The French Quarter of New Orleans is one of the rowdiest sections of any city, anywhere. But the glimpse of the Cajun lifestyle afforded on Bourbon Street is Disney World compared with the authenticity of Lafayette—the beating heart of French-speaking Louisiana. Lafayette is a cornucopia of cultural curiosities found nowhere else on the planet. One whiff of étoufée here, one bite of boudin immediately reveals how derivative most of the Cajun cooking in New Orleans really is. When it comes to nightlife and festivals, the bars are more intimate, the zydeco zydeco-ier, and the Mardi Gras more manageable than in that other city 130 miles to the east. On Fat Tuesday, instead of getting a bundle of beads, you might find yourself chasing chickens through town. It’s a grittier, less glamorous affair, for better or worse. But you won’t get gouged on hotel rates here, allowing a Bayou-size budget to truly let the good times roll.
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