Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lafayette, LA : A City Like None Other. Part I

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Today was a gorgeous bluebird day with mild temperatures. This timely weather afforded me the luxury to 1. Wear a sleeveless dress and gauzy scarf 2. Hop on my bike and cruise around downtown Lafayette. I live in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown, just about 5 minutes walking distance from where all the action happens. I couldn't have it any other way!


I wanted to share a little bit about my wonderful little city which has a little bit of a New Orleans feel and a little Austin feel to it, yet it's nowhere near as large as either. We have a population nearing 220,000 according to the last census and it may be more in the 2010 census! I think that when I was a child, there **may** have been 100,000 so we have definitely exploded in the last 15-20 years. It's a great place to reside or visit and has recently been rated in the top 100 places to live! Not mention that Louisiana won the happiest state, which does not surprise me. We love to have fun and life is a party down here!


The building above is our Natural History Museum. The building was actually the 1st department store in Lafayette, called Heymann's. I never shopped there, as it had closed down before I was born or shortly after I was born.


Up until maybe 12-15 years ago, our downtown area had undergone a tremendous downturn. What once was a bustling nucleus of industry trickled to a halt as expansion of the city went geographically south. Buildings were vacant, businesses were fleeing from the area, crime was rampant and and these wonderful old buildings just sat there, sad and lifeless.

That is until what we know as Downtown Development Authority came in and with the help of some great city-planners, the city undertook a giant beautification project that painted our downtown as it is today. What was once desolate and barren is thriving and colorful with so many things to offer.


This building, with it's Romanesque Revival/Italianate architecture was one of the 1st banks in Lafayette. When downtown was redeveloped, it opened as a high-end restaurant, and unfortunately it may have been too ahead of the curve and ceased operation a few short years later. Being a college town, Lafayette is not short of bars, so it is now a pub and has been quite successful since the inception.

This building was one of the oldest, if not the oldest printing plants in Lafayette. Just recently {and we are all so excited about this} It has turned into a great little enclave of businesses. A new restaurant, named "The French Press" opened up weeks ago, and I hear it's fabulous. I plan to dine there very soon!



Next door is "Phillipe's Wine Cellar", which has THE BEST authentic dried sausages and artisan cheeses that I have ever tasted.


And last but CERTAINLY not least, is "Recycled Cycles of Acadiana" a unique bicycle shop that specializes in vintage and antique bikes. They rent bikes for the day as well as will trade your bike for one of the in-stock bikes. Neat concept if you ask me!

The gentleman told me that this bike is c.1919! It was a beaut!

These bicycles are not for sale, they are part of Recycled Cycles permanent bike museum.


This building houses a longtime architectural firm, the MBSB group. Coming up, I knew it as the Lafayette Artist Alliance and spent many festival days there with my friends mother, a great artist that helped me to immerse myself into the creative world. Thanks Kathy!

Our Federal courthouse. It's in need of a bath, but still gorgeous. Note that cute bike!

This is a lovely Presbyterian church. Stunning Beaux-Arts architecture, refined classic façade. It sits on a small piece of land and literally jumps out at you from the street. So beautiful! I wish I could have gotten a better picture, but I was too busy thinking of what next!


Another Romanesque Revival building. This building houses CODOFIL, an organization committed to preserving our french heritage and promoting french speaking in Acadiana. {Sidenote--Acadiana is what we refer to as cajun country, it's a multi-parish geographic area that encompasses most of South Louisiana.

A small sampling of the beautiful homes right in the downtown area. This one is a law office, and has the most gorgeous, tall casement windowed sunroom along the side. Again, no pics! Sorry!

Looks like 5421 Mayberry Ave. doesn't it?

The home below was once the residence of famed artist, George Rodrigue, who became wildly popular with his "Blue Dog" series of paintings. If I remember correctly, his 1st wife now resides in the home. It's truly stunning in person!

Lafayette is home to University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which is located in close proximity to downtown. This is the A. Hays Town building, built by the famous Louisiana native and UL graduate of architecture, Mr. A. Hays Town. He used all reclaimed brick from another building on campus and employed many centuries old techniques within the interior.  In stark contrast sits the new University Art Museum nestled in the buildings posterior.

The Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum was realized by an endowment of the very generous Hilliard's who firmly believed that Lafayette deserved a state-of-the-art space to hold popular exhibits from near and far.

Lafayette is also home to great festivals, most of which are free. Magic fills the air and everyone is so happy that we can't stand it when our beloved festivals are near. Our springtime festival, Festival International de Louisiane is a such a wonderful addition to our city and we are able to host musicians from across the globe. In some cases, it will be the first time that the musicians have ever been to the United States. There is no other festival like this anywhere, and the organizers do such a great job year after year. The fact that we're going strong after 24 years is no small feat! The festival has also been quite a large part of the downtown revitalization, and has helped the success of downtown tremendously.

If you are interested in visiting the festival, I highly recommend it! The website is here.

Another great festival that Lafayette hosts is:  Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.   I cannot recall one year that I have not attended this great festival. Seriously, I can remember being there as far as my memory goes back........with my mom dancing with me as her two-step partner, listening to cajun/zydeco music, sweating our faces off but having a such a great time that we never wanted it to end.

And that concludes Part 1 of Lafayette, LA: A City Like None Other. Stay tuned, as I want to educate you all on why this area is such a special place! Truly! It's so enchanting and has such a rich history and culture, I could go on for days about it. Did I mention that this is my hometown? I figured that yoooouuu figured since you're so smart and all, but just in case, I wanted to put that out there!





L. 'Ailina Laranang said...

Fantastic blog, Andrea. I got here via Blogger's location search of Lafayette, LA.

I've only been here since '00, but I fell in love with Lafayette on Day 1. It was a thrill to read this post and see your beautiful photographs of these familiar (and some unfamiliar) places.

I have a special interest in must-see locations here; my kids and I are launching a "lets-see-how-many-places-we-can-visit" campaign for a homeschooling project. I was unaware of the antique bike shop, so that's going to the top of our list.

One more thing: I, too, was tickled pink Louisiana was #1 for Happiest State! I lived in Hawai'i for a few years, and that was close to heaven. But Lafayette gives the islands a run for their money!

Andrea V.@ said...

Awwww! A'iIina! So happy that you love Lafayette as much as I do! It is easy to fall in love with!

Recycled Cycles is great! Y'all will have a great time there and the employees are SO NICE! They have new bikes as well as vintage ones and some great tandem cruisers that are so neat!

I'm trying to think of any lesser known destinations that you and your children can visit. I'll report back as I think of any :)

Take care,


L. 'Ailina Laranang said...

Thanks bunches, Andrea! But please don't rush or go out of your way on account of me. I've subscribed to your blog here, so I'll be reading anything you share. Looking forward to A City Like None Other, Part II!

Sarah Stewart said...

Loved the blog. Funny you mentioned Artisan cheese. Can you tell me what that is? That was an ingredient recent new recipes and I couldn't find it anywhere. I looked at 3 stores!

Andrea V.@ said...

Sarah! You are too cute!

Artisan(al) cheeses are like boutique beers/wines. Made in small quantity and by hand with old techniques. In fact, you live close to a GREAT artisan cheese shop: St. James Cheese Company! They have the type of cured meats and artisan cheeses that Phillipe's has. I suggest you stroll on down there and indulge!

Care to share the recipe that called for artisan cheese? It seems a little pretentious that they would call for that specifically! Just my opinion! Unless it was a salad? Hmmm.

decorative deluxe said...

So glad you rode by lookin' so pretty on that cute bike by our office to tell me "HI" that day - love the post!

Sarah Stewart said...

HAHA! was out of my Athlete's Palate cookbook and it was for "after running a marathon!" NO marathon running here, so it probably wasn't that good for us (and definitely NOT a salad), but o'well. It was kinda like a fancy mac and cheese with artisanal cheese, basil, chirizo, and piquillo peppers. Nothing fancy, but if you're still interested, I'll email you the recipe.

Andrea V.@ said...


I regret not snapping a pic of you and that beautiful hair+cute little tum. I would have loved to "feature" you on the blog ;)

By the time I had arrived at the Presbyterian church/your office I was a little overstimulated and needed a break! Hence the impromptu visit!



studioJudith said...

I so enjoyed strolling Lafayette with you !
As one who grew up in Baton Rouge
(and left many years ago) it's great to see your town has maintained its
distinct charm ... .


I found you through Joni ....

Andrea V.@ said...


Thank you for the comment! I will be writing more about the city, and I plan on doing a more in-depth visit to some of the buildings. Especially the A.Hays Town Building, which has so many interesting techniques used throughout, I'm dying to capture it all and write all about it.

If you would visit us again, you would be shocked at how we have grown, it's truly incredible.

Thanks for stopping by, and you have a great blog yourself :)