DOING THE BIG EASY UP RIGHT
By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers
Our stay in New Orleans has been a blast-and-a-half! I’ve talked about what makes New Orleans seem like it’s a different country, and now it’s time to acquaint you with a few of the events that have kept us busy.
I’ll start out with the three passive stops along the way. First, the World War II museum, where our visit began with a stunning 4-D movie narrated by Tom Hanks. I don’t
know if I’ve ever learned to appreciate the cost of our freedom in the lives and anguish of those involved as I did watching that stirring film.
Our schedule made viewing even half of the museum impossible. I’ve been there once before; Monique, twice, and there’s still lots that we haven’t gotten to see. We’ve met people who spent almost their entire New Orleans visit in “the D-Day Museum,” as it is called.
The previous day, Monique and I took advantage of a “free day” on our caravan’s rally to see progress being made in recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. To sum it up quickly, let’s just say that while there are bright spots, there are still tracts of land littered with the rubble from the ravages of the 2005 flood. Many of the very small cottages that people lived in before the storm have been replaced by brightly painted homes as small or even smaller than before.
There’s a lot more to that story than I can put in an RV blog: it’s one of those situations where you have to see it to appreciate it — in this case, the progress and lack thereof. We found this article in Saturday’s Times-Picayune newspaper interesting: http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/02/new_orleans_is_regaining_his_t.html
Continuing in the passive mood, we ventured a mile or so further down the road to the Chalmette Battlefield, site of the Battle of 1812, which took place in 1814 … as in, “In
1814 we took a little trip, down with Colonel Jackson down the Mighty Mississip.” Again, we began our visit to the National Park grounds by watching two excellently produced videos about the battle. We whisked through the museum and out onto the
battlefield to get a close-up view of where this bloody conflict was fought.
Time to change to active pursuits. There’s no better place to start than to mention the parades that lead up to the big day, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) on February 21 of this year. We’ve spent at least six hours awaiting and participating in parades, and that doesn’t include Friday’s encounter with a rag-tag parade by hundreds of immaculately dressed business and professional people escorted by a jazzy high school band. Following their traditional luncheon at several of the French Quarter’s finest restaurants, they wended their way through narrow streets lined with enthusiastic spectators over to where they would board the massive floats for their ride down the avenue and into the Central Business District of New Orleans.
The French Quarter, which is usually filled with gawking tourists year-round, came alive with a crowd of thousands begging the gentlemen for beads and other items of questionable value that they crave. Friday, it started to get crazy!
I want to reiterate, Mardi Gras is not dangerous. For those who don’t like crowds, there are miles of uncrowded places, not to mention parades in the suburbs and small towns throughout the Cajun Country of South Louisiana. Mardi Gras is a family attraction, a mecca for small children and great-grandmothers. Don’t let the rumors keep you away. On the other hand, if you’re into hard-core partying, this is the place to be!
We have thus far attended three daytime parades and three night parades. All fun, not only because of the spectacle, but also because of the parade themes and the way each “krewe” or carnival organization carries out its messages. They do it with fantasy, irony or like pages of a book. Adding to the appreciation of the parades was our tour of Mardi Gras World, where 90 percent of the floats are created.
Now, you may think that you’re only impressed by floats with flowers everywhere or papier-mâché figures. On our tour, we saw the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into each of the hundreds of floats that are used in the 55 local parades. To say, “it’s bigger than life,” is an understatement. Mardi Gras is a billion-dollar industry in New Orleans and this is the product that sells carnival to the world.
We’ve got many more parades on our schedule, so we’ll both have to wait to see what’s around the next corner.
Thursday when we were on our own, we squeezed into a tiny, crowded grocery store/deli to have a po-
boy. Compared to a sub or a hero, a po-boy is related only because of its shape. The standard po-boy (or “poor-boy,” named because it was originally just lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on French bread for the poor) is roast beef dressed. Asking for dressed will get you the thin, often choppy roast beef, dressed with thick gravy, tomatoes, lettuce and more. Variations on the theme are fish, oysters, shrimp, hamburger and soft-shell crab on French bread, another New Orleans specialty you won’t find elsewhere.
We’ve dined well and often since arriving: creole, Cajun, seafood, Mardi Gras traditional king cake … just to make it more interesting, our rally group had lunch at New
Orleans School of Cooking. We were entertained by the sweet little lady cook as she stirred her way to a delicious meal of corn and crab soup, crawfish etouffee, bananas foster and pralines.
Getting worn out from all the activity? Monique said she is getting, “Entertained to Death,” but enjoying the entire experience.
Earlier this week, I used photos to indicate that we visited plantations upriver from New Orleans as part of our trip. Each has its own story to be told.
I’ll finish up this edition mentioning one other activity – eating lunch aboard the Paddlewheel Natchez as it plied its way down river and then back to the city. At 200 feet deep and two miles wide, there is no other river in America more impressive. One other statistic you’ll find interesting: a million gallons of water passes under the New Orleans bridges EVERY SECOND. Calling it “the Mighty Mississp” is certainly appropriate.
So ya’ll, if you can’t get off the Hill because of the snow this year it’s a good time to start
planning for Mardi Gras 2013, scheduled for February 12 and about a week-and-a-half before.
Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill
Barry & Monique
© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved