USA // Louisiana //

South of Lafayette

South of Lafayette, the towns are less immediately welcoming than those in the Prairie, but the surroundings are undeniably atmospheric: this is bayou country, a marshy expanse of rivers and lakes dominated by the mighty Atchafalaya swamp, where the soupy green waters creep right up to the edges of the highway. The economy is based on fishing and shrimping, with hunting in the forests and sugar fields, but it’s also a semi-industrial landscape, with a web of oil pipelines running beneath the waterways, and refineries and corrugated-iron shacks sharing space with white Catholic churches. The main town of interest is ST MARTINVILLE, off US-90 18 miles south of Lafayette. Settled in 1765 on the Bayou Teche, this was a major port of entry for exiled Acadians. The Museum of the Acadian Memorial (daily 10am–4pm; $3; http://www.acadianmemorial.org) pays tribute to the thousands of refugees displaced from Canada to Louisiana between 1764 and 1788; part of the same complex, the African-American Museum focuses on the arrival of enslaved Africans into southwest Louisiana during the 1700s, the emergence of free people of colour and the violence of Reconstruction. The Old Castillo, 220 Evangeline Blvd, by the bayou (318/394-4010, http://www.oldcastillo.com; $81–100) is a B&B with huge rooms; Le Petit Paris Café, 116 S Main St (337/342-2606), serves light lunches.

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