Shortly after we invested in the coach we bought a membership to Harvest Host – a camping program created by a couple of fellow RV’ers who love staying at unique places. For $40/year membership fee you get access to all of the “hosts” around North America that allow a minimum of 24 hours of free camping. The hosts can be farms, wineries, orchards, breweries, museums or wildlife preserves offering you not just free camping but a unique experience and opportunity to support local business.
There is a code of conduct that we – as “guests” need to be aware of such as: do not show up at the gate – alway’s call ahead; arrive only during business hours; vehicles must be self-contained – no access to water; electricity or dumping; be considerate and keep a low profile. It’s important to remember that these sites are not campgrounds but working businesses.
Also, in appreciation of the Host’s hospitality, it’s recommended that you purchase something they are offering – fruit, vegetables, bottles of wine, gift store items, etc. Of course, it helps that space is limited on the RV so large wood carvings and cases of wine are strictly prohibited. Whew!
We have used our membership twice – last July at Wellington Farm, USA in Grayling, MI and just recently at Vermilionville – a Cajun/Creole Heritage & Folklife Park in Lafayette, LA. This historic village exhibited the three major components that contributed to the culture of South Louisiana as it exists today, Acadian (or Cajun), Creole and Native American.
It was an easy drive to and through Lafayette and we got there around 4 – just as the park was closing to visitors. We were told the gates would be closed at 5 p.m. but that our spot would be just outside the gated area and beside the pond. We had the place to ourselves and introduced Gracie to turtles and gators.
In the morning we purchased the $10 tour tickets and with the walking tour guide in hand explored the 6 heritage houses, the school, church and other out buildings and the lush plant life on the property. Several of the buildings were original (c 1830’s), some were reproductions and a couple of others were reconstructed – but the flavour and authenticity of the village was quaint and realistic and the volunteers knowledgeable, friendly and – oh so cajun french. The 92-year old man in the school house even entertained us with his fiddle – reminding me of my grandfather!
The site also offered a gift store and restaurant La Cuisine de Maman. That day, Friday the 13th – and it still being Lent – they were offering a Cajun seafood buffet – and it was delicious. So, for our $20 tour tickets and $24 for lunch we got to stay overnight, see real alligators, eat authentic cajun food, and talk to some locals and make new turtle friends… Definitely a bargain, a blog and a memory!