁄2 pound mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry
  • 11⁄2 teaspoon butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop mushrooms in food processor with pulsing motion so they are chopped in fine pieces but are not pureed. In a medium-size skillet heat butter over low heat. Add shallot and sauté about 1⁄2 minute until soft but not brown. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture is dry. Serve hot.

Rich Seed Cake with Caraway And Cinnamon

This recipe is based on a cake in The Compleat Housewife by Eliza Smith, published in London in the 1700s.  Willan, ever the purist, suggests mixing the batter by hand as it was done 300 plus year ago.

“The direct contact with the batter as it develops from a soft cream to a smooth, fluffy batter is an experience not to be missed,” she says. “If you use an electric mixer, the batter is fluffier but the cake emerges from the oven less moist and with a darker crust.”

At times, Willan needs to substitute ingredients. The original recipe listed ambergris as an option for flavoring the cake. “Ambergris,” writes Willan, “a waxy secretion from a sperm whale, was once used to perfume foods. As it is now a rare ingredient, I’ve opted for Mrs. Smith’s second suggestion, of cinnamon, which marries unexpectedly well with caraway.”

  • 1 pound or 3 1⁄2 cups) flour
  • 1 2⁄3 cups sugar
  • 6  tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 pound or 2 cups butter, more for the pan
  • 11⁄2 tablespoon rose water or orange-flower water
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 325ºF. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sift together the flour and sugar into a medium bowl, and stir in the caraway seeds. Separate the whole eggs, putting all the yolks together and straining the whites into a small bowl to remove the threads.

Cream the butter either by hand or with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the yolks two at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the rose water. Whisk the egg whites just until frothy, then beat them, a little at a time, into the egg yolk mixture. Beat in the cinnamon. Finally, beat in the flour mixture, sprinkling it a little at a time over the batter. This should take at least 15 minutes by hand, 5 minutes with a mixer. The batter will lighten and become fluffier. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake until the cake starts to shrink from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean when withdrawn, 1 1⁄4 to 1 1⁄2 hours. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack until tepid, then unmold it and leave it to cool completely on the rack. When carefully wrapped, it keeps well at room temperature for several days and the flavor will mellow.

ZYDECO, GUMBO, AND CAJUN HERITAGE: IT’S ALL PART OF THE CAJUN BAYOU FOOD TRAIL

Follow the Cajun Bayou Food Trail: A REAL Taste of Louisiana Cajun Country

Just 45 minutes from New Orleans, the Cajun Bayou Food Trail is a journey through the heart of Lafourche Parish and the ultimate road trip for those wanting to explore Louisiana’s food scene. Known as the Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, this region of the state takes its culinary delights so seriously that the name Lafourche is French for the fork. While some will explain, patiently, the term is a geographical reference to a split in the  Mississippi River, we’re thinking that any place with a name synonymous with an eating utensil surely knows its way around a menu.

So grab your car keys and your sunglasses—but you won’t need to bring your own Lafourche as any place on the parish’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail have their own—and hit the road. There are currently 18 restaurants on the trail including the recently added Cinclare Southern Bistro.

“We’re thrilled to be included on the Louisiana Cajun Bayou Food Trail,” says Michael Dalmau, the owner of Cinclare Southern Bistro. “The restaurants that span this historic waterway might be different in what they do and how they do it but know this …. they all do it well. In South Louisiana – and especially up and down the Bayou – feeding and serving friends and family is not only what we do to pass a good time, but it’s how we show our love and support. It’s part of our DNA and that’s why we’re so good at it.”

All the stops on the trail feature authentic food accompanied by the unparalleled Southern hospitality.

According to my friend Mindy Bianca, chefs down this way tell how their favorite recipes feature the finest local ingredients along with a true love of their surroundings and heritage. The latter means treating guests the same as family–well, almost, you don’t have to clean up after dinner like you would at your mom’s. All this makes navigating the Cajun Bayou Food Trail an unparalleled culinary and travel experience.

The lives of the people of Lafourche Parish are fully intertwined with the bodies of water that are accessible throughout the region, most notably Bayou Lafourche, a 100-mile waterway that bisects the parish, and the Gulf of Mexico. Residents of the area view the Bayou and Gulf as their personal pantries, finding seafood and other delicacies within and along their waters. If you live here, you’re most likely not going to get kicked you out of the parish for not knowing how to whip up a tasty gumbo (though we can’t promise that’s true) but fortunately most if not all figure it out from an early age using recipes passed down through the  generations. That’s why those following the trail get to taste dishes authentic traditional foods that are part of the Parish’s gastronomic heritage–prepared and served as they have been for as long as some can remember. But that doesn’t mean some chefs don’t do their own riff with added ingredients or other ways to make them uniquely their own.

Celebrating not only the restaurants and local food purveyors that honor the culinary customs of the region, the parish also hosts six festivals and events dedicated to honoring and preserving its distinctive traditions. Think La Fete Des Vieux Temps in Raceland, Louisiana

Calling it a cultural gumbo, Mindy says that “restaurants lean toward plenty of fresh seafood and run the gamut from mom-and-pop operations to sophisticated dining rooms.

“The unifying element is that whether it’s fried shrimp at Spahr’s, a restaurant that now has three locations and that has been a staple here for more than 50 years, or an elegant and savory alligator-and-andouille sausage cheesecake appetizer at Kincare, which offers craft beverages and a more upscale dining experience in the heart of downtown Thibodaux, your meal is going to be both delicious and memorable.”

Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to pick up a Food Trail passport and map from any of the participating restaurants or download it from this website, then eat their way through the parish. Collect enough passport stamps and you’ll earn your way into a comfy Food Trail T-shirt. Trust us and order one size larger before hitting the trail. In these ever-changing and unpredictable times, requirements for completing a passport have been modified and the Food Trail can now be experienced more “virtually,” meaning that participating Trail restaurants offer curbside service.

For more information about the dining scene in Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, to download your passport and map, or to check out some pictures and start dreaming of crawfish and crabs, gumbo and gator, please visit http://www.lacajunbayou.com. The local businesses up and down the Bayou are ready to fill up your plate and offer you a lafourche to use.  

Other places to dine include Rose’s Cafe, Holly Marie’s Seafood Market in Raceland, Punch’s Seafood Market in Lockport, Harry’s Poboys in Larose, Politz’s in Thibodeaux, Cher-Aimee’s in Cutoff, and C. Moran’s in Golden Meadow.

What to Do in Lafourche Parish

You can’t eat all the time, right? In between meals check out some or all of the following stops:

Swamp Tours

Described as an otherworldly experience, like time travel into the state’s prehistoric past by  touring Lafourche Parish’s swamplands. Tour options includes the 2 Da Swamp Bayou Tours & Museum trips to Bayou Des Allemands with traditional Cajun music, and museum displays of artifacts Des Allemands’ early years. Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne, open seasonally, is a high-octane thrill rides on its fleet of airboats. Torres Cajun Swamp Tours’ guides takes visitor the history and ecology of wetlands’ Bayou Boeuf.

 E.D. White Historic Site

The White family was once among the Louisiana’s political elite. Patriarch Edward Douglas White was the state’s governor in the 1830s; his son and namesake became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in the 1890s. The elder White’s home is now a Louisiana State Museum site and is a step back into the past showcasing the state’s history. Built from cypress in the Creole Plantation style in 1825, White purchased the home, re-imaging it as a Greek Revival mansion. Learn about the White family, the history of both the home’s history along with that of Chitimacha Indians and Cajun settlers, sugar plantation owners and the slaves that worked the fields in service of them by taking a tour of the E.D. White Historic Site in Thibodaux.

Restaurants in Thibodaux

Thibodaux’s restaurants and fresh markets reflect the local culture and cuisine. Top-rated restaurant spots include Fremin’s Restaurant, where you can take in the architecture of Thibodaux’s downtown area. The food is prepared with a view into the kitchen and the duck-and-andouille gumbo is like heaven in a bowl. Head to Off the Hook, a down-home spot with awesome po-boys, fried seafood and more gumbo! And try something different at the Cajun Potato Kitchen, a quirky and casual restaurant serving huge baked potatoes loaded with Cajun toppings. It’s fun and different and popular with the university crowd.  Get a full list of locals’ favorite restaurants.

Bayou Country Children’s Museum

You’d be hard pressed to find another museum in the U.S.—or really anywhere—that’s a Cajun-themed children’s museum. At Bayou Country Children’s Museum in Thibodaux brings together Cajun history, education and fun, making it a great stop for family fun. Here children can play on a full-size sugar harvester, toss beads from a Mardi Gras float, climb aboard a shrimp boat and more.

Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building

The wetlands flowing through Southern Louisianna are a distinct part of Lafourche Parish where more than 100 miles of bayou meander throughout the parish. The Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building, located in Lockport is the place to learn how traditional Cajun boats were constructed, including their iconic pirogue boats and flat-bottomed vessels known locally as putt-putts that once common in the region’s bayous.

Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center

Part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve in Thibodaux, the center’s mission is to preserve Cajun tradition and offers such programs as their free Cajun music jam sessions every Monday afternoon, a Cajun-French meetup on Tuesdays, historical Thibodaux walking tours and boat tours of Bayou Lafourche. While there, stop at the Center’s museum store, which has Cajun music recordings, crafts and books for sale.

America’s Wetland Birding Trail

The trail, made up of 22 parishes includes Lafourche which is part of the Grand Isle Loop. The loop includes sections of Louisiana’s best-known barrier island as well as inland birding destinations teeming with shorebirds and seabirds. Download more information about the Grand Isle Loop on the Wetland Birding Trail.

Charter Fishing

Here are both a full list of charter boat companies in the area as well as saltwater fishing in Louisiana.

Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum

Located in a 1910 bank building in Lockport, , enjoy learning about the area’s fascinating history.

Mardi Gras in Lafourche Parish

They really know how to celebrate the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day or as it is also known—Fat Tuesday. Typically there are more than a dozen parades roll through the towns of Golden Meadow, Galliano, Larose, as well as the parish seat of Thibodaux. Learn more about the parade schedules.

Shrimp and Tasso Pasta

Recipe courtesy of Bourgeois Meat Market, a stop on the Cajun Bayou Culinary Trail

1 lb. Bourgeois Tasso

2 lb. shrimp

1 large onion

1 large bell pepper

1 talk of celery

1 can Rotel

1 qt. heavy whipping cream

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 bag bow tie pasta

Boil Bourgeois Tasso in a pot with just a little water until tender.

Add onion, celery, bell pepper, Rotel, and shrimp and smother down.

Add heavy whipping cream and let mixture come to a rolling boil.

Lower fire and add cheese to thicken.

Combine with cooked pasta and serve.

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YOU’RE INVITED TO A SPECIAL CENTENNIAL WEDDING RECEPTION FOR ERNEST AND HADLEY (RICHARDSON) HEMINGWAY

Get set for the wedding of the last century when, as part of its year-long HEMINGWAY HOMECOMING celebration, the Village of Walloon Lake hosts its “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception.”

Tickets for the event are now available for its “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception” on Friday, September 3 at the Talcott Center. The event, benefitting the Michigan Hemingway Society, is being held on the 100th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s wedding to Hadley Richardson. A special appearance by the newlyweds Ernest & Hadley is one of the highlights of this commemorative evening.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a Hemingway themed Happy Hour that features a cash bar and such spirits as wine from Walloon Lake Winery, Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery and spirits from Michigan’s Wise Men Distillery and Papa’s Pilar, a brand endorsed by the Hemingway Foundation.

Dinner, featuring foods from the Pinehurst Inn in Horton Bay (the same place the real Ernest and Hadley said “I do) will be served by Wine Guys Catering in Petoskey at 7 o’clock. Menu items the inn’s famous fried chicken, poached local fish, cabbage salad, tomato pudding, sweet potatoes with apples, Parker House rolls and Velvet cake for dessert.

Throughout the evening, attendees are invited to bid on a variety of unique Hemingway and Walloon Lake themed items and experiences, with live auctioneer Scott MacKenzie of Boyne City.

For those interested in an after-hours party, a cash bar with signature cocktails as well as cigars – available for purchase on-site from Ernesto’s in Petoskey – will be offered on the Talcott patio until 11 o’clock.

Tickets for the “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception” are $125 per person, $200 per couple or $1000 for a VIP sponsored table for eight guests (with space limited to 200). Tickets can be purchased online here: https://hemingwayweddingreception.eventbrite.com.

On Saturday, September 4, village officials will dedicate a series of historical signs in Circle Park downtown, which tell the story of early visitors and residents to Walloon Lake (first called Bear Lake, then Tolcott/Talcott) – from the trains, passenger steamboats and resorts – as well as several pieces specific to Hemingway, in partnership with the Michigan Hemingway Society.

Ernest Hemingway was just three months old when he made his first trip from his hometown of Oak Park, IL to Walloon Lake where his parents – Clarence and Grace (Hall) – had purchased property along the North Shore. He spent time each and every summer until 1922 at the family’s beloved Windemere cottage (including his 1921 honeymoon). The cottage is still owned by descendants of the Hemingway family.

Details for all upcoming events will be posted on the village website at WalloonLakeMi.com or online www.Facebook.com/WalloonLakeMi

Walloon Lake YouTube (The Nick Adams Stories Discussions)

Hemingway Daiquiri

We don’t know if Ernest drank these at his first wedding, but they are said to be one of his favorites so in case you want to toast this great American author, celebrate with one of his cocktails.

Hemingway Daiquiri

  • Ice
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • ½ ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 1 lime wheel, for garnish (optional)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the lime wheel and shake well. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the lime wheel

IRELAND’S ROMANTIC CASTLES: A LUXURIOUS TRIP INTO HISTORY

Frequented by showbiz royalty and actual royalty alike, Irish castles have long been famous for their ancient history and heritage, their beauty and romance, and with many also offering the ultimate in five-star luxury. What better way to explore Ireland’s past then with an ultimate road trip visiting the following wonderful castles and their gardens.

Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

North Coast Sept 2011

The sprawling ruins of the medieval castle sitting at a cliff edge are all that is left of the fortress that was once the seat of the earls of Antrim. Dunluce Castle was home to rebellion and intrigue over centuries and is said to have inspired CS Lewis to create Cair Paravel, capital of Narnia. Here you might have to share the space with banshees (fairy ghosts) that are said to haunt the ruins.

Glenarm Castle, County Antrim

Since 1636 Glenarm Castle has been an important centre along the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland. Here you could relax in the sumptuously decorated lounge while viewing portraits that date from the early 17th century. Imagine strolling through the walled garden and then ending the day with a restful sleep in a four poster bed dating from 1754.

Tullynally Castle, County Westmeath

Tullynully

Overlooking the lake where the legendary Children of Lir were said to swim when they were turned into swans, Tullynally is a beautiful gothic-style castle. With over 120 rooms including the magnificent Great Hall, you would have plenty of space to roam. Outdoors the grounds include a grotto, a walled flower garden, two ornamental lakes and a llama paddock.

Birr Castle, County Offaly

Birr Castle, County Offaly

Indoors and outdoors you’d be surrounded by splendour at Birr Castle. The opulent interior rooms include a Victorian dining room and octagonal Gothic saloon. The gardens are some of the most stunning in Ireland with exotic flowers, waterfalls and lakes and in the grounds sits the fascinating Leviathan telescope, once the largest in existence.

Blackrock Castle, County Cork

Originally built to protect Cork Harbour, imposing Blackrock Castle with its towers and turrets is today home to the astronomical research centre of the Cork Institute of Technology. The castle offers splendid views over the water and you could amuse yourself by spending time at the award-winning interactive astronomy exhibition, Cosmos at the Castle.

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

This fairytale castle set against the gorgeous backdrop of Connemara’s Twelve Bens mountain range has been home to some of the most infamous figures of Irish history, among them the pirate queen and chieftain, Grace O’Malley, and the ‘Ferocious O’Flaherty Clan’. The extensive grounds provide an ideal walking area and the evening could be spent curled up in front of an open fire.

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