New Orleans - The series True Detective is the TV phenomenon of the year. And while Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex and the City girls embraced New York City as an extra character in their show, detectives Rustin “Rust” Cohle and Marty Hart have an imposing – if slightly dangerous – version of Louisiana as their backdrop.
The southern American state is drenched in drama and history, and as the thrilling TV manhunt reveals a darker side to the sleepy Southern stretch, travel fans are treated to a display of fascinating nature and architecture.
The sweeping landscape shots including bayou banks, lush fields and sprawling trees play a huge part in adding to the show’s cinematic style.
So taking inspiration from the hot show and its brooding stars, we look at five ways to enjoy Louisiana (that don’t involve serial killers, corduroy suits or CID squads).
Drive the Creole country
There’s a lot of car chat between the two detectives. There’s also a lot of psychobabble from Cohle that we can’t really understand but the scenery is so pretty that we don’t mind.
In their Drives of a Lifetime book, the National Geographic recommends taking a trip along the Cane River Road, a 110km loop that starts and ends in Natchitoches and is the perfect way to learn about the state’s Creole culture, derived from French settlers and African slaves.
The Culinary Trails
The Louisiana Culinary Trails App (on Google Play Store) is a brilliant way for foodies to explore the area by car, offering information on, and directions to, the best local restaurants from five-star eateries to mom-and-pop diners.
Take a cocktail tour
Booze and bars feature heavily in the series and while we definitely wouldn’t condone turning to the bottle with quite as much enthusiasm as Detective Cohle, there’s no denying that the people of Louisiana know how to enjoy a drink.
New Orleans is king when it comes to cocktails, holding the honour of inventing the Sazerac when local chemists mixed cognac with absinthe and bitters as a medicinal tonic.
The Gray Line company offers a cocktail-based walking tour of the city’s pretty French Quarter that acts as a history tour with a twist, including tipples such as the Hurricane, the Mint Julep and the Gin Fizz.
Get woo’d with Voodoo
Dark magic is an underlying theme of the show, taking the form of twig people, cult fiction and a exploration of mardi gras.
Louisiana, and more specifically New Orleans, is the home of Voodoo practice in the US and psychics and tarot readers line the streets of the city ready to swop your money for their insight.
A more comprehensive way of learning about the African magic might be a visit to the quirky Voodoo Museum, whose owner’s great-great-grandmother claimed to have been brought up with a Voodoo Queen. And if you can’t make it all the way to Louisiana, the museum offers telephone readings for just $40 (R748).
Paddle the bayou
The slow-moving water of Louisiana is the perfect way to explore the area’s distinctive landscape and some of the waterways of the state parks feature protected wildlife areas that feature families of fierce-looking alligators.
If rowing or paddling around reptiles isn’t your idea of a good holiday, then there are yacht charters galore, or a trip on one of the original Mississippi mud steamers is a more civilised way to watch Louisiana go by. Request an official travel guide from the Tourist Board at LouisianaTravel.com with info on all of these options.
Release your inner nature-lover at Pelican Island.
In the show, the remote Pelican Island is the setting for a rather terrifying cliff-hanger; in real life, the island is just as remote, buried at the very Southern tip of the state, but you don’t need to visit Pelican Island to see the birds in their natural habitat as they are all over the place. – Daily Mail
l True Detective screens on M-Net on Fridays at 9.30pm.