Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Way Down Yonder In New Orleans!

We arrived in New Orleans at lunchtime which gave us the whole afternoon to explore. It was immediately obvious that it was a totally different kind of city to Savannah with a much faster pace of life. To begin with we weren't sure that we were going to like it but New Orleans is a city that grows on you. Above is St Louis Cathedral which is of course in the French Quarter. A Roman Catholic church has stood on this site since 1718 but the present building dates from 1850. The church became a cathedral in 1793 and is the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the United States.

New Orleans is full of street performers so we stopped to watch one group from the plaza which overlooks Jackson Square and Decateur Street. As we watched them we heard the sound of a brass band in the distance playing 'When The Saints Go Marching In'. It got closer and closer and then we saw that it was leading a wedding party down the street - I just managed to get a couple of quick photos before they passed out of sight. If you click on the photo you'll be able to see the bride more clearly. I love her parasol. Later in the afternoon we walked down the famous Bourbon Street just so that we could say we'd been there - and what a letdown that was! It was dirty, squalid and smelt to high heaven. We'd already decided that our night time excursions would be to Frenchman Street and it was immediately obvious that we'd got that one right!

Frenchman Street is filled with clubs all with live music, in some you just had to buy a drink in others you had to buy tickets for performances. Snug Harbour was one of the latter and we saw this great jazz band there. Some of the other clubs we went in were D.B.A., The Spotted Cat (great name!) and The Three Muses. If you are ever in New Orleans go and eat at The Three Muses, the food is fabulous and its always crowded.

Since we only had three full days in New Orleans we decided that we needed to have a plan rather than just ambling around. Both of us came up with things we wanted to do and one of mine was to sail on a paddle steamer on the Mississipi River. This the Natchez, she is one of only two steam-powered stern wheelers still sailing on the Mississipi so on Tuesday morning we made our way down to Toulouse St Wharf and bought our tickets for the 2 hour Jazz Cruise.

This is the paddle wheel churning away, it was quite exciting to be able to get so close to it.

As we sailed down the river we were given a commentary about the places we were passing, this obelisk marks the scene of the Battle of New Orleans where I regret to say that the British were soundly beaten by the Americans led by General Andrew Jackson in the final battle of the Revolutionary War! I believe that the site is about 6 miles out of New Orleans at a place called Chalmette.

Sadly the sail down the Mississipi while interesting is definitely not filled with pretty scenery, it's a heavily industrial landscape as this photo shows.This is an oil refinery I think and we also passed the Domino Sugar Refinery which has been there for over 100 years but isn't an especially inspiring subject for a photograph! The Port of New Orleans and The Port of South Louisiana combine to make one of the largest port systems in the world handling both cargo and passenger traffic.
The Mississipi is 2,320 miles long, the fourth longest and the tenth widest river in the world. The river's name is a derivation of Misiziibi the name given to the river by the First Nations people who lived alongside it. Misiziibi means Great River.

This is the engine room of the Natchez - not being of a mechanical turn of mind I don't find this all that exciting but possibly some of my readers will find it interesting:)

As we approached the Wharf at the end of our trip we got a good view of the Jax Brewery buildings which now contains shops and restaurants.

Our next stop was Juliette's choice, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the Aquarium. Inside was a good place to be and we were glad we'd been on the river in the morning as the temperature really started to drop later in the day and it was cold for the rest of our stay.

I think these jellyfish are beautiful though I've no idea what kind they are.

I liked this albino alligator, I think he looks rather sweet and friendly but I wouldn't be volunteering to join him in his enclosure to test my theory:)

This was the best bit of all - we were there when they fed the stingrays and you could pay extra and go and feed them if you felt brave. We did! You had to pick up a small fish and put it flat on your hand in the water and the stingrays just kind of vacuumed it up. It was a really fun experience.

Our final visit of the day was also Juliette's choice and I wasn't that bothered beforehand but the Mardi Gras Museum turned out to be fascinating. It's in a huge warehouse and they give you a guided tour beginning with dressing up in distinctly unflattering costumes and, even less flattering in my case, hats. They were one size fits all and 'all' obviously included some very large people! We were shown a 15 minute video explaining the history of Mardi Gras and showing past parades and were then taken through into the area where floats and figures from past Mardi Gras parades are kept. Even more interesting was that this is where they were working on the floats for 2014. The whole thing is a year round process, as soon as one Mardi Gras is over preparations begin for the next year.

This head of Medusa destined for a 2014 float was waiting its turn to be painted.

Designs for some of the floats for 2014. Something that I didn't realise is that Mardi Gras isn't just one big parade on one day. It lasts over two weeks and there are parades in many different areas of New Orleans often four or five on any one day.

Floats from last year, components of floats are often re-used, some of them are absolutely enormous. It must be fun to see one of the parades for real.

I was quite surprised to find this gentleman in the Mardi Gras Museum! It wasn't the first time I'd seen Winston Churchill in New Orleans either. Every night when we walked to the trolley stop to go down to Frenchman Street we passed a statue of him in the middle of the traffic circle on Poydras Street.

This is one of the areas where they are making the figures for the floats, some are carved out of blocks of styrofoam, some made from fibreglass and others from papier mache. It's quite incredible really.

There are artists working on the painting of the completed items - here a huge crown which looks as though it's been left to dry and some urns which are awaiting their turn.

Not sure whether these are past or future but it does give an idea of the scale of some of the pieces. It was the end of a busy but really enjoyable day. Next we're off on a Voodoo Tour!


George said...

Glad to see that your getting a little New Orleans experience, Rowan. Hope you have some good food! A set of great-great grandparents on my mother's side were married in the Cathedral of St. Louis.

Roy Norris said...

The 2 hour Jazz cruise looks great fun D.
Not sure I would describe an alligator as sweet and friendly though.{:))

Mac n' Janet said...

I like New Orleans, but I prefer Savannah. The Marci Graz museum looks interesting. I think Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and because of poor communications at that time the War was actually very when the Battle was fought. We loved the aquarium too.

WOL said...

I would like to visit New Orleans myself. I love the old style houses in the French quarter with their porte-cochères and jalousies.
"Toulouse Street" is the title of an album by the Doobie Brothers, that was a favorite of mine.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I've long held the music of New Orleans in high regard - everything from Louis Armstrong through to Trombone Shorty with a lot of piano players along the way. You excellent report on your travels is about as near as I'll ever get, I suppose.

Patricia said...

Gosh what memories this post brings back Rowan. We went to New Orleans about 20 years ago for Mardi Gras, and stayed in a hotel in the French Quarter. Loved it. We also cruised down the Mississippi on the Natchez. So glad you enjoyed your time there. x

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the rest of your trip! thanks for sharing

Louise said...

It was very interesting to see New Orleans, or parts of it, through your visits. I didn't know Mardi Gras lasted two weeks either.

Iris Rose said...

Wow! So much fun to be had. I love the photos and am really glad that you got to see and experience so many things. Albino alligator-sweet? ummmm, me thinks his teeth are just as snappy!

Granny Sue said...

My Dad was born in NO, Rowan, on Robert Street. If you pass it, give a wave. I've never been there but it's on my list of places to visit. Love your pics, they're outstanding!

Nancy's Notes said...

Fun reading about your interesting trip to New Orleans! I have not been there in years, would go back for the food, music and the beautiful homes. I too, did not like walking around some of the areas. Thanks for sharing!

Jenny Woolf said...

What an interesting trip you had!I must say I have never seen an albino alligator. I've always liked the look of those riverboats - how nice to have a ride on one.

Dartford Warbler said...

I have enjoyed this post. An interesting arm-chair travel on a cold, English winter morning! Thank you.

Diane said...

What an amazing trip you had. I would have loved all of that - especially the Mardi Gras museum (sorry - I laughed at you in your costume !!) xxxxxx