15 Things You Might Not Know About Louisiana

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1. La Louisiane, named for Louis XIV of France, became a French colony in 1682 and passed to Spain in 1763. It was ceded back to France in 1800 and became part of the United States following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

2. Louisiana might be the biggest bargain in American history. In 1803, the U.S. paid $15 million for the entire Louisiana Territory, 828,000 square miles of land that nearly doubled the size of our nation. Adjusted for inflation, that’s still incredibly cheap: $729 million. Considering this land accounts for roughly 12 percent of the U.S. GDP, it’s safe to say that the Louisiana Purchase was a solid investment.

3. Louisiana is also known for its wacky legal system. Instead of using English common law like the other 49 states, Louisiana follows the system of most non-Anglophone countries. The legal system in Louisiana derives from the Civil Code established by Napoleon in 1804, which was combined with Spanish law and adopted by Louisiana in 1812.

4. Up until 2007, professional wrestling was banned in Louisiana, under the sham contest provision.

5. Louisiana is one of two states in the nation that doesn’t have counties (the other is Alaska). Louisiana’s political subdivisions are called parishes (Alaska’s are called boroughs.)

6. Louisiana has the tallest state capitol building in the United States. The 34-story building measures 450 ft and was built in only 14 months.

7. And just to clarify, the political capital of Louisiana is Baton Rouge (not New Orleans!). But the Pelican State is home to several quirkier “unofficial” capitals. Rayne is known as “The Frog Capital of the World,” Gueydan is called “The Duck Capital of America,” and Breaux Bridge was dubbed “The Crawfish Capital of the World.” Church Point claims to be the “Buggy Capital of the World” and Mamou bills itself as “The Cajun Music Capital of the World.”

8. Although the terms “Creole” and “Cajun” often used loosely and interchangeably, they refer to two distinct ethnic groups. Cajuns trace their ancestry back to France. They descend from a group of colonists originally known as Acadians who settled in Canada in the 1600s, were expelled by the British, and resettled in the Louisiana swamplands, where the name “Acadian” got shortened to “Cajun.” Creoles, in contrast, are an ethnically diverse group. In the 18th century, Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city. But over the years, the term expanded to include native-born slaves of African descent and free people of color. Today, the category “Creole” encompasses a wide variety of races and ethnicities—anyone of European, Caribbean, or African descent whose ancestors were born in Louisiana.

9. Cajuns and Creoles have distinct cooking styles. Creole cuisine was traditionally considered to be “city food” while Cajun cuisine was “country food.” Like the people, Creole cuisine is a blend of various cultures (including Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American, and Portuguese) and uses a wider variety of ingredients and exotic spices. But perhaps the most notable difference is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes, while Cajun food does not. So true Cajun jambalaya would never contain tomato.

10. Louisiana is home to the longest continuous bridge over water in the world: the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Composed of two parallel bridges, the causeway is 24 miles long and connects Metairie with Mandeville on the North Shore.

11. While Louisiana is known as the birthplace of jazz, it also claims to be the birthplace of the U.S. opera. America’s first documented opera performance took place in New Orleans in 1796. The show was a French-language comedy called Sylvain, by composer André Ernest Modeste Grétry.

12. The Battle of New Orleans, which made Andrew Jackson a national hero, began the day before the Treaty of Ghent was signed. Jackson and his forces battled until January 8, 1815; the treaty wasn't ratified until February 18.

13. New Orleans hosted its first Mardi Gras parade in 1837. The first floats appeared 20 years later, in 1857.

14. According to a New Orleans public ordinance, it is "unlawful for any person to use or wear in any public place, a hood or mask or anything of the nature of either or any facial disguise of any kind or description, calculated to conceal or hide the identity of the person or to prevent ready recognition of such person." The exceptions? Those participating in religious or educational exhibitions, masquerade balls, or—you guessed it—participating in carnivals or parades during Mardi Gras. In fact, float riders are required by law to wear masks.

15. New Orleans’s hotels rooms, which number in excess of 30,000, are usually 95% filled during Mardi Gras weekend.

7 Historic European Castles Virtually Rebuilt Before Your Very Eyes

A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
A reconstruction of Spiš Castle in eastern Slovakia.
Budget Direct

While some centuries-old castles are still standing tall, others haven’t withstood the ravages of time, war, or natural disaster quite as well. To give you an idea of what once was, Australia-based insurance company Budget Direct has digitally reconstructed seven of them for its blog, Simply Savvy.

Watch below as ruins across Europe transform back into the formidable forts and turreted castles they used to be, courtesy of a little modern-day magic we call GIF technology.

1. Samobor Castle // Samobor, Croatia

samobor castle
Samobor Castle in Samobor, Croatia
Budget Direct

The only remaining piece of the 13th-century castle built by Bohemia’s King Ottokar II is the base of the guard tower—the rest of the ruins are from an expansion that happened about 300 years later. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Croatian city of Samobor, which bought the property in 1902.

2. Château Gaillard // Les Andelys, France

Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, France
Budget Direct

King Richard I of England built Château Gaillard in just two years during the late 12th century as a fortress to protect the Duchy of Normandy, which belonged to England at the time, from French invasion. It didn’t last very long—France’s King Philip II captured it six years later.

3. Dunnottar Castle // Stonehaven, Scotland

Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland
Budget Direct

Dunnottar Castle overlooks the North Sea and is perhaps best known as the fortress that William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson in 1995’s Braveheart) and Scottish forces won back from English occupation in 1297. Later, it became the place where the Scottish monarchy stored their crown jewels, which were smuggled to safety when Oliver Cromwell invaded during the 17th century.

4. Menlo Castle // Galway City, Ireland

Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Menlo Castle in Galway City, Ireland
Budget Direct

This ivy-covered Irish castle was built during the 16th century and all but destroyed in a fire in 1910. For those few centuries, it was home to the Blake family, English nobles who owned property all over the region.

5. Olsztyn Castle // Olsztyn, Poland

Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Olsztyn Castle in Olsztyn, Poland
Budget Direct

The earliest known mention of Olsztyn Castle was in 1306, so we know it was constructed some time before then and expanded later that century by King Casimir III of Poland. It was severely damaged during wars with Sweden in the 17th and 18th centuries, but its highest tower—once a prison—still stands.

6. Spiš Castle // Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia

Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Spiš Castle in Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia
Budget Direct

Slovakia’s massive Spiš Castle was built in the 12th century to mark the boundary of the Hungarian kingdom and fell to ruin after a fire in 1780. However, 20th-century restoration efforts helped fortify the remaining rooms, and it was even used as a filming location for parts of 1996’s DragonHeart.

7. Poenari Castle // Valachia, Romania

Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Poenari Castle in Valachia, Romania
Budget Direct

This 13th-century Romanian castle boasts one previous resident of some celebrity: Vlad the Impaler, or Vlad Dracula, who may have been an early influence for Bram Stoker’s vampire, Dracula. It also boasts a staggering 1480 stone steps, which you can still climb today.

[h/t Simply Savvy]

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

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