We were stopping over in Shreveport, Louisiana for the night. We weren’t planning a big night of exploring, since there wasn’t too much going on in the town and we were staying at the Hilton Hotel located across the river from the main district anyway. Personally, I was just very excited to have crossed the line into the home state of Britney Spears!
We arrived mid-afternoon while the sun was still out, so decided to take full advantage of the rooftop pool. I lazed about, only getting up to move from the pool to my sunbed, and listened to the gossip of a group of three young Southerners who were telling stories about parties they’d been to in very strong Louisiana accents.
That evening, we decided to go to a local restaurant called The Blind Tiger in downtown Shreveport, as the hotel provided a free shuttle bus to it. Located in Downtown Shreveport near the Red River on Texas Street, it is located in a historic building built in 1855 that has a somewhat interesting story. The story goes that the owners were looking for the perfect name for the restaurant and thought of naming it after the man Bushrod Jenkins that had been shot in the street in front of the building back in the 20s. However, upon more investigation they found that there were several bars in the Prohibition days that were hidden in the back of restaurants that were called “Blind Tigers.”
Restaurants with these bars in the back would place stuffed animals on the tables as decoration so that their visitors would know that drinking and gambling was located in the back. The saying was that the “tiger turned a blind eye” to these hidden bars. After learning this, the name The Blind Tiger was decided upon by the owners and their logo is a Ray Charlesque tiger playing the piano and he’s named Bushrod, after Bushrod Jenkins.
We were keen to try the local delicacies, since we had been told about the blackened catfish and shrimp poboy a few times by now. When we arrived, we were seated by the window so were able to people-watch outside. The fashion of the locals had changed now from cowboy boots and Stetson hats to trainers and backward baseball caps.
We had a delicious meal of Louisiana Cajun specials, including shrimp jambalaya, cornbread, catfish, gumbo and poboys. Soon after we’d finished, the restaurant area where we sat began closing up, and a DJ started setting his laptop and decks up next to us. We decided to move up to the bar, where we were going to have a drink and watch the karaoke that was now starting.
One man in particular, who had come on his own, kept going up to the microphone and belting out old songs but there were also a couple of younger people who also went up and had a go. Dad got talking to the doorman while trying to order our shuttle bus back to the hotel and, within minutes, had a group of young men surrounding him – all wanting a chat with the Englishman. We all ended up standing in a group outside and everyone was very friendly, although we had been warned not to walk to couple of blocks back to our hotel because it might be too dangerous.
The next morning, I lazed by the pool again and then made the massive error of weighing myself in the hotel’s gym. Let’s just say the fried food and huge portions had really started to have an effect – in just under two weeks I had put on half a stone! With that cheerful knowledge, we left Shreveport and set out to continue our journey.
We were heading for Baton Rouge, but wanted to stop at one of the old plantation houses on the way there. In the end, we found Kent Plantation House – the oldest standing structure in Louisiana which happened to be on our route over. The house was built in 1800 and is a representation of southern plantation life between 1795 and 1855. It is a classic example of French colonial architecture (and is raised off the ground to protect it from the flood waters of Bayou Rapides) and offers a glimpse of the French, Spanish and American cultures that influenced Louisiana. We had practically our own private guided tour of the house, from a young girl dressed up in early nineteenth century costume, and then the older lady took us around the slaves’ quarters and outbuildings. It was an interesting place to see, since the house displays original artefacts from people who worked and lived at the house during its operation. It was extraordinarily hot, though, so as soon as the tour was over, we rushed to the safety of the fans in the small gift shop. We were ready for Baton Rouge (after a quick stop to have our first ever experience of Walmart)!