“We just got a call from the captain of a local shrimp boat,” said Jeff George, the Executive Director of Sea Turtle Inc. “They’ve got a sea turtle that was trapped in their nets this morning, and he’s in pretty bad shape. Do you have time to help out with a rescue?” Our answer to this sort of question is always an emphatic YES!
We were about 15 minutes into our tour of the Sea Turtle Inc facility in South Padre Island when George interrupted our conversation with Administrative Assistant Jean Pettit. We immediately dropped everything, piled into Pettit’s car, and made our way across the causeway to the town of Port Isabel.
Along the way, Pettit explained that this was the fourth call they’d gotten this year from the shrimp boat, The John Henry. The Texas Shrimp Association actively supports the use of Turtle Excluder Devices– a grid of bars with an opening, either at the top or bottom of the trawl net, through which larger animals such as sea turtles and sharks are ejected.
But occasionally large barnacles on a turtle’s back cause them to get entangled in nets and fishing lines, leaving them submerged and unable to catch a breath. This can lead to shock or even death if the turtle does not receive treatment. So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that we hustled down the dock towards the boat.
But beyond their sensational suits laced with gorgeous gems, fabulous feathers and impressively intricate beadwork lies a rich cultural history dating back nearly 300 years.
And, until fairly recently, this fascinating story was unknown to virtually everyone who lived outside NOLA’s tightly-knit “Black Masking Indian” community.
Held every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday, which falls on February 17 in 2015) in New Orleans is a cultural spectacle to behold, rivaled only by Carnival in Brazil and the Holi Festival of India.
But, as impressive as the Crescent City’s celebration of the historically French Catholic holiday is, America’s first Mardi Gras festivities were held in what is now known as Mobile, Alabama.
One of the main reasons Mary and I work so well together as both romantic and business partners is that we had a lot of things in common long before we met.
Both of us have a deep-seated passion for immersing ourselves in other cultures, and did so through art, music and food long before we had the means to travel the world. Both of us have Acadian (or French-Canadian) blood on our maternal side– her mother’s maiden name was Coté, while mine was Beaudet. And though serendipity never led to our meeting at the time, both of us used to frequent a killer Cajun restaurant across the street from Emory University, which Mary attended.
Given our mutual love of cuisine and culture, I suppose it’s odd that we’d never done a food tour until we got to Lafayette, in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country. Lafayette was recently deemed “the tastiest town in the South” by Southern Living magazine. And our day with Marie Ducote Comeaux– the veteran Louisiana history teacher who founded Cajun Food Tours in 2012– offered an incredible overview of the rich culinary traditions of Acadian culture.
With its historic art deco buildings, hip indie sensibilities and thriving restaurant scene, Asheville, North Carolina is a burgeoning progressive Mecca in the traditionally conservative Southeast. With a tiny population of just 84,000, the city has earned comparisons to hipster hotbeds such as Portland (another mountain town famous for its gorgeous natural surroundings, thriving cultural scene, and forward-thinking environmental consciousness). Nicknamed “the Land of the Sky,” this eclectic, colorful community is surrounded by some of America’s most unspoiled natural beauty, which turns truly spectacular as the autumn colors change. Here are five of our favorite Asheville ecotourism attractions, all located within an hour’s drive of the city: