Baton Rouge is a short 3 1/2 hour drive south of Shreveport. We decided to spend the weekend there and with little planning (not my usual approach) we were able to experience a significant portion of the city. On Saturday morning, we drove to downtown knowing that a Mardi Gras parade would be passing through at 2:00pm. We parked the car and walked the riverfront that overlooks the Mississippi River. The levee separates multiple historical sites: the USS Kidd, the “Pirate of the Pacific” and the Old State Capitol to name a few.
We were naturally drawn to the Old State Capitol – a Gothic architectural gem. “The building served as the Capitol until 1862 when Union troops captured Baton Rouge. Louisiana legislators abandoned the building in which they had voted to secede from the Union in 1861. The building was used as a Union prison until 1862 when the interior of the building was destroyed due to an accidental fire started by Union soldiers.
The ruined interior was completely reconstructed in 1882 by architect and engineer William A. Freret who installed the signature grand staircase. Since older legislators remembered the darkness from the 1850 period, Freret added the magnificent stained glass dome, in an effort to emit more light.” –LouisianaOld StateCapitol.org
After touring, we wandered 3rd Street. Unlike Shreveport, downtown Baton Rouge offers multiple restaurants and bars within walking distance of each other. We stopped in at Draft House, chose from their 91 beers on tap and sat on their patio while we waited for the parade.
Traditionally, parade-goers shout “Hey mister! Throw me somethin’!” at the krewe members to get there attention. In addition to beads, they throw cups, bouncy balls, and little trinkets — people standing along the route actually show up with bags to carry home their collections… what they do with all of the stuff is beyond me.
After the parade, we drove over to watch the LSU men’s basketball team beat Alabama. Right outside of the arena is a live tiger, LSU’s mascot and across the street is Death Valley (the football stadium). You could feel the energy on campus – we’re hoping to make it back for the LSU vs Florida football game in the fall.
On the way home, we stopped at Prejean’s Restaurant – authentic Cajun food in Lafayette. We went with the ultimate sampling experience and tried the Tout Que’ Chose (fried frog legs, crawfish tails, mushrooms, alligator, popcorn shrimp and crawfish boudin balls), the seafood gumbo and their famous étouffée. My personal faves were the boudin balls (pork and rice sausage formed into balls, breaded and deep-fried) and the étouffée (a spicy Cajun stew made with vegetables and seafood, served over white rice).