DARROW, La - There's a popular saying that Louisiana has four seasons: sno-ball, football, Mardi Gras and crawfish! Snowy winter landscapes are scarce around these parts, but that doesn't mean you can't have a fabulous winter getaway. Our Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, says Houmas House and Gardens should be tops on your list.
A little more than an hour's drive from the Superdome, you can see how the sugar barons lived years ago. In addition to touring the gardens, you can buy a ticket to tour the historic estate, dine at a five-star or casual restaurant, or even spend the night and turn your trip into a mini-getaway.
"Houmas means red. Originally it was 'ouma,' which is the word for red according to the Houma Indians, and then when the French took over and came here, they took 'ouma' and put an 'H' in the front and an 'S' on the end and called it Houmas to make it more of a European name," says Houmas House historian, Jim Blanchard.
The property is dotted with elegant red ribbons (the decorations come down on January 6th), along with reindeer, Christmas trees, elves and an extra sparkle everywhere you look. Tour the house and you'll even find one of the original Mr. Bingle puppets, donated for display by an anonymous fan of Houmas House. He hangs near the staircase.
More than a sightseeing destination, Houmas House is also home to three incredible eateries, plus The Turtle Bar, which just might be the coziest and most unique bar you'll find in the entire state of Louisiana. Even when the holiday decor is down, this is an ideal winter escape, with 21 well-appointed guest rooms, furnished with items from the owner's personal art collection. Spacious bathrooms feature tubs and rainfall shower heads.
The flagship restaurant is ideal for celebrating a special occasion; guests who dine at Latil's Landing can choose a tasting menu with three or five courses, enjoyed in the same fashion that sugar barons at Houmas House have savored meals for more than two centuries!
If you spend the night on the property (and I highly recommend it!) the lodging price includes breakfast at The Carriage House Restaurant. The dining room atmosphere will take your breath away, and the options for breakfast include Eggs Creole served with a pile of crawfish tails on top, and Pain Perdu, smothered with bananas foster sauce. Casual evening dinner is also served here and group functions can also be arranged.
Finally, Cafe Burnside is where most day visitors grab a bite; it's casual elegance and the menu is equally spectacular with traditional Louisiana cuisine served a la carte.
The man behind the outstanding cuisine is Executive Chef Jeremy Langlois, who recently received a warm welcome after spending a few years away. He's delighted to be back and plans to continue some of his signature dishes, while putting together some new creations as well.
"Houmas House is such a great fit for not just me but also for the kind of food that I'm really passionate about cooking because this is such a great setting. Here we do Louisiana Creole Cajun cuisine, we honor the past, but also we like doing new creative things that look to the future," says Langlois.
It may be hard to fit everything into one visit, so you'll probably want to plan another trip when the seasons change again.