Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday in New Orleans

After walking the beach in Biloxi Saturday morning I headed down to New Orleans.

I really wanted to do a driving tour of the city and see first hand the aftermath of the Katrina - but I had been warned that doing so on my own may not be safe. In the end I opted to take the direct route to the French Quarter and spend the afternoon strolling the streets - browsing in the shops and enjoying the street performances.

I have this weird irrational fear of going over big, high, long bridges. I almost always want to be the driver rather than the passenger - until it involves going across aforementioned bridges - then it is "hello, my turn to be the passenger".

Somehow when I made my plans I neglected to notice that between Biloxi and New Orleans that there is a rather l-o-n-g causeway that you must drive over. Fortunately, I didn't realize this until I was on it - by then it was too late and there was really no option but to keep going. As I passed over, the fingerprints of Katrina were evident in the pillars jutting out of the water - reminders of a previous version of the bridge.

One thing I learned on this trip is that there is a whole lot of nothing between Biloxi and New Orleans. It is an hour and a half of swamp and trees and very few freeway exists.

You know you have reached the outskirts of New Orleans - when an eerie feeling of abandonment starts to descend. Entering New Orleans, you are surrounded by communities of blown out homes on either side of the freeway. Very few cars or people to be seen. But, then every once in a while you will see in the midst of devastation a home or two that has been restored. There is a car in the driveway and lights on in the house. You see evidence that slowly, very slowly hope and restoration is returning.

The French Quarter itself is up and running and shows very little evidence that Katrina passed through. However, when you leave, you only need to go a block or two and once again you start to see blown out and abandoned buildings.

I had a wonderful time Saturday afternoon walking about and exploring the French Quarter. The Fleur De Lis was all over the place - to me it is the symbol of Quebec ... so I would do a double take everytime I saw one.

Fleur De Lis at the Entrance of the French Quarter

One of the things I really enjoyed was all the neat old buildings with cool wrought iron balconies and gardens.

Since I only had one afternoon to be a tourist in New Orleans - I decided to take an organized tour and learn some history. The horse drawn carriage tour had been recommended - so I decided to go for it! Our horse drawn carriage had 6 people on it. All of them were from California. My United States History isn't all that strong - so the significance of some of the places/event were kind of lost on me.

Tour by Horse Drawn Carraige

Earlier in the day I had tried to visit St. Louis Cathedral. However, I could not get in because a wedding was in progress. Turns out that if you are married in the Cathedral - the wedding is followed by a parade down Decateur St. The parade passed by just as we were pulling out for our horse and carriage tour.

Wedding Parade

Everywhere I went the streets were alive with performers and vendors. I could spend the whole day walking around soaking in the sites and sounds!

Street Performers

In amongst the festivities and merriment there were vestiges of Katrina.

Thank You Note In A Shop Window (click to Enlarge)

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