Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And on to NOLA, Nawlins, New Orleans...part 2 of Louisiana Nov 18-23

Technically, we were not staying in New Orleans (NOLA) but 1/2 hour outside in Westwego at the Bayou Segnette State Park and we got there with no trouble. By the time we arrived it was 83F/28C and humid so I pulled out my summer clothes and happily put them on before setting up camp and then taking a bike ride over to the boat landing where I saw snowy egrets and a roseate spoonbill.  The air was deliciously soft and riding around felt great.

These photos of the roseate spoonbill are not very clear but she was so pretty that I had to post them.
I had texted my high school friend Norm, whom we planned to see while there, when we finished setting up and made plans to meet the next day at the campground.  It was only after he arrived  that we realized he lives only 1/2 hour from Colfax and was making a long drive to visit.   He arrived bearing a bag of wonderful LA treats-spices, boudin, and even some Mardi Gras beads , a chest full of ice cold beer and then he compounded his generosity by taking us out to a local restaurant for crawfish, oysters on the half shell and charbroiled oysters (which are done with garlic and parmesan cheese and out of this world!) We returned to the campground after buying some firewood and started a campfire which we sat around and yakked and laughed. He even gave me tips on how to make the best gumbo.  Oh yeah, and that beer?  It's called Abita Amber and is now one of my favorites.

Norm, Don and I after putting away 5 dozen crawfish, several dozen oysters on a half shell and then another dozen charbroiled oysters with garlic and parmesan...and the Abita Amber.

The next morning we rendezvoused with Norm at his hotel and all drove into NOLA to have breakfast at Cafe du Monde, famous for its coffee and beignets.  I don't love chicory in my coffee all the time but a cafe au lait with chicory was a treat I did not want to miss and we sat watching New Orleans come awake. It was 8am when we got there and the stores were shut, the horse drawn carriages just gathering to await passengers and a man playing the sax to gather money for his church, as we COVERED our clothes, hands and faces with the copious amounts of powdered sugar that drenched our beignets.  Breakfast done, we bid adieu to Norm, went back to the car to get Phoenix and went to walk around the French Quarter.  Jackson Square was coming alive with music and tarot card readers and small booths of artists and on the far side is the Cathedral-Basilica of St Louis King of France.  Not to be confused with the cathedral of almost the same name in St Louis  this one is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the US.  It is lovely.


Since it was so early neither of the museums on either side of the cathedral were open so we continued our walk.  Bourbon St was still cleaning up from the night before and the smell of stale liquor still wafted in the slight breeze. We walked on through over to the Visitor's Center where we decided to get tickets for the double decker bus tour which we would take after lunch.  But, along the way, on our way down Bourbon St we stopped by the Cafe Beignet to listen to the sounds of Lee "Plink" Floyd, legendary jazz banjo player and two of his friends on bass and trumpet and decided to sit and have a cup of fresh fruit to reenergize ourselves.  By the time we got back to the car, to leave Phoenix, it was 1 and we opted to hop on the tour bus and wait for lunch.

Bourbon St

Toulouse St in the shade and

the sunny side of the street

iconic French Quarter balcony

the courtyard at Tennessee Williams' house

just a street sign

Cafe Beignet
"Plink" Floyd and friends

One of the statues at Cafe Beignet

Could be a street on St Croix!

There were trumpeters and sax players and quartets and trios and then this lone accordionist

Along the riverfront is this memorial to Immigrants

Looking downriver at the bridge
In the Visitors Canter
I have say that I have done better tours-the one of NYC is far superior- but it was fun to be able to drive around the various areas-albeit in their perimeters-and get a glimpse of each.  The sound system was not the best and our tour guide, while informative, spent so much time with asides and personal notes that it was hard to process what information he was giving.  However, it was fun seeing a scene being filmed for the second Jack Reacher movie (I have read all the books but have never seen the first movie;) driving under trees covered with resurrection moss, which our tour guide said he has seen go from dry to green in the same day after a rain; trees laden with Mardi Gras beads where I realized that I am so ignorant about Mardi Gras that I had no idea there were different parades!; and past the various neighborhoods each with their own history and character.   Since the tour is a hop on-hop off we figured, with tickets good for 3 days, we'd come back the next day and do one area at a time and explore more.  By the time we got back to the French Market, where we'd gotten on the bus, it was 3 o'clock.  We split a muffaletta (not from the Central Market where it was invented and supposed to be best because the line was still long) but at the Garden Cafe.  More than that I could not have eaten but it was delicious and filling enough that I was not hungry for dinner.  A recipe for my foodie friends is here though I warn you that her advice about the olive salad should be taken to heart  (Amazon does have it: Central Market Olive Salad.)  After lunch we gathered Phoenix again and took her for a nice walk along the riverfront and then back to the campground it was for two tuckered out "golden agers."

Scenes from the double decker bus tour
The building on the left is the original World Trade Center.  It is now closed and has just been bought by Four Seasons which will renovate it making it a hotel and fixing the revolving dining room on top

St Charles Street streetcar

murals are so much better than boring sides to ugly buildings

We first saw this guy here on Canal St. and then an hour later on the other side of town getting in a bus

Mardi Gras beads hanging from trees

Filming the new Jack Reacher movie

Digging the new streetcar line

Canal St

Mardi Gras World with floats under construction
The next day was a bust.  Neither of us are party-hearties and the combination of driving for more than 2 hours two days in a row, then going out, getting up early to go to breakfast, 6 hours of walking and a two hour bus ride in the sun had us both talking about, yeah let's wait until later.  Later didn't come.  We both went for walks and bike rides and the nice thing was there was a free laundry in the campground (albeit one working machine) so I was able to do a load.  And I STILL wasn't hungry so trying to get the energy to even think about eating was pointless.  We ended up doing nothing, except I took pictures of egrets...

There were a few egrets that hung out at the campground and that afternoon they got into a territorial kerfuffle. One chased the other from the small pond up into the tree and then they flew at each other

The feathers were raised and there was quite a bit of squawking and then just as quickly as it started they flew off in the same direction

Later that evening one of them came back and sat watching the sunset from high in the tree

So the next day, not wanting to miss out on NOLA we drove to town to go to the World War II Museum.  It is in NOLA primarily because the boat-the Higgins Boat or LCVP-that is credited with having made the difference in troop movements and the pictures of which are synonymous with any history of D-Day, was invented by a small boat builder originally from Nebraska, Andrew Jackson Higgins whose business was in New Orleans.  The museum is set up like many of the more touristy ones and with a ticket one is also given a "dog tag" which you can use to follow the story of someone from WWII.  I happened to pick a nurse who was 6 months older than my dad, born in Philadelphia as he was and who served in Europe at the same time that he did.  However, I did not see another kiosk so I never followed her story. What we did do was watch the 4D presentation of Beyond All Boundaries which was excellent.  It's exclusively there which is too bad because available on video it might help to educate many who need it.  The exhibit I really wanted to see was in the building of the Pacific and European theaters but regrettably the air conditioning was so cold that only a few minutes inside and I was so cold I was shivering.  What I saw was as well presented as the best museums we have seen and Don was able to stay longer (he had on long pants at least) and appreciate it.  It is the kind of museum though that is better experienced than described and I recommend it for anyone going to NOLA.

Higgins landing craft

models of Higgins crafts

Having gone to the museum in the mid-afternoon with the intent of spending 4 hours there and then having dinner in town, and having being done after only 1.5, neither of us still felt like doing much more so we went back to the campground.  I was still not feeling hungry and began to wonder if I had a small bug so after making an omelet for Don I went to bed.  So it came down to the wire.  Our bus tickets were no longer good but we still had a full day to explore and since both of us wanted to see City Park that's where we went.

New Orleans Museum of Art

Now, remember how it was warm and humid when we arrived?  Well, each day it had gotten cooler. A front moved through the first night with rain but it was only marginally cooler that first day in town.  The next two were bright blue skied and crispy cool, perfect walking weather which we ignored and vegged, and a huge storm another night with winds that brought in the much colder weather.  My delight at being able to wear summer clothes again was short lived and I was back to my fleece jackets and closed shoes.  Of course, Sunday would be rainy and cold.
white cleome with fly

a Northern Gannet keeping an eye on me 

pink cleome

2 white ibises in a tree

sleeping female mallard with her 2 male friends

ibises lined up along the bank

egret in tree

We drove the long way through City Park and acres of Live Oaks (here is why they are called that) and then to the New Orleans Museum of Art AKA NOMA.  It wasn't raining so we chose to take Phoenix for a walk and go to the sculpture garden rather than inside.  Of course, that meant that it would start drizzling and then when we got to the sculptures found a nice little sign that said No Dogs.  Don stayed outside checking on emails and Facebook and I did my normal "this all needs to be recorded" walk through with pictures of virtually every piece.  Most of them I loved.  A few were in the "wha-a-a-t?" category but the garden is beautifully done and I spent a long while watching three little girls (accompanied by parents and grandparents) giggle at and play with their reflections in a sculpture.  (See XXXX below)  As I made my way through the garden there was a fine mist that was becoming heavier and when I went out to ask Don if he wanted to switch he preferred to skip it and we walked over to a grand old building where we saw cafe tables and umbrellas, called the Morning Cafe.  There was a guy playing guitar so we found a seat and rather than having a quick coffee chose instead to eat lunch-red beans and rice for me and chicken and sausage jambalaya for Don.  Both were surprisingly good and after a while "the guy on the guitar" switched a recording of Unchained Melody so he could take a break-or so I THOUGHT.  In fact it was him singing with an incredible voice and he went on to sing a variety of the songs that we are familiar with and love.  Then, our waitress and one of the waiters began to dance to his music and it was thoroughly delightful.   We started back to the car in a drizzle that became a heavy rain by the time we were there and decided we'd drive into the city to wander a bit and do a little shopping.  It took awhile to find a street parking place but nothing compared to what we are used to if in NYC, and we strolled to several stores to buy Christmas presents.  It was Saturday and the sidewalks were crowded and we stayed only long enough to find a few things and then leave.

I could not find the signage for the quite cool spider sculpture

This family of 3 young girls was having the best time with the sculpture park but when they got to this one the giggles started in earnest.  There is something about children's laughter that puts a smile on every face that passes

"Rebus 3-D-89-3" byt I. Kohlmeyer

"Pablo Casal's Obelisk" by Arman

"Overflow" by J. Plesna 

"Karma" by D-H Suh

Corridor Pin Blue  by C. Oldenburg C. Van Brueggen

A Battle-For the Resistance Fighters  by A. Pomodoro

As we left the park we passed this very effective advertising for the barber shop on the corner
It was now Monday morning and our day to leave.  Don was going to go get liquor and cigarettes (which he may not need soon since he has been cutting back and is down to only a few a day) and some fresh fish from the market around the corner.  I started getting the inside of the MoHo ready and when I went to turn the driver's seat around...nothing.  I tried starting the engine...dead silence.  Oh boy!  This was not a total surprise since the last two times I had started it the battery sounded tired and I mentioned it to Don and we'd discussed getting a new battery.  They only last about 2 years and this one is 8!  We hooked up the battery charger and while the dash lights came on and the seat moved there was not enough juice to start.  Our call to Good Sam Roadside Assistance resulted in our agreeing that the battery was likely dead and replacing it would make sense AND since there was an AutoZone right down the street we would do that.  But, we also ended up having a guy come because we lacked one tool for replacing a battery.  He and Don took the old one in and came back with the new one and in 20 minutes it was installed and we were good to go.  So THEN Don went to get the "booze and butts" but we figured since storage space is limited, we'd be on the Gulf coast and "probably" be able to find seafood, we skipped the fish store.  And so everything ready we set off for our next stop in MS.

Between the huge front windows, our elevated height AND an elevated roadway we were able to see a perspective of New Orleans as we left that we hadn't even enjoyed from the double decker bus.

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