Friday, October 21, 2011

New Orleans - French Quarter

New Orleans - French Quarter
Friday, October 21, 2011

The blog writer is tired tonight. We left the west bank in New Orleans on the Algiers Point Ferry about 10:30 for the short trip across the Mississippi for the French Quarter and Canal Street area. The ferry is one of two free ferries that run continuously from 6:30 AM until Midnight. One is goes back and forth between Algiers Point and Canal Street. The second leaves from another point a bit more north on the west bank. The campground suggested the Algiers Point so we took it.  It took 10 minutes for the crossing. Nothing very exciting about the ride - it is free for pedestrians and $1 for cars. There were lots of people on bicycles and I don’t know what they paid. My estimate is 60 people and 10 cars on the ferry on our morning run. 
Our ferry for trip across in NOLA
We walked along the waterfront from the ferry station, near Riverwalk, towards the Jefferson Square area. Ben was the navigator saying he remembered the area from when we were here in 1977 with Jeff to see the King Tut Exhibit.  The riverfront is now a very nice park with benches and sculptures and even a few entertainers. We took some photos of the church in Jefferson Square and wandered down to Café Du Monde for coffee and beignets – yum, yum, yum! The place was mobbed. There were huge lines for take-out and people standing in line to pounce on your table when you got up – imagine it is worse other times of year.

We continued walking with a couple destinations in mind. First we came across the Jazz National Park Visitor Center and got the passport stamp. We enjoyed reading the menu’s posted outside restaurants considering what we might eat later. I know it sounds like all we have done is eat on this trip – but the cultures are so different and to fully enjoy and understand them we have to eat! We browsed around in shops and finally found the café where Jude Acers was supposed to be playing chess. He was not there yet (more on him later) so we continued on our way. We found the other National Park Visitor Center for the French Quarter and the War of 1812 Battlefield. The ranger was very helpful and gave us some good ideas for our trip to Venice (the end of the Great River Road) tomorrow. 

We finally settled on Bubba Gump’s for our lunch and had a great Caesar Salad and a Super Shrimp Trio or Something – coconut shrimp, boiled shrimp, and tempura shrimp with really good dipping sauces.  We split it all and it was the perfect amount. 

After the rest we continued our exploration. There were numerous artists, fortune tellers etc all around Jackson Square. We saw the Louisiana Museum was having a Katrina exhibit so we went through it and the Mardi Gras exhibit on the second floor. That was a treat – what elaborate costumes in some of the years past.
 Jackson Square
Street dancer interacts with children

Back down Decatur Street we went to see if Jude Acers was at his chess playing location – he was.  Jude was one of the Katrina evacuees from New Orleans that ended up in our Red Cross shelters in East TN when the government evacuated the last folks from the hurricane. He had lived upstairs in an apartment and did not want to leave but was finally forced to evacuate. He was put on a plane and did not know where he was being taken until he was escorted from the plane at Tri-Cities several hours later.  We had arranged for a 4H camp near Greeneville out in the middle of nowhere for this group. It was a rather remote location and for the city dwellers must have seemed like the end of the world.  Ben was helping that evening when the folks arrived and he and Jude struck up a friendship.  One request he had was for a New York Times – not common place in Greeneville.  I found him a New York Times a day or two later and also enjoyed getting to know him.  He was a world class chess player – and had played all over the world. He also staged expo’s where he played a number of people at one time. Long story short –he went back to New Orleans and now plays anyone who comes along the street for $5 a game. He is an interesting character to be sure.  We just wanted to say hello.  Jude was there playing chess. We had a short conversation, took his photo and he said put it up on the World Wide Web!    

We continued walking around the streets in the French Quarter and did a little shopping. Eventually we were tired out and headed for the Trolley and rode it back to the RiverWalk Shopping Center where I finally found a shirt to suit me. I know picky-picky!  Then we walked back a short distance to the ferry terminal. We just walked right on a ferry ready to depart for Algiers Point. This afternoon about 4 PM there must have been 200+ people and a line of way more vehicles than could fit on the ferry – what a change from the morning trip.
 Part of Mardi Gras Exhibit - costumes from the "blue tarp" ball held sometime after Katrina. In case you are not aware - homes needing temporary protection after damage - cover their roof with blue tarps.

We drove back to the campground – it was slow going on the Westbank Freeway. Ben says for 2 miles we were neck and neck with a dad, his daughter on his shoulders, walking on the sidewalk. In the end we think the dad won!  I noticed a sign the road was a future I49! They sure need something. We have now driven on this “Freeway” (US90) 4 times and there has been awful traffic each time. Not sure why it is called a “freeway” as there are traffic lights every two blocks and no limited access at all. It runs the entire length of New Orleans on the west side of the Mississippi. We will have to drive it one more time tomorrow when we leave.  

Supper was the leftover sandwich from yesterday and some restful TV.  I can’t emphasize enough what a great campground this has been. It has all they told us it would have – WIFI (just not strong enough for photos), nice restrooms, a free laundry, level sites, water and electric.  There are lots of big rigs here as well as tent campers.  They have nice playground equipment near each restroom and a wave pool and other water activities in another area of the park that we have not visited. Location wise it is pretty good – not perfect but for a huge city you can’t do much better.

Tomorrow we complete our journey on the Great River Road.  I believe it is about a 2 hour drive south from here and not much exciting along the way.  Each part of the journey has been interesting in its own way so I am sure tomorrow will be no different.  

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