The street car has been an integral part of the transportation system in New Orleans since the first half of the nineteenth century. The street car on St. Charles Street is supposedly the longest running street car in the world. The other street car lines were replaced by buses in the 1940's, but two of the lines have resumed running again. One travels along the river and for tourists, taking the St. Charles street car is an economical way to tour the Garden District. When we took this ride the other day, the riders were 90% tourists with a few locals trying to find a spot to sit and conduct normal life. School children in uniforms also used the street car to get home.
St. Charles is a wide boulevard with old, palatial homes on both sides. Since the French would not allow the Americans to live side by side with them after the Louisiana Purchase, they began to built plantations with fine homes along this street. The Americans also used different names for the streets in their neighborhoods. Today this is a fact that confuses tourists trying to navigate. As the city grew out to the American plantation area, the fields were filled in with other fine homes. Many of the owners made their fortunes from sugar plantations along the river. Although the Garden District is nicely landscaped, its name is a bit of a misnomer. What makes this neighborhood so appealing is the rich and varied architecture. No two homes are the same and nearly all are grand and impressive.
We tried to photograph some of them from the street car window, but it was hard to avoid keeping telephone poles and passing automobiles from getting in the way. So today we returned with our bicycles and rode the street car tracks, getting out of the way when these slow moving vehicles passed by. We also took the bike trail through Audubon Park, named for the famous bird lover. To finish off this day of exercise we rode an official paved bike trail along the top of the Mississippi River levee. The views were not nearly as lovely as the Garden District. This is an area where industry is king.
Of course, we fortified ourselves for all the bike riding with a magnificent meal in another local dive. As is often the case it looked unimpressive on the outside and little better from the inside but the seafood was superb. One cook devoted himself exclusively to shucking fresh oysters. A steady stream of customers stopped by to stand at the bar where he worked and slurp the slippery creatures out of their shells. We had oyster loaf, a thick layer of fried oysters spread on thick pieces of bread made on site. An appetizer of fried breaded crab claws was great, too. A visit to the rest room took us through the kitchen where we had a chance to see the cooks in action. I doubt most local health boards would allow customers with full bladders to troop through the area where the food is prepared, but this is New Orleans.