New Iberia



New Iberia is a charming town and an excellent base for visiting sights around the coastal portion of Cajun Country. (Fans of mystery author James Lee Burke's writing will recognize the town from its depictions in the popular Dave Robicheaux novels.) New Iberia's historic Main Street, with its canopy of moss-draped live oak trees, is now home to a thriving local bed-and-breakfast industry. Look for the Shadows-on-the-Teche mansion and gardens (a local flagship property of the National Trust) situated close to the city's downtown. Across the street from the Shadows, you'll find the stately Le Rosier bed-and-breakfast. Its attached restaurant has gained national press attention for its innovative cuisine.

You'll find other attractions in all directions, including the incredibly green and lush Avery Island (9 mi/15 km southwest), the atmospheric home of McIlhenny brand Tabasco Sauce, the area's most widely known (but by no means only) hot pepper sauce. Look for alligators near the Tabasco plant, and be sure to see the island's Jungle Gardens and Bird Sanctuary, where you're almost guaranteed to see a number of deer and alligators. In Jeanerette (10 mi/16 km southeast of New Iberia), you'll find the Albania Plantation and its locally famous unsupported staircase.

In the opposite direction, just 7 mi/11 km northwest of New Iberia, is St. Martinville. This town is very much at the heart of Acadian mythology. It's the site of Evangeline Oak, where the heroine of Longfellow's epic poem Evangeline is said to have met her beloved. The town's Acadia Memorial includes a wall of names and a genealogy center. Also worth a visit is St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church. Originally consecrated in 1765, the church is now housed in an 1832 structure that includes a baptismal font donated by Louis XVI of France. On the church grounds is the grave of the young woman generally believed to be the model for Evangeline. New Iberia is 100 mi/160 km west of New Orleans.

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