With influences drawn from its French, Spanish and African heritage, modern day Louisiana is as diverse as the patchwork of bayous, swamplands, beaches and prairies of which its landscapes comprise. And, for those that love their jazz, this birthplace of the genre is a must on any Deep South road trip.
Live music at its best
Nowhere is Lousiana’s cultural diversity showcased more than in its largest city – New Orleans. As the home of jazz, this is a place to experience first hand the very roots of American popular music, which, together with its blues sibling, has helped shape and define everything from rock n‘ roll to hip-hop. And, far from being consigned to museums, it’s still played with pride and passion on countless street corners, at festivals and throughout New Orleans’ bourbon-soaked bars and music halls.
Food, par excellence
With such a rich historical tapestry, it’s perhaps no surprise that Louisiana is right up among America’s finest culinary destinations. Blending influences from its immigrant past – French, Spanish, West African, Haitian and even German and Italian – the state’s characteristic Creole cookery, one of North America’s few indigenous cuisines, is all complex sauces and big flavours, showcased in dishes such as shrimp remoulade, bisque and gumbo soups and those all-time classics jambalaya and rice and gravy. Then there’s Cajun cuisine. Brought to Louisiana by French-speaking Acadians, this typically rustic three-pot affair often features crawfish, shrimp or andouille sausage heavily flavoured with the likes of cayenne and dried black pepper. Delicious!
Which brings nicely on to Cajun Country itself, which, alongside New Orleans, is Louisiana’s most emblematic region. Here, served up alongside all that delicious food, are landscapes of wildlife-rich bayous, dusty tracks and remote farms dotted with towns and villages that hark back to the mid 18th-century when the British expelled the Acadians from what is now known as Nova Scotia. Well, Canada’s loss was the USA’s gain, as today these fun-loving locals bring a delightfully eccentric party spirit to these otherwise tranquil surroundings. There’s everything from fais do-do dances accompanied by accordion and fiddle to world championship gumbo cook-offs and even a Cajun-style Mardi Gras – a very different take on that famous Louisiana festival.