Friday, March 23, 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

We spent one day downtown Baton Rouge, the capitol of Louisiana touring the State Capitol building, the State Museum and the USS Kidd destroyer.

"Bâton-Rouge" dates back to 1699, when French explorer Sieur d'Iberville leading an exploration party up the Mississippi River saw a reddish cypress pole festooned with bloody animals and fish that marked the boundary between Houma and Bayou Goula tribal hunting grounds. They called the tree "le bâton-rouge," or 'the red stick'."

The capitol houses the Louisiana State Legislature, the governor's office, and parts of the executive branch. At 450 feet (137 meters) tall, with 34 stories, it is the tallest capitol building in the United States, the tallest building in Baton Rouge, and the seventh-tallest building in Louisiana.

Looking up from the base.

LOTS of stairs....(we took the elevator underneath)

View from the south across the front gardens. Senate chambers to the left, House chambers to the right.

This photo shows some of the ornate sculptures and those gorgeous Louisiana clouds in the distance.

Panorama looking south, southwest and southeast.

It is located on a 27-acre (110,000 m2) tract, which includes the capitol gardens. View from the
Observation Deck is on the 27th floor and overlooks Baton Rouge at a height of 350 feet.

The Mississippi River looking west with tugs pushing barges downriver towards New Orleans.

Mississippi River looking SW downriver.

Senate chambers. Very elegantly decorated everywhere.

Front entrance looking from the Senate chambers down to the House chambers.
Good followup website:

Next, we walked across the ground in front over to the Louisiana State Museum. Nice, nice place. Great overview of Louisiana's history.

Of course, Louis Armstrong is one of the icons of Louisiana...HUGE display on him.

The models, including this steamboat, were amazing in their detail.

The smiling dude in the foreground is only there to show the scale of the model....ignore him and take a look at all the "ropes" that were put in place on this model. What patience to put them all in one by one!

A full-sized shrimp boat was on display. Remember Forest Gump..."shrimp burgers, shrimp grits, shrimp fries...."?

The last place we went to was the destroyer USS Kidd along the side of the Mississippi River and attached to the Ship and Nautical Center museum next to it.

Why is the USS KIDD out of water?
This question is usually heard during the fall and winter months.  The level of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge fluctuates as much as 40 feet per year.  When the snow melts in the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains and throughout the Midwest, the floodwaters travel down the Mississippi.  When this happens, the KIDD floats.  When the summer droughts come and the river drops, the KIDD sits down in a specially-designed cradle to await the spring floods.  During the fall and winter, you can actually walk underneath the ship.  Imagine 2,050 tons of warship sitting above your head!!!

One of the kitchens on board...image cooking here for dozens of guys while at sea and the ship is being tossed around by waves and wind?

This is an anti-aircraft gun. One person (in this case, me) does the vertical direction and the man on the other side controls the horizontal direction by turning the wheel clockwise or counter-clockwise...and this is all while the incoming plane is shooting at you !

5-inch guns.
USS Kidd (DD-661), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who died on the bridge of his flagship USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Admiral Kidd was the first US Navy flag officer to die during World War II.
 The museum was very very interesting in that it held dozens of models of planes, tanks, ships, subs, old ships...many many.


USS Arizona

The HMS Victory was Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar.

SS Sultana

I used to put together models as a kid, especially planes so it was very cool to see all the models. Of course, these were put together with a lot more precision than I ever did!

Full size P-40E Warhawk fighter plane on display at the museum

Recreation of a fighting deck on the USS Constitution.

These guns must've really recoiled when shot.

I bet these were loud when they went off

Downtown Baton Rouge was much more interesting than we thought it would be. We usually stay away from cities....glad we did not do that with Baton Rouge.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Acadian Villages

One of the main reasons we ( wanted to visit and spend some time in Louisiana was to learn more about the Acadians...what we call Cajuns today. I was fascinated by their food, their joie de vivre (love of living), their dancing, their resolution to recreate their culture in Louisiana, and, most of all, their music.

They were French people who migrated to Nova Scotia area around 1625-1650 and settled in what they called Acadie (idyllic place).

They eventually got deported and dispersed by the English around 1775 to many parts of America, France and other places. The British though they were going to be a menance to their "empire". Plus they would not convert away from Catholosism although the Acadians, after so many generations in Acadie, were neither French nor English. The deported Acadians suffered greatly in the Colonies as no one wanted them to be there. Over half of the 10,000 died in transit or over the next few years.

I bought a short book that chronicled a number of the people who were scattered throughout the Colonies.

The Acadians, beyond all odds, emigrated to Louisiana, sent for their families and relatives, and begun re-establishing their culture in a much different place than Nova. And today they survive and prosper, not by looking for handouts for favors, but by their own industriousness and hard work. This is what I came to discover.

They were called Acadians, shortened to Cadians and then, because Cadians was hard to pronounce, they became Cajuns.

We went to a couple of recreated Acadian villages to see their homes and how they lived. Here are a few examples.

Notice the outside staircase leading to the upper room. This upstairs sleeping area for the boys was called the garçonniere.

Baby's crib

back entrance

another upstairs entry

See the slanted shingles at the top? That is to keep the wind from driving the rain under the topmost shingles and rotting them.

This front porch style was common in most homes. As we travelled throughout Cajun country, we saw this style everywhere. Once we left Louisiana, we never saw it again.

They did not live in villages like this. This was a recreation of homes and a bayou. They farmed the land, hunted, fished and lived off the land.

A pirogue is a small, flat-bottomed boat. These boats are not usually intended for overnight travel but are light and small enough to be easily taken onto land. The design also allows the pirogue to move through the very shallow water of marshes and be easily turned over to drain any water that may get into the boat. A pirogue has "hard chines". This means that instead of a smooth curve from the gunwales to the keel there is often a flat bottom which meets the plane of the side. It is propelled by using a push pole in shallow water.

More of the Cajun style home.

The reason for these porch design was to make a place for people to get out of the hot, humid house as well as keep out of the thunderstorms and rain. Many times the outside became an additional bedroom to sleep in the hot summer nights.

I am sitting with one of the staff that is showing me how he is making a fish net. The people that worked at the Acadian Village were a wealth of information and history about the Acadians. They all can trace their liniage back to the original people who settled in Acadie back in the 1600s.

I've posted a few more photos of similar structures here should you want to view them.

There are so few places in the United States that have a living, breathing culture still alive that can date themselves back to the 1600s. The Acadians...Cajuns....are one of those. Sometime take a visit and soak it all in. You'll come to love their joie de vivre too !

Kim and Steve