Breaux Bridge - Natchitoches, Louisiana
Remembering where folks visited in which part of each state is a challenge. I've already missed a few gems in areas we were in. With our extended stay in Breaux Bridge I would have missed the Tabasco Factory if Mona Lisa hadn't mentioned it on Facebook - thanks ML!!
Thursday is a "hang around" day, too chilly to do anything outdoors. Horses graze in the field in front of us, Tessa does a few zoomies in the grass which we have all to ourselves on both sides, naps are taken.
|This guy and three ducks are our only neighbors.|
Friday we are out the door by 10:00, on our way to visit Avery Island. Other than the Tabasco Factory I have no idea what to expect.
At the end of an hour's easy drive we come to an entrance booth for the island. There's no fee, just a nice man who hands us information and wishes us a good day. Cool job :-)
Another fifty feet and I can smell the pepper sauce. Stronger than the chocolate in Hershey, Pennsylvania, it gives the air a real "bite".
For $12/each we can tour the factory as well as the neighboring gardens (which we learn are the only two places open to the public at Avery - we also learn it's not an island). Let's do both!
We take our time on the self-guided tour that begins with a small museum and takes us through each step in the pepper-sauce-making process. It's all about time, not a complicated recipe. First the time for the peppers to turn the perfect shade of red (le petite rouge sticks are provided for each picker to make sure the red is right). Then the up to three years for the pepper mash, made of only peppers and a pinch of salt, from the Avery Island salt mines below the island, to cure in oak barrels that are sealed with a thick layer of salt.
Every barrel of mash is tasted by a McIlhenney family member before moving to blending. There the mash mixes with high quality vinegar, stirred regularly for up to four weeks, and the skin, seeds and stems screened out.
And they've been doing it this way, in this location, since Ed McIlhenney started the operation in 1868.
The finished sauce is bottled in 22 languages and shipped to 180 countries and territories.
In addition to the original Capsicum fruitscens peppers, they now bottle six additional flavors: Chipotle, Habenero, Sweet and Spicy, Buffalo, Garlic, and my favorite, Jalapeno.
|The museum includes several artifacts and photos of the process|
|The only three ingredients and a flask of capsaicin, naturally produced from the peppers.|
|A small bottle included in MREs|
|has established a long-term relationship with our military|
|Michael Anthony's (Van Halen bassist '85-'93) guitar was stolen from a New Orleans restaurant in 1999 and recovered 11 years later when it was (apparently) given to the museum.|
|Avery "not really an" Island|
|Including some fun art - Ta-Bass-Co|
|The barrel warehouse - note the packed salt on each one.|
|Vats of blended sauce|
|Working the underground salt mines|
|The bottling room|
|The bottle room|
Down the driveway, and around the corner is the Jungle Gardens. Everything else on the island is private - homes and the large salt mining company, Cargil.
The factory tour is interesting and enjoyable - the gardens turn out to be the best reason to visit. We spend a long time exploring this beautiful place filled with old growth oaks, cypress, bayous, rolling hills and thick bamboo groves. It must be incredible when the Camelias and Wysteria are in bloom, and when the wildlife is more active.
|The trio of oak, fern and moss fill this magical place.|
|Our only gator-sighting while in Louisiana|
|Not an easy find......|
|What a beauty.|
|During an 1891 visit to the island, Grover Cleveland hugged the tree and land owner McIlhenney named it for him :-)|
|The French Holly Hedge|
|One of three paths leading to the Buddha.|
|Edward built the small enclosure and surrounded it with a lagoon and dozens of Chinese azalea, bamboo, juniper and a small, red bridge. Today it is a favorite stopping spot amid the beauty of the jungle.|
|Numerous palms add texture to the jungle.|
|The lovely path to Bird City through rolling grassland.|
|Palms stand tall along a small lagoon.|
|One of a few quiet places among the sheltering trees, this one with a bench to sit and reflect.|
Friday night it drops to 20 degrees and the ice melts very slowly in the morning sun. Pulling in the slides, the thin ice cracks and breaks from the toppers. The drive to Natchitoches is cold with muddy bridges on I-49 making a mess out of the rig and the Jeep. The interior heater can't keep up and by the time we arrive at our stop it is 49 degrees inside. Definitely the coldest we've been!
Once set up, the furnace gets us nice and cozy, just in time for the NFL play-offs. And that's what we do for the whole weekend - stay warm and watch football. Nakatosh Campground is behind a truck stop, and with a level site and 50 amp hook-ups it's all we need. It is also surprisingly quiet for the two nights.
Next stop Texas - state number 29!