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Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States: A Southern City with Cajun Flair
Baton Rouge is the second largest city and capital of Louisiana, a state uniquely its own with food, culture, and music that blend southern genteel manners with renowned spicy Cajun flavouring. These features, combined with a semi-tropical climate of mild winters and warm summers, make it a year-round playground for those wanting to experience the Creole influence so unique in the US, a perfect blend of American independence and French culture.
Creole and Cajun Culture
In the US, “Creole” specifically refers to descendants of French or Spanish colonial settlers. While the Creole language is still spoken in Baton Rouge and much of Louisiana, this unique culture is most often evidenced in regional food and music offerings, especially in the New Orleans area which is located about 130 kilometres away. The Cajun culture also has French influence which originates from Canadian descendants. After that bit of a history lesson, understand that the two cultures have intermingled over time to create a truly unique area of Louisiana with cultural offerings that simply cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Creole and Cajun foods are often spicy, with offerings like gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, and maque choux. Common ingredients include peppers, andouille sausage, and crawfish in dishes that are often blackened, or seared until black, or simmered for hours in spices. The music is also unique, with the original zydeco genre incorporating blues and rhythm in a fast tempo.
That Southern Flair
Baton Rouge sits gracefully in the Deep South and oozes that southern hospitality the region is so known for. Here, it’s considered genteel to lounge on shady porches in a wooden rocking chair beneath Spanish moss-draped trees and drink ice cold sweet tea. An afternoon drive beneath ancient magnolias can end at Civil War-era antebellum mansions that are unique to this area of the American South. Magnolia Mound Plantation is one such example. This 18th-century manor home has been restored to its original grandeur and serves as a fine example of French Creole architecture. Here, one can view the plantation house, listen to educational programs, and attend workshops to understand the lifestyles of those early settlers. Some plantations offer hotels with breakfast or dinner packages. Baton Rouge is also home to traditional museums, like the Old Arsenal Museum, and more unique offerings, such as National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Museum.
On the Bayou
Louisiana is also famous because of bayous, marshy wetlands found along the Gulf Coast. These bayous have unique species such as crawfish and American alligators. Seeing the bayou up close is a must-do when visiting. The best way to gander isn’t with a casual stroll in the woods. The area is full of poisonous snakes and other dangerous creatures! Instead, you’ll want to take an airboat tour. These boats, powered by huge fan engines on the back, skim at near-rocket speeds along the top of the water and grasses, allowing for views of the swamps that just can’t be seen any other way. Also, most personalised airboat tours will include up close and personal encounters with local wildlife that is safe. These tours of the largest river basins in North America are short rides away from Baton Rouge, but worth the extra trouble. Some swamp tours do include hotels in cabins right along the swamp’s edge.
Them’s Fighting Words!
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is also known for its nationally-acclaimed sports team, the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers. LSU has won national titles and Sugar Bowls, and calls Tiger Stadium home. This stadium is the ninth largest in the world and game day is more like Mardi Gras, with tailgating activities energising fans before every home game, as does the marching band. Football isn’t the only claim to fame for Baton Rouge, though. This area was also important to famed naturalist John James Audubon, who lived near here briefly. Today, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americans and Audubon State Historic Site and Oakley House, both located in nearby cities, still carry his message of reverence to the natural world, as does Baton Rouge Zoo, LSU Tiger Habitat, and LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens. The city is also home to casinos with hotels, amusement parks, and a planetarium.
A Blend of Modern and Historic
Perhaps no two places better illustrate the unique dichotomy of modern and historic than tours of the state capitols. Louisiana’s Old State Capitol sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi with a stained-glass cathedral dome that enhances the Gothic and Victorian architecture, but might not win any beauty awards. Famed writer Mark Twain once remarked that it was “pathetic” and should never have been built. Today, it’s open for tours and houses the Museum of Political History. The current seat of government is Louisiana’s State Capitol, located next to State Capitol park which is the tallest capitol in the US and one of the most toured. The hotels and restaurants of Baton Rouge mirror that unique blend of old and new, too. Here, it’s possible to have the most modern meal and technologically-advanced room or dine on recipes dating back generations while staying in a bed and breakfast that looks the same today as it did a century ago.