On the banks for the Bayou Teche, a 125-mile waterway in Louisiana, the Old Castillo Bed & Breakfast has been a landmark in the historic town of St. Martinville for at least 182 years. Built between 1835 and 1840, this lovely brick inn first enticed guests who looked to get away from the summer heat of New Orleans. Many arrived via steamboat. One can imagine passengers stepping off their ship, and passing beneath the branches of leafy oak trees to find respite here.
Along with serving as a hotel, Old Castillo was a community center of sorts during the Civil War. Later, it became a convent, and, over the years, began to fall into a bit of disrepair.
Fortunately, the inn was bought by innkeeper Peggy Hulin who turned it from a downward spiral into a 3-star 7 guestroom B&B that mixes homey seasonal touches with antique furniture and southern hospitality.
October is Halloween and fall themed–at least in the parlor and dining room. Pumpkins, autumn leaves and scarecrows are this month’s flavor. Each holiday is another decorating opportunity for Hulin who blends items from Old Castillo’s past into the B&B’s downstair’s decor.
Glass cases and frames hold artifacts significant to the house and the history of St. Martinville. Guests are free to enjoy Hulin’s collection of memorabilia that are arranged along one wall and in the main hallway in a mini-museum of sorts.
Each spacious guest room named to fit the folklore of St. Martinville has its own color palate from soft pinks to rich brocades with gold thread highlights. Private bathrooms have been updated but have retained an ambiance of an earlier time. A stay at the Old Castillo is a dip into decades gone by– however with free WiFi.
As one would imagine, breakfast is served up with a Cajun touch. Pain perdu, (French toast), bacon, eggs, benignet, Cafe au lait, coffee and juice make up the hearty fare served in the dining area that is part of the parlor.
Guests are free to hang out in the parlor where there is a flat screen TV, but a favorite spot for an evening drink or a morning cup of coffee is on the long balcony on the second floor. The balcony offers a lovely view of Bayou Teche and Evangeline’s Oak Tree.
Immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline,” the tree is thought to be where the Cajun Evangeline waited for her lost love Gabriel after they had been expelled from Acadia (part of Nova Scotia) and were separated. The tree’s fame made it a perfect spot for Huey Long, the 40th governor of Louisiana, to make a campaign speech in the 1920s.
In addition to enjoying the sereneness of the banks of the Bayou Teche, Old Castillo is a perfect hub from which to explore the rest of St. Martinville. This is a town for walking. In a few blocks you can take in: Church of St. Martin de Tours, the 162 year-old Catholic church founded by the Acadians who settled here; The African American and the Acadian Memorial Museums that encapsulate the diaspora of these two prominent groups of people who settled in this part of Louisiana, as well as, several eateries and shops in St. Martinville’s historic downtown.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein