BigWeather's Blog

April 4, 2014

Traffic Stopper

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

We woke up early (about 6a) and packed.  About 9a we moved our suitcases down to my parents’ unit and then headed out for breakfast and to do a little shopping.  We went to Croissant D’Or, a bakery on Ursaline.  It was OK, I had a breakfast sausage croissant, the kids bacon and eggs and hashbrowns.  Headed down Royal to visit the Historic New Orleans Collection and to do some shopping.  The Historic New Orleans Collection is in a neat old building and has temporary exhibitions on the first floor and a permanent collection on the second floor.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the permanent collection, but did enjoy the exhibition.  It was about the Boswell Sisters, a harmony group of three sisters that was really famous in the 1930s.  The group broke up in the late 1930s but sister Connee went on to fame as a solo artist and sang with Bing Crosby.  There was a good ten or fifteen minute movie in one room and then on the other side of the lobby a room filled with artifacts from the group like fliers, instruments, and Connee’s chair (she was paralyzed by childhood polio and a fall from a wagon).

Entrance to our unit at The Courtyard Inn

Interior of the unit

Sign for Croissant d'Or

Interior of Croissant d'Or

Fancy room in the building housing the Historic New Orleans Collection

The Black Butterfly was still closed, but James H. Cohen and Sons anitques was open.  That store was wonderful, it had coins from many periods (ancient Greek Athenian, recovered coins from Age of Piracy shipwrecks, and more modern coins) as well as many swords and guns from different eras.  They had some local-painted miniatures as well but I didn’t see any that really caught my fancy.  They had a Bank of Louisiana $10 bill from the early 1860s, its amount denoted by a Roman ten, “X”.  French for ten is “dix” — thus where “dixie” came from.  Interesting.

Walked the short distance to Cafe Beignet for some drink, then went through Jackson Square to Decatur where we went to Southern Candymakers and got some more pralines and other candy for the trip home.  It was right at 11:30, time to meet the parents at Magnolia Grill on Decatur.  I had bacon, fried eggs, and a hashbrown.  Addison had chicken and waffles but was disappointed to find out that the chicken was not boneless, he had hoped to make a sandwich of it.  The place was good, but unfortunately there was a very loud group nearby.  As we left it started raining (for the first time since arriving).  Genetta and Michelle went into a gift shop and, upon their return, we said farewell to my mom as she had to go to the doctor.

Final interesting (to me, at least) look at Saint Louis Cathedral

A building surrounding Jackson Square

The rest of us headed back to the unit.  At one point a (very) drunk lady walked into the street in front of a truck and stood her ground, saying that the truck was not allowed to pass.  He laid on the horn and she flashed him as her friends hauled her to the sidewalk.  Crazy town.  At the unit we moved the luggage to the curb and visited with dad until the shuttle arrived.

French Quarter buildings after a light rain

The ride to the airport was interesting, the driver weaved in and out of traffic.  Seems nobody in New Orleans uses their turn signals.  The flight to St. Louis (a surprise, as I thought we were flying through Florida) was slightly delayed but went off without a hitch.  When we landed it was a very chilly 37F (contrast with 70s in both New Orleans and Raleigh).  Made our connecting flight with ease, landing in Raleigh around 10:30p.  Got picked up by Adrianne and Chad and were home and visiting with the kitties by 11:30p.

Southwest plane at Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans

All in all, a wonderful trip!  We really lucked out with the weather and got to do a lot of fun and interesting things and had a great time with my parents.

April 3, 2014

$11.25 short

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

Slept in until 8:30a or so.  The ladies had a reservation at The Court of the Two Sisters on Royal for brunch while Addison slept in and dad and I headed to Cafe Rose Nicaud for some breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, and a banana) then to Cafe Du Monde via the Riverfront street car line.  At Cafe Du Monde we had beignets and frozen cafe au lait.  We then walked around Jackson Square a bit then headed up to Royal.  The Black Butterfly, the gift shop I had hoped to visit, was still closed — came to find out by talking with the neighboring shop’s owner that the wife of the husband and wife team that ran the shop had passed away.  Walked back to the unit.

Riverfront street car

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Exterior of Cafe Du Monde

Saint Louis Cathedral from Jackson Square

After rousing Addison and giving him time to shower we three headed to a newly opened (as of yesterday) restaurant called Dat Dog.  The building looked as if it had been there forever but had actually just been built.  We saw a can of “anti-graffiti” paint, turns out this $100 a can stuff is made of silicone and the paint doesn’t stick to it.  Learned that it took 20 cans just to cover the bottom floor.  It was very rubbery to the touch, which is to be expected as it was basically caulk.  Addison and I had pork hotdogs while dad had a duck hotdog.  Good food!

Dat Dog in Marigny

Headed back to the unit to relax a bit until the ladies showed up around 3p.  They had really enjoyed lunch and then taken a carriage ride from Jackson Square all the way to the Garden District.  Sounds like they had a wonderful time, the carriage driver (and his mule “Crawdaddy”) were apparently quite the character — the driver claiming that his house had no fewer than three ghosts.  They saw many famous people’s houses such as John Goodman’s, Sandra Bullock’s, and one of the Manning’s.  They also got out and visited one of the cemeteries.

Michelle and I let the kids rest a bit while we went a few blocks over to a nursery on Elysian Fields.  They had some really neat yard art, fountains, and even a nice bench but we couldn’t think of a way to get it shipped at reasonable cost to North Carolina.  Still it was an enjoyable way to spend part of the afternoon.  Headed back to the unit and left shortly thereafter for dinner at Praline Connection.  I had the red beans and rice and sausage again — it managed to top the first time I had that!  Wrapped up the meal with cheesecake topped with praline sauce.

Carriage on Royal near Courtyard Inn

Beautiful house in the Marigny (yes, this was in 2012's blog too!)

Water Lillies at the nursery on Elysian Fields

Iris at the nursery

Wrought iron grapes -- wait for it -- The Grapes of Wroughth

Red beans and rice and sausage at Praline Connection, yummy!

Headed back to the room for a bit before heading out one last time so that Michelle could get some hot chocolate at Cafe Du Monde.  We had a couple of beignets as well and I had another frozen cafe au lait (I know, I know — hey, it’s vacation).  We then went up to Preservation Hall at Saint Peter and Bourbon to stand in line for the 10p performance — our last shot before leaving town.  The line wasn’t long, thankfully, but we realized that we were $11.25 short of the three of us getting in to see the show as it was cash only and $15 per person.  I decided to stand outside and let the ladies go in and enjoy the show.  Four years ago we visited and Addison and I were able to watch the show but Genetta got a massive headache and had to sit it out.  It was really important that she get to see it this time around.

Saint Louis Cathedral at night

Stain glass windows of Saint Louis Cathedral

Pat O'Brien's, world famous for their Hurricanes (never again)

The usher / hostess / whatever saw me standing outside the building and figured out what had happened and asked me to come on in and see the show.  That was incredibly nice of her and she only asked that I tip what I had (knowing it was less than $15) to the band when they were through.  It was an amazing set, played by the Kinfolk Brass Band, and included many standards including of course Saints — the trombone, trumpet, and sax players even marched in a circle around the room through the crowd during that.  If you are ever in New Orleans definitely check it out, it’s an amazing hour of music in just this really cool setting, a dimly lit dingy hall.

Preservation Hall's sign

I thanked the lady again for letting me in then we bought some souvenirs (they took credit card for those).  Headed back out and saw a whole group of police on horseback heading to Bourbon to clear the streets for the night.  Later saw some obviously drunk people being hauled off to sleep it off.  On the way back we saw many familiar sites along Royal that look different at night including the statue at the rear of the church, many courtyards, and even noticed that the stained glass window at the top of the Cornstalk Hotel looks like an ear of corn.

Dramatic shadow

Painted soldiers in the Black Butterfly's window

Got back to the unit to an annoyed Addison (as we were gone later than he had anticipated) and blogged.  A great day!

April 2, 2014

It’s a Small World After All

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

We woke up really early, 6a or so, and got showered and ready for our 8a pickup by Enterprise.  They drove us in a big white van to their office on Canal Street just north of I-10.  The driver was really friendly and told us about the time he spent in Kansas City with relatives after the storm (people around New Orleans normally just refer to Katrina as “the storm”, not “Katrina”).  He said he only lasted until December but then decided it was too cold for him and moved back.  He and his wife have a duplex and relatives are always coming down to visit the city for a bit.  We got our car about 8:45a and set off on I-10, stopping in Kenner (just west of New Orleans) for gas and McDonald’s breakfast.

Just past Kenner we took I-310 south across the river and then took several back roads (including 3127, a neat road because it has both my wife’s and my birthday in it) to Oak Alley Plantation.  It was a beautiful drive, everything was so green.  We passed through a lot of bayou on the elevated roadway, many cypress trees wreathed in Spanish moss.  We spotted two bald eagles (one sitting atop a telephone pole, another in flight further down the road), a number of egrets (including five or six all sitting in one cypress), and even a roadkill armadillo.  One thing that is amazing about southeastern Louisiana is how quickly the city of New Orleans transitions to nothing but bayou.

Oak Alley Plantation is famous for the amazing Live Oaks that line the entrance from the Mississippi levee all the way to the front door of the house.  It doesn’t disappoint, as soon as we drove by (on the way to the parking entrance) it was jaw dropping.  Everything was so pretty as the azaleas were in full bloom.  Unfortunately my nose was noticing that and was running almost all day.  We started behind the house at the reconstructed slave quarters and learned much about the slaves that were on the plantation.  Oak Alley was a sugar plantation and the conditions were even more brutal and dangerous than at most other types of plantations.  They had a doctor on call that was renowned at being good at treating injuries — being good in this case was that he almost always resorted to amputation and he didn’t lose many patients during the process.  Egads.  They also buried people with their severed limbs thinking that they would be reunited with them in heaven.  We also learned about a slave named Antoine that was famous for grafting strains of pecan trees and creating a new variety with a very easy to crack shell that had more “meat” inside.  Finally, we learned that November and December were the roughest months on a sugar plantation as that was the time of the “grinding”, when the slaves worked 18-hour shifts seven days a week grinding the cane.  Horrific.

Entrance to Oak Alley Plantation

Rear of Oak Alley

Reconstructed slave quarters at Oak Alley

Live Oak branches touching the ground at Oak Alley

Ressurection Fern growing on the side of the Live Oaks

Side view of Oak Alley over the hedges

Another side view of Oak Alley

More of the Live Oaks, check out the massive root system!

Another shot of the entrance

Zoomed in at the entrance

Massive Live Oak and bench

Front porch of the house

We then got a tour of the plantation itself.  Built in the 1837 by Jacques and Celina Roman, a Creole couple, the home was magnificent.  We learned a ton of stuff about the family (his dad was the nation’s first two-term governor, she favored the French Quarter to living out in the country, they had six kids but three died very young, he died of TB and as she had no concept of budgeting as well as the Civil War the plantation was bankrupt by 1866, one of their daughters became a founder of the Order of Carmelites in New Orleans, etc.).  By 1925 the house had fallen into complete ruin with a hole in the roof and water pouring within, a group of bats in residence, and cattle stomping all about the main floor destroying the black and white marble floor.  It was bought, however, by a couple for only $50,000 and then restored for an additional $60,000.  After their death they willed the house to a foundation that opened it to the public in 1972.  The couple was instrumental in saving the defining feature of the plantation, the alley of Live Oaks, in 1927.  After the devastating flood of that year (the same flood that Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” is about), the Army Corps of Engineers raised the levees from 6 to 40 feet in height and wanted to clear the trees.  The owners argued that the house had never flooded, even in 1927, and that there was no need to cut them down.  Whew!

A couple of cool things about the house itself — it was made of Mississippi mud bricks but, due to all the leaves and sticks and stuff in the bricks they had to use plaster to conceal the rough surface of the brick.  Above the dining room table hung this large fan like apparatus that would help keep a breeze going and shoo away flies.  Those flies that didn’t take the hint were lured into a glass bottle that contained poisoned sugar water.  They had large silverware utensils to reflect their wealth and they had the spoons laid out such that the spoon back faced up because they had each of them engraved with their initials.  They paid $300 a week ($4500 in today’s money) to have ice shipped down the Mississippi.

After seeing the living room, dining room, and bedrooms upstairs we were led out to the balcony for a spectacular view of the front entry alley, then around to the back of the house for a view of the garden.  We then went down the stairs and saw an office in the rear of the house before heading back out to the parking lot and the car (a black Chevy Equinox).  Then drove back across the river and up Airline Highway (US-61) before hitting I-10 then I-12 in Baton Rouge.

Oak Alley's dining room

One of the bedrooms at Oak Alley

View of the entrance from the second floor balcony

Spanish moss on the drive towards Baton Rouge

We got off on Millerville Road and ate at the Chili’s that stands exactly where my elementary school, Millerville Academy, stood.  In fact, it pretty much sits where the geodesic dome that I fell off of when I was eight or so and broke my arm sat.  Had pretty standard Chili’s fare, one thing that was different is that they had these iPads on the table where you could play games and check out.  On the way out I looked north towards the neighborhood, Avalon, where I used to walk to Cub Scouts as a kid and checked out a still existing stand of clover — as kids we’d spend our recess catching bees with Frisbees.

Chili's on the site of my old school, Millerville Academy

Stand of clover at Millerville, years earlier I terrorized bees by trapping them under Frisbees

Left Millerville, turned on to South Harrells Ferry then Jones Creek and George O’Neal, entering into the back way of Shenandoah, the subdivision adjacent to the one that I grew up in from the late-70s through 1984, White Oak Landing.  We had to go that way (the back way) because the front entrance’s bridge over Jones Creek was being rebuilt by the DOT.  In addition to our old house, which was changed a bit from when we lived there with the addition of some columns, a few outbuildings, and of course different landscaping, we saw other buildings from my past.  This included the house where I first played AD&D with a friend (and heard Rush as the friend’s brother was into them).  I also remember playing through Infocom games including Starcross in their study.  We also saw where my best friend Dan Wardlaw lived (before moving across the street to another house).  That was also the house where I first saw cable and MTV — by then the Wards lived there and they subscribed to cable.  Also saw where family friends Mr. Harold and Ms. Helen lived as well as the other house that my family built (but never got to live in as we were moved to North Carolina a bit after its completion).

Back entrance sign to White Oak Landing subdivision

The Wardlaw's first house in White Oak Landing, where I first saw cable and MTV (after the Wards bought it)

Amite River at White Oak Landing, dad would park his VW Dasher next to the flood waters here when they'd rise to cover the street

The circle of Beech Harbor Avenue, with much more landscaping than in the past when we lived there

Our house in White Oak Landing from the late 1970s until 1984

Leaving White Oak Landing back through Shenandoah we proceeded to the house we first lived in in Louisiana on Parkrill Avenue.  I don’t remember a ton about that house, but it was the house that my brother and I tore up the sidewalk because it was cracked and we thought we were doing mom and dad a favor.  We also saw the school I first attended — I had no idea it was so close!

Our first house in Baton Rouge, on Parkrill Avenue

In fact, the thing that struck me most about the whole day was just how close together everything was.  Distances I thought were vast where way less than a mile.  Very strange feeling.  I enjoyed visiting the old neighborhood and Genetta even said she thought it’d be a nice area to grow up.  It was!

Headed back to New Orleans via I-10 across some beautiful bayou and right along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain.  Crossed back into the city and was able to return to the rental office with no complications — always a relief.  The same guy drove us back to our unit and talked of fishing with his Cajun buddies during the drive.  He said that they were the nicest people you’d ever meet but they could be hard to understand because they pronounced stuff differently.  He described a fishing trip with them as a “weekend of sitting in a boat saying ‘what?’ all the time.”

Railroad tresses and cypress seen from I-10 heading towards New Orleans

Bayou seen from I-10, note the cypress knees in the lower right

View of the Super Dome and New Orleans downtown

Shortly after arriving we all headed back to Marigny Brasserie and Bar.  Sadly they had a new chef and it wasn’t quite the same.  Still, bellies full we headed back to the unit and as my sneezing was as bad as ever I went straight to bed (hence the lateness of this blog entry).

April 1, 2014

Flying High Again

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

We woke up much earlier today as we knew we had a full day ahead of us.  Headed to the Cafe Rose Nicaud on Frenchmen and had bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast — my normal fare.  We then headed down Frenchmen to Esplanade and picked up the street car.  We all bought day passes for $3 each and rode the street car to Canal Street then another street car up to the St. Charles line (which has green street cars rather than the red found on the Riverfront and Canal Street lines).  Those street cars were packed, however, so we decided (OK, I decided) to walk towards Lee Circle and hopefully catch an emptier street car if possible.  That never happened.  The CBD of New Orleans is not a bad walk at any rate and the weather was beautiful — partly cloudy and 70s.  We walked past Lafayette Square as well, the location of free concerts every Wednesday.  We also saw some really neat old buildings and the Civil War Museum which is in this crazy brick building.

Street car interior

St. Charles street car

Lafayette Square in the New Orleans CBD

Neat old buildings in the CBD

Civil War Museum in that funky red brick chateau looking building

We arrived at the National World War II and D-Day Museum about 11a or so.  Since we had been walking and Addison hadn’t eaten that much of a breakfast we decided to make our first stop the American Sector restaurant.  It was a bit pricey but good fare, I had a French Dip with Creole Jus with some lightly salted chips.  Addison and Michelle had chocolate milkshakes that looked yummy and Genetta a chicken sandwich with three full-sized chicken breasts on it.  She had some S’more Pie afterwards that she thought was very tasty.  Dinner is probably quite good there, and it’s neat as all of the hostesses and waitresses dress in period 40s clothing.

World War II museum buildings

As we had been to the museum a couple of times in the past we headed straight for the newest building that had opened since our last visit in 2012 — the Boeing Freedom Pavilion.  I don’t know about it being filled with freedom, as such, but it was filled with awesome planes!  They had six World War II planes suspended in the building with several levels of catwalks with which to view them from several angles: a Corsair, Avenger, Dauntless, Mustang, B24, and B17.  Only the Thunderbolt and the Lightning were really amiss, and of course a B29 — but that would not have fit.  There were in incredible restored condition and accompanied by all sorts of neat artifacts like flight suits, logs, and the like.

Wide view of the planes on display, including a B17, B24, Avenger, Corsair, Dauntless, and Mustang

P51 Mustang

Dauntless (a dive bomber)

Cockpit of the B24 Liberator

B24 Liberator

The B17, “My Gal Sal”, has an interesting story.  It was among a very early flight to help out England but had crashed on an icecap in Greenland along the way.  The crew needed to get a propeller turning in order to operate the radio but the blades were dug into the ice and bent, making the propellers impossible to start up.  They used a hacksaw to hack through three of the blades on one of the propellers and got it turning, radioing in what had happened.  They then had to endure ten days on the icecap before a rescue operation was mounted.  The plane was largely forgotten until 1995 when it was salvaged.  A businessman in Ohio bought it and over many years a team of 23 worked every week (over 80,000 hours total) to restore it for display in an airport in Ohio.  That airport closed, however, and the owner decided to donate the plane to the World War II Museum.

"My Gal Sal", B17 lost on a Greenland ice cap during World War II

Also present were a selection of oral histories.  We all enjoyed listening to them, including a man who fought with my grandfather’s division, the 45th Fighting Thunderbirds, in Italy.  There was also this fellow that managed to take out seven pillboxes of enemy soldiers in four hours with not a scratch!  There was also a video playing every so often where several situations were presented by actors (two of whom were on Treme — Wendell Pierce and John Seda) and the audience got to choose A or B and compare it with what actually happened.  Really cool.

At 1:15p reported for duty at the USS Tang “Final Mission” interactive experience.  We were all given a station (Genetta and Addison were on the periscope, Michelle and I the torpedo launch mechanism).  They re-enacted their final mission, a five and a half hour engagement with a Japanese convoy off of China in eleven minutes.  It was really neat, and we (mostly) did our role correctly — I did manage to fire one torpedo early.  Oooops.  In the war the USS Tang sank 33 ships and was the most successful submarine of the war.  This being the final mission, however, it did not end well.  The boat was lost but nine managed to survive and were picked up by a Japanese ship (uh-oh) carrying wounded from the convoy they had just attacked (double uh-oh) and taken to P.O.W. camps and tortured.  Luckily the experience did not include that.  Very sobering.  The commander of the sub did receive a Medal of Honor.

Torpedo firing station at the USS Tank Final Mission experience

After a brief stop in the bookstore (where we purchased a book, a coffee mug for work, and another trinket or two) we headed back out towards the original building of the museum, the Louisiana Pavilion.  Along the way we passed the nearly finished buildings that will cover the European Theater (Road to Berlin, coming November 2014) and the Pacific Theater (Road to Tokyo, coming June 2015).  Something to look forward to when/if we get back down here in the future!

Looking at the rest of the WW2 Museum and the distant buildings of the CBD from the Boeing Freedom Pavilion

In the Louisiana Pavilion we tried out a new mini-exhibit that was a Pullman rail car and showed photographs and recorded thoughts of soldiers heading off to and returning from war.  It was neat.  We also decided to run through the entire exhibit space again as it had been a couple of years.  The exhibits cover mainly the Home Front, D-Day, and the Pacific War (including the dropping of the atomic bombs).  Lots of really cool artifacts, information, movies, etc.  Everything from an Enigma machine, reproduction of the wooden glider used the night before D-Day to land advance forces, steel pennies as copper was scarce, pictures of the campaign of deception the Allies ran prior to D-Day including fake inflatable tanks, etc.  There was a reproduction of the observation deck of a 55′ Fire Direction Tower that the Germans built four miles inland that could detect incoming invasion forces and direct fire onto them.

Imperial Japanese weapons and uniform on display at the World War II Museum

After all of that we checked a special temporary exhibition about the shameful interment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  Wrapped it all up by going up to a catwalk and checking out the coolest fighter ever built, the British Spitfire.  Visited the gift store and headed out.  The museum is truly spectacular, a world-class museum.  It is well worth the visit if you ever find yourself in New Orleans.

Underside of the Spitfire, the most beautiful plane ever made

Another view of the Spitfire, again, beautiful

Headed up to Lee Circle and managed to get a not-packed street car back to Canal.  We let the kids get some sweet tea and fries at McDonalds and then headed into the French Quarter on Royal Street hoping to get some beignets at Cafe Beignet.  Sadly they had just closed when we got there shortly after 5p wo we missed out.  Headed back to the unit for a little rest.  Addison was tired and Genetta had a headache so it was just Michelle and I heading out with mom and dad to a local very small eatery on Frenchmen called Adolfo’s.

Canal Street street cars

Court of the Two Sisters on Royal Street, French Quarter

Adolfo’s is a very small restaurant (maybe 500 square feet) at the top of a steep and narrow staircase.  Michelle had the flounder, mom and I peppercorn steak, and dad some mussels in marinara sauce.  Very excellent, as was (apparently) the mousse cake that Michelle and mom both had.  Afterwards we stopped by nearby Praline Connection for some sausage for the girl and chicken for the boy.  Headed back to the unit, watched Justified, and blogged.  Busy day tomorrow, early-ish to bed!

Adolfo's on Frenchmen Street, Marigny

March 31, 2014

Fish Tales

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

We woke up and got out fairly late (as is our habit, it would seem) and called upon Port of Call on Esplanade for lunch.  I’ve been there several times over the last couple of decades and they always deliver a decent burger.  The options are limited — basically a burger, cheeseburger, mushroom burger, or mushroom cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle.  No bacon or anything fancy.  Burgers are served with baked potatoes, not fries, on which they offer butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, chives, and bacon bits.  The place is neat, it really does feel like some dive a sailor would visit — dimly lit, uneven wooden floor, netting hiding the AC duct work on the ceiling.  I had a mushroom and swiss cheeseburger with a baked potato with cheese, chives, and bacon bits.  It was yummy.

Avast! There arrrrr great burgers at Port of Call!

We headed back to the unit immediately after to wash out and drop off the plastic Port of Call cups that Addison and Genetta got with their meals.  Almost immediately headed back to the French Quarter, walking along the river all the way to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on the far side (near Canal Street).  Along the way we saw a large tanker heading downriver as well as the impressive bridge spanning the Mississippi as well as a docked cruise ship.  The Natchez was also about to disembark and the area immediately around it was abuzz with activity.

Tanker heading downriver on the mighty Mississippi

Streetcar stop along the river front

Jackson Brewery as seen from the Moonwalk, the walk along the Mississippi

River boat Natchez preparing for its afternoon cruise

Impressive US-90 bridge across the Mississippi River

We purchased tickets for both the aquarium and an IMAX movie about great white sharks.  We saw about half the aquarium before the movie started and were pretty impressed by it.  First was a “walk through” tank presented as a Mayan reef — basically the Mayan part was just window dressing scattered about the tank and the other smaller tanks to be seen elsewhere in the exhibit.  Next up was the Amazon rainforest exhibit.  That one was interesting as they had the different habitats including the more upstream area complete with waterfalls and a elevated “tree top” walkway where we saw a few exotic looking birds.  They had piranhas, of course.  Next up were penguins, including a particular one that kept staring at a nook in the fake rock wall — guessing he was anticipating feeding time or something.  They also had the requisite anemone display with “Nemo” and “Dori” fish.  Soon after came seahorses, remarkable creatures, as well as a frog that had its hands held together like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

Entrance to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

"Mayan" reef tank

Beautiful exotic bird in the Amazon exhibit


Awesome black seahorse


As it was nearly 3p we got our hands stamped for eventual re-entry and headed out to the attached IMAX building.  The movie was interesting, if a bit loud.  It was in 3D but it wasn’t super annoying so that’s good at least.  It was about understanding and protecting great white sharks, a species that is apparently in trouble due to over hunting for their fins.

After the movie we headed back into the museum and enjoyed the rest of the aquarium.  There were a few tanks of jellyfish including a variety of “upside down” jellyfish that have their dome resting on the ground and their tendrils sticking up as well as a species that kept moving its tendrils such that it reflected light like some kind of string of moving bulbs.  We learned that electric eels that shock too much actually go blind due to cataracts forming in their eyes.  There was a tank with sharks and rays in them that represented the habitat around the oil rigs in the gulf as well as information on the artificial reef “balls” sunk in Lake Pontchartrain.  They also had a nifty diving suit that allowed the operator to operate for up to 72 hours in case of emergency and rapidly ascend if needed.  Additionally, there was information about the Lewis and Clark expedition and a white alligator.

Beautiful jellyfish

Dive suit allowing a diver to stay submerged for 72 hours if needed


Really neat fish scale water fountain in the aquarium's lobby

An exhibit also talked about wetland loss.  Eighty percent of wetland loss in the United States is in Louisiana.  The state loses an acre every twenty-five minutes, or 25 square miles a year.  By breaching levies in the delta the wetlands are able to be restored a bit as sediment pours through the breach.  After a quick stop by the restroom and the gift shop we exited the aquarium and walked up Canal Street, turning right on North Peters Street and proceeding past Jackson Square to Cafe Du Monde.

Exterior of the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Street cars on Canal in the later afternoon sun

Buggies parked in front of Jackson Square

We found a seat quickly at Cafe Du Monde though it took a bit before one of the waitresses spotted us waiting to order.  We got four orders of beignets (so, twelve total) and some drinks (I had cafe au lait, coffee with milk).  It was quite yummy.  On our way out we quickly watched the workers making beignets by cutting them out rapidly on a table then tossing them in a fryer behind them.  Headed into the French Market and bought some candy (including a few more pralines) at Southern Candymakers and also stopped by the Christmas store for Genetta.  Headed back to the unit and rested a tiny bit.

Interior of Cafe Du Monde

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Making beignets at Cafe Du Monde

About 6:30p the six of us headed off to Mona Lisa pizza just a couple of blocks away on Royal Street.  I had a garbage pizza (a “supreme” at Pizza Hut — ham, sausage, pepperoni, onion, green peppers, mushrooms, etc.) and it was excellent.  The garlic bread we had for an appetizer was great too.

Headed back to talk with the parents, blog, etc. but then decided to investigate some music that was coming from down the street.  Across from Praline Connection on Frenchmen Street there was a band playing for a couple of hours and the whole intersection was crowded with people watching, drinking, and dancing.  Just one of those things that happens in New Orleans that you see on TV but can’t believe really happens.  It does, though, and it is pretty amazing to see such a celebration of music at 10p on a Monday.  Wonderful.

Night-time street corner concert on Frenchmen Street, Marigny

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