Our fifth wheel and the truck

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Alligators and other interesting events.

How can something so good keep getting better? Hi y'all. This is a question I have to keep asking myself at the moment. And do I have an answer? No, not yet and probably won't have either. And what has happened this week to raise such an issue? Well you will just have to read on to discover what I got so excited about! Enjoy!

The week started out with us firmly entrenched in New Orleans (NO) and thoroughly enjoying all that N'awlins as to offer.

As I mentioned last week, everyone has to have coffee and beignets at the Cafe Du Monde which has been around for 150 years. So off we went to further explore NO and to take a tour. We started out with the required coffee and doughnuts at the Cafe Du Monde however I have to admit that while the coffee (which contains chicory) was good the beignets were not as good as the ones we had before but eh - it is a requirement of all tourists, right?

We continued to explore NO on foot and made our way to the wharf where we were going to take a cruise on a paddle steamer on the Mississippi River - another essential experience for all tourists. The cruise took us past many Katrina ravaged areas that have still not been removed or repaired. The tour ended at a battlefield where the residents beat the British. Don't ask for more details, it was freezing standing out in the middle of the battlefield and I wasn't listening attentively. Sorry to those of you who wanted to know all the details!

We stopped off at a rather nice restaurant in NO before going back to the RV park. We had a lovely dinner and even had a taste of alligator. Two samples - one breaded and deep fried and one grilled with some spices. The deep fried one didn't have much taste and because of the spices, the other was difficult to taste and was a bit chewy so I will reserve my judgement on the alligator until I can taste some more.

The shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 8.00pm outside the restaurant and of course it was raining and cold and it didn't arrive. There were eight of us left standing on the side of the road - not happy campers at all. We waited till 8.30pm and then decided to get 2 taxis to take us back. Unfortunately for us, like in so many countries, the taxi driver couldn't speak very good English and didn't know where to go so we got lost!!! Driving through some very dicey areas, no street lighting with a taxi driver who doesn't know where he is going! Made for an interesting end to a lovely day.

The next day we all went back into NO and had breakfast before wandering around some more. There is just so much to see in the city. We discovered a street that was predominantly antiques and art galleries which of course Norm and I love browsing. Margaret and Murray you would just love it!

After wandering around for a while we went to a restaurant renown for their muffelettos! (Not sure of the spelling) What on earth is that I hear you say. Well it is a giant sandwich with pastrami, ham, salami and salad with fries on the side. When I say it was a giant - I am being generous - Norm and I ordered one between us and still couldn't eat it all. There was about two inches of meat slices in it!!!! Tasted wonderful but, oh boy, BIG!!!

From there we rolled ourselves up the street to the omni theatre to watch a documentary on Katrina. I didn't realise, but one of the main reasons for the damage to NO was the degradation of the bayous around the coast. Once a hurricane (like a cyclone in Australia) hits land it gradually loses its strength and ferocity and with the lose of bayous the coast line of Louisiana is considerably nearer NO than it used to be. Much of the damage to the bayous is as a result of the levy system built down the Mississippi to stop the flooding of farming areas which results in the draining of the bayou environments. A very interesting documentary and certainly raises some vital environmental issues for the people of Louisiana.

After the documentary we drove over the Pontchartrain Causeway. I have already said previously that the Americans do some things really well and their engineering feats with bridges down in the south is awe-inspiring.

The Pontchartrain Causeway crosses Lake Pontchartrain from north to south and is about 23.5 miles long!!!! And given that there is no rock on which to sit the footings of the bridge this is an amazing feat!

From the Causeway we headed back to our RV park but did a detour into the Fontainebleu State Park! Who would have thought that such a little detour would result in such an amazing experience?!!!

We went into the park centre and had a look around and spotted an alligator in an aquarium. We got to talking to the ranger about him and he took him out and was standing holding him when he asked if I wanted to hold him!!!! And of course I said no!!! NOT! So he told me how to hold him and then I got him! Did you know that under an alligator's bottom jaw is the softest spot and even an adult gator keeps that really soft spot? It was just brilliant and Steven the ranger was excellent, until he tapped the gator on the end of its snout and I nearly lost it! Seriously though, Steven was probably one of the best rangers we have come across. He took us for a walk (with him carrying a telescope) to show us a Brown Eared Owl sitting on a nest in a dead Live Oak tree! You can see by the photos it was difficult to get a clear photo. Thank you Steven, you were awesome!

Thursday morning we said goodbye to Judy and Pete - AGAIN! But we know that we will meet up with them again in Alabama so it is really only, see you later!

Karen, Rick, Norm and I decided to have an easy day of it so we took a drive down to Venice which is one of the southern most tips of Louisiana. The land use down this peninsula was very varied. It included - cattle farming, oil refinery, orchards, vegetable gardens, shipping along the levy and of course the fishing. It was interesting but not very exciting but as we wanted a quiet day I guess I can't complain.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Louisiana but it is time to move on again so we headed for Mississippi. Karen and Rick are heading back to Texas so we wish them a sad farewell but know that somewhere, sometime we will meet again soon. Take care you guys - we have had a wonderful time and we will miss you both.

Not to get too philosophical but we are leaving NO just before Mardi Gras and while we are going to miss it I have come to the understanding that while we are going to miss things if we move, if we don't move we will miss things up ahead! I hope that makes sense to y'all!

On advice from Pete we stopped off at the Mississippi Welcome Centre and were just so pleased we did. The Centre is decorated in Mardi Gras colours with some gorgeous outfits.

Also at the Welcome Centre is the Stennis Launch Pad. This is the jump off point for a tour of the NASA Stennis Space Centre. This is the testing area for all the engines that are used in the space program. We had a great time and it was really interesting to see all the test towers and the museum. Check out the very different type of photo of Norm and I in the museum. Good for a giggle!

We took the scenic route along the Gulf Coast from the Welcome Centre to the RV park which was a bit of an eye opener. White sandy beaches (reminded me of home!), beautiful new homes overlooking the water and many vacant blocks for sale with sometimes nothing left or only a concrete pad left to indicate that pre-Katrina there were houses there. Apparently some insurance companies are refusing to provide hurricane cover, so many people can no longer afford to rebuild their homes. When I commented to one local that Gulfport, Mississippi seemed to have been more successful in the cleanup after Katrina than NO he replied that NO suffered most of their damage as a result of the levies being broken and the town being flooded. Gulfport on the other hand was hit by the hurricane and a 30ft wall of water that flooded the town, destroying so much in its wake and then receded, taking much of the debris with it out into the Gulf. He explained that bulldozers piled much of the rubbish into piles for burning and what couldn't be burnt was then removed, so the cleanup was relatively easy. There is still evidence of the damage with some buildings still boarded up and fenced off.

We went for a drive along the beach on Sunday and made a stop at an interesting site. We couldn't figure out what it was until another local explained that it had been a pretty exclusive casino with a marina full of cruisers and sailing boats. And what is left - nothing but some paving and a lighthouse. It is impossible to imagine the forces of nature that could cause such devastation unless you have lived through it.

As I type this, I know that perhaps the strongest cyclone in Australia's history is currently threatening Queensland and my heart goes out to everyone who is there or who has family or friends being threatened. As if Queenslanders haven't had enough problems with the recent floods now they are under a new threat. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

We only have a short stay in Mississippi as we are heading to Alabama on Monday. This is where we will again catch up (literally) to Pete and Judy at the Escapees Park in Summerdale.

Wow, it is only Tuesday and I have nearly finished this week's blog. Wonders will never cease! Just have to put up some photos and I will be done.

Please take care of you and yours our dear family and friends. You are always in our thoughts and prayers.

Until next week - adieu.

Our love and hugs to everyone.

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