New Orleans

The Big Easy, The Crescent City – New Orleans Louisiana was a place that I had looked forward to visiting. It was curiosity mostly. From all reports, New Orleans is a city like no other with Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, the Mississippi River and jazz music on the street. Our visit to New Orleans did not disappoint, we experienced what we safely could in the time that we had there and left with the feeling that we had only scratched the surface.

We booked a KOA campground west of town and were pleased to find that they offered a free shuttle into the city twice per day. We did want to explore but did not want to try and drive the rig on the small city streets or struggle to find parking. The campground staff also warned us that parking a motorhome in the city would be an invitation for crooks to help themselves. We had survived this far without losing any of our belonging, save one bracelet (sorry Lindsay); we did not want to tempt fate.

Our first night in town we went to see a magnificent display of Christmas lights at City Park. The light displays spanned acres of land and were set up in many styles. There were traditional as well as unique lights in the trees, huge roaring dinosaurs, a garden of flowers and insects, some set to music and the southern take on the night before Christmas with alligators pulling Santa’s skiff. The girls tried a few carnival rides and we all enjoyed a hot chocolate. It has been a special treat to see the Christmas displays in so many places.

The next day, we took the early shuttle and spent the day exploring the French Quarter, including a paddle boat cruise on the Mississippi. The streets are narrow, the buildings are old and there really are people playing jazz music everywhere, not just a solo saxophone or guitar, but sizable ensembles with trombones and tubas. The panhandlers are entertaining and interactive and can spot a Canadian as an easy mark. There are so many restaurant options; it was difficult to choose.

When we were finally hungry enough, we chose Johnny’s Po-Boy for lunch. The sandwiches we chose were huge and juicy and difficult to eat without cutlery, but cutlery is not part of the minimal service at this place. Johnny’s has been around since the 1950’s. Patrons join each other at large tables with red and white checkered tablecloths. It was here that we met another tourist, struggling with his own sandwich. He told us about the beignets (pronounced “ben-yays”) a kind of French donut at Cafe du Monde. I am sure that you can guess our next stop; everyone needs to have “lunch dessert”.

Cafe du Monde has been around since the 1800’s, they are famous for their beignets. I had never heard of beignets and I may never forget them. They are delicious! We got them warm and to go because we were on our way to the river boat cruise. There was enough powdered sugar in the bag to cover all four of us and a few people with the misfortune of standing downwind of us in line.

The river boat cruise was fantastic. We learned about steam engines, the Mississippi River and the busy Port of New Orleans. We were also entertained by a small band playing ragtime classics and Christmas music. The boat was propelled by a steam powered paddlewheel; we were allowed to tour the noisy engine room. There were charts depicting the operation of the steam engine. They told us that this is one of few steam paddlewheel vessels remaining on the river. The river is very different here than the same river we saw at its humble beginnings in Minnesota. The clean clear water at the start has travelled nearly 2500 miles and been joined by sand, silt and mud as well as gallons more water from adjoining rivers. New Orleans lies more than 100 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. As it passes through New Orleans, it is held back by levees. New Orleans is in the river’s flood plain and sits several feet below the height of the river. Lining the sides of the river are docks and cranes and warehouses that make up the Port of New Orleans, some still showin signs of hurrican damage. The narrator quoted figures about how many ships and tons of cargo come through here. Something like 500 million tons of cargo pass through this port annually, making it the world’s busiest. You get a different perspective on the city and the river when you experience it from the water. Unlike the same river in Minnesota, this is not a river that you would want to swim in, at 200 feet deep, wading is out of the question.

For our last night in New Orleans we strolled the streets of the French Quarter, had a peek at Bourbon Street before it got too late and tried some of the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants. Everyone had advised us that Bourbon Street is not a place to take kids at night. It was just turning dusk as we turned the corner onto this famous or perhaps infamous street. We only walked a few blocks but we saw more than enough. Hopefully the girls will get over it; Brian may need some kind of therapy.

Before leaving town we went to another of the Jean Lafitte National Park sites, this one in a Cyprus Swamp. We walked the boardwalk, some of us hoping to see an alligator, others terrified that they might. Eventually we had to split up and let some of the party retreat to the visitor’s center. The girls achieved one more junior ranger badge from a very informative and talkative park ranger.

I am pleased to have included New Orleans on our itinerary. I’m not sure I would want to live here, it was a pleasure to visit, the people we met were very friendly. I don’t know if I will ever get back there, but I left feeling that there was so much more to see and experience.

About Walkabouters

We are traveling through Canada and the US as well as Australia and New Zealand. We hope this Blog will keep our family and friends up to date on our travels.
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