Just a few more memories of our time in Louisiana to document...because I'll forget them if I don't. : )
Since the Festival didn't open until late afternoon, we spent part of Friday enjoying the sights and tastes of Avery Island. For such a small island, it has a big personality. For instance, it's home to the Tabasco Company and its acres of pepper plants...but more about that later. There's also a salt mine because the island sits at the top of a huge salt dome estimated to be higher than Mt. Everest. And then there's the Jungle Garden which really isn't much jungle at all but stately oaks draped with Spanish moss.
There are plenty of bayous and lagoons too which are home to some of these fellows:
They kept an eye on us and we kept an eye on them. We probably saw 8-10 alligators without really trying, the majority of which were all in one lagoon. Most were 5'-6' long and happy to be in the water on a hot afternoon. Thank goodness for good telephoto lenses.
The gardens are full of azaleas, camellias, and other plants found in traditional Southern landscapes so this pagoda and buddha seem a little out of place but they are picturesque. It all sits at the edge of a small lagoon which also had an alligator lurking in the algae-covered water.
There's just something peaceful about all those big old trees though. We set up the chairs we'd brought with us and had lunch under their spreading branches.
One of the most interesting parts of the garden is an area called Bird City. It's another algae-covered lagoon on which they've built platforms for the egrets to nest. Well, it's egrets on the platforms and in the surrounding trees as well but there are other species of birds that nest in the area, including the Roseate Spoonbill. We saw some of them as well but never close enough to get a good photo even with the telephoto lens.
There's a nice observation deck that's elevated so you have a good view of the lagoon and visitors don't seem to bother the birds one bit. It was a noisy...and smelly...place but interesting nonetheless.
There were still chicks in the nest but we were guessing it won't be long before the birds all begin their migration north only to return again for nesting season next year.
The fields of pepper plants are off limits but you can tour the factory which we did...and we learned a lot in the process. Like that this plant produces all the Tabasco sauce that's distributed world-wide. That takes a whole lot of peppers, all of which are grown from seed every year and picked by hand. Then they're ground up, seasoned with salt mined right there on the island and put in used Jack Daniels barrels to age for three years before they become Tabasco sauce.
After the factory tour we headed over to the Tabasco store to look around and try a few of the samples. Hands down the best one was ice cream made with the Raspberry Chipotle Tabasco sauce. It was cold and sweet with a subtle heat...yum!
Despite the fact that it is home to all that industry and has plenty of visitors, the island has its own sense of serenity. And that was just what we needed before heading off to mingle with the masses.