Saturday, 26 May 2012

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans ...

Our first day in New Orleans (N'awlins) began with a coach tour with others from The American Queen of the city and surrounds. We saw and learnt about the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Although much re-building has been done (Brad Pitt's 'Make it Right Foundation' and Harry Connick jr's contribution through Habitat for Humanity are doing fantastic work in helping with rehousing the population that want to stay or return. (Many people who were just renting have moved away to other parts of the USA and have re-built their lives). We also learnt about the early settlement of the city and the people who founded it and what the terms creole and cajun mean.

One stop was at one of New Orleans' cemeteries. Because of the wetness of the soil, heavy rainfall and humidity, graves are above ground in mausoleums built of  stone or marble. Once built they stay in the one family for ever and hold generations. Actually only four are 'in residence' and when another space is needed, the older ones are dropped down into a basement! All this came about because decades ago when the dead where buried in the ground, after heavy rain they often rose up again!

After being dropped off at the Westin Hotel, we collected our cases and took a taxi to our B&B which is not too far from the French Quarter and only about 10 minutes walk from the first of the restaurants and jazz clubs. As a result in the evening we walked up to Frenchmen's Street and ate at Maison. Very loud live modern jazz is not our thing, so next we went to The Spotted Cat for some traditional style jazz. It is enormously popular, seats are very limited so most stood - or danced - to the great sounds. The singer was a young, heavily tattoo-ed woman called Meschiya Lake. A nearby couple (Texan) were so happy to meet Aussie visitors to N.O. that they bought us a CD of Meschiya's music. People here overwhelm us - they are delighted that people travel so far to visit!

On our second day, we took a carriage ride around the city - the carriage pulled by a mule. We heard some more history and some very interesting stories about the city over the years. The streets in the French Quarter are narrow with houses/businesses built in typical New Orleans style - French with Spanish influence reflecting the early settlement of the area. Everywhere music is being played all day and nearly all restaurants in the evening have a jazz band playing. We had an evening meal at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe with a table right beside the band and it was fantastic - both the meal and the music.

The food, too, was a delight - we tried grits (a bit like porridge), crawfish, po-boys (similar to Subways), pulled pork, pecan pie, bread pudding, key lime pie and beignets amongst other dishes. New drinks (to us) tried were a Hurricane for Peter and a Mint Julep for me - delicious!Walking, sitting in the park people-watching or riding around the city by public transport, New Orleans delighted us and we wished we had a longer stay.

Next stop - Atlanta - travelling by the Crescent train.

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