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Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain

Go with the (Red and) Flo

Tubing and canoeing on the Bogue Chitto (pronounced "boh-gah cheetah" by locals) is an institution in southeastern Louisiana. And H. L. and Florence Mizell (that's Mr. Red and Miz Flo to you), with 1,000 tubes and 36 aluminum canoes, have the best game in town for rentals. There's not a native in these parts who hasn't spent a summer day or a fall weekend floating down the river's curvaceous, languid path on one of the big black tubes or in a canoe.

And why not?There are few more-relaxing escapes in this region than slapping on your sunscreen, loading your vessel with a bounteous cooler (no Styrofoam or glass, please), and drifting through the murky water as 70-pound catfish swim beneath you and wild turkeys gobble in the brush of the banks. The water is refreshingly cool, even on the hottest day, and it never moves more than a few miles an hour, so you're forced to just kick back, sip a grape Nehi, and let the oaks and pines pass right by you. Extreme-sports enthusiasts need not apply.

The season lasts from the spring (around April) through the fall; Red and Flo reckon that the water gets a little too cold for tubing after the middle of October, though, so you'll have to be content with the two-man canoes.

Bogue Chitto Canoeing & Tubing Center, 10237 Choctaw River Rd., Bogalusa; 504/735-1173; open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Tubing: adults $7; $6 for kids under 12. Canoeing: one-hour trip, $25 per boat; four-hour trip, $30.

Shop to It!

The Northshore is populated by former urbanites who lost their taste for big crowds, small lots, and high crime. Fortunately, when it comes to shopping, folks here prefer to behave more like landed gentry than down-to-earth ruralists. Consumerism in Covington, especially, is a dream.

Start out on Lee Lane, where striped banners wave in front of turn-of-the-century cottages-cum-stores year-round, giving the short strip of road a perpetual street-fair feel. Backstreet Gourmet & Gifts (214 Lee Lane; 504/893-3533) serves up all manner of sweet jams, savory sauces, and kitchen gadgets for the die-hard cook. At Intimate Home (218 Lee Lane; 800/551-3923 or 504/898-6368), you can cuddle up in Peacock Alley bedding, wrap up in Susan Dunn robes, push up with Donna Karan bras, and clean up with Italy's Acca Kappa wheat germ soaps. Besides a fine range of antique furniture from Empire to Primitive, Walker House Ltd. (221 Lee Lane; 504/893-4235) also has a whimsical collection of garden accoutrements, from decorative wrought-iron window boxes to fountains made out of washtubs and other found objects. If you just can't get enough bed-and-bath ware, the Linen Closet (315 Lee Lane, Suite 101; 504/893-2347) carries Bischoff, Frette, and Anichini duvets, coverlets, and shams, along with other hard-to-find items, such as Arcopedico shoes made in Portugal. Before you leave Lee Lane for good, pop into Coffee Rani (234 Lee Lane; 504/893-6158) for a rejuvenating cup of herbal tea or one of the trademark salads (the size of a small garden).

Within a few blocks you'll come across a bevy of other equally pleasing choices. Everything at Antiques de Provence (708 E. Boston St.; 504/875-0087) is authentically French—from the giant olive jars to the decidedly haughty attitude of the staff. Unlike in the rest of Louisiana, the air at Hasslock Studios (334 N. Vermont St.; 888/427-7562 or 504/893-6648) can get pretty dry, since they fire their own majolica pottery there six days a week. They fill custom orders, hold fun workshops, and will even take you on a studio tour. Two Peas in a Pod (228 N. Columbia St.; 504/892-4349) beguiles with painted cribs, lamps, loads of pillows, and candle sconces. H. J. Smith's Son (308 N. Columbia St.; 504/892-0460) has got to be the granddaddy of all country stores. Not only does it sell ox yokes and 20 kinds of cast-iron stoves, but the 123-year-old shop also doubles as a classic country kitsch museum—with free admission. On the other side of the style spectrum, Claiborne House (320 N. Columbia St.; 504/893-0766) carries large stone tabletops, carved wood fireplace mantels, ornate mirrors, and custom-made wood and iron furniture.

At first glance, Legato Gallery (424 N. Columbia St.; 504/893-9115) may set off your cheese alarm, but take a closer look. There's some fun stuff here—jewelry, sculpture, paintings—and it's almost all made by Louisiana artists. But the best art on the Northshore can be found at Brunner Gallery (522 N. New Hampshire St.; 504/893-0444), with shows that change monthly and a respectable stable of local, regional, and national artists.

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