Saint Martinville, known as Le Petit Paris, is the heart of French Louisiana and was the first permanent settlement in the entire Teche region. The historic hunting and fishing grounds of the Attakapas Indians, the arrival of the first Europeans and Africans began in the 1750s on property owned by Gabriel Fuselier de la Claire. The POSTE DES ATTAKAPAS, the administrative seat of the Attakapas District, was established and the village was known by that name until 1812. Acadian refugees began arriving in the mid–1760’s, followed by an influx of Royalists fleeing the French Revolution and of planters fleeing the Haitian Revolution. These wealthy French families brought to St. Martinville grand balls, gala weddings, the opera and other finer things during the summer months when the heat became unbearable in New Orleans. Most of the buildings around the historic European-style square date back to the 19th century, including St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, built in the 1840s and open daily for visits.
Other attractions around downtown St. Martinville are the Old Castillo Hotel, next to the Evangeline Oak, one of the oldest buildings in St. Martinville, which served as a trading and military post, and inn for steamboat passengers. The building also served as center for French Royalist festivities, including balls and operas. Today the building serves as a bed and breakfast. On the other side of Evangeline Oak Blvd., is La Maison Duchamp, built in 1876, by David Sandoz for his daughter, Amelie, and her husband, Eugene Auguste Duchamp.
The Evangeline Oak honors St. Martinville’s connection with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, written in 1847. “Evangeline” wandered through Louisiana looking for her lost fiancé, Gabriel, and traveled through the towns of St. Martin and Marr. Subsequent local writers embellished the story and had the lovers meeting again under the Oak. A statue of Evangeline, portrayed by Delores del Rio in a 1920s silent film and in her image, was donated by the crew as a thank you to the City for its hospitality and charm and is found around the back of the church.
Levert-St. John Plantation
After leaving St. Martinville you will ride in front of the St. John Plantation and Sugar Refinery. This is one of the few remaining sugar refineries in the area. Fewer sugarmills are the result of greater capabilities to move harvested cane by trucks and construction of larger more modern refineries. In the fall, the fields along the roads have stalks of sugar cane that can tower almost ten feet tall. The plantation home, refinery, mercantile stores and fields form an almost complete picture of what South Louisiana looked like when sugar was king. St. John Plantation was constructed in 1828 by Alexandre Etienne de Clouet. Alexander was Louisiana’s representative to the Confederate Government in the early days of secession, and he was a descendant to Chevalier Alexandre de Clouet, first commandant to the POSTE DES ATTAKAPAS.
Oak and Pine Alley
The long route of Cycle Zydeco will take you pass Oak and Pine Alley. Read up on it in this article from the Gambit. As the story goes, the wealthy plantation owner Charles Durand's daughters were getting married in a double ceremony in 1850. He imported hundreds of spiders to spin their webs in the Oak and Pine Alley. On the morning of the wedding, with the webs damp from the dew, he dusted the spider webs with gold and silver dust. As the guests arrived, they were amazed at the sight. In the evening when his daughters left to catch the steamboat to begin their honeymoon, they were again reminded of their father's love.
Sites & Food:
Belle Ecorce Farms; 6939 Main Hwy, St Martinville, LA 70582
Here you will find goats, horses, parrots and plenty of other animals as well as a dairy and fromagerie which produces artisan and specialty cheeses. Wanda has been producing award winning goat cheese for over a decade. Free wine (while it lasts) and plenty of opportunities to purchase some award winning goat cheese.
Robert’s Lounge is a popular adult hydration station among long time CZ riders.
Anna Durand Catering
St. John’s Restaurant
Evangeline Oak Park; 122 Evangeline St, St Martinville, LA 70582