Sometimes we stumble onto the most wonderful of places by chance. Me going to Grand Isle was not by chance; it was very purposeful. However, I had absolutely no idea what type of place I was walking into. I've heard some stories about this tiny little island, been warned to be careful, but now, after spending less than 24 hours there, I can't imagine why. I have never been to a more welcoming, relaxing, charming place in my life.
I can't name one other place with a tourism director like Louise "Weezy" or a restaurant owner/council woman like Leoda Besson who'll drive you all over the island in her golf cart, the very first golf cart on the island, in fact. She's a trendsetter. I can't name another place where you can stand in the same spot and see both the sunrise and the sunset or a place with wonderful wildflowers that greet you at the entrance to the beach.
Yesterday was a rough first day of our mini vacation; there's no doubt about that. But today made up for every last bit of wrong turns creaky motel beds or loud AC boxes. We started the day off with breakfast at Yum's (the name says it all). Which might very well be the only breakfast place on the island--also a drive through. I don't think I've ever heard of a drive through breakfast place before. We had some delicious mini beignets and and a full breakfast. Afterward, I was asking our waitress if she was from the island and if she could tell me what life was like. She was a new return, after being gone for many years, and told me the woman I needed to talk to was Yum, the owner of the restaurant, aka Leoda. So Miss Leoda comes up to me asking what I want to know about the island.
"Anything. I want to know anything you can tell me."
"Well, you got some minutes? I can take you around in my golf cart." I'm sorry, but what other town will you find someone just willing to give you a free tour of their town, taking time out of their sunday morning??
But while she went to go collect her golf cart, we made our way down to the Grand Isle Tourism Center, which is in the middle of town next to the dilapidated butterfly dome (I still find it charming and cute, even if it isn't finished), where we met Mrs. Weezy and her husband Darrell. Weezy and Darrell are raising a daughter who's considered different in their tiny island town because she's uber intelligent and loves to binge read. I told Mrs. Weezy that she's normal in my world--the type of girl I'd definitely be hanging out with! But my mom had talked to Weezy on the phone, told her my story of writing and getting published and my success so far, and this apparently gave Weezy all the hope in the world for her daughter. Thirty seconds after Isidora and I walked through the door, she was hugging us, teary-eyed and stuffing a basket full of goodies for us.
For the next hour, we just talked and talked. I learned more about the island from Mr. Darrel, who's lived there all his life. They are just some of the warmest, kindest people I have ever met, and I am beyond thankful that my visit could help ease their worry about their daughter in some way. Natalie, if you're reading this, you're awesome. Don't let anybody make you think otherwise.
After we left the tourism center with our basket stuffed full of goodies, we went back to Yum's and started our golf cart tour with Leoda, and oh my, I've never received such information from a tour guide before! She took us back into the real part of Grand Isle, back where the locals live and where the remaining Acadian built houses are, and through the haunted neighborhood of Grand Isle and then down Post Lane where the ghost of Jean Lafitte is said to roam. We weaved in and out of these wooded areas with great magnolia trees, talking about history, about her childhood on the island, about how many people come here to create new lives for themselves, and it just hit me that this really is the perfect place for the third book of Ascension. You'll see why :)
But she drove us down the beach, critiquing people who were crabbing incorrectly. We saw a school of dolphins right near the shore, which just absolutely made my morning, as if it wasn't already fantastic enough. It was a beautiful day; there were tons of people out fishing and enjoying the weather and each other's company.
I just can't imagine a more idyllic day spent with some of the most wonderful people I've ever met in my life. The lesson from all this, I guess, is when you go to new places, don't be afraid to ask questions. My mom asked questions when we were finding a place to stay, which led to a wonderful morning with Mrs. Weezy and Mr. Darrell. And I asked questions at breakfast this morning, which led to a fantastic golf cart ride with about as local a woman as I could find. This has been one of the most wonderful adventures I could've ever asked for.
So to Isidora, thank you for being my travel buddy and going with the flow.
To Mrs. Weezy and Mr. Darrell, thank you for being the kindest of humans, giving us hugs and warmth, and absolutely making our morning.
To Ms. Leoda, thank you for being the most fantastic tour guide we could've asked for. My book research wouldn't be complete without you.
The people we met on Grand Isle are whole heartedly and unabashedly themselves, and that is something I strive for in the people that I surround myself with.
Thank you, Grand Isle. I'll definitely be coming back for a second visit!