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Touring Cajun country

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You could easily drive through tiny BREAUX BRIDGE, eight miles east of Lafayette, and miss it, which would be a shame. Quite apart from its old-fashioned main street, its crawfish-emblazoned steel bridge over the Bayou Teche, and its handful of B&Bs, restaurants and music venues, it also makes an appealing base for swamp tours, and for exploring the Lake Martin nature reserve, three miles south on Hwy-31. There’s an end-of-the-earth feel to the reserve, where land turns to water, and it’s a great experience to drive – or walk the trails – past vistas of tangled cypress flickering with Spanish moss and encroaching greenery creeping onto the narrow road. From February to June tens of thousands of birds nest at the lake, and there’s an abundance of birdlife year-round, not to mention busy nutria splashing through the undergrowth and alligators dozing in the sun. If you fancy paddling a canoe through this wilderness, contact Pack and Paddle, 601 E Pinhook Rd, Lafayette (t 337/232-5854, w http://www.packpaddle.com; closed Sun).