DOING THE BIG EASY UP RIGHT

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

In the World War II Museum, we spent this visit on the Pacific side

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 Many of the very small cottages that people lived in before the storm have been replaced by brightly painted homes as small or even smaller than before.

Lots of signs of devastation remain, but renovations indicate a bright future

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

Cannons on the Chalmette Battlefield

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

Domino Sugar Refinery Just Outside the city -- 2nd largest in the world

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.

Gentlemen and ladies enjoy the fun put on by the Krewe of Hermes. Thousands crowded into the French Quarter to see the walking parade and catch a few beads

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!

TOP - night parade; CENTER LEFT - children in their ladder seats; CENTER RIGHT -flambeau carriers light the way; BOTTOM -walking through Mardi Gras World

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-

At left, savoring a shrimp boil in the Rally tent, and Monique orders a po-boy in a French Quarter grocery/deli

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

Getting entertained and well fed at the Cooking School

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.

Rollin' on the river

So ya’ll, if you can’t get off the Hill because of the snow this year it’s a good time to start

St. Louis Cathedral, oldest in the New World, and the business side of New Orleans

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
NeverBoredRVers@gmail.com

Visiting New Orleans -- a noble pursuit

© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved

Categories: 2012 Mardi Gras in New Orleans, On The Road | Leave a comment

OUR MARDI GRAS ADVENTURE – DAY 1

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers   Day 1 – We’re in New Orleans, about to experience one of the world’s great annual celebrations, Mardi Gras.  We arrived here two days early to get settled and meet some of the 44 other couples that signed up for an RV rally.  More on that in a minute. Our group’s introduction to the Mardi Gras season Sunday was beautiful, a bit chilly, but when the sun smiled on us, it couldn’t have been much better. Before I continue, I want to clarify something.  Participating in the revelry in New Orleans is not dangerous.  Some places in the city do get crowded, but most viewing areas along residential streets are family-friendly.  On Mardi Gras Tuesday (February 21, this year) and the weekend preceding it, the city swells to a million people.  It’s fun, and considering the number of people over-indulging, it’s unusually safe and fun. Crime?  Every city faces it, but none of them have the high level of crowd control and crime deterrence that New Orleans has and incidents are relatively rare.  THAT’S WHY THE MILLION PEOPLE RETURN. A rally is similar to a caravan.  However, instead of moving from location to location each day or two, in a rally, we all settle into one park (a state park this time) and are bused to events – and there are dozens on the schedule over the 10-day urban adventure. This past Sunday, we traveled across the mile-wide Mississippi River from the park to “the Avenue,” which all N’Awlins natives know as St. Charles Avenue, one of the most stately, mansion-lined residential streets in America.  We positiioned our folding chairs along the parade route, got ready for the King of Carrollton’s float and were not disappointed when it rolled toward us a few minutes later. We love Fourth of July in Idyllwild, but Mardi Gras parades are not like any others you’ve experienced.  There is the splendor, of course. Masses of folks line the streets … but that’s where the first difference shows up.  Where else do you see children in homemade seats atop folding ladders? Where else do you see so many parade-watchers wearing silly hats?  When the parade arrives, that’s when all hell breaks loose.  At no other parade venue do sensible, sedentary, normal-type citizens jump out of their chairs to vie for the cherished beads and other items thrown from floats. For Sunday’s parades, we boarded buses mid-morning to position ourselves early with ample turf from which to compete with cute 5-year-old towheaded children and grey-haired great-grandmothers for Mardi Gras beads, cups and stuffed toys, etc.  Don’t be accusatory!  It’s part of the ritual accepted by even the weakest of the species along the route. Each parade is manned by a “krewe,” the local name for carnival organizations, as in the first parade our group experienced, the “Krewe of Carrollton.”  Krewe members are mostly masked and wearing costumes that carry out the theme of the float, which helps carry out the theme of the entire parade. All that is very interesting, of course, but when you’re trying to catch beads, it’s hard pay attention to any of it.   In the second of Sunday’s parades — the Krewe of King Arthur — floats depicted “King Arthur Celebrates the Louisiana Statehood Bicentennial.”  The theme is lost to many concentrating on the next float approaching their viewing spot.  The krewes take a lot of time and go to a lot of expense to explore the theme.  On the ground, however, probably only a small percentage even realizes there was a theme. Members of our rally “krewe” got their first glimpse of what Mardi Gras is all about. I’ll mention here that I spent the first two-thirds of my life in New Orleans.  When I’m asked where I’m from, it’s always New Orleans.  The Crescent City has a culture all its own, and I am still part of that culture.  After that statement, Monique and I differ on the “where we’re from” explanation.  Monique says we have a cabin in on a mountain in Southern California; I say we travel full-time. Monique is experiencing her first Mardi Gras.  She liked it, but I think the most memorable part was eating beignets (famous New Orleans powdered-sugar-coated donuts) at a restaurant a few feet from our viewing area. It was when we climbed back into our travel trailer at about 4 p.m. and she spread our “loot” out on the floor that she was struck by the glittering fun and excitement of Mardi Gras.  And that’s just the beginning. Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill Barry & Monique NeverBoredRVers@gmail.com   © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

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THE HOME THAT IS NEW ORLEANS?

Magnificent Oak Alley Plantation, 50 Miles Upriver from New Orleans

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers

I’ve always considered New Orleans to be a culture much more than just a city.  Over the past three days, we were immersed in that culture. First, however, let me explain just a bit about the scope of what there is about New Orleans that separates it from other cities (albeit, many with their own cachet).

Music on Royal Street in the French Quarter

Because of its location at the foot of North America’s greatest river, it figured prominently in the Revolutionary War (site of the War of 1812) and took fire from the guns of Admiral Farragut as his gunboats passed by the city during the Civil War, and I might add that my Air National Guard unit had aircraft flying 24/7 for many years as a deterrent against possible attacks launched from Cuba. The New Orleans area played a role in the space program as the home of the Michoud facility where the huge rockets were assembled. My family’s business for many years in New Orleans was importing coffee from South

Enjoying the Music

and Central America.  I think I heard a tour guide say it’s still second in the nation in total shipping tonnage.  The vast antebellum (pre-Civil War) sugar cane fields grew the area’s greatest crop, supplanted by rice and seafood.  It sits at the nave of the Gulf of Mexico’s waters polka-dotted with offshore oil rigs. It’s where Jazz was born and the regions in and around the French Quarter continue to spawn many of the world’s favorite musicians.  There’s a New Orleans sound in pop music that’s unmistakable. New Orleans is undoubtedly one of the most sports-crazy metropolises in the world. “Who-Dat” Saints fans are as raucous as they come.

Guide Jim Besse Gives His Rendition of New Orleans History

N’Awlins has come under French, Spanish, English and American rule, and probably never without conflict, which has added to the rich history … like seafood and andouille in gumbo.  Gumbo — we had some at Oak Alley Plantation Tuesday, plus crawfish etoufee,  jambalaya, bread pudding with rum sauce – and that was a day after our rally group got a true taste of New Orleans at a lavish buffet in the French Quarter’s Court Two Sisters. One more important point:  The effects of Hurricane Katrina, which skirted to the east of New Orleans in August 2005, is evident just about everywhere in the city outside of the French Quarter and business district, which escaped devastation, except for workers being homeless and often forced to relocate.  When a 20-foot surge caused the levees to breach, flooding most of the city and its suburbs, a new history of the city began.  I’ll give you a bit more about that in an upcoming edition of this blog. I don’t usually dwell that much on the specifics of places we visit, but I’m setting you up for our adventures in “the Crescent City,“ a.k.a. “the City that Care Forgot,” a.k.a. “The Big Easy,” many other a.k.a.s. A day after members of our group were introduced to the first parades of the Mardi Gras season last Sunday, we

All Decked Out for Mardi Gras

boarded luxury buses for a tour of the city, followed by a walking tour of the historic French Quarter. As regular readers of our blogs have learned, we are not in the business of spouting out statistics and historical details.  If you find our blogs interesting, we hope you’ll put the area on your bucket list of places worth visiting. My point is that I’m not going to bore you with dates and statistics that you can find on Wikipedia and a thousand other places.  Like a house under construction, all those separate parts are assembled into a home, which the residents appreciate as a place of relaxation, safety and good feelings.  They forget about the sticks and mortar that keep them safe.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde

I guarantee, you won’t know New Orleans by reading about it.  Tourists become enchanted with the almost 300-year-old city by walking its streets, eating “po-boys” in its restaurants, talking to the locals, reading Pulitzer Prize-winning “Confederacy of Dunces.”  You have to be here to soak up that culture I mentioned at the beginning of this article Rather than talk you though some of our experiences, I’ll let a few pictures provide a quick glance of what our eyes have beheld.   It’s a whirlwind of events for us, things many locals might do over years of living in the city, but, like many residents of most towns, they never get around to doing it all.  I’m finally taking the plunge.

One of New Orleans' Historic Above-Ground Cemeteries

Happy RVers, but At Home on The Hill Barry & Monique NeverBoredRVers@gmail.comP.S.  I’d appreciate your comments to this and previous blogs on this site. © All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

One of the Endless Line of Homes Along St. Charles Avenue

Balcony Treatment

On Tour at the Laura Plantation

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