The Old Castillo B&B – The Acadian Story,”Oh Sweet Evangeline”

I never dreamed I would spend such a special vacation blending history with charm as I learned about the Nova Scotia-Lousiana connection from my room at the Old Castillo B&B in Saint Martinville, Louisiana.

We had little to no expectations of Lafayette, Louisiana, except for touring Avery Island to learn about my favorite Tabasco sauce and visiting a swamp.  When we arrived at our bed and breakfast (B&B), we got the surprise of our life.

My husband booked us into a beautiful B&B which was previously an old school.  Besides the history of this B&B, included in the surrounding area was the story of the Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia and written about in Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline”.

Evangeline is a story about a young Acadian woman who falls in love with Gabriel, son of an Acadian blacksmith.  During the chaos of the expulsion to Louisiana, they are separated for years.

Evangeline pines for Gabriel and looks for him everywhere.  Some say the story about the “old oak tree” outside of the B&B was the place that Evangeline finally reunited with Gabriel.

The real story is that another writer recreated supposed real characters with similar names of Acadians (representing Evangeline and Gabriel) who meet each other at the “old oak tree”.  Makes for a great story!

However, Longfellow’s poem has Evangeline finding Gabriel dying in an almshouse (chamber of sickness).  It is said that soon thereafter, Evangeline dies of a broken heart.

Here are a few words from the Longfellow poem when Evangeline finally finds her beloved Gabriel on his deathbed:

… Evangeline knelt by his bedside.
Vainly he strove to whisper her name, for the accents unuttered
Died on his lips, and their motion revealed what his tongue would have spoken.
Vainly he strove to rise; and Evangeline, kneeling beside him,
Kissed his dying lips, and laid his head on her bosom…

In the morning, in a lucid state (in the room named after the famous Gabriel), I fantasized about how life must have been for the Acadians being kicked out of their homeland to a new country so far from home.

The Old Castillo B&B provided such a great backdrop for this surrealistic fantasy.

The B&B is an Acadian style home with porches, large wooden stairs, charming parlor room and comfortable rooms with private baths.   The rooms are a great re-enactment of the glorious settings I read about in stories that took me on trips down the Bayou Teche in the 1800s.

Peggy, one of the most pleasing innkeepers I’ve met, served a hot Cajun breakfast every morning of beignet, pain perdu, bacon, fresh country eggs, toast, home-cooked perserves, homemade Cafe’au Lait, coffee and scrumptious orange juice.  Merci beaucoup, Peggy!

I will return to the Old Castillo B&B just to spend more time on the large balcony outside of our room with its wicker rocking chairs and old ceiling fans that took me back to the history of the writing of Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline”.

I’ll want to revisit the “old oak tree” and, of course, I’ll want to enjoy the warm and loving presence of Peggy, the innkeeper, who keeps fantasies alive in a home filled with nostalgia, antiquities, fabulous reproductions and charm.

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