Our last trip before we headed home to Australia was to New Orleans. Leaving Panama City Beach driving west about a six hour journey, we could not believe how many bridges we traversed and how many miles over various waterways they took us. This photo I took from the car. we were on one Highway and there were cars travelling along these. Unbelievable. The highways we have experienced here have been amazing, obviously so much more detail and forward planning than we seem to have in Australia. Speed limits mostly 70mph (115kpm). We had travelled a couple of hours when we came across an accident on a bridge near a City called Mobile, traffic banked way back. As we had seen a sign that said Battleship Memorial Park we decided to veer off and visit.USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama. We paid to enter the Park and did a self-guided tour of the USS Alabama Battleship, the USS Drum Submarine and the Airforce Museum. We were so pleased we had been delayed on the highway as we found the Memorial Park really interesting and it highlights what the Americans and their Allies (including Australia) sacrificed during WWII. Also the ingenuity in construction of these ships of the Sea.
USS Alabama was commissioned 16 August 1942; decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington 9 January 1947. Earned 9 battle stars. Shut down 22 enemy planes. USS Drum- commissioned 1 November1941;ranks 8th in WWII enemy tonnage sunk, earned 12 battle stars; decommissioned at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 16 February1946
We descended many steep flights of steps and went down into the depths of the ship where we saw the galley, bunkhouse, messdeck, butchers area and the brig and much more. From up near the top we had an awesome view over the ship, could see just how powerful she would have been and how well equiped for warfare.
We also climbed down into the submarine but I had to come back up, became claustraphobic. Duncan walked through the length and depth of the submarine and took photos for me. There is an incredible array of aircraft dating back hundreds of years in the Museum all of interest and, had we had time, videos showing some of their escapades and triumphs. The aircraft, “Calamity Jane” used in WWII for long range bombing exercises has a permanent home at the Memorial Park.
Back on the Highway and as we approached New Orleans we realised how busy the City was. Duncan had printed up a map and directions to our Hotel but, with me navigating, took a wrong turn. Not to worry – into a Servo, got directions, and without too much difficulty found our place of rest for the next few days. Our first impression was of roads and bridges heading in every direction. The next day we got the shuttle bus to the Ferry across the Mississippi River. While waiting for the Ferry we saw a huge cargo ship and a Passenger Ship coming in to berth.
Once in the City we wandered along the Riverwalk past restaurants, shops, the Boats taking tourists for tours down the Mississippi River, and across past the Casino. We walked up to the beautiful St Louis Cathedral. This is the third Cathedral built on the site. The first was destroyed by hurricane and the second by fire. Across the street we saw the Cafe du Monde, the famous French Market coffee stand serving rich Creole coffee and delicious beignets covered with powdered sugar. We had been told this was a treat we had to try and it lived up to its reputation. I chose the coffee to be served in a souveneir mug and we each had three beignets for a cost of only $2.20. So funny to look around and see people with white powdered sugar on their face and, in my case, down my clothes. This treat has been enjoyed by generations of local people and visitors to the City.
The interesting French Quarter has narrow streets with quiet courtyards, legendary old buildings with laced iron balconies, restaurants serving all varieties of food and beverages accompanied by jazz musicians. This is also where the nightclubs and the seedier parts of New Orleans can be found.
While wandering around memories of a by-gone era can be seen with iron hitching posts for horses on the sidewalks. The streets are divided into art themes, antiques, mardi gras costumes and paraphernalia shops, street cafes, sweets chocolates and praline sales and production. Also late afternoon, early evening, sees buskers materialise all seeking the tourist dollar. It was all so different and we enjoyed our day immensely.
As part of our New Orleans experience we had dinner at the famous Gumbo Pot Seafood Restaurant & Bar. First off we asked what “Gumbo” is. This is a dish described to us as a soup based on a rue with additions of ingredients such as chicken, seafood, shrimp. Our meal was a little disappointing but we did enjoy the dessert of whisky breaded pudding.
The next day we took a bus tour of the City. This took us around the Old Quarter where there are magnificent homes, beautiful tree lined streets and a McDonalds which could not put the traditional red and yellow golden arches as it was too garish for the neighbourhood and was not in ambience with the traditional homes!! Instead they had a small low sign at the front of the building.
We were taken to one of the 3 Catholic Cemetries where people buy family cripts starting at $100,000. The Cemetary is huge. Our guide explained that people are put into the cript for 1 year and 1 day and after that the floor of the cript is lowered and the bones fall to the lower floor with the other family members. All graves are above ground because of the water level of New Orleans. So much more information we were given, too much to even attempt to give here.
Our journey then took us to the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005. We were astonished as we toured this area to see house after house still in disrepair after all this time. There are still marks on homes and buildings where searches were made to see if there were any people traped and/or injured. It is almost impossible to imagine the damage these hurricanes do particularly as the areas they hit are so densely populated.
Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey have dedicated millions of dollars to some areas to rebuild but there is still so much more needed. The homes that people have walked away from will be auctioned off to people who will have commit to rebuild within a certain time and the others will have to rebuild or lose the home. New Orleans is a flat area between a Lake and the Gulf of Mexico. The flooding during and after the Hurricane caused it to become like a huge bowl and so that was one of the reasons so many lives were lost and so much damage done.
Below is an example of one of the homes Brad Pitt provided huge amounts of money for in an area most damaged. It has an escape hatch as many people died getting up inside their ceilings only to find they couldn’t get onto the roof and drowned. Also below there is a photo of a row of homes built with money provided by Oprah Winfrey. These are very similar to each other but comfortable 3 bedroom homes. In the area is a playground and a music hall for the young folk.
I will leave the blog here as the next day we took another bus tour to see two very different heritage listed plantations.
We are now back in Australia but I thought y’all might like to share our visit to New Orleans. I will do up another blog on Silvernomadsinflorida and then I will set up another one for our journey in the New Year down the East Coast and to Melbourne.
Love to all from Duncan & Rhonda.