Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tue 12 Mar - New Orleans, LA

We have booked a swamp tour for the afternoon today, leaving the morning to wander the streets yet again to explore. We decided to roughly follow the perimeter of the French Quarter in a clockwise direction, starting with walking north on Canal St. On N Rampart St which forms the northern boundary of the French Quarter, we find the Louis Armstrong Park.

Here is the great man himself, looking good.
The music always goes on in New Orleans, but who is that suspicious guy in front of all the musicians.
I can't hear you... Play that again...
Louis Armstrong Park must have recently been made up as a lot of it looked relatively new. It was filled with waterways and small bridges and of course statues of musical greats.
We found this guy in the park, looking like he was waiting for his washing to dry (note the socks, shorts and shirt on the fence behind him)
The northern end of the French Quarter looks quite peaceful on a Tuesday morning. This is looking south from North Rampart St.
When we came to the north eastern boundary of the French Quarter, we wandered south along Esplanade Avenue, which looked like a place where the cream of New Orleans society lived in the past and probably still lives today. It is a wide esplanade, with a wide strip of grass and trees in its centre, and beautiful large renovated houses.
Almost in the south eastern corner of the French Quarter, there is a street going northeast called Frenchman St, where we heard that the locals go for their music kicks. We wandered across to have a look. There we quite a few music places and looked reasonably interesting so we decided to come back another night. This is how Frenchmen St looked mid morning.
We continued our loop now moving westwards and found the French Market Place at the southern end of the French Quarter.
The markets were selling all the usual tourist junk that many of these former public markets do these days, but they had some unique offers. No, we were not game to try the below.
And who would possibly want an alligator head (or gator as they say here) apart from perhaps teenage boys .
At this point, we gave up on the perimeter walking and wandered into the French Quarter. We have decided that Royal St is the most beautiful street here, and there is no wonder that the horse carriage takes that route.
Here is Di outside the Cornstalk Fence Hotel. Yep, there are stylized corn stalks on top of the iron fence.
Hans is doing his best Gene Kelly impersonation. No, it didn't work.
These guys were playing on Royal St and they were good. They sounded quite a bit like The Decemberists. With a washboard and fiddle we think there style was a bit zydeco. They were making good money selling CDs and with tips. We watched for 3 tunes and during that time they probably sold 15 CDs at $10 each.
We picked up a wrap and salad lunch from the local grocery shop and went to Jackson Square to eat it and for people watching. The statue is of Andrew Jackson, with St Louis Cathedral in the background.
Afternoon came, and we were on our way for the Swamp Tour. Here we are on the bus on I10 crossing Lake Pontchartrain. This lake just north of New Orleans was the cause for much of the flooding during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 when the levees broke. On the way you can see sme areas of New Orleans East still have damaged houses and empty buildings. Their hospital was condemned too and they are still waiting for the new one to be completed 7 years on (we saw the construction site).
Our bus driver was clearly ashamed and mad at the slow pace of rehab of this area, predominantly the ninth ward of New Orleans. It is sad to see.
And then we are arrive at our destination, Pearl River State Wildlife Management Area northeast of New Orleans and the Honey Island Swamp.
The swamp adventure is true mass tourism in action, but to see it independently would be a lot harder so here we are. This is a tourist shot! Yep, we came to see gators.
On the boat on the Pearl River zooming along the major river section before entering the swamp. We chose to go for a smaller boat (9 people vs 22 on the larger ones), which was nice and far more personal.
The area is truly beautiful although not as many birds and thankfully not that many insects as one may expect. After all, we have just got into spring here so it would probably be quite different in July.
As a side note the trees are a type of cypress and gum and their roots look like stumps sticking up from the water. They also interlink with other trees which means they are very strong and survived just fine through Hurricane Katrina.
Di, the snake spotter, found this guy on a branch when our guide, Captain Scott, could not find any. BTW Di also seems to be a gator spotter - she spotted the first small gator of the trip, then one "false gator" (aka a log) then another big guy later.
Captain Scott pointed out that this house had 4 inches of water on the floor during Hurricane Katrina. Think about it...
Captain Scott and a small alligator.
George the Gator...

Di's second gator...

And Elvis, a mature male and about 8 feet long, although they have some here over 10 feet long. He's shy...

More Hurricane Katrina damage.

We were 2 hours on the trip with Captan Scott and learned a lot. He is clearly a "swamp person" having grown up in a swamp area and still living here catching crawfish and catfish. Very good guide and captain.

One more river shot on the way back - Red Neck Riviera. According to Captain Scott this is where all the locals came for BBQs and swimming in summer. Yep they take their chances.

This is the oldest vertical lift bridge in the state of Louisiana and they open it 5 times a year. We loved the rust. Captain Scott thought that the bridge operator had the best job in the world.

After 5pm and back on the bus to NOLA. On the way we see a few more interesting things. A new vertical lift bridge below. This canal was the source to much of the flooding during Hurricane Katrina as it broke its levees on both sides.

The blue towers are part of the levy system. After the old ones broke, when a barge acted like a battering ram, they built the new ones thicker and stronger. Even so, the city still floods from time to time with only 51% above sea level.

A quick break before dinner and then we head out around 7pm. We decided to have a quieter night and went back to the Crescent City Brewhouse where we know the beer is good and the food is rated ok too. It's busy but after a short wait we get a table on the verandah outside and enjoy the evening. Hans chose well - a jambalaya pasta. Who would have thought?

By 9pm with a few drinks and a big day we were ready to turn in. Boring but it means we can keep going tomorrow. Good night.

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