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Visiting “Home” as a Tourist

Yvonne Bahry Caballero, Special to the Weekly Citizen, The Chief
Two houses located in the Donaldsonville Historic District.

A weekend in Donaldsonville planned by my daughter, Dana, turned her sisters and I into tourists in our hometown.

Upon arrival in Donaldsonville, we “check in” at Cabahanosse Bed and Breakfast with proprietor, Kay Dugas then take a quick walk through the antiques on the first floor. We find items that belonged to one family member or another back-in-the-day and recall the memories associated with each.

Time spent at Cabahanosse Bed and Breakfast does indeed “stir up memories of the past.” More so if you once enjoyed your youth there when the structure was the home (upstairs) and business (downstairs) of your grandmother (Sietie) and known as Bahry’s Department Store.

I slept in the space that was my grandmother’s bedroom and recalled exactly where everything was in that room - essentially a turning back of the clock that stimulated memories of the past.

Among them: a childhood experience of being seated at the kitchen table, opening a little capsule and mixing the yellow color into a spread for bread; my grandmother preparing the mid-day meal then going downstairs to sweep the sidewalk before opening the store. I follow her then lower the heavy, canvas curtains to protect items in the showcase from the sun; music from the opera, “Carmen” filtering into the hallway from my Aunt Mary’s bedroom; my 16th birthday party hosted by my godmother; best friends frolicking about in the bedrooms and out on the gallery through the ceiling-to-floor windows. I hear the joy and laughter of my youthful friends; a cocktail party in the living-dining area where guests are toasting the new bride - my godmother has returned from her honeymoon; many, many family gatherings centered around the dining room table lain with Lebanese food.

On this day, as tourists, my daughters and I have lunch at “The Chance” with proprietors Billy and Julie Guillot and recall generational-associated memories of our teen years, blowing the horn at the back door and waiting for Earl or Charlie to come out and take an order and after-football-game Friday nights with “the gang” (mine and theirs) among them.

Next, we tour the Historic District and stop at the original Bahry homestead at 420 Chetimaches Street that is being renovated by Scotty Charleville. He and his father, Bobby, take us on a tour of the interior. Amazing that the fig tree of my childhood remains in the side yard.

Next, we visit the historic Ascension Catholic Cemetery before returning to Cabahanosse to enjoy an afternoon on the gallery, reminiscing about their youthful times there as well as mine.

Later, we have dinner at the Grapevine and enjoy selections from the “award winning menu - a blend of Cajun, Creole, and African traditional foods.” The art gallery and music by Anthony Marcello are also enjoyed.

The next morning, we have coffee in the parlor, a last “sitting” on the gallery and a final walk through the interior of the second floor that is the Bed and Breakfast.

Then, we venture downtown for breakfast at Minnie’s Place and have “a unique culinary experience” that blends the very best of southern food and hospitality.

After breakfast, we visit Merle Norman’s and are warmly greeted by Susan and Greg Phillips who have - once again - reincarnated the space to celebrate their 40th anniversary in business.

On the way out of town, we stop at Maw Maw Tootsie’s Boucherie. Stepping over the threshold of the former First National Bank into the restaurant/coffee shop brings one back to Italy and any of the piazzas (open public squares) where a bar or cafe can be found. The scale of the building and its architecture lends itself to the atmosphere of such. We could not resist having a slice of Christina’s Dream with a cup of coffee and ordered a Muffuletta to take home. Proprietor, Lee Melancon has made his Maw Maw Tootsie’s memory a lasting one.

A final stop at Cabahanosse to “check out” brings our visit to Donaldsonville as tourists to a close. We head home to Baton Rouge traveling over the Sunshine Bridge then onto the Interstate to the reality of the present time. Until - that is - the next call from “home” summons and we become tourists again.