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Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Couple of Tours

What a beautiful day this was! While it started out very cool, once the sun came out, it warmed up nicely. Perfect for exploring!

Our first stop was Avery Island. This small island is the home of McIlhenny Co., otherwise known as the makers of Tabasco Sauce. For the past 140 years, Tabasco Sauce has been produced on this small island. Not all the peppers are grown here, however. To stretch out the growing season, there are "pepper farms" in Central and South America as well. But, all the peppers are shipped back to Avery Island for processing. Interestingly, once the peppers have been ground and made into the mash that will one day because the sauce, the mash is stored in barrels for 3 years. The word
tabasco is an Indian word meaning "hot and humid land," which is appropriate for Louisiana!

The factory tour really wasn't a tour at all. The guide gave us the history of the company (still in the McIlhenny family) and explained the process of making the sauce. Then, we watched a short video of the history of the company. After the video was finished, we went along a walkway that took us past a window which allowed us to look at the assembly line that poured the sauce into the bottles and put the labels on. That was the extent of the "factory" tour. I was a bit disappointed. After having toured the Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee where we were guided through the entire process of making whiskey, I expected more at this factory. Oh, well. It was free, so it wasn't all bad! :) There's also a company store on the property where you can get anything "Tabasco" you can think of!

Also on the Island is a bird sanctuary that the first McIlhenny created in the 1890s in order to save egrets that were being slaughtered for their plumage. This rookery has grown into Jungle Gardens, a botannical wonder that is home to various animals as well as the birds. It is a beautiful island that has been preserved because of the McIlhenny family.

We had been told we really needed to go to Vermilion Ville, a living history park depicting the Cajun/Creole heritage. It sits on 23 acres and you walk through the "village" and meet artisans and craftsmen in their environment. Again, I was a bit disappointed in this village because I expected to find people throughout the park "working and living" as well as crops and animals. We had been to the Museum of Appalachia in Tennessee which was absolutely amazing, so that was what fueled my expectations for Vermilion Ville.

We did see lots of neat houses and buildings in the village. Spoke to a couple of craftsmen, but there weren't many. One of the guys, a young man with Cajun ancestry, was great! I could have pulled up a chair and talked with him all day long. He was so knowledgeable about his personal history as well as that of southern Louisiana, the Acadians, the Creoles, and how they all came together. That was the highlight of the visit for me.

Gosh, I sound like a real downer, don't I? Sorry. I did enjoy our day, but we had higher expectations, that's all! :) More pictures can be found at our Webshots site, click on "Guiler Pictures" on the right side of the blog, then click on "Cajun Country."

We finished our day with a late lunch/early dinner at a local restaurant, Riverfront. I wanted to sample some of the local fare - I've never had crawfish! So, I got crawfish au gratin and Randy got seafood enchiladas. We were both very happy with our meals, so tasty. Mine actually tasted like a bisque, very creamy as well as cheesy. Yum!

Tomorrow we're going on a swamp tour with a group from the campground. I'm really looking forward to that! I've been telling Randy for years I want to go to the Everglades. Now maybe I won't have to! :)

Until the next time . . .

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