Monday in the Crescent City

Our first full day in the Big Easy!

We were up early and couldn’t wait to get down to Café du Monde. A brisk seven block walk and there we were,settled at table, almost drooling, awaiting our beignet and Café au lait. We savored every drop and bite, leaving with only a small amount of powered sugar decorating our clothes.

Then it was time to walk it off. We cover four or five miles in all, I think. Lots of sweet little neighborhoods with houses painted three to five colors each. Two story fancy houses next door to worn shotguns. Houses splashed with red or orange or purple. New Orlinians know how to use color!

Sidewalks were mainly the cement variety, but some had been bricked and others had tile that spilled off a porch and down the stairs to the street. Lots of holes, missing tiles and overgrown planter boxes made waking a bit of a challenge, and I know I missed some sights because my attention was so focused on where I was putting my feet.

Back to the hotel to relax a bit and cool off. Then, after the morning’s heat, we opted to switch our plans. No pricey bus tour. Instead, we’d do the riverboat tour with lunch. I was dreaming of cool breezes off the river. 

A woman played the calliope on the paddleboat as we waited to board. Thankfully, it went quiet and the music switched to recorded New Orleans jazz as we climbed aboard.

We scored a little table at the boat’s railing and settled in. The heat was stifling until we started to moved, and then that hoped-for river breeze cooled us down.

We left the Port of New Orleans, the world’s largest port, in mid-afternoon. The river is 214 feet deep there, its deepest point. The Natchez can hold around 1600 people, but it seemed we had less than a quarter of that. We took off down river and the tour announcements began.

We passed a Domino sugar processing plant and an oil refinery. When the paddleboat took us past the 9th Ward, all those Katrina memories came back. Soon, on the opposite side of the river, we passed Algiers which holds a Navy base. Navy? Boats galore? WHY didn’t those boats cross the river and rescue or evacuate the people of the 9th Ward? I was angered to my toes.

The levee along the Mississippi is 25 feet high. The water is so high right now that we could see only the top eight feet or so. Willow trees along the riverbank were nearly under water. The treetops stood out, branches floating on the river. Had the levee been breached during this flood,much of New Orleans would have been submerged as it’s just a few feet above sea level.

Ships and barges from around the world drifted by. Country flags I didn’t recognize. Towboats poised to tow, tugboats poised to push. A ship from Nassau glided by and we were told it carried 70,000 tons of grain.

We had our lunch on deck. Lunch was included (senior prices!). As the Natchez turned around to carry us back, I moaned, “No, no! All the way to the Gulf! ” But alas, it took us back to port.

A leisurely stroll back to the St. Peter House, a short rest in the air conditioned suite, then across the street to the 700 Club for a gin and tonic. Debbie had her tonic with vodka.

A perfect day.

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