On Wednesday we left Beaumont, TX for New Orleans. Louisianna (at least along I-10) is very flat and wet. We met friends for lunch in Lafayette for lunch. It was so good to see them, we had met them 10 years ago camping in Vermont and have been corresponding ever since. I expressed concerns about flooding because we had seen fields along the sides of the road that were like lakes they told us they were rice paddies - that water was intentional. He also explained how the crawfish are grown in the rice paddies. We didn't even know what a crawfish is - that was explained to us also and we were shown pictures of them....they're like a mini-lobster. We also crossed an 18 mile causeway over the largest bayou in the United States. Each area of the country has it's own uniqueness and we are learning so much.
In New Orleans, we are staying at the French Quarter RV Park. The park is beautiful, well secured and not in the best area of Town. It is withing walking distance of the French Quarter. We are a half mile from Bourbon Street and 3/4 mile from the River. We were warned not to walk from the park after dark. There is a large parking lot we would have to walk through (an old supermarket lot) that can be dangerous at night. We have found New Orleans to be a city of contrasts. There is the French Quarter which was the original settlement. The streets are very narrow, all one-way. It is 75% residential. The homes are old and this is where the "action" is. On Thursday we walked over to the Visitors Center and viewed a film on New Orleans history and picked up literature, then we went grocery shopping and washed the coach. Brad was very happy to finally have the chance to get it clean again. The park here has very good drainage and they let you wash your vehicles. Yes, George, the wheels are shiny again!
Friday, we took a city/Katrina tour. It was a 2 1/2 hour bus tour showing us the different areas of the city as well as the damage from Katrina. One thing the bus driver was quick to point out was that many areas of the city were blighted prior to Katrina so not all the damage we were seeing was a result of the Hurricane. We saw where the levees breached and areas that were higher and received little damage. 80% of the city was under water. I think one thing that really impressed us was the huge contrast in areas of the city between rich and poor - maybe some of that is more evident beacuase of Katrina. We drove through the 9th ward where many of the homes have just been abandoned, showed us the markings on the buildings where searchers marked the homes they inspected with the date and if people had evacuated or were in the house and alive or dead as well as if there were pets there. He showed us where the homes are being built that Brad Pitt is funding and the criteria that has to be met before people can qualify for one. All the new homes being built are raised up on pilings. We also saw Fats Domino's home in the 9th ward. He has now moved across the river but is still in the area. We drove through a very exclusive area with mansions lining the roads and by a men's club where you have to be a millionare to belong and a women's club where you have to be a billionaire to join. We went by Xavier, Tulane and Loyolas Universities which are all in New Orleans. And of course we drove through the French Quarter.
Yesterday, we went out on our own. We went to the French Market down by the river. In addition to the food stalls there were stalls selling any type of souvenier you could possibly want. In addition to all the Mardi Gras beads, masks, etc there were jewelry booths, clothing booths, and any other kind of booth you can imagine. It was fun to poke through them for awhile. We then went out to Chalmette to where the Battle of New Orleans (the last battle of the War of 1812) was fought. On the way back from there we took our own little tour ending up in the French Quarter. After many minutes driving up and down the streets we finally found a parking spot and we walked up and down Bourbon Street. It was an experience!!! People were everywhere. Wait staff were outside restaurants with menus trying to get you to stop and look at their menus, scantily clad women were outside some of the bars trying to get you to come in, there were people dressed in all kinds of outfits standing on plastic crates in the middle of the road looking for tips for you to take their picture. It was quite an experience - one we are very glad we took part in. There had been a St. Patrick's Day Parade in a different section of town that afternoon and many of the people had spilled over to Bourbon Street afterwards.
New Orleans has certainly been a stop we will remember fondly! There are quite a few pictures attached. It was difficult to pick which ones to include - I of course, went crazy with the camera!