April 25, 2004
The guidebooks say that Teche is probably the most beautiful of the Louisiana bayous. The old city of New Iberia, established as a Spanish colony in 1779, is a marvelous place from which to savor it.
Delta Queen’s dock at the “Port of New Iberia” was at least five miles from the city itself and on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. Passengers had to pay $10 to ride a shuttle bus back and forth, first passing the wooden, paint-starved homes of New Iberia’s less-fortunate residents, to reach the historic district. Once across the railroad -- where AMTRAK’s Sunset Limited passes on its way from New Orleans to California -- the wise tourist will strap on a camera, get off the bus, and walk. A three-quarter-mile stroll down Main Street has enough photo opportunities to keep you occupied for an hour or more.
First stop was a huge, gnarly live oak tree that the guide believed to be the largest and oldest in Louisiana. Nearby is the Gates estate, first of the 1800s residences along the way. Further along, just past the park in front of City Hall, is a stone grotto enveloping the figure of a young girl worshipping the Virgin Mary. It’s said to be a smaller, but otherwise faithful, replica of the Shrine of St. Bernadette at Lourdes.
The main attraction -- in fact, the only business open during church hours on Sunday morning -- is Shadows on the Teche, a mansion and surrounding grounds built between 1831 and 1834. There’s an admission fee of, as I recall, eight dollars or so.
Just past the mansion grounds is a walkway marked, “To the Boardwalk”. Follow it. It will lead you to a delightful walk along the Bayou Teche to a bridge leading to a park on the other side and, beyond, to a park where you can wait for the bus to take you back to the boat for lunch.
There were two optional-at-extra-cost guided tours during the New Iberia stay: one to the village of St. Martinville, “Pride of Acadia”, and another to the Cajun settlement of Vermillionville, featuring costumed docents and authentic Cajun bands. I was perfectly happy with what I found just wandering around on my own.
From journal Delta Queen to New Orleans