Sunday, 23 February 2014

New Orleans LA (Day 2)

Late post from Saturday, Feb 22nd

Quick look into Friday night's little dessert with tea. A tradition here in Louisiana during Mardi Gras, King Cake.

Mardi Gras season begins on January 6, of each year and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. One of the wonderful traditions of Mardi Gras, and probably the most delicious, is the King Cake. On the Christian calendar, the 12th day after Christmas is celebrated as the date that the gift-bearing Magi visited the baby Jesus. This day, January 6, is known by several names, including "Epiphany", "Twelfth Night", or "Kings Day". The celebration of this event has evolved over the centuries, with each culture adding its own unique rituals. The New Orleans tradition, borrowing heavily from European influences, is believed to have begun in the 1870's. As part of this celebration, it is now traditional to bake a cake in honor of the three kings - the King Cake. King Cakes are oval-shaped to symbolize the unity of faiths. Each cake is decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras colors - purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold representing power. A small baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is traditionally hidden inside each King Cake. In New Orleans, King Cake parties are held throughout the Mardi Gras season. In offices, classrooms, and homes throughout the city, King Cakes are sliced and enjoyed by all. Like the Biblical story, the "search for the baby" adds excitement, as each person waits to see in which slice of cake the baby will be discovered. While custom holds that the person who "finds" the baby will be rewarded with "good luck", that person is also traditionally responsible for bringing the King Cake to the next party or gathering.The "traditional" King Cake is made from twisted strands of cinnamon dough, covered by poured sugar and sprinkled with purple, green and gold colored sugar. Today, many additional varieties of King Cake are also available by adding cream cheese, or other fillings to the "traditional" King Cake.


Well, that is the history of the King's our picture of the little one that we bought.....


This morning (Saturday), we took advantage of the shuttle service that Jude RV Park provides (for $5/each). It's only about a 15 minute drive but it is sure appreciated by campers!
Of course we started off the at the famous Café Du Monde for café au lait and beignets. There were no tables so we just took the order to go and walked 3 minutes to a bench overlooking the Mississippi...not a bad start to the day, huh? If you have not experienced beignets, they are basically deep fried bread dough sprinkled with LOTS of powdered icing sugar. They are really, really good and they are, likely, really, really bad for your waistline!! 
Doug's new friend
Café du Monde is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
It is probably this full all the time!!

Digging into a beignet....
The grand dame, the Mississippi River....
Complete with cruise ship terminal and, of course, a river boat. this walking area is right across the street from where Café Du Monde is. It looks like this boardwalk is quite lengthy.

Jesus does phone repairs....who knew??!!
The first thing after coffee was our Gray Line bus tour. It was very worthwhile even if it was a bit pricey. It is a great way to get a good overview of parts of the city. Kendall, our driver and guide, is a native NO'er and he really speaks from the heart and a very interesting fellow!
First up was the Garden district. He had tidbits about every major house in this district. I won't even try to remember them. Just enjoy the photos of some of New Orleans very oldest and finest homes. They are pretty grandiose!!

Next, the tour took us over to the 17th Street canal where the floodwall collapsed 2 days AFTER Katrina hit New Orleans. He told us that more people were killed because of this floodwall collapse than the storm. There was a mandatory evacuation and Kendall did leave with his family but many people just would not leave their homes. It was such a disaster. Before Katrina, the population of greater New Orleans was about 600,000, now 9 years later it is not quite 300,000. So many people left and didn't come back. Kendall said he went to Chicago where is finance has family and stayed there for 2 years before returning himself.

He explained the difference between a levee, which is raised berm around the water and/or canal and the floodwall, which was put in place by the US Corp of Engineers. Turns out that they did not do a proper job. They were supposed to put the floodwall in 40 feet deep and they only went 17 feet down. They were supposed to tie the wall together with steel in the shape of an upside down "T" but instead they only did an "I", therefore not making it strong enough to hold back the raising waters of Lake Pontchatrain after the storm hit. In all, the floodwall broke that terrible day in over 50 places causing the terrible flooding. It was really interesting and kinda weird to see the exact spot where the first and most famous breach took place. Like most of us, we remember watching the TV reports about this very area of the floodwall. One thing to remember is that ALL New Orleaners were given a full 2 day mandatory evacuation warning. Most left but many, unfortunately, chose not to adhere to it. Many were in the older Ninth Ward....

This next picture actually shows the exact area of the wall that broke:

See the beige part of the wall on the left of the photo?
That is the new wall, re-built after the flood, and se the height of the roofs
on the houses? Those were the high ones. Many of the people that died were actually trapped in their own attics. They had gone up there and then had no way to access their roofs. Someone on the tour said that is why her grandpa always kept an axe in the attic....  
...and herein lays the direct blame, but you
cannot sue the Government. This area was right beside the wall and it is where the engineers now have a "work yard". Because it has been declared a "Historic Site"
it cannot be built upon, even though it is just a work yard....

This area is actually in sharp contrast to the Ninth Ward.
This area was the first to be rebuilt...

Notice the "X" on this house. At the top of the "X", it shows the date the house was checked by emergency search & rescue. on the Left side, it shows what search & rescue group they were from. On the right, I think it has something to do with how they had to  enter the house. In the bottom of the "X", if need be, they would indicate if there were any persons and/or animals deceased in the home. Guess this house was lucky....sort of.
This area is quite lucky. There has been a lot of rebuilding and there are currently only 5 lots left for sale at a price of approximately $188,000. Seems that people are not
afraid to build there again. This area was under about 10-20 feet of water....

For 4-5 weeks the water sat just under the letters of this
Walgreens sign. That's pretty deep....
This is the "Evacuation Man". There are instructions on him. You can meet here if you
can't get out. Bring only ONE bag and your pet in a crate, box or pillow case,
but do bring your pets.... 
Then the tour took us over to the lighthouse on Lake Pontchatrain. Lots of history there too. I have also shown a photo of what the lighthouse looked like after Katrina and Rita hit...

New lighthouse....

Not so new lighthouse!!

This shows the land changes before and after Katrina.
A bit of the wetlands has returned but not very much, so far....

Next stop was a brief overview of one of the cemeteries. Our guide was not a cemetery expert but he knows a bit about them. You can actually take a tour for just the cemeteries. They have to entomb their dead and this is what it looks like, otherwise they come floating to the surface pretty quickly because of the extremely high water table. Since Katrina, they now have a rule that every casket must have a plate on it that shows the funeral home and a registration number so they can figure out who the dead are. They had many problems with "floating" caskets in the months after the storm. They have no way of identifying them.




Just a picture from the backs of the tombs.

Apparently, there are 150 nuns entombed here. Because of the high heat in this area, the inside of the tombs can go from 200 F to 500 F. Basically any remains just disintegrate. After many years, they go in the tomb (who does this??) and remove the casket and the remains are put in a burlap sack and there is a "shoot" down the back part into the earth. They are "dumped" into the shoot. This is how you make room for more "guests".
Yikes, talk about information overload......After this it was over to the historic Ninth Ward. A bit weird cruising through, even the outer edges in a tour bus. Seemed almost not right to me but that is how we all get educated. For this reason, I really don't have that many photos of this area and I won't bore you with stats, etc. Suffice to say many people died here. They were mostly elderly and just wouldn't leave their homes and pets. They just had no where to go. Now, many of the houses are not being rebuilt. Many years ago these houses were just passed from one generation to the next and there really wasn't a "paper-trail" to show proper ownership. Because of this, there is no insurance money to be awarded. You have to PROVE ownership. Some could but they only got a small amount and they just never came back. Then, there are the hardy ones. They are building a new recreation centre, school and a new firehouse. Good for them.....



Fats Domino has a house in the Ninth Ward. This is the part of his house that houses a museum. The museum was looted (how bad is that??) and many things stolen
but, apparently, they have pretty much all been returned.
His house is on the left hand side of the photo.

...and he was rescued by Search& Rescue off this second storey balcony.


The Industrial Lock area. Who knew they
have a lock like the Panama Canal?? 
Something nice and calming to finish up was the Sculpture Gardens. Pretty area and again, wish we could have spent more time there but the bus was running behind schedule (this is why we, generally, do not choose a guided tour option) so we only had a brief stop here.     





One quick cruise through the Creole section of town. Much more colour here. The rule was if you speak Creole or Spanish, you painted your house a bright colour....
Called a shotgun house, long and narrow.
Must be open all the way to the back to get the cheap tax. they used to
tax the home on the number of rooms. This way there was only one big room!!


With this 3.5 hour tour behind us we now strolled all through the French Quarter, which includes the famous Bourbon Street. First stop was Johnny's Po'Boys, a local favourite food and a local favourite restaurant.

Super nice to sit up top, watching the world.

Bob & Danna - we found us a cooking school!!!

Some are.....
...and some are not!!

There was at least $100 in that blue bucket!!!

On, now we are on.....

 ....Bourbon Street!!!

All kinds of party people....all day long!!

Some don't even have all their clothes on!! Look closely at the
young ladies in this photo. They are only painted from the waists up. I am sure
they made lots and lots of money yesterday!! Check out the young man in the blue shirt - he can't believe his eyes either! Too bad he is there with his Mom & Dad!!!

...and they throw the beads down to you....
Mr. "I have a street drink and I am happy" Beglaw
Okay, me too!!
Small parade with floats comes down Canal Street.
This is also where they throw beads.
And here are just "some" of the beads we collected that day!!
After all the craziness that is Bourbon Street, we left to wander a few blocks away in the residential section. So much more peaceful up here!! Totally cool houses too!!

 All decked out in Mardi Gras colours...


bubble machine going in the left window...small child sort of
hanging  out the right hand window....YIKES!!!!


very ornate metal work.... 

Then it was back to Bourbon Street to hang out in a jazz club for a while and people
YEs, there were a few drinks....



And apparently, this guy is "too ugly to be on Duck Dynasty" so he needs a hand-out!

...told you, you can get just about anything here!!
Oh my gosh. It made me tired just reliving that day. It was amazing, sad, thought-provoking, fun and crazy, all at the same time. Very powerful city, this New Orleans. I am glad to see it seems to have, in many ways, recovered from it's wounds but there is still so much work to be done but we were glad to walk away with a feeling that, to some degree, Katrina does NOT define this city anymore....  
Sorry this is was sooooo long a post. Just couldn't cut it down anymore than I did. Wish you could see all the pictures that did NOT make the cut!!!
Oh, almost forgot to tell you that Mardi Gras has three official colors: purple is for justice, gold is for power, green is for faith.
We leave here Monday morning. Stay tuned for the next adventure!! We will just leave you with this, my favourite Mardi Gras much excess here but a GREAT place to visit!! 
Thought for the Day: Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll)


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks sir - stay safe up there in the snow, okay??

  2. Thanks for the long post. Glad you didn't leave anything out. We were last in NO pre Katrina. We loved the place, the food, not the smell, and so much more. Maybe some day we will get back there.
    Safe travels!

    1. I do find it hard to edit, don't I?!! Glad you liked it. Do come on back. It was amazing!!