Over the last month, I have been spending a lot of time North of the city, on the other side of the lake. My family and I were in Mandeville during Hurricane Zeta, and while we did lose power, we made out far better than many. The glorious silver lining of Hurricane Zeta is the weather ushered in following its departure. Fall is my absolute favorite season, and in my opinion, is the shortest season in Southeast Louisiana. For me, it is not just the months from September through December that denote that Fall has begun. When the Fall season commences, you feel its arrival, you smell its advance. The crisp breeze carries a scent so incomparably fresh; you just know that autumn has arrived. In the Midwest, from whence I came, the initial calling of autumn’s arrival lingers in the air for a spell. Unfortunately, in Southeast Louisiana—it does not, the moment is much more ethereal because it is so fleeting. Hurricane Zeta delivered us into Fall, and as such, I felt it necessary to partake in a favorite Fall pastime—load the kid, the dog, and the husband in the car and go for a drive!
With the windows down and the weather perfect, we began our drive mid-morning, leaving Mandeville and heading north on Highway 59 toward Abita Springs, LA. Approaching the charming town, you can see people outside, basking in that autumn joy. Families walking, children bicycling, people jogging, no matter the activity it is the perfect morning. See, despite our peculiar and unsettling times, the feeling of Fall beckons us, tugs at our soul to greet the air with deep inhalation and exuberant exhalation as we follow a whim and irresistible urge to be outdoors. Abita Springs is the perfect fall town—myriad opportunities present for fall merriment. As you round the curve in downtown Abita Springs, you immediately see Abita Brew Pub and, as you cross the Tammany Trace, the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum. While the Abita Brew Pub patio certainly speaks to me on such a beautiful day, it was not yet open (they do not operate on MOM time—shame!). Instead, our first stop is at a small farmer’s market booth just past Mama D’s Pizza. Beautiful produce and homemade goods galore, we settle on three interesting jars of jelly and jam: gourmet pepper jelly, apple pie jam, and traffic jam (a mashup of strawberries, peaches, cherries, raspberries, and cranberries).
Back in the car, we continue our drive north on LA 435 where the clay soil begins to show itself and the elevation climbs revealing beautiful rolling hills as we travel nearer to our next junction at Highway 41 and toward Bush, LA. I’ve not been far enough north to see fall foliage since I moved to New Orleans six years ago, but here, in the countryside of the north shore, I caught a glimpse of that autumn color palette that makes my heart skip a beat. The North Shore has many fun, family-friendly activities and some activities that may be better for mom and dad (or just mom and friends) and that especially includes Bush, Louisiana. As we head back south on the LA 21, we end up in Louisiana’s own wine country of sorts. Our mid-morning turned afternoon drive took us down Old Military Road and we just so happened upon the lovely Pontchartrain Vineyards. Lucky me! Their Tasting Room is open Thursday through Sunday from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, with a $5/person tasting fee, and children are WELCOME! Just a mile and a half further down the road resides LA Serendipity Vineyards, a quaint vineyard that does tastings by appointment and invites their community to participate in the harvest each year. This includes fully harvesting a row or two of grapes, a grape stomp, and plenty of food, wine, and fun upon harvest completion. I find this to be a great way to work for the inevitable imbibing that will take place, oh…and to learn something new!
Closing out the drive, we headed to downtown Covington, LA, passed a delightful Farmer’s Market that looked as if it were nearing its close for the day, so we made our way to Bogue Falaya Wayside Park and Pavilion. After unloading the baby and the dog, we strolled through the park and meandered over to the Bogue Falaya River which winds itself through the park. The trees at the riverbend, on the opposite bank, sang the tunes of an invisible classic rock cover band. Accepting the musical invitation likely coming from The Chimes upriver a way, I offered my child to the autumn sun and we danced. What a splendid close to the perfect autumn day.