Sunday, April 11, 2010

French Quarter Festival

Courtyard at Oceana's where we enjoyed breakfast

Friday, April9, I managed to wake up at 6:15 without an alarm. That gave me time to have coffee and a shower before boarding the free shuttle to New Orleans here at the campground. There are nine other passengers today along with our chauffeur Kathleen. She heads west on I-10 across the newly-opened spans. The lanes were switched to the new bridge just yesterday after replacing the Katrina-damaged spans across Lake Pontchartrain. She points out the lower 9th ward and places that were completely underwater after the hurricane.

French Quarter Festival Parade begins!

She startles us by pointing out that our campground in Slidell was under twelve feet of water! New owners had just purchased it three months before the hurricane and lost everything. There used to be a huge building here and cabins. All were lost including the utilities. They had to start over. Kathleen said her house was under 22 feet of water and the only way they knew that (since there was no water line) was to observe the water line on a three story house behind hers. She said she moved to Picayune for a while but just had to move back as it was too far from New Orleans and she loves this city. That was obvious as she continues our tour. As we exited I-10 she points to a field that was 20 feet under water and notes how close it is to the French Quarter that didn't have enough water to flood.

I'm sitting in the second row of seats in the van, next to Paul and Carol from Georgia. He retired last December after 38 years as a preacher. After cancer treatments they decided to sell their home and full-time RV in a Cardinal 5th wheel. He said they are going west on I-10 through Texas after this and was asking us about places to go.

City of Umbrellas!

City of balconies!

City of umbrellas AND balconies!

And bicycles tied to every balcony!

She points out the 'raised' cemetery where the famous voodoo queen is buried, cruises by the Cafe du Monde and points out places to eat. At last she shows us where she'll pick us up near Elysian at 4:30. Most of our group (Paul and Carol's kids and grandkids) head to Cafe du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee.

Bob and I had been there and done that on past trips so we walk along hunting for breakfast elsewhere. We stop in a Muffalatta place where we went with our St. Louis friends Jim and Donna way back when. And lo and behold we run into another couple from our van. They are RVing in the area and live in Traverse City, MI. We wish them a fun day and walk on down St. Peters to Bourbon Street.

On the way we see a gelato place across from The Gumbo Shop but we can't find it back later in the afternoon when we're hot and looking for a cool treat. We stroll down Bourbon Street to St. Louis to eat at Oceana's. They had an inviting courtyard that I snapped a picture of but it is too chilly for us to eat outside. This beauftiful day starts out chilly with a low of 50 and a high of 73. We're mostly glad we chose to wear long pants. For breakfast I have Malanzana Benedict (eggplant, ham, eggs and hollandaise sauce.) Bob has Seafood Omelet (crawfish and shrimp.) Both are great but pricey. Oh well, we are tourists!

Oops! Careful where you step!

As we walk out of our breakfast spot onto Bourbon Street we run smack dab into the start of the French Quarter Festival Parade-my first ever parade here! (Bob was at Mardi Gras years ago.) I just love all of the decorated umbrellas as you can tell by my pictures. About six paces from the start of the parade, a huge horse leaves a huge pile on the pavement and the entire parade contingent has to divert around it. After a while it was comical to see their faces as they encountered this mess and watch them try to continue playing their instruments, marching and dancing.

St. Louis Cathedral

After the parade we walk down to Jackson Square and tour St. Louis Cathedral. As we come back outside onto the steps I hear some guy call out "Rita". It's Paul from our group! How funny to run into another one of our group in this mob.

Azaleas bloom in Jackson Square

We check out artwork around Jackson Square and really like the slate tiles the artists are painting on. They are from the roofs of demolished New Orleans building. The slate was floated here down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River from quarries up there in the 1800's. In a gift shop on the side of the square I find postcards and then we head towards the Flea Market beyond Cafe du Monde. But first we stop at Margaritaville; always on our itinerary.

At the Flea Market Bob find good prices on t-shirts. My favorite t-shirt is a bright pink with black letters "I want to be Barbie; the Bitch has everything!" But pink is not my color so I pass on it! We walk back to try to find the gelato place. We know we're close but can't pinpoint it. So we enter the Festival grounds in the Square where one of the free music stages is located. We split an Abita Amber Ale (from Abita Brew Pub on the Tammany Trace Trail.) We cross the street to walk up the stairs of Moon Walk so I can catch a picture of the crowd in Jackson Square. We rest on a bench and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River traffic.

Wasting away again in Margaritaville!

We find a Visitor Center and the lady points out DaVinci Gelato on St. Peters behind the Cathedral. So we were close. She also locates a Doberge cake place, Haydel's nearby in New Orleans. I'm determined to try a piece of that great-looking cake before we leave here. But she says Gambino's is the one we want.

Even his teeth are silver!

With map in hand we find the gelato shop. Cinnamon and Cookies and Creme for me. Bob has chocolate and something else-I'm too busy enjoying mine to notice. We walk back towards the Flea Market and are entertained by a performance artist who is painted completely silver (teeth and all when he smiles.) He has a crystal ball that seems to float above his hands as he entertains the crowd around Jackson Square.

I find two shirts at a gift shop; bargains at $7.99 each, one long and one short-sleeved. It's time to head back to our pick-up spot so we walk through the Flea Market and buy a Coke and use the restrooms. Bob finds a leather belt for one last purchase. An older, heavy-set lady falls on the sidewalk nearby but gets up and continues on in spite of losing her hat and her soft drink.

Bob and I arrive at the pick-up spot at 4:10 to find our whole group is there ahead of us resting their tired feet leaning on the low wall. Two or three minutes later Kathleen pulls up and we all jam into the van. She takes a different route back to avoid traffic. She points out new government housing still going up. The traffic is heavy but it is moving at least. I snap some picture out over the flooded area where the levee broke. Kathleen says 'ain't no way no barge broke that levy, the barge floated right over the water was so high.' She points out acres and acres of empty sections of New Orleans. She says the population was about 500,000 before Katrina and is now less than 200,000. So many are never coming back.

The Muffalatta that got away!

We get home just after 5:00 and rest our tired feet while we read the paper we found in a vending machine in the French Quarter. We have soup for dinner, wishing we had taken Kathleen's advice and got a Muffalatta to go! It's 7:35 p.m. and 66 degrees with 36% humidity. Sooner or later we're going to pay for all of this perfect weather.

1 comment:

Osage Bluff Quilter said...

I always go for the Muffalettas! I love them.
We've been to New Orleans 2 or 3 times, it's always so entertaining. the seafood is always so good too.
Too much food, too little time.