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Sharon Armstrong's blog

Lafayette, Lúnasa or Bust.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Sat, 05/01/2010 - 19:14

The first concrete indications that tell you that you have you are leaving Creole Louisiana and entering Cajun Country Louisiana, apart for the miles and miles of flowering swamp and verdant bayou flying beneath your wheels under the elevated freeway of I-10 West, are the first large road-side signs on either side of the Interstate that read ‘Drive though boudin, and pork cracklings – Exit here.’ Hmmm boudin and pork cracklings…yummy!

It was kind of a driech morning - unusually cloudy and chilly for late April in Louisiana - when I started the two hour drive towards Lafayette. The outskirts of New Orleans end abruptly - one minute you are driving through suburbia, the next you are ten feet above what looks like miles and miles of water. Broken trees line the I-10 on either side, still scarred and broken by Katrina. The Interstate is no longer a road really; it is more like a long, off-white concrete bridge across the waters of Lake Ponchartrain, and onwards towards the Bonne Carré Spillway, past Dalrymple, Whiskey Bay and the Atchafalaya Basin towards Lafayette.

It’s an easy drive though, a nice, pretty, drive, just like Lafayette is a nice, pretty little town. But it is a pretty little town which each year hosts a pretty, big festival - one that is getting bigger every year.

Celtic meets Cajun at the 2010 24th annual Festival International de Louisiane

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Tue, 04/20/2010 - 19:58

The city of Lafayette lies just about 125 miles west of New Orleans, on the banks of the Vermillion River. Originally founded as Vermillionville in 1821 by Jean Mouton, a French speaking Acadian, it was renamed for a General Lafayette in 1884, and is the center of Cajun Culture in Louisiana.

The Cajuns, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, are distinct ethnic group living in Louisiana who are descended from French-speaking exiles from what was once known as Acadia in Canada. The name Cajun is a corruption of Acadian, and the area of Acadia was made up of Nova Scotia, and parts of Quebec, the Maritime Provinces and modern day Maine.

The Acadians were evicted by the British Government in the mid 1700’s in what became known as the Le Grand Dérangement, or the Great Upheaval. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

All the way to Jackson

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Tue, 03/30/2010 - 05:48

It was raining hard when I piled into a friend’s aptly named Highlander SUV, and headed towards Jackson, and the 18th annual Mississippi Celtic Fest.

Jackson, Mississippi lies just around 190 miles due north of New Orleans and it’s a straight shot along Interstate 55. After quick truck-stop to pick up wine, whisky and a helping of pterodactyl sized chicken wings, we pulled up at the Cabot Lodge Milsaps on State Street, just three hours after leaving the hot, humid streets of New Orleans

The Cabot, with its cavernous, comfortably furnished lobby and deer antler chandeliers, is a great hotel, and since it is just a few minutes’ drive away from the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry/National Agricultural Aviation Museum where the festival takes place, it’s convenient as well.

The Magnolia State of Mississippi is not the first place that springs to mind when looking for traditional music festivals in the United States, but the Mississippi Celtic Festival has been growing yearly in numbers of visitors and in numbers of performers since its inception in the early nineties.

Suite Music Over Too Soon...

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Wed, 03/10/2010 - 00:41

One of the very best things about music festivals is that the fun never shuts down at the same time as the the festival gates do; it too just takes a little bit of a side-step. Or in this case a side-step, and then a shuttle-bus ride back to the Radisson Hotel.

I once heard someone describe festivals as just a way to corral sessions and, personally, I think that they might have be on to something there. Put together a whole lot of great musicians from all over the world in the one place, and, seriously, what else is going to happen? It’s a wonderful thing!

The Untold Story of the Night Before...

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Tue, 03/09/2010 - 02:38

It was on Sunday morning that we eventually found Eamonn. Or rather, we got a kind of forlorn early morning text, and then he found us - good lad that he is, even if he was also what my granny used to call a 'dirty stop-out'.

"What’s the story?" read the text.

Feeling our usual helpful selves, neither Karen nor myself could resist the obvious retort.

"Morning Glory," we texted in tandem. Of course.

“Aren't ye right funny women :-D” came the immediate reply.

Saturday had turned first into a long day, and then into an even longer night, however it seemed that we had all survived.

The Last Day...lets get to it!

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 16:30

The Quote of the Morning so far has come from Karen, a fiddler from Wicklow.

"Sharon has just woke up, and she can't find her clothes again."

The Great Grey Goose Incident.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 06:39

Description of this photo

This morning was a bit of a late start due to the deafening honking of early morning geese. I mean, really. Who keeps geese in downtown Dallas? And, yes, maybe in retrospect heading to bed at 6 AM was a bit of a mistake but, once again, who keeps track of time when Vishtèn’s Pascal Miousse, and Louis-Charles Vigneau are leading the session in the hotel lobby? And do you think that maybe there was a few whiskies too many too? Well, since I am in America, I can plead the 5th, and I am also sticking to what shall now and for evermore be known as the great grey goose excuse.

DeLorean Cars, Turkey Legs, and Fair-Play-Boy-Bunny-Ears.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 12:42

In the end the Toyota Corolla Gods choose not to smile on my trip, so I ended up begging a lift to Dallas from Eamonn de Cogain, an ever-helpful and very talented Irish set-dancer from County Cork, Ireland. He takes mean photographs too!

American roads are long and straight, and they do absolutely nothing to keep you awake on long journeys. That's why it is always good to have a little company on trips like this. Right now, here in the States, those end-of-winter roads are also lined with bare trees and empty fields, and a sprinkling of little white crosses that mark the sites of road accidents. Not so good.

Howdy ...Frae Dallas.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Thu, 03/04/2010 - 23:20

You know, isn’t it always the way?

Just when you think that your ol’ beat-up car is up to the task of getting from New Orleans to Dallas, it looks you straight in the eye, snickers, and then refuses to start. Travel plans are indeed made to test us.

However, all is not lost, and as all seasoned festival goers know, that last minute scramble is all part of the fun - kind of like crashing on folk’s floors, and giving all those strange new beers a go.

My destination this weekend is the North Texas Irish Festival, one of the best-known, and best-loved Celtic music festivals, both in the Lone Star State, and beyond...