The soul of America!

Trip Start Jan 08, 2010
Trip End May 31, 2010

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De La Monnaie

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Friday, March 26, 2010

Here we are in New Orleans.  You can't go to New Orleans without experiencing the paddle wheeler boat ride down the Mississippi River.  The paddle wheeler "Steamboat Natchez" is the only authentic steamboat in New Orleans.  We took the 2 hour steamboat ride to savour the romance and beauty of New Orleans.  We walked on all 3 decks of the stern wheeler, enjoying the narration by a professional guide and listening to jazz music.  The cruise began in the French Quarter, past the Chalmette Battlefield where Jean Lafitte and his buccaneers joined forces with Andrew Jackson to defend the city against the British in the Battle of New Orleans.  As we waited to board the steamer, we were entertained by its organ steam whistles.  It was nice but a little bit too loud.  From the river boat's top deck, we could see St. Louis Cathedral at the back of Jackson Square, the statue of Andrew Jackson in the centre of the square, and the city's skyline.  During the ride, we learned about the dikes that run hundreds of miles along both sides of the river to control flooding.  The Mississippi River is several feet above sea level while New Orleans is six feet below sea level (making flood walls necessary).  The Natchez was a great way to experience 3 unique New Orleans traditions at once.... great food, soothing jazz and the mighty Mississippi River!

We definitely had to play the visitors role and stroll through the French Quarter.  Some of the 3 city's best restaurants are found here.  The market is on 5 blocks with retail and dining, live jazz,  zydeco, Cajun and New Orleans Brass band.  Rock, swamp pop, contemporary jazz and blues are also spread throughout the city.  There's no better place to enjoy live music than New Orleans.

President Andrew Jackson (1828 - 1836), hero of the battle of New Orleans, advocated the establishment of a mint in New Orleans to help finance development of the nation's western frontier.  The New Orleans mint is one of Louisiana's most intriguing landmarks.  It's a great museum now.

We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 hour narrated van tour of the city.  We drove by Nicholas Cage's 3 story house which is located just a block away from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's house.  Cage is here filming his new movie " Kick Ass" but we didn't see him.  Also Kate Hudson was here filming Earthbound".  No luck seeing Kate either.  Sandra Bullock has a home in the French Quarter that she lets charity groups use while here.

We drove around the Garden District, 9th ward, cemetery and devastation from Katrina.  New flood gates and armoured levees have been installed to protect New Orleans from winds and strong storm surges.  At the cemetery we saw above-ground tombs. Good use of space.
New Orleans has 2 important streets.  Bourbon Street is a famous and historic street that runs the length of the French Quarter.  It is the cultural hub of New Orleans.  It has many restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.  Courtyard and balcony dining are quite common here.  The street is closed off at night for walkers to use the streets freely.  Royal Street is closed during the day so visitors and locals to create a pedestrian mall.  Street performers are set up on these streets. 

The Imax presentation of "Hurricane on the Bayou" was exceptional!  The story was told on a 50 foot 3D screen portraying the wetlands of Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina.  It showed Katrina's powerful effects on the wetlands, call to restore Louisiana's wetlands, rebuild New Orleans and honour the culture of the city.  Meryl Streep was the narrator and the soundtrack was driven by jazz, blues, Cajun and gospel.  It was a profound celebration of the city that has been called the "soul of America." 

On our last day in New Orleans, we decided to attend a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking.  We made corn and crab bisque soup, shrimp creole, bread pudding and pralines.  While we were preparing our foods, we enjoyed local beer (Abita).  We not only prepared a complete dinner with one of New Orlean's expert chefs, but we also sat down and enjoyed eating the meal we created. It is a "ga - ron - teed" good time for all. 

We're off today to friends (Joe and Roberta) of ours in The Villages, Florida.  See you there.
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Norm and Sharon on

How many dikes do they have running up and down the levee? Get it?

Looking forward to some creole cooking!! Have fun!

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