Travel day was uneventful, got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, quick flight, only an hour and a half.
I will say, I’m going to quit trying to upgrade the rental car when I reserve it, I chose an upgrade two steps up when I booked the trip, paid extra for that. I get here and am told I am going to get a Fiat, the smallest car they have here. I didn’t know if I could get both of us and luggage in it and still have room to drive. AND, I didn’t know if I could get my dad back OUT of it. So, I grudgingly paid an extra $10/day MORE to get a bigger car. What I ended up with is a Ford Fusion Hybrid. SWEET RIDE! I turned the key three or four times and nothing happened, until I finally realized, it starts electric. No engine sound. der. So, got it in reverse and the huge display in the middle of the dash lit up with a backup camera. 0_0 AND, it beeps something furious if anything is moving anywhere near you in back. The radio, excuse me, Entertainment system is being a challenge, I’m not convinced it keeps the same station playing from one day to the next. Everything is handled on a big touch screen display.
Checked into the hotel, it’s older and has a couple of tattered edges but it is very clean.
Using Foursquare, I found us a place to have dinner and we went over for an early meal. It turned out to be a very good choice. Called Gattuso’s it’s very much a neighborhood kind of place. Quite a few of the customers walked in from the neighborhood, parking is rare and challenging, I had to park on the street. Prices were reasonable and food was good.
Got up early enough, went to the breakfast provided by the hotel, good Southern food. Fluffy eggs, biscuits, sausage, gravy and grits. I skipped the biscuits and gravy but had a second helping of grits. Good coffee too, but I would expect no less. New Orleans takes their coffee seriously. Almost as seriously as Seattle.
We got things together for the first day’s adventure and headed to N’Awlins. Our destination for the day was The National WW II Museum. We got there shortly after they opened at 9, saw the movie Beyond All Boundaries and spent several hours there. We ate lunch at The American Sector Restaurant, by Chef John Besh. My dad said that was the best Reuben sandwich he ever had and I had an excellent roast beef au juice sandwich.
We finally ended our visit about 2:30. I will say that museum is designed for old people. Bathrooms everywhere, clear signage, and volunteers everywhere pointing you where you should go next.
I very highly recommend this museum as a stop on your plans for New Orleans and plan 4-5 hours to take it all in. Including lunch, we were there 5 hours and there were many narrations and recordings we didn’t stop and listen to.
Then, trying to get back onto the highway to get back across the river, we ended up taking a scenic loop through a couple of neighborhoods east of the French Quarter. Tiny, tiny houses, many of them shotgun style, with fancy woodwork on the eaves and porches. All kinds of bright colors too.
We made it back to the hotel and both had a nap, then headed back to Gattuso’s for a salad for dinner. Then drove around in the neighborhood in Gretna, same style houses.
Planning for tomorrow’s adventure, I found out the ferry from Gretna to the bottom of Canal St. isn’t running anymore so that blows my plans on getting into the Quarter tomorrow. We were going to take the ferry across the river and use the streetcar. Sigh. I will have to consult with the front desk people tomorrow.
I found an alternate way to get there, turns out the Algiers Ferry runs across to Canal Street, first trip across today was 10:45 and we were on it. First stop, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Nice, many tanks of fish of all sizes, one is so big, you walk through a tunnel under the water! Interesting seahorse and jellyfish displays. We were getting hungry so decision was made to eat there. On offer, Papa John’s Pizza. That’s the best they had? Humph. Well, one slice of greasy pizza later, we were refueled enough to move on.
Walked on down toward Jackson Square and on the way, we booked a city tour for tomorrow with Gray Line Tours.
We entered the Saint Louis Cathedral and were awed by the beauty of the inside but they asked that no pictures be taken so we didn’t.
Back outside, walking around randomly, we came to Bourbon Street. My dad asked that I take his picture by the street sign for proof that he was there.
After a couple of blocks, we had enough of all that and headed off back toward the River. After some more wandering around, it was looking like we needed a stop for refreshment. No, not that kind. We found PJ’s Coffee and stopped in for some iced coffee and a granita. Feeling better, more walking around. We came to Chartres House and I decided it was time for dinner. We sat in the courtyard and ordered crawfish etoufee. You should have seen my dad’s face when he took the first bite…his eyes popped open and this expression of delight came over his face. He decided that was one of the best meals of his life.
Then we headed back to the ferry for the trip back to Algiers where the car was parked. Got to the car and headed to the hotel and took the scenic route home. We even did a loop and saw some of it again on our quest for the highway the hotel is on. Finally found it and the hotel.
Tired feet and bodies, but we marked the day well lived.
We got a slow start today, didn’t have to be anywhere until 12. I found a better route to the ferry and it was a smooth trip to Canal Street. We had scheduled a tour of the city with Gray Line tours and most of it was looking out one side or the other of the bus windows except for getting out for a 10 minute dash through a cemetery and a quick cafe au lait and beignets at the City Park. The tour was 2 1/2 hours long and when it was through, we wandered along and had a late lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, just because. It was ok, overpriced for what we got and my BBQ shrimp had a terribly sweet sauce. Oh well, we paid for the name.
We walked down to Canal Street, then headed back to the ferry, then to the hotel, both tired.
We got glimpses on the tour of a lot of things but didn’t get a very good look at anything. I think the City Park would be a place to spend some time, it’s huge and we only skimmed across the bottom of it.
Dinner again at Gattuso’s, we split a sandwich and the waitress brought it to us on two plates with extra fries. Cheapest meal we’ve had so far, I think. This seems to be our go-to dinner place here. Good food, reasonable prices and decent service.
Got up, got moving, today is the day we have reserved for our swamp tour. After breakfast, we got in the car and headed south. We stopped at the Barataria Preserve and took a short walk on a boardwalk trail into the swamp. Temperature was just right, sunny, light breeze. Dragonflies EVERYWHERE. The water was very shallow, just a few inches, and covered with duckweed and other floating things. Cypress knees scattered through the water, birds calling and the occasional frog croak. Spanish moss in the trees.
Drove on to the swamp tour, we chose the covered boat over the airboat. Much quieter. We had a pleasant guide, he told us some interesting things and some jokes. We got to a certain place on the bayou and stopped, about three small-ish alligators started swimming to the boat. They were about 4 feet long. It turns out, they like marshmallows. They get a few as treats when the boat comes up so they know to approach the boat and be seen and fed. We stopped three times to do that and the last time there were a couple of really big ones. Well, they looked really big to me. The guide opened a gate on the side of the boat and got down near the water, when one of the gators got close, he hand fed marshmallows to it and even touched it on the head several times.
During the last part of the trip, he went to a locker in the back of the boat and got out a baby gator, live. We all got a chance to hold it. It was maybe a foot long. Yes, I did hold it. It’s skin was cool and smooth.
When the tour was over, it was only 2 o’clock and I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day looking at hotel walls, so we headed up the River road. Pretty much all you see is the levee on one side of you and houses, chemical plants or fields on the other. Not exciting, but at least interesting most of the time. Very occasionally, there are the remnants of a plantation. I didn’t know how far we would be going, but Oak Alley was the destination.
My dad was about tired of riding and we weren’t there yet but I thought he needed to see it. He loves big, old trees and I felt he needed an introduction to the Alley.
We got there, finally, and he was blown away. The alley that it is named after is a double row of 28 live oak trees that were planted 300 years ago. They form an alley a quarter of a mile long from the Mississippi River to the plantation house. The oaks were 100 years old when the house was built. More oaks were planted behind the house 150 years ago and are big enough to take notice of but they just don’t look grown up yet compared with the ones in front. There are a few buildings remaining from the antebellum days. The less permanent buildings are long gone though. Six reproduction slave cabins have been built on the site of the old cabins with information about how they lived. More buildings, on the other side of the “slave cabins” have been built to be a gift shop, restaurant, bar and B&B. yes, you can spend the night there. The overseer’s house is occupied by the great-nephew of the last lady to live in the house. We didn’t take the time to walk all over the grounds and went back to the car and told Garmin, take me home.
We had dinner again at Gattuso’s. This time a fried seafood platter that we split. Good, again.
Today is the last full day of exploring. We went to City Park today. Entered the park, drove a little ways in then came back to the New Orleans Museum of Art or NOMA. It is three stories and took us about three hours to see it all. Had lunch at the museum restaurant and went over to the sculpture garden, there were some interesting and fantastical sculptures mixed in among the trees and hedges.
My dad was quickly running out of steam so we headed back to the hotel for a nap and a cup of coffee, in that order. After we recovered a bit, I wanted to drive around Gretna a bit and take pictures. We drove to a park under the big bridges that cross the Mississippi River, took a few pictures, then drove to a cemetery near downtown and poked around there for a while. Then dinner at Gattuso’s for the last time then stopped and walked in a park between the two one way streets that is Huey P Long Boulevard. A variety of house styles, most were shotgun houses with a couple of other styles. A shotgun house is called that because it is a long, narrow building that consists of several rooms strung in a line with one hallway or set of doors in a line. The idea is you could fire a shotgun through the front door and it wouldn’t hit anything before the shot went out the back door.
Some big oak trees were in the park and we were delighted to find that the two biggest ones were part of a Live Oak Society and had names and girth measurements. The one with the most character was Grand Old Samuel.
Time to fly home today, yes, all the fun is over now.
We got moving slowly today but no rush, we don’t have to be at the airport until noon. We say good bye to Michelle who served breakfast to us every day and is our new best friend. I went to the front of the hotel to check in for our flights and the cartridge was out of the printer so I had to go behind the desk to print out our boarding passes. An exercise in frustration but finally got done.
Since we had so much time to kill, I decided to go the long way. So we exited the highway and drove down St Charles to look at the houses in the Garden District along the way. I had the route planned in my head but the road I thought I was turning on disappeared and turned into something else. So, we got to take the scenic route through Metarie. Still got to the airport in plenty of time. I had to turn in that car I was having so much fun with. Best upgrade I ever paid for.
Flying over the middle of Louisiana, it is very much a creation of water with the paths of ancient rivers with loops, cut offs and bends still visible in the contours of the land.
We reached East Texas and there were little squarish bare patches everywhere cut into the trees like wounds, I realized they were oil wells, pumping the lifeblood of America from the ground.
Lots of little puffy white clouds below us, nearing Dallas, they got a little bigger and we had to descend through them. Now, we are seated in the next to last row of seats on the plane, and any turbulence shakes the front and back ends of the plane much worse than the middle, right over the wings. And those puffy clouds look innocuous from the ground, but let me tell you, we got a nice roller coaster ride through three of them. Up, down, sideways, and one lurch up then down hard enough everybody whooped. Then we got under the clouds and just had the city turbulence to deal with. A successful landing, collected bags, and hubby was waiting at the curb for us.
We’re both worn out, my dad much more so than me, but it was a good trip, we saw many interesting things and had fun. And now I have one more set of memories with my dad to keep me when he’s gone.
W and B at Oak Alley