Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Big Easy

We are traveling a bridge on I-10 into the New Orleans area going over Lake Pontchartrain.  Locally known as the Twin Spans, these parallel bridges cross the eastern end of the lake. The current twin spans were constructed in the second half of the 2000s after the original bridges were extensively damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  The bridge is big as you can see and easy to navigate.  Lake Pontchartrain is HUGE.  You'd think we were on the ocean but it is actually several miles inland from the Gulf.  Lake Pontchartrain is not a true lake but an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico and it experiences small tidal changes.  It receives fresh water from several upland rivers and seawater at its eastern bulge near Interstate 10.  It covers an area of 630 miles with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet.  Some shipping channels are kept deeper by dredging.  It is the second largest inland saltwater body in the U.S.  after the Great Salt Lake in Utah. 

The I-10 Twin Span Bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain.

Barges continue to remove the old pilings from the bridge that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans in the distance.
 Once over the bridge we turned onto a state highway and wound up going over the Huey P. Long Bridge.  Yikes!  This bridge was built in 1935 and named for the notorious governor of Louisiana who was assassinated earlier that year.  The bridge is cantilevered over the Mississippi River with a two train railroad line in the center and two 9 foot lanes of traffic on each side of the central tracks.  There is no road shoulder.  Brett gave it the white knuckle treatment for a minute or two and then positioned the rig on the center line so no one could pass since there just wasn't enough room.  Luckily, no one was in a hurry behind us and we made it across okay.

Brett driving the rig over the Huey P Long Bridge.  Huey should be ashamed......

We stayed at a state park called Bayou Segnette.  A beautiful park in West New Orleans about 20 minutes from downtown.  We drove our car to Algiers and took a free ferry across the Mississippi River to the city and. of course, spent the first day touring the French Quarters and especially Bourbon Street.

Downtown New Orleans from the Algiers side waiting for the ferry ride. 

A river barge moving on the Mississippi.

The ferry we rode over to the city.

Sights of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street:

Mardi Gras is a carnival that begins the 12th day after Christmas.  It ends on Fat Tuesday which is always the day before Ash Wednesday.

The buildings in the French Quarter are  a rainbow of colors.

Bourbon Street is always active.

Many of the businesses and private homes were being decorated for the carnival while we were visiting.

Carriage rides everywhere.

Almost every street had performers.  This group was very good.

Wrought iron railings are prominent on many of the buildings.

The French Quarter has some very nice homes.

Lots of colors and live plants on the balconies.

A quieter section of Bourbon Street.  Is that possible?

Masks and beads everywhere.

This old guy was living in a bar on Bourbon Street.  Not his best profile.

Brett enjoying a Louisiana beer on a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street.

While we were on the balcony I noticed the building across the street.  It doesn't look too bad from a distance.

Looking closer I noticed the upper section of the building had quite a bit of decay.

The side view of the building shows how really old the place is. 

And here's our proof (pun intended) that we were on Bourbon Street.

Another shot up the street from our balcony perch.

As we continued our walk I was able to get a picture of this courtyard.  Most courtyards are behind doors so you never see how nice they are.

Another panhandler.  Hey, he got a buck off us!

Some sections of Bourbon Street had racy establishments. Other clubs we saw had half dressed 'dancers' standing on the street and the pictures in the windows left little to the imagination.  

Thank goodness I don't really care for beer.  Now if it had been a Hurricane.....who knows.

This shop had an old fashioned hearse inside with a very old patron.

Different business sign.

We kept forgetting it was still January with all the lives plants hanging from the balconies.

While staying in Bayou Signette we saw some interesting sights to share with you (no, probably not as interesting as Bourbon Street).  Many parts of New Orleans are still under construction from the aftermath of Katrina.  Alongside the park they are building levees to control the water.  Cranes and crews are everywhere and the work appears to be far from finished but the progress is also very impressive.

This is a levee door that can be closed if the water from the Mississippi and the bayous starts to rise.  The door is extremely heavy.

A section of the levee being built with the park on one side and the river on the other.

Brett leaning on one of the huge pipes in the levee to be used to divert the rising water.

A distance shot of the levee.  You can walk along it quite easily.  The park is on the right.  The access to the water is through the levee doors that you saw earlier.   The levee doors are large enough for vehicle traffic along with pedestrians.

While in the park we saw this armadillo.  This is the first one I've seen up close.....except for those on the roadside out West :(

He was even nice enough to pose.

A pretty shot of Bayou Segnette early in the morning. 

Wild birds were prominent in the park.  

These are called Monk parakeets.  They used to be caged but became wild over the years and have multiplied quickly.  It is estimated there are thousands of  them in Louisiana alone.  In South America they are considered detrimental to crops and are killed.  So far, the state has left them alone because they don't appear to have caused much damage.  And, of course, environmentalists would protect them to the death.  Interesting, though, that a few years ago California decided they were a pest and had them eradicated from the state.  But they sure are pretty when you see flocks of them swooping down into the trees. 

Okay, enough of nature.  Let's get back to the big city.  We spent several more days in New Orleans and here are some of the other sights we found.  We started out this particular morning at the world famous Cafe Du Monde for a cup of cafe au lait and a beignet. 

This is the original business.  They have shops in other place in Louisiana now.

This is the menu and it is all they serve.  They are open 24/7 and are always crowded.

The beignets are fried dough covered with powdered sugar.  They are messy to eat so as soon as you leave your table other guests appear to help clean up.

We were there mid-morning and the place was packed.......and the floor was already covered with the powdered sugar.

And there was a musician serenading us from the sidewalk.

Entrance to the French Market. 

Filled with vendors selling everything including one guy who made a movie about being a hobo.  He was selling his video and a record disc he wrote and performed.

Around this area of the French Quarter there were many quiet neighborhoods with even nicer homes.

Trees and flowers were already in bloom.  This is a Japanese Magnolia in bloom. 

Many of the buildings had wrought iron that was painted additional colors to set them apart.

A statue in a small park by the French Market.

This area was called Dutch Alley and many artists displayed their works here. 

Washington Artillery Park in front of St Louis Cathedral.

A closer view of the cathedral.  We had planned on going inside but it was closed for a funeral. Whoever died must have been a politician because there were police everywhere; motorcycle cops, state police, city police and more, and they had all the streets blocked during the service.

This marker was on the side of St Loius Cathedral as we passed by.

Everyone can get in on the act by purchasing the Mardi Gras colors.

We saw this person from across the intersection and thought it was a statue until she moved slightly. She is a panhandler and all she does is stand there immobile.

The French Quarter even has a wedding chapel for those who are interested.

Oh oh!  Is that a bride changing her mind?  We saw her scurrying down the street.

Nope.........she's just getting her portrait taken.

To finish the long hard day we decided to stop at Pat O'Brien's restaurant for an afternoon drink.  Brett had a beer again and I tried a Hurricane since it was advertised as THE drink of New Orleans.  It is made of 4 oz. of rum blended with 4 oz. of Hurricane Mix.  It is a specialty drink with a story.  In the early 1940's there was a shortage of distilled spirits because the grains and sugars necessary to produce spirits went to troops abroad during World War II.  There was, however, a large supply of rum coming into the Port of New Orleans from the Caribbean.  Bar owners were forced to buy 50 cases of rum in order to get one case of scotch or whiskey.  The 'experts' began experimenting and the Hurricane was perfected.

It was really quite good and I wanted another one but I knew it would be too much.  Well the waitress suggested I try another O'Brien specialty called a Rainstorm and she said, "Trust me, honey chile, this little drink isn't nearly as bad as a Hurricane."  So I did, and it was great, and Brett had another beer.

The next day we decided to tour St Charles Avenue to see the Lafayette Cemetery and the really upscale homes of New Orleans.  The Lafayette Cemetery takes up a city block with homes across the street from it.  It is still being used for burial today but many of the plots are abandoned and in disrepair.  Others are family plots dating back hundreds of years and the markers have been updated with family members still being interred there. 

An older section of the cemetery.

A very old plot that looks to be no longer maintained.

This plot has been updated and is still being used.

This was part of an old marker but was still easy to read.

As we traveled down St Charles Avenue it was like going into another city.  Hard to believe it was part of New Orleans because it was so quiet and genteel.

This is the Van Benthuysen-Elms Mansion.  Built in 1869 by a relative of Jefferson Davis.  It is still a private residence today.

This is a section of the side yard of the mansion.

This is a courtyard of a residence that has been made into apartments.

This house was being remodeled but was already gorgeous.

Hard to see but there are double chandeliers in the window.
I loved this entranceway.

The streets were lined with beautiful Live Oak trees.

Unfortunately, the tree roots were also breaking up many of the sidewalks.

It's a tough life but somebody has got to protect the mansion.

What a great area to live in.  There are plenty of trolleys and buses to take you downtown.

Another beauty.
 Since it was our last day in the city, we walked back several miles to the ferry and took additional pictures along the way.  What is most noticeable is the different house colors. Based on the history of the city, a house with colors is considered a Creole home, whereas, a house that is white is an Anglo home.  Here's some of what we found:

 We ran out of time, and I ran out of camera memory so it was time to go back to the park.  The only thing left for this trip is to tour two plantations about an hour outside of New Orleans which we will do tomorrow.  I think that better be another blog.  Peace to all!


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