Drive thirty miles from the French Quarter and you’re deep in the Louisiana Bayou in the depths of Cajun country, where alligators roam and swamp people rule. What could be more inviting, right?
One of the top ten most-visited cities in the US, New Orleans is “The City That Care Forgot,” but even the great fires of 1788 and 1794 couldn’t snuff out the spirit of New Orleans, nor could Katrina, Rita, or the BP oil spill. In short, New Orleans takes the burn – and eats it.
Alligators are what you’re seeking, of course, and yet, you’re just as likely to see herons and turtles – and nutria, the invasive furry rodent introduced by New Orleans entrepreneur, E.A. McIlhenny, of the Tabasco sauce family.
Cameras are mandatory for the photograph of you and a baby alligator, usually produced midway through the swamp tour to screams of alarm and delight. You’ll also learn three folkloric synonyms for the Spanish moss hanging from the trees: “Spanish beard,” “French wig,” and “tree hair.”
Best of all is when the airboat slows from its 35-50 mph cruise across the lake and slides almost silently into the shadowy riverways.
This is the stuff of Louisiana legend, where you almost expect Longfellow’s Evangeline to appear at river’s bend. Mystical and slightly spooky, a swamp tour baptizes you as a Louisiana local.
Or as they say in the Crescent City, “You love New Orleans – and she’ll love you right back.”