New Orleans – Geeez Louise!

2 May
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Foot sore and weary we arrived back from our days excursion to the French Quarter of New Orleans. Staying at the KOA gave us the opportunity to ride their free P1120909shuttle into town but when we boarded the mini bus at 9am we did not allow for the running commentary we were going to receive. So much information to take in all at once from our driver with a wealth of local knowledge. He dropped us off right on the banks of the Mississippi river just down from the Jackson Brewery building (converted to a shopping centre).  One of our first sights was the St Louis cathedral and the horse and carriage rides lined up to take tourists around the city.

P1120914A few steps along the road we came to the French Market, obviously well restored after the 2005 hurricane Katrina had passed this way. It was still early and quiet, the stall holders dressing their stands waiting for the days visitors to arrive.

We walked back a block from the market and began to see the properties the P1120915area is so famous for, many still empty or needing repair others beautifully restored to perhaps better than they were.

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Really the only way to see the sights is on foot, unless of course you take a horse drawn carriage tour, even then they pass by the alleyways so quickly youP1120952 would not get to glimpse the courtyards  hidden away behind the buildings.

 

This looked oh, so inviting, however, they had lovely salads or coffee time treats, we wanted something a little more substantial to avoid cooking in the evening, so sadly we walked on.

                                                                                                                                    
As the day wore on, our camera groaning with the captured images we got on a trolley bus to give the feet a rest. We took the route along St Charles AvenueP1120978 riding into the outer suburbs of New Orleans. This area was largely untouched by Katrina, its grand properties some which date back to pre Civil war times sit behind huge oak and magnolia trees. The tram cost $1.25 a ride or for $5 you can get on and off all day any of the three routes around the city. An excellent way to see beyond the immediately obvious and tourist hotspots.

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Back in the main part of town we took a walk out to the levee to catch a breath of cooler air.
 
As we had walked in the French Quarter earlier in the day a ‘musical’ sound had caught our ear, I thought it was coming from one of the upper floors and described it as children practicing the recorder. The music seemed to follow us around without us ever getting to the source, it was everywhere butP1120963 from no where in particular.

Now we found its source, the paddle steamboat moored on the banks of the levee awaiting passengers to take a ride up the Mississippi, had, right on the top deck an instrument (it has a proper name we cannot remember) it looked a bit like an organ.
It played tunes like Swanee River, The Entertainer and of course Mississippi, with each note a puff of steam rising from its pipes, captivating even if it did regularly hit bad notes.

We watched as the passengers boarded, many school children and students excitedly hanging over the rail and watching the paddle P1120974going around as they waited for the mooring ropes to be cast off.  Eventually it set sail along the muddy waters in a strong breeze.

Our first day almost over we caught our return shuttle bus at 5.45pm wondering if the feet would take another day but knowing there was plenty left to see. The return journey was equally as entertaining as the mornings had been our driver continued to bombard us with snippets of information only a resident would know. Our brains by now were so numb I think we took in even less of our lecture than in the morning, however his regular expletive of geeez Louise! at the other drivers or construction congestion or whatever took his dislike I found very amusing.

It is amazing what a nights sleep can do, at 9am on Friday morning we again boarded the shuttle bus. A new driver today and a new commentary,  a little more sedate thankfully and we were able to take in a few more details. We wanted to visit the Jean Laffite Museum for  information on the history of New Orleans but first we thought we would treat ourselves to coffee and beignet’s at the Cafe Du Monde, a local favourite. We found a huge queue waiting to be seated, this being 9.45 we were very surprised, the previous day there had been very few people around until after lunchtime. We passed over the coffee.
 
The museum was interesting and well laid out with history of how Louisiana changed hands from the Spanish and French to the English and eventually became a part of the United States. Cultural history about sugar and cotton plantations and of course the slaves and their fight to become free. We later visited the State Museum too, a little more formal in the way the information is presented but containing some fascinating artefacts like Napoleon’s death mask!

Again looking for lunch we thought we were going to a vegetarian restaurant we P1120994had found down one of the side streets late the day before but there were no tables free. Around the corner we found Bacco, the restaurant of Ralph Brennan a well known chef here. As it had been recommended by our driver, it did not take long to make a decision that this was the place to eat. We were not disappointed by the food and pleasantly surprised at the cost, a 2 course lunch special for $15. We passed on the desert but did not miss out as later in the afternoon we managed to get seats in Cafe Du Monde for that coffee and beignet treat we missed first thing.

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A great experience to visit New Orleans, to see how it has largely recovered from the bombardments of hurricanes, but so sad to think that while we were enjoying ourselves another disaster was inching its way towards the coast in the form of the oil slick from the broken well in the Gulf. From the fishermen P1120718through to the restaurants and all associated trades everyone will feel the impact. The wonderful wildlife and natural areas of the coastal inlets which we have so enjoyed are all in danger of being spoiled for many years to come.

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One Response to “New Orleans – Geeez Louise!”

  1. soos May 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Paul and I really enjoyed New Orleans-in addition to the French Quarter, I think its Frenchman street that has all the quiet Jazz places. we didn't take the tour but we heard that the "Katrina Tour" was amazing and informative. If you take it, let me know what you think….

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