Report from the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival

Readability

Report from the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival

By: Pat Austin

[cap­tion id=“attachment_106661” align=“alignleft” width=“800”] The Shad­ows on the Teche. Now owned by The National Trust.[/caption]

SHREVE­PORT – I was trav­el­ing last week and because of that (and in honor of Pete’s 30-​year anniver­sary!) I didn’t post. Where was I?

We went to New Iberia, Louisiana to attend the Books Along the Teche Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val. We were there with peo­ple from at least twelve other states in the nation includ­ing Col­orado, Michi­gan, Iowa, and Rhode Island as well as from sev­eral other coun­tries. The three-​day event was filled with a vari­ety of activ­i­ties, sem­i­nars, dis­cus­sion pan­els, bus tours, swamp tours, din­ners, dance lessons, film screen­ings, an art show, a per­for­mance the­ater, bour­rée lessons, and an authors and arti­sans fair. The great south­ern writer Ernest Gaines was there and read from his lat­est book which was awe­some. It wasn’t pos­si­ble to do every­thing, but we tried.

I wrote about the fes­ti­val on my own blog and there was so much I had to split it into two posts.

And that didn’t allow us much time to take advan­tage of the other great tourist attrac­tions in the area like the Tabasco Fac­tory tour (we did that), Jun­gle Gar­dens (did that), Jef­fer­son Island, the Con­rad Rice Mill tour, and branch­ing out from that, the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties are filled with his­tory and things to see, like St. Mar­t­inville, St. Fran­cisville, Lore­auville, etc. And yes, New Orleans is not that far away, nor is Baton Rouge. Those places are already well-​known for their tourist attractions.

But New Iberia has stolen my heart. We hear a lot in this part of the coun­try (I’m in north­west Louisiana) about south­ern hos­pi­tal­ity, but New Iberia takes it to a new level. New Iberia isn’t known for being a tourist town in the way Natchi­toches is, for exam­ple. But it should be.

Why? There was one point in the evening on our last night there that I decided that if I ever lost faith in human­ity, or got frus­trated with life, I just need to come to New Iberia because there is such a true joie de vivre in everyone’s face it makes you happy just to be there. It’s in their daily inter­ac­tions, in their lives, it restores your faith in peo­ple. Plus, it’s just beau­ti­ful country.

Bayou Teche runs 135-​miles through the area; ancient live oaks hug the banks and are lit­er­ally drip­ping with Span­ish moss. The land is often flat and you see sugar cane fields, craw­fish farms, and flooded rice fields. The air smells like salt blow­ing in from the Gulf and the sky turns a bruised pur­ple in the evening when the sun begins to sink into the west. We danced under the stars to cajun fid­dle play­ers and zydeco bands; we ate alli­ga­tor, cat­fish, boudin, maque choux, etoufee, gumbo, and shrimp. What’s not to love?

We didn’t know one soul when we arrived and when we left I felt like I have a whole new cadre of friends. One cou­ple we met told us that when we come back we are more than wel­come to stay with them. “We have an extra bed­room!” she said. And she meant it.

Every­one we talked to, from the shop­keep­ers, con­ve­nience store clerks, wait­resses, res­i­dents, every­one, truly engages with you when they talk to you. It’s not just, “Oh how are you doing, glad you’re here,” kind a thing and move on. They look you in the eye, lis­ten to you, ask ques­tions, engage. They remem­ber. And they dance, they laugh, they love, they share wide open.

In the end, the book fes­ti­val was just lagniappe to the true trea­sures of New Iberia.

If you’re plan­ning to hit the road this spring or sum­mer, con­sider a trip to south Louisiana. New Iberia is easy to get to; it’s just south of Lafayette. I know I’ll be back many, many times.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

The Shadows on the Teche. Now owned by The National Trust.

SHREVEPORT – I was traveling last week and because of that (and in honor of Pete’s 30-year anniversary!) I didn’t post.  Where was I?

We went to New Iberia, Louisiana to attend the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival.  We were there with people from at least twelve other states in the nation including Colorado, Michigan, Iowa, and Rhode Island as well as from several other countries.  The three-day event was filled with a variety of activities, seminars, discussion panels, bus tours, swamp tours, dinners, dance lessons, film screenings, an art show, a performance theater, bourrée lessons, and an authors and artisans fair. The great southern writer Ernest Gaines was there and read from his latest book which was awesome. It wasn’t possible to do everything, but we tried.

I wrote about the festival on my own blog and there was so much I had to split it into two posts.

And that didn’t allow us much time to take advantage of the other great tourist attractions in the area like the Tabasco Factory tour (we did that), Jungle Gardens (did that), Jefferson Island, the Conrad Rice Mill tour, and branching out from that, the surrounding communities are filled with history and things to see, like St. Martinville, St. Francisville, Loreauville, etc.  And yes, New Orleans is not that far away, nor is Baton Rouge.  Those places are already well-known for their tourist attractions.

But New Iberia has stolen my heart.  We hear a lot in this part of the country (I’m in northwest Louisiana) about southern hospitality, but New Iberia takes it to a new level.  New Iberia isn’t known for being a tourist town in the way Natchitoches is, for example.  But it should be.

Why? There was one point in the evening on our last night there that I decided that if I ever lost faith in humanity, or got frustrated with life, I just need to come to New Iberia because there is such a true joie de vivre in everyone’s face it makes you happy just to be there. It’s in their daily interactions, in their lives, it restores your faith in people. Plus, it’s just beautiful country.

Bayou Teche runs 135-miles through the area; ancient live oaks hug the banks and are literally dripping with Spanish moss.  The land is often flat and you see sugar cane fields, crawfish farms, and flooded rice fields.  The air smells like salt blowing in from the Gulf and the sky turns a bruised purple in the evening when the sun begins to sink into the west. We danced under the stars to cajun fiddle players and zydeco bands; we ate alligator, catfish, boudin, maque choux, etoufee, gumbo, and shrimp. What’s not to love?

We didn’t know one soul when we arrived and when we left I felt like I have a whole new cadre of friends.  One couple we met told us that when we come back we are more than welcome to stay with them. “We have an extra bedroom!” she said.  And she meant it.

Everyone we talked to, from the shopkeepers, convenience store clerks, waitresses, residents, everyone, truly engages with you when they talk to you.  It’s not just, “Oh how are you doing, glad you’re here,” kind a thing and move on.  They look you in the eye, listen to you, ask questions, engage.  They remember.  And they dance, they laugh, they love, they share wide open.

In the end, the book festival was just lagniappe to the true treasures of New Iberia.

If you’re planning to hit the road this spring or summer, consider a trip to south Louisiana.  New Iberia is easy to get to; it’s just south of Lafayette.  I know I’ll be back many, many times.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.