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.
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.
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.
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.
We saw a few abandoned eyesores where the people chose to walk away rather than rebuild. Thankfully these weren’t plentiful.
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.
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.
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.
The structure on the left is a cemetery condo, where a person can rent a space for up to a year if needed.
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.
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.
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.
The other side of the levee reveals how the land here is also lower than the water level.
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.
The West End Lighthouse at Lake Pontchartrain sustained serious damage during Katrina and has only recently been restored.
The owners of this house plans to never again be flooded out. Notice the camouflaged army truck under the tarp in the “carport”.
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.
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.
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.
We went through a small section of the warehouse district on the way back to the riverfront. I liked this worn old building.
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.
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.
We had dinner at The Praline Connection.
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.
Our last day in New Orleans ended like all the previous ones, with exhaustion and happiness.