Best of The Best: The South

Mandy Seymour and Sarah Seymour visit Louisiana on a Southern Girls journey.

Momma-Daughter Road Trip + Travels During Covid-19

If you are looking for a “best of the best” getaway this summer or fall,  we have a recommendation for you.  In July 2020, we traveled from Houston, TX to New Orleans, LA and surrounding areas for an extended weekend getaway.  Many of our readers have been asking us where can they travel during Covid-19?  New Orleans and surrounding areas are currently open for business, travel and leisure.  We will share the details of our trip and our recommendations below.  But in summary, New Orleans and surrounding areas were highly Covid-compliant.  Each place we visited was clean, sanitary, and welcoming.  

This time around, we traveled as a Mama-Daughter duo.  On our roadtrip, we enjoyed the perfect balance of urban, nature, lively, and rejuvenating activities.  One of the best parts of traveling right now?  No lines.  No crowds.  And personally attentive service.

Alligator sighting with McGees Swamp Tours in Henderson, LA

Day 1

On day 1, we drove from Houston, TX to Henderson, LA and Lafayette, LA.  We spent 3 days and 2 nights in Cajun country enjoying the tranquility of nature and local attractions.  The first day, we visited the Atchafalaya Basin.  We went on a local swamp tour in Henderson, TX with McGees Swamp Tours

Our guide, Captain Skip, is one of the area’s most renouned experts on all things Cajun and all things swamp.  We highly recommend him!  During our swamp tour, we took a swampboat into the dense swamplands.  Captain Skip called out, “C’mon!” to the gators.  They knew the sound of his voice and that he was bringing them something delicious.  So one by one, they appeared and took turns coming over to the boat for a morsel of meat.  McGees also has airboat tours which are a high speed thrillride on the swamps.  But this Mama-Daughter duo wanted a more serene and engaging nature experience so we chose to go on the swamp boat tour. 

After our morning swamp tour, we visited Pat’s Fishermans Wharf for lunch.  We sat outside and enjoyed feeding French bread to one of their local alligators who heartily enjoyed eating it!  We ordered the seafood platter to sample  an array of Cajun seafood fare.  The seafood cakes were our favorite.  

http://www.Patsfishermanswharf.com
Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, LA

We spent the night at Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, LA.  The stay in the cabins was a memorable experience.  The cabins were built in the 1800s.  Each cabin has a rustic-yet-renovated feel.  Bayou Cabins owners,  Lisa and Rocky Sonnier, offer quintessential Cajun hospitality.  Rocky calls everyone child, a term of endearment in Cajun country.  He said, “Hey, Child. Come see this cabin build in the 1800s.”  The oldest cabin on the property was built in 1848 using cypress wood from the swamps and walls from mud and moss from the Bayou Teche.  A stay at Bayou Cabins comes replete with an authentic Cajun breakfast the next morning.  As we spoke with the owners, we learned that many people have come to the cabins to have a Covid-19 getaway while also being able to comply with social distancing.  We highly recommend a stay at Bayou Cabins.  

Editors note: We were expecting the cabins to be located in a remote area on the Bayou, but it is important to know they are located directly off of a locally traveled road so when you sit on your porch you will hear cars passing by.  As one editor commented, when they were built, they were located in a respite of nature!  The road was built later.  Staying in the Bayou Cabins is a truly unique and memorable experience.  We highly recommend them.

http://www.bayoucabins.com
Breaux Bridge, LA

That evening, we decided to enjoy a dinner picnic on Breaux Bridge at sunset.  We bought sandwiches from a local sandwich shop and pastries from a local bakery.  When we travel, we bring our own plates and silverware in case we need it.  I first learned about “travel picnics” from Rick Steves.  He does the same so that he can enjoy a quick meal in a beautiful outdoor setting in case he’s limited for time to dine in a restaurant or just wants to make the most of the local scenery.  We bring plates, napkins, silverware and a mini ice chest with additional fresh fruit, milk, cheese and water for our journey.  During the time we visited, few restaurants were open in Beaux Bridge.  So we were glad to have packed our travel picnic wares.

DAY 2: Lafayette, LA + Jefferson Island, LA

We spent the next day in Lafayette, LA and Jefferson Island, LA.  When we arrived to Lafayette, we visited the Visitors Center.  We are glad we did!  The hospitality team gave us a friendly welcome and helpful information regarding what to do in the area.  The two most important pieces of advice we received: When you drive from Lafayette, LA to New Orleans, LA, take I-90 instead of I-10.  It will add 25 more minutes to the journey.  But it will reduce the risk of encountering traffic in Baton Rouge and other heavy congestion caused by lane closures, bridge closure detours, and other challenging circumstances along I-10. The travel advisors also recommended a visit to Jefferson Island’s Rip Van Winkle Gardens.  We took his advice and they are a beautiful respite for a Mama-Daughter outing.  

Rip Van Winkle Gardens in Jefferson Island, LA

We visited the Rip Van Winkle Gardens in Jefferson Island, LA in the late morning.  We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at their local café.  We had a delicious seafood pasta and white chocolate bread pudding with white chocolate sauce.  

The gardens are home to 35 beautiful peacocks.  We looked for them during our stroll through the gardens.  On the day we were there, we found many of them perched in the oak tree across from the restaurant and others were roaming in a field.  We fed them some French bread and kettle corn we had bought at a local grocery store and bakery in Henderson, LA.  The peacocks were very friendly and loved it.

Mouton Plantation in Lafayette, LA
http://www.ripvanwinklegardens.com

We stayed the night at Mouton Plantation.  Mouton Plantation is a historic plantation and currently-operating B and B in Lafayette, LA.  It’s host, Ravi, gave us a warm welcome and was very hospitable.  We greatly enjoyed our stay at Mouton Plantation.  The B and B serves a gourmet breakfast on fine china.  This plantation is open during Covid-19.  Mouton Plantation caters to international guests as well.  It is the number 1 Bed and Breakfast chosen by Europeans when visiting the area.  Mouton Plantation is a memorable and historic place to stay.  We highly recommend it.

Editors Note: During our stay i Lafayette, LA, we also visited the local Zoo and Vermilionville, a living history museum.  At this time, neither of these attractions met our “best of the best” good, better or best standard.  The living history museum received a “fair” rating and the zoo received a “poor rating” so we cannot recommend them as a “must see”.  The living history museum contains snippets of informative exhibits but many of the buildings were inaccessible during the working village tour.  Perhaps the place would have seemed more lively and enjoyable if they piped Cajun music throughout the village.  It was evident the town had put in a lot of effort to make a substantive effort to memorialize Acadian history.  It just needs some zest or more people to help it become more of a “living” history museum at this time.

Zoo of Acadiana

The Zoo of Acadiana received a “poor” rating.  We rated it “poor” because the animals were housed in squalid conditions, and they either had unclean drinking water or showed signs of hunger and thirst by licking their lips repeatedly.  Many of the animals seemed lonely, depressed, or just plain sad.  One notable attribute about the zoo is that it was in a natural setting.  More on the Zoo of Acadiana here.

http://www.zoosiana.com
Mandy Seymour and Sarah Seymour visit Louisiana on a Southern Girls journey.

DAY 3

On day 3, we traveled to New Orleans.  We traveled there via I-90 to bypass the I-10 traffic.  It was a relaxing drive replete with scenic Louisiana countryside consisting primarily of swampland and rice fields.  

Higgins Hotel in New Orleans, LA

We stayed 4 days, 3 nights in New Orleans, LA at the Higgins Hotel.  The Higgins Hotel is a part of the Curio Collection Hotels by Hilton.  The Higgins Hotel has stayed open and operational during the entire time of Covid.  They have carefully and conscientiously complied with all Covid standards for cleanliness and personal sanitation.  

http://www.higginshotelnola.com

Higgins Hotel  has a rooftop restaurant and bar, Rosies on the Roof, which overlooks the city of New Orleans and serves local specialties. The hotel also has to-go options from Provisions, its local café which serves sandwiches, pastries and coffee.  

Rosies On The Roof at the Higgins Hotel New Orleans, LA
https://www.higginshotelnola.com/new-orleans-restaurants/rosies-on-the-roof

Most of New Orleans’ main attractions are within walking distance of the hotel.  The hotel also offers a package which includes free parking. Nearby restaurants are located within 5 to 15 minutes walking distance. You can walk to the French Quarter or Rivercenter Shopping area in 20 minutes.  Otherwise, parking is $8/hr. on average.  We reason, why spend money on parking when you could spend it on shopping, attractions, or dining instead? 

Cafe Du Monde Beignets

Our first day in New Orleans, we explored the French Quarter.  We took the trolley for $1.50/each way, cash only.  It dropped us off at Canal and Bourbon Street.  We walked from Canal Street to Royal Street and over to Café Du Monde.  Since it’s Covid time, Café Du Monde is open but only serves beignet and drinks in to-go containers.  We brought our own plates and I bought a souvenir coffee mug to enjoy my coffee au lait to the fullest.  During our time in New Orleans, we did a taste-test comparison between Café Du Monde and Café Beignet.  The beignets at Café Du Monde are truly superior to all other beignets.  They have a delicate and fresh flavor with no greasy aftertaste.   

http://www.neworleans.com

steam

Sunday Jazz Brunch on the Natchez Steamboat in New Orleans, LA

DAY 4

Our second day in New Orleans, we enjoyed brunch on the Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River. During Covid, the waitstaff serves a sampling of the entire brunch smorgasboard.  We especially recommend the chicken and sausage gumbo and the bananas foster.  We visited Brennan’s and had Bananas Foster there as well. Brennan’s invented Bananas Foster. That evening, we enjoyed dinner at Tommy’s Cuisine, an Italian restaurant with Cajun flare.    The steamed mussels are succulent.  We highly recommend them. 

Brennan’s Bananas Foster

 After our Steamboat cruise and brunch, we explored the French Quarter.  In July 2020, most of the New Orleans walking tours were not in operation.  But we enjoyed exploring the city on our own.  Due to low crowds, we had ample opportunities to take photos to our heart’s content. In other words, during this low-volume travel season, it’s a great time for selfies and other travel photography in iconic places.  New Orleans has some of the best architecture and backdrops for memorable photos.  And wildlife cooperates, too!  

http://www.steamboatnatchez.com
WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA

DAY 5 

On our third day in New Orleans, we visited the WWII Museum.  The WWII Museum is located directly across the street from Higgins Hotel.  In fact, the museum and hotel are related to each other.  The Higgins Hotel is named after Andrew Higgins, the man who designed the Higgins Boat, a wooden vessel with a ramp which was credited with helping the U.S. to win WWII in Normandy, France.  These boats allowed the military to get the military into shallow water and unload on the beach of Normandy.  The soldiers then stormed the beach, climbed the cliffs, and overtook the enemy in order to win the war.  The movie The Longest Day depicts the D-day victory at Normandy.  The WWII Museum features an outstanding documentary film in 4-D which depicts the origin and reality of the war through heightened visuals, sound and motion.  

A stay at Hotel Higgins transports guests into the glories of victory.  WWII photos depicting the victory of liberation have been placed throughout the hotel as a tribute to this historic event and its impact on American values and freedoms.  

Staying at Hotel Higgins is more than a good night’s rest in a clean, comfortable hotel.  It’s an experience – meaningful, memorable and anchoring.  It anchors travelers in the depths of contribution New Orleans made to the WWII victory and also allows us to enjoy the pleasures of our everyday life in the here and now because of that freedom and democracy.

http://www.nationalww2museum.org

On our last day, we went shopping at the Riverwalk Outlet.  It was the perfect end to our Mama-Daughter travels.  We purchased clothing, handbags, and accessories in preparation for our next adventure and the coming season.  

Regarding travel during Covid, those who travel during this time experience more personalized hospitality, engagement with locals and their goods and services, and attentive detail to cleanliness which travelers always enjoy! Also, the Higgins Hotel took some of the best precautions we’ve seen regarding Covid-19 and guests.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Southern Girls road trip to the “Best of the Best: The South”. We highly recommend traveling to New Orleans, LA and surrounding areas both now and anytime. You’ll be glad you did!

Recommended Links:

Swamp Tour and Alligator Watching  with McGees Swamp Tours in Henderson, LA https://www.mcgeesswamptours.com

Bayou Cabins http://www.bayoucabins.com

Mouton Plantation https://www.moutonplantation.com

Jefferson Island’s Rip Van Winkle Gardens https://ripvanwinklegardens.com

Beignets at Café Du Monde https://shop.cafedumonde.com

Steamboat Natchez Brunch and Cruise https://www.steamboatnatchez.com

Stay at Higgins Hotel https://www.higginshotelnola.com

WWII Museum https://www.nationalww2museum.org

City View and dining at Rosies on The Roof in Hotel Higgins https://www.higginshotelnola.com/new-orleans-restaurants/rosies-on-the-roof

Rivercenter Outlet Shopping https://www.riverwalkneworleans.com