Three of St. Martinville's main attractions revolve around Longfellow's epic poem Evangeline. Understandably, over time it was adopted with great pride by local Cajuns as part of their heritage. Yet the poem's content and characters are entirely fictitious, with only a vague connection to any historical personage.
The Evangeline Monument, on Main Street, is a statue next to St. Martin's Church. It was donated to the town in 1929 by a movie company that came here to film the epic; the star, Dolores del Rio, supposedly posed for the statue. This also reportedly marks the spot of the grave of the "real-life" Evangeline, Emmeline Labiche, herself a work of fiction by a local author in the early 20th century. (Don't say that out loud, though!)
At Port Street and Bayou Teche is the ancient Evangeline Oak, where self-proclaimed descendants say Emmeline's boat landed at the end of her long trip from Nova Scotia and she learned of her lover's betrothal to another. It's a pretty sight, with a very nice mural and memorial to the original Cajun settlers nearby.
Also on the banks of Bayou Teche, just north of St. Martinville on La. 31 at 1200 N. Main St., is the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site (tel. 888/677-2900 or 337/394-3754). The 157 acres that make up the park purportedly once belonged to Louis Pierre Arceneaux, allegedly Emmeline's real-life Gabriel, but we know better. The 1765 Olivier Plantation House here is typical of larger Acadian homes, with bricks made by hand and baked in the sun, a cypress frame and pegs (instead of nails). You can also see the cuisine (outdoor kitchen) and magazin (storehouse) out back. Admission is $4 for adults, free for seniors and children 12 and under. Open daily 9am to 5pm. Tours start on the hour until 4pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.