Sometimes the urge to get away comes on so fast there is barely time to toss a toothbrush and a change of clothes in a tote bag, jump in the car and just drive. If either the time or the resources are not at hand for an extended vacation abroad or to an island paradise, but you feel you had better get away lest you lose your health and/or your sanity, this one is for you. What follows are three distinct destinations, each between one and two hours from the city.
T’Frere’s House Bed & Breakfast
If gracious hospitality and warm conviviality are the restorative balms you seek, they await you here. Upon assuming the role of innkeeper last year, Katherine Cobb brought with her decades of experience in hospitality management and an expertise in curating home environments for high-powered executives to foster creativity and relaxation.
The first move she made was to mothball the sterling silver napkin rings she found on the formal dining room table. She then opened the kitchen to guests, who are now welcome to hang out, talk, sip wine, or even lend a hand if they are so inclined. The kitchen table has become a popular place.
“Formality is off-putting,” Cobb said. “It creates a barrier to creativity and limits the free flow of ideas. It stops people from getting to know one another,” Cobb said. “Every tribe, tongue, and nation, they are drawn by the warmth of the Cajun culture, and they all bring their unique stories here with them. How are people going to relax and get to know one another if they are worried about getting a dirty look for using the wrong fork?”
Cobb descends from a large family and a line of accomplished Southern home cooks, so gracious hospitality and sharp culinary skills are second nature to her. Breakfast is a lavish affair with rich coffee, fresh breads and fruit, and entrees that may include Glazed Banana Pain Perdu, Fresh Avocado Toast topped with a griddled farm egg, Fried Catfish with sauteed shrimp over grits, a Brisket Slider with Pepper Jack cheese, or some other amazing thing that puts your usual smoothie to shame. While dinner is not among the actual offerings at T’Frere’s, Cobb lives upstairs with her two children, ages 12 and 14, and she cooks their evening meals in the downstairs kitchen—things like Crawfish Etouffee; traditional Prairie Cajun-style gumbo made with a dark roux; entrée salads with fresh fruit, vegetables, and poultry or seafood; or just really, really good burgers and fries. She leaves the kitchen open to guests.
“I just can’t help myself,” she said. “Most people go out to dinner, but I make extra just in case. There are always at least a couple of people who would rather sit around the table with us.”
The two-story home was built in the 1880s on 70 acres and in the Acadian colonial style of Louisiana red cypress as part of the Comeaux Plantation. The Main House (La Grande Maison) has six guest bedrooms, a parlor, dining room and a gazebo. The tranquil glass-enclosed rear porch affords a view of the verdant gardens.
Behind the main home is the Garconniere, historically where young men of the family would have lived and entertained. The space has two newly renovated guest rooms. The home, guest rooms, and Garconniere are furnished in a combination of period antiques and contemporary décor and the walls are hung with the works of local artists and artisans that tell the story of Lafayette’s singular history and culture.
Amenities include Wi-Fi, luxury bedding with allergy-free options, in-room coffee service, cable programming, in-room guest refrigerators with drinks and snacks and luxury private baths. Communal spaces including the gardens, courtyards and porches are open for guest use.
Accommodations range from $135-185
T’Frere’s House Bed & Breakfast, 1905 Verot School Rd, Lafayette, 337-984-9347, tfrereshouse.com.
(1312 Verot School Rd., Lafayette, 337-345-1123, mercy-kitchen.com) is a six-block walk away and aims to impart that feeling you get when you retreat to your cultured friend’s kitchen to enjoy their hand-muddled cocktails, curated wines and modern American food sourced from locally grown ingredients.
(Hwy 329, Avery Island, 337-373-6139, tabasco.com/visit-avery-island/tabasco-tour) is found about 30 minutes away. TABASCO® sauce has been made on this island by the McIlhenny family for five generations. Built on a salt dome, it’s a mysteriously beautiful place where the red peppers grow, the factory hums and abundant wildlife can be seen in Jungle Gardens. Restaurant 1868, found on site, is quite good. Jungle garden pictured below.
The Southern Hotel
It was an era of opulent hotels, cozy inns, and rollicking dance halls when The Southern Hotel first opened its doors on East Boston Street in downtown Covington in 1907.
The hotel remained in business until the 1960s, then devolved into less stately incarnations that included that of a drug store and a post office before falling vacant.
In 2011, a group led by developer and attorney Lisa Condrey Ward rescued the nearly block-long building for $1.75 million at auction. Three years and $8 million later it reopened as an approachable luxury hotel with sumptuous, custom embroidered Garnier Theibaut linens, a collection of fine, contemporary works from local artists and artisans, and glittering Venetian glass fixtures.
In 2018 The Garden House opened next to the property, bringing the total number of rooms and suites to 48. The full-service hotel makes it entirely possible to buzz across the Causeway, ditch your wheels in the parking lot, and spend a blissful weekend at ease loafing about in the pool, lounge, or library, drinking and dining in comfortable splendor, and shopping the nearby boutiques and interesting shops.
Covington’s history as both an art and resort community inspired Ward’s redevelopment of the property with the goal to create something with a distinct sense of place. She personally selected every item in both the hotel’s communal and private spaces with an eye toward style and luxury. The eclectic mix includes bold as well as subdued colors, local art and photography, French and American antiques, custom woodwork and wallpaper, and an artisan fountain.
Internationally celebrated mural artist Grahame Menage depicted Covington’s history upon the walls in the Cypress Bar, which was crafted of century-old native wood that was hauled up from a swamp bottom. The dreamy, heavily detailed murals depict the area’s early history as a resort. The bar opens on to an outdoor patio with a wood-burning fireplace that has become something of an upscale living room for the Covington community.
Upstairs, both the Walker Percy Suite and the Thomas Sully Suite are outfitted with Creole cypress pencil post beds, crafted by Covington furniture maker Greg Arceneaux.
At the rear of the patio is The Garden House, a collection of five suites forged from the renovation of the 1937 Covington Post Office and situated on the site of the original hotel’s tennis courts and rose gardens. Each luxuriously appointed suite has a different theme. The renovation preserved the original New Deal-era mural depicting the Tung oil industry painted by celebrated artist Xavier Gonzalez, which is featured in the suite named for the artist. The space was once the lobby of the Covington Post Office and features a private garden patio.
In the main hotel, the downstairs restaurant, The Gloriette, opened in March, replacing OxLot 9, the hotel’s original restaurant. Picture windows overlook the oaks outside while flooding the space with light and highlighting the stunning Grahame Menage mural that evokes a formal garden. Chef Steve Marsella executes a menu that is French inspired with Louisiana flavors. Standouts include Crawfish Tagliatelle, a rustic Portuguese-style dish of pork and Clams and a fillet of Gulf Flounder with crabmeat and Grenobloise butter.
Accommodations range from $169 for a king room during the off season to $600 for the Xavier Gonzales suite at the height of the season.
The Southern Hotel, 428 E. Boston St., 844-866-1907, southernhotel.com.
H.J. Smith & Sons General Store & Museum
(308 N. Columbia St., Covington, 985-892-0460), is a fascinating place of interest to all ages. Family-owned and operated since 1876, the museum houses hundreds of items from 1870 through the early 1900s, including a 20-foot-long cypress dugout boat, cast iron casket, old farming tools, a 1920s gas pump, a hand-operated wooden washing machine and much more. Admission is free; it’s a working hardware store with some very unusual items.
Del Porto Ristorante
(501 E. Boston St., Covington, 985-875-1006, delportoristorante.com) is right across the street from the hotel and serves amazing Tuscan cuisine and inventive cocktails.
Little River Bluffs Nature Preserve & Retreat
Nondescript wooden gates at the back of an unremarkable neighborhood mark the entrance to Little River Bluffs Nature Preserve & Retreat, a thirty-acre paradise in Folsom on the pristine, artisan-fed Little Tchefuncte River. Once through the gates the landscape changes, a tranquil waterfall of cascading ceramic vessels glows by both day and dark at the side of a densely wooded path that winds through the wooded property to each of the four free-standing cabins and lodges which are crafted to blend unobtrusively into the environment.
David Campbell, an Arkansas native and certified yoga teacher, fell in love with the wild nature of this land in the late 1960s while working as an attorney with a prestigious New Orleans firm. He bought the land, pitched a tent, and spent years leading a double life: that of an urban lawyer and architectural preservationist with historic property interests in the city’s Warehouse District during the week, and that of a rugged, no frills, nature conservationist and tent-dweller every weekend. After seven years in a series of tents, he was inspired to build an open-sided gazebo in order to cook while it was raining. He ultimately built a series of cabins and a lodge on the property. In 2015, he sold the business and the property to Blaine and Loretta DuBose, a couple of engineers who had honeymooned there 15 years before and who share his dedication to the preservation of nature. They now live in the lodge that was once David’s private home and he now lives in a garden home next to the entry gates at the front of the property where he works an author.
Over the years, trails have been hand-cleared through the woods to preserve the native plants. Depending on the season one might find delicate clusters of French mulberries, fragrant honeysuckle, cheerful sunflowers and both golden and purple Asters among the foliage. Autumn brings a riot of full-on color. When the leaves fall from the trees, violets, Carolina moonseed and black cherry enliven the winter landscape. Rare, silky, native camellias and azaleas are abundant around the property, supplying a dazzling display of color when the forest is fully abloom in spring. Abundant creatures make this splendor their home including beavers, river otters, both red and gray foxes, minks, armadillos, raccoons, deer, opossums, coyotes, skunks, shrews, moles, rabbits, squirrels and a rainbow of birds from owls to giant blue herons.
A stroll around the stocked pond will reveal a collection of impressive sculptures including “The Visual Ohm” by Michael Heck featuring undulating 8-foot tentacles fashioned from tubular welded steel; a swiveling chair in the form of a large, splayed-open hand entitled “Let me Take You on a Ride” by Eric Sarbach; and “Global Directions’ by Trey Bryant featuring three figures of concrete plaster over wire net and heads and feet of iron.
Each of the four guest cottages at Little River Bluffs has access to the river as well as a screened porch, swing, hammock, kitchen, barbeque grill, air conditioning, ceiling fans, Wi-Fi, fireplace, washer and dryer, and pillows, linens, towels and bath amenities including therapeutic essential oils from Young Living. Each guest cottage has its own distinct vibe with compelling original artwork. Kayaks, bicycles, a paddleboat, and a small fishing boat are available for guest use.
Because of its location near a forested crescent, The River Chalet offers the most extensive views of the Little Tchefuncte River and the woods to be enjoyed through the floor-to-ceiling windows or from the open, cantilevered deck. A freezing day would be a welcome one with a warming blaze going in the stunning soapstone fireplace. The Meadow Cabin, located at the center of piney woods, a bamboo forest near the stocked pond and a wildflower meadow, has an interior crafted entirely of native Louisiana cypress. There is a private screened porch and a Jacuzzi tub.
Spacious and romantic, the Treetop Loft has a tree top view of the woodlands and sightings of White Tail deer and wild turkeys are common from the outdoor deck that soars ten feet above the forest. The newest of the cabins, The Guest House, features rustic wood, a Jacuzzi tub, a private screened in porch, and is a short walk to the river.
Rates range from $200-$254 with a two-night minimum.
Little River Bluffs, 11082 Garden Lane, Folsom, 985-796-5257, littleriverbluffs.org.
Gene’s Country Market
(1052 Hwy 1078, Folsom, 985-796-3664) is found about two miles away. In addition to grocery staples Gene’s stocks specialty items from Poche’s Market and boucherie in Breaux Bridge. Look for shrimp or crawfish-stuffed deboned chickens to toss in the oven, andouille sausage for the grill, and cracklins to munch in the car on the way back to the retreat.
(82292 LA-25, Folsom, 985-260-5060, giddyupfolsom.com) is about two miles away. This is Folsom’s living room with coffee, sandwiches and salads by day, wine, beer and cocktails at night. Check out their website to get the calendar of events. Live music and farmers’ markets are hosted out back in The Paddock and the affiliated Far Horizons Art Gallery is next door.
If you feel inclined to do something other than simply veg out, float in the river, or fish in the pond during a stay at Little River Bluffs, the Global Wildlife Center (26389 Hwy. 40, Folsom, 985-796-3585, globalwildlife.com) is about 15 minutes away. The popular safari attraction will have giraffes, antelope, camels, and zebras literally eating from your hands.