Rebirth of a City

When Hubby and I travel, we often take a city tour to learn more about the place we’re visiting.  New Orleans offers many different types of tours, and it was hard to choose which one to take, but we eventually settled on the Gray Line Super City/Katrina Tour.

While sitting in the tour bus, waiting for a straggler to arrive, I watched as cars exited the riverfront area into the city proper.  All along the river, flood prevention gates have been installed, which can be closed at a moment’s notice, in the event the Mississippi threatens to spill its banks.

702 Flood prevention gates, N Front Blvd

I took these photos of the gates by our hotel on a previous day.  Hubby stood beside the gates to give a perspective on the height.

615 Crescent Park floodgates

616 Crescent Park floodgates

I found the tour guide, an older woman, quite humorous.  She had a droll wit that strongly reminded me of my mother-in-law.  At times, if I closed my eyes, I could imagine it was my MIL talking.  And like my MIL, she was a veritable fount of interesting facts.  While driving through the French Quarter, she explained the difference between Creole and Cajun.  Cajuns are from a French Canadian background, mainly Acadians, while Creoles mostly descend from the Spanish.  Of course, she doled out these little tidbits with a comical flair that I could never possibly replicate.

One of the famous places we drove by was the office of the legendary rock and roll pianist “Fats” Domino, in the Lower Ninth Ward.  Both his house and office were destroyed in Katrina, and he and his wife had to be rescued by helicopter.  The office has since been restored.

709 Fats Domino's house

We drove through a few Lower Ninth Ward neighbourhoods, which had been badly hit by the floods of Katrina eight years ago.  For the most part, everything has been rebuilt, but there are also many open lots where a home once stood and was never rebuilt.  Quaint, modest homes, most of them on stilts to prevent damage if ever there’s another flood.  Some of these houses are Brad Pitt’s Make It Right homes.

712 Lower 9th Ward rebuilt after Katrina

713 Lower 9th Ward rebuilt after Katrina

716 Lower 9th Ward rebuilt after Katrina

We saw a few abandoned eyesores where the people chose to walk away rather than rebuild.  Thankfully these weren’t plentiful.

725 Abandoned home after Katrina

This structure is a depiction of the flood water levels in the various areas of the Lower Ninth Ward.  The one on the right depicts a house while the poles on the left show how high the water rose.  Very sobering to realize the largest pole is as high as the house roof.

718 Depiction of how high flood water went during Katrina

In the following two photos you can see how much lower the homes (the same ones as in the photos above) are than the water of the Industrial Canal.  This is one of two levees that failed during Katrina, so you can imagine how that water gushed down and devastated the neighbourhoods below it.

719 Industrial Canal Levee

721 Industrial Canal Levee

Our next stop on the tour was at the St Louis Cemetery No 3.  This is where our tour guide explained about that incredible phenomenon called natural cremation that I’d spoke about here.

730 St Louis Cemetery No 3

734 St Louis Cemetery No 3

The structure on the left is a cemetery condo, where a person can rent a space for up to a year if needed.

737 Condo, St Louis Cemetery No 3

After leaving the cemetery, we traveled along the St. John Bayou to City Park.  This is where I learned the difference between oak trees and live oaks.  (Live oaks don’t drop their leaves in the fall)  Our tour guide told us that gondola boats are available to rent at City Park.  Shucks, if only we’d known that little fact during our earlier visit, BIL could’ve paddled Sis and me around the lagoons, while Hubby serenaded us.  Looks like we missed out on that bit of fun.

The 17th Street Canal levee was the other levee that failed during Katrina.  Since that time, there has been an impressive amount of work done to insure such a breach never happens again.  Large flood gates and pumping stations have been installed.

756 Flood gates and pumping station on 17th St Canal

But judging from the way the levee wall is leaning in this photo, more work needs to be done.  I imagine it’s an ongoing process.

746 Leaning levee wall on 17th Street Canal

The 17th Street Canal breach was approximately 1/4 mile long.  The repaired concrete, farther down on the left, is a lighter colour than the rest of the levee wall.  It looks relatively innocuous, yet what devastation it wreaked on so many people.

759 Levee breach at 17th Street Canal

760 Levee breach at 17th Street Canal

The other side of the levee reveals how the land here is also lower than the water level.

761 Levee breach at 17th Street Canal

The earthen levee by Lake Pontchartrain is massive.  It appears as if people use the top of the levee as a walkway.  It probably has a great view of the lake.

747 Levee at Lake Pontchartrain

748 Levee at Lake Pontchartrain

Lake Pontchartrain

751  Lake Pontchartrain

The West End Lighthouse at Lake Pontchartrain sustained serious damage during Katrina and has only recently been restored.

753  West End Lighthouse at Lake Pontchartrain

The owners of this house plans to never again be flooded out.  Notice the camouflaged army truck under the tarp in the “carport”.

762 House on Stilts

The last leg of the tour took us down St. Charles Avenue.  We got to sit back and enjoy all those lovely homes one more time.

766 St Charles Avenue

767 St Charles Avenue

I’d spotted the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Girls Academy the day we rode the trolley, but was unable to take a picture of it.  This attempt didn’t really work, it’s rather blurred and not framed well.  It’s a gorgeous facility though.

768 Sacre Coeur Girls Academy, St Charles Avenue

This shot, taken on St. Charles Avenue, of the pole with all the beads on it also didn’t turn out well, but I thought it was Mardi Gras cool.

772 Beaded pole on St Charles Avenue

We went through a small section of the warehouse district on the way back to the riverfront.  I liked this worn old building.

777 Warehouse District

I’m glad we went on the tour and thought it was worth the money paid.  Our guide was charming, informative and fun.  She taught us a lot about the history of New Orleans and especially the tragedy of Katrina and the wonder of the city’s rebirth.  We saw parts of town we’d have otherwise missed out on.  I only have one criticism of the tour.  The driver drove far too fast.  Not only do I like to watch the scenery go by, I take the occasional photo (or two, ahem, hundred).  Often, by time we looked at what she’d pointed out, it was already in the tail-lights.  Oh well, still a tour worth taking.

It was almost dinnertime by time we disembarked.  Hubby’s knee was causing him all sorts of discomfort and he wanted to go to the hotel for awhile, so we left Sis and BIL to wander down Saint Louis Street (famous for its selection of good restaurants).  After a rest and some pain killers, Hubby and I decided to return to Frenchmen Street, near the hotel, to eat rather than going back into the French Quarter.  Frenchmen Street, in Marigny, is the locals’ version of Bourbon Street, only on a much smaller scale.  It offers lively music both in and outside the numerous clubs.

621 Frenchmen Street

We stopped to listen to a high school brass band playing on a street corner.  Their enthusiasm might have outmatched their skill, but they were certainly entertaining.

779 Frenchmen Street

We had dinner at The Praline Connection.

783 The Praline Connection, Frenchmen Street

Hubby’s choice of Chef’s Salad surprised me, because I thought he’d pick a local cuisine.  Turns out he made a wise choice.  We shared the massive salad and it was exceptional.  For dessert, we shared bread pudding.  It was much different from the bread pudding I’d had before.  Different, but just as delicious with praline sauce and pecans on top.

784 Bread pudding at The Praline Connection, Frenchmen Street

Our last day in New Orleans ended like all the previous ones, with exhaustion and happiness. Jump to my wrap-up post HERE or start at the trip’s beginning HERE.


2 thoughts on “Rebirth of a City

  1. Pingback: The Year in Pictures | joyceholmes

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