First off – Apologies to all our loyal followers that we are so delinquent on this blog post. We’re still alive, doing great, and will attempt to catch up over the next few days. We’re writing this from my parents house where we’ve spent the last few days relaxing, watching football, and catching up on sleep before the next phase of our adventure (more on that soon). But now, to recap the last month or so…
After leaving Kentucky and Tennessee with a fully stocked liquor cabinet in our tiny home/van, we drove south. We spent a night at another Harvest Hosts spot, a brewery in Cullman, Alabama, which seemed like another awesome brewery that would be a great place to hang out on a Saturday in non-Covid times. We spent the next full day driving through Alabama and Mississippi with a few stops along the way to break up the drive. We grabbed coffee in Tuscaloosa and emptied our gray water tank at a rest stop somewhere outside of Jackson (and for free!). We finally crossed the border into Louisiana after dark and spent the night at a Walmart in the town of Hammond. Nothing makes you forget you’re in a Walmart parking lot like cooking a cozy dinner of mac & cheese and watching Christmas movies.
The next day we drove west to our first stop in Cajun country, Breaux Bridge, also known as the crawfish capital of the world. Our first stop was an air boat swamp tour of the Atchafalaya Basin, which we later learned is the largest wetland and river swamp in the US. Fortunately since it was a weekday in mid-December, we got a private tour. Unfortunately since it was mid-December, most of the alligators were in hibernation (actually they are technically in something called brumation), but we did see a lot of birds and a lot of cyprus trees.
Our boat captain and the staff at the swamp tour company were friendly and recommended a place nearby for lunch. It looked like an unassuming building on the side of the road with a deli counter and cafeteria space in the back. We ordered crawfish etouffee, chicken and sausage gumbo, and a bag of cracklins (fried pork rinds) to go, and it was probably one of the best meals of our entire trip.
Full and happy we drove to the next town over in southern Louisiana, Lafayette. Apparently grabbing to-go frozen drinks is a thing here so we stopped for frozen daiquiris (served in a styrofoam cup with a lid, and a straw on the side for when you get home) and parked at Girard Park. We hung out in the park for the afternoon with no real agenda, finally enjoying 70+ degree weather. Before dinner we stopped at Planet Fitness for a shower and decided to stick with the seafood theme, since we were in the heart of Creole and Cajun country. We grabbed dinner to go from a place appropriately named Crawfish Town USA, which under normal circumstances probably would have been good, but coming off one of the best lunches we ever had, it was just ok. Editor’s (Mike) note: we were able to get fresh crawfish here when it turns out crawfish season was over, so that was a win.
That night we parked at a Harvest Hosts spot called Vermillionville Historic Village. We spent the night in the quiet parking lot and took a self-guided tour the next morning after grabbing breakfast at an amazing French bakery. Vermillionville was like a little village with 10+ historically preserved houses and buildings that you could walk through. Thanks to Covid and it being a weekday in December, once again we were the only people there. The two staff members we came across shared a lot about the difference between Creole and Cajun culture, slavery, and how the French language influenced the area. Neither of us are big on history or museums, but we both thought it was interesting and 100% worth a visit if you’re ever in Lafayette.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the downtown area of Lafayette, eating lunch outside and getting ice cream from an 80 year old ice cream shop called Borden’s. That night we drove to a brewery just outside of Lafayette called Bayou Teche Brewing which checked all the boxes for the perfect place to hang out for the afternoon/night: outdoor seating with plenty of space between tables, good beer, good pizza, free wifi, and a free place to park for the night in their parking lot. Also, several friendly brewery cats to hang out with.
After another day of eating and exploring in Lafayette, we started heading east towards our next stop in southern Louisiana. In our quest to try all the local food we could find, we stopped to get “boudin and cracklins” for lunch before leaving Lafayette. Boudin is a rice, meat, and seasoning mixture that is stuffed into a sausage casing, and you can order it a few different ways, most wrapped in some kind of fried dough. Cracklins, which we had before, are fried pork rinds. They were both good, but the grease literally soaked through the paper bag before we got back to the van if you know what I mean. Worth trying, but I wouldn’t make it a staple in my diet.
In summary, Lafayette was lovely. A week ago I had never heard of this town, but I would highly recommend spending time here if you’re ever in southern Louisiana.
We spent a few days wandering around the French Quarter of New Orleans window shopping, taste testing beignets (freshly fried dough squares covered in powdered sugar), and enjoying outdoor dining in December. Cafe Beignet on Royal Street was our favorite, although Cafe du Monde was solid and good for people watching. We walked down an empty and slightly depressing Bourbon Street, drank coffee in Jackson Square, and ate muffuletta sandwiches for lunch from Central Grocery and Deli. Despite not being biggest of olive fans (I don’t enjoy them, Mike can take or leave them) the sandwiches were awesome. Highly recommend.
Outside of the French Quarter, we spent an afternoon playing cards on the patio at Miel Brewery (great sour beer), found another beer garden to watch football on Sunday, and checked into an Airbnb for the night to do laundry. Our Airbnb was a nice, separate in-law suite in the backyard behind the main house in a residential neighborhood. As a sign that we’ve truly adapted to living in a van, after finishing our laundry and taking a hot shower, we tested out the Airbnb bed (a pull-out couch) but decided to sleep in our own bed in the van parked on the street in front of the house. Classic van life move.
The Gulf Coast
After a few days in New Orleans, it was mid-December and we knew we needed to start heading back to the northeast since our plan was to make it home for Christmas. We started the drive across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, hugging the coastline for most of the drive. We passed through cute coastal towns, drove by countless beach houses with ocean views and huge front porches, and lots of empty beaches. Since this blog post is getting long, here’s some highlights and favorites:
- Free and easy access to Covid-19 tests at a parking garage popup in Louisiana (a sign of the times that this makes the list). We tested negative, woo!
- Seafood dinner takeout in Gulfport, Mississippi. When we got there we weren’t quite hungry yet, so we laid down in bed and watched Netflix for a while before ordering from the parking lot. Waiting around really isn’t bad when your vehicle is also your home.
- Donuts in Ocean Springs, Mississippi from Tato-Nut Donut Shop (their recipe includes mashed potatoes).
- Barbecue from The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint, which was quite literally a shed has been expanded no less then 15 times.
- Exploring the USS Alabama in Mobile.
- Finally seeing an alligator in real life at Gulf State Park in Alabama.
Next up, back to the familiar east coast.