Day 541: French Lick

As Laetitia walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian in the early dawn hour, a curious thought crossed her mind from her recent tour of Cincinatti. She wondered whether Bailey and Hurst had found the Licking River. After she put a pot of Sumatran dark roast on to brew, she pulled Rude World from the library shelf and perused its index. She found Beaverlick, Big Bone Lick, and Knob Lick, but no Licking River. There was also French Lick, a name that had a familiar ring to it. When she searched her memory, she remembered meeting a couple from French Lick, Indiana, when she led a tour in Bay Minette, Louisiana. She recalled telling them she would tour their hometown when the time came. She checked a map and found that it was not far from Cincinnati, so she decided to go there today.

As she planned the trip to French Lick, Laetitia thought, “The French seem to have a penchant for licking.” The French phrase for what would be called “window shopping” in the United States, is léche-vitrines, which translates as “window licking.” What is now French Lick, Indiana, was the site of a trading post during the seventeenth-century, when the French occupied the American Midwest. The town’s name came from the French trading post and a salt lick that was close by. Later, a spa and casino was built around a nearby mineral spring that reputedly had medicinal properties.

After leaving Cincinnati, Laetitia and her group stopped at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge for bird watching before proceeding on to their destination. They were headed for French Lick Resort, where most of her group had expressed an interest in using the spa. When they stopped for lunch in a small-town storefront restaurant, Laetitia was close enough to overhear the conversation of several middle-aged women in a nearby booth who had heard wonderful things about the French Lick spa and were going there for the first time. The waiter for both Laetitia’s table and the ladies’ booth was a local lad named Rick who was in his late teens. When Sal, the loudest of the women in the booth, asked Rick if he knew the way to French Lick and went on to talk about the wonderful things she had heard about its services, he blushed and then smirked as he gave her directions. The conversation gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.

“Do you know the way to French Lick?”
Said Sal to a waiter named Rick,
“They say it’s nirvana.”
“No it’s Indiana,”
Said he with a smirk that was quick.

Day 497: Bay Minette

Sipping a cup of French roast coffee in the Emerald Victorian library, Laetitia decided this would be their last day in Alabama. She and her group started the day in Mobile and visited the antebellum Bragg-Mitchell Mansion first. John Bragg, a Mobile judge built the house in 1855. Their next stop was the Mobile Carnival Museum, which highlights the history of Mardi Gras. Mobile claims to be the birthplace of the festival. The group’s final stop was at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. The ship saw action during World War II. Afterward they went to Bay Minette, where they were spending the evening. It’s a town of about 8,000 that began in 1861 as a junction for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Minette was the surname of a French surveyor who once worked in the area.

After dropping her group at the hotel with a meeting time for going to dinner, Laetitia went to a local Irish pub. The man sitting at her left at the bar was studying the history of the French in the area and was a great source of local lore. He said that little would be known about the town’s surveyor, Minette, except for the diary of a French crony who owned a local drinking establishment. According to the diary, Minette was a well-known carouser and raconteur in addition to being a surveyor. Obviously he had a first name, but unfortunately it has become enshrouded in the mists of time, likely because his drinking friends mostly knew him by the nickname they gave him, “Faire.” He had left his wife, Yvette, behind in France. Having finished his work in Bay Minette, he had moved west in search of new adventures when she came looking for him. Unable to find her husband, she made the best of things with a young lad from the local community, even though they had a language barrier. Laetitia decided to make her story the limerick of the day.

When a pretty French housewife, Yvette
Searched in vain as she sought Faire Minette
She soon found a lad young
Who despite his strange tongue
Was in Bay Minette her surest bet.