06.09.2011 - 06.09.2011 78 °F
Well sad to say the road trip has come to end. We will be flying out in the morning. However, we finished out our trip in grand fashion. We absolutely all agree that New Orleans was the highlight of our trip and that we will be back here just take a vacation in this beautiful city one day. The architecture alone is awe inspiring. The atmosphere is so down to earth. It was a great trip and a great day today.
We started our day today at 8:30am. We were picked up today by Tours By Isabelle. We took a 4hr tour of downtown New Orleans which is the French Quarter area that everyone knows well. Canal street is the main street here in downtown and Bourbon street is the center of the French Quarter. We learned today that Louisiana does not allow gambling, but they have Casino's, including Harrah's here in the city. They renamed gambling to gaming, so it's legal. The driver quipped, "That's Louisiana politics". We also learned that New Orleans is called the Crescent City because the river is in a crescent shape around part of it.
After the tour of downtown, we started to go to the other areas of the city outside of downtown where all the hurricane and flood damage from Katrina happened 6 years ago. The downtown area was not hit that bad, but the rest of New Orleans was. 80 % of the city was under water for 3 weeks. Some places by as much as 10 feet.
The city of New Orleans is still missing 35% of it's Pre-Katrina population. For two years the street cars did not run. The strongest part of the hurricane only lasted about 1hr. The people here thought they were all set. About 2 hours later the levees started to break and you know the rest. The driver was one of the people that evacuated and lost his home. He said he had to live in a FEMA trailer for a few years. He said that it was so eerie because 24hrs before the storm it was a completely sunny day with no wind and no indication of what was to come. The city tried to evacuate people for days, but he said most people, about 80% of the population evacuated in the last 24hrs. The city offered no public transportation to evacuate, so many of the poorest residents couldn't get out. That lead to the lower ninth ward having over 800 of the 1,500 casualties related to Katrina. The driver also told us that many of the 22 pumps in the city were below water so they could not pump out the water. It took a long time to do search and rescue as well, because the Louisiana National Guard was in Iraq. They had to call in the National Guard from many other states. Even the SPCA helped with the search and rescue.
If you can remember from the TV coverage, there were X's on the houses with numbers above, below or on the side. We found out that on the top of the X was the date the house was searched. The left was the National Guard unit that searched the residence and the bottom was how many dead in the house. It was very sad to see the houses obviously, but one thing that really stuck out was how many houses had holes in their roof. The holes on these houses were, where people broke through from the attic to get on their roof because the water had come up so high, so quickly.. I don't think I did a good job capturing this in the pictures as were driving around in a van so I did not get too many optimal shots. However, you can see on one or two of the pictures the water marks on the houses. In addition there was a memorial erected in the city with blue poles that show the highest watermark at the height of the flooding.
The good news is the the City is coming back. Brad Pitt is involved in building houses down here and has funded through his charity 75 houses so far. In order to get one of these houses, you had to own a house for five years before Katrina. In addition Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis have teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for local musicians who lost their houses. You can see both of these types of houses interspersed in the neighborhoods right now that still have abandoned and boarded up houses.
After the tour, we took the Charles Trolley out to Lafayette Cemetery #1. The cemetery is very old from the mid 1800's and is in disrepair. As you know down here in New Orleans, they are below sea level so they can't bury the dead. The bodies will eventually come out of the ground, so they need to bury them above ground. You can see some good pictures here and they represent what most of the cemetery's down here look like.
After the cemetery we went to Johnny's PO-Boys and got ourselves some huge sandwiches, more than we could eat. We actually took some food with us and gave it to a homeless man across the street. Food was great and it was cool to finally have a PO-Boy as I have always heard about them.
We spent the afternoon shopping and taking pictures. We enjoyed a Caffe Au Lait and some Beignets at Cafe du Monde. The coffee was too die for, not kidding. While we were there a jazz band set up quickly on the sidewalk in front of the place and started playing. We had planned to only be there for 15 minutes but our stay was extended. We ended up sitting there for more than an hour enjoying the music. At around 6pm we came back to the hotel so Mia could swim in the pool outside on the 5th floor. It was very windy at the pool and the water was cold. We were the only ones out there and Mia was not happy that we did not swim with her.
We came back to the room, got ready and went out to dinner at a nice Cajun Restaurant named Mulate's. We had some grilled alligator for an appetizer, that Mia ate most of. She said, "I don't like this, I love it". We were shocked! We had some catfish and jambalaya for dinner and listened to a cajun band for a while.
It was a great trip!! Thank you for following along on our family's journey. Hope the commentary and pictures kept you entertained and helped you learn something new!