Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 45 - New Orleans

We are on our way to the bayou. It required a 40 minute drive north-west along the Mississippi River from New Orleans. The countryside are full of swamps or bayous. The motorways need to be elevated and go for miles over the water system

The air boat we were about to board. We didn't know until we returned there is a "gator" named Francis in the vicinity. The air boat just "floats" along the water and vegetation at some considerable KPH. Location i about 20 miles NW of New Orleans

Travelling about 60 KPH above the vegetation in the bayou. The orange bucket contains marshmallows for the gators we were about to see

Dante or first gator - he is about 2.5 metres long and loves marshmallows. The air boat guide and driver has been training him to be friendly and he comes up to the boat - a bit adventurous we thought knowing the respect we have for crocodiles back in the Northern Territory

He just wants marshmallows, thinking they are white eggs. We think it's the sugar content and the guide is innocently making Dante a diabetic

You can just see the marshmallow ready to be consumed. Old Dante is relishing our visit

Our guide has been bitten by a gator in the past but not by Dante. Still we feel that this may be too game to be playing around with a creature who just wants to eat anything

Bayou country in southern Louisiana. Strange, there is no swamp smell or bugs of any type. No mozzies, no flies just gators. In fact travelling down these waterways is pleasant, and the smell of cypress trees and other vegetation is quite soothing

Spanish moss hanging of the trees. Apparently they are not a parasite just cling on for security. We were told that back in the 19th century they use the moss for mattress fillings. They didn't know at the time the moss carried microscopic bugs and so the saying "don't let the bed bug bite you tonight" became worldwide. The locals are proud that they were the original cause of this saying

A Japanese lily in the bayou. They only open up at certain times of the year and actually at certain times of the day. Pretty heh? The yellow core has a distinct citrus smell

There were two more friends we saw in the bayou. This one is a small female who is due to lay eggs. Again marshmallows is what she wanted

Our lovely female alligator posing for the cameras. Ain't I beautiful y'all??

Our first plantation - the Oak Alley at Vacherie, Louisiana. Built around the 1810-ish by an American family after the Louisiana Purchase and actually used in the movie "Interview with the Vampire". There main crop was sugar cane and naturally supported by slaves

This is why they call the property Oak Alley. Huge Oak trees line both sides from the Mississippi River. The families who had lived here use to travel by steamboat and disembark at their personal pier and it was just an amble down their oak alley to their mansion.

The device on top of the dining table is a fan. It had a rope that a black slave would pull to make it move so the diners would be cool. Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana

Because the bed mattress was filled with Spanish moss it was difficult to keep it flat. Therefore there is a rolling pin on the bed. The occupant had to use the little settee on the right when resting other than nighttime sleep

A view of Oak Alley from the top porch of the building. It is actually a quarter mile to the end where the Mississippi flows.

Our second plantation "Laura". It was a Creole family home built about 1805. Different from the American mansion style these buildings were simple but effective against the harsh humid summers. We were given a complete genealogical story of Laura who owned the property. She released her life story and is a classic that is similar to the "Gone with the Wind" yarn 

The many photos of Laura inside her plantation property located at Vacherie, Louisiana. She lived to 102 years!

The rear view of Laura - again very simple design but practical

This is an actual slave house located near the Laura house. It has survived all these years. No comforts were given to slaves prior to the Civil War

On our return to New Orleans we passed alongside the famous Superbowl stadium

Back in Pat O'Brien's Bar for that Hurricane. How is this fountain - it spills the usual waterworks in conjunction with a flame in the middle. In the French Quarter, New Orleans

Why would you want a hot dog when there is Creole and Cajun food around? In the French Quarter, New Orleans

They call this appetizer - Alligator Tail Bits. Yes, it is actually gator meat from the tail. Fried and dipped in Creole sauce - yum

We had a 9 hour tour today and exhausted when we returned to New Orleans. The above photographs explain most of the highlights but basically we had our 90 minute air boat ride through the southern Louisiana bayous. Surprisingly, the swamps are very pleasant, no bugs of any kind and the smell of the water was aromatic. You could just soaked the day away just relaxing on a banana chair except.........there's alligators and snakes. Also, the water is dangerous it is like quicksand, you fall in and down you go. Our air boat is amazing away you go and you skim all what's in front of you. We run over logs, reeds and even gators who cannot avoid us. After our bayou experience we drove along the Mississippi River to Vacherie. We visited two original plantation properties called Oak Alley and Laura. The first was built by Americans (a bricked mansion in a style one would imagine a southern state gentleman would build) and Laura was built by a Creole family (their house was local cypress timber and very practical). Creole people were French, Spanish blended folk who have different traditions and cultures to the American puritans. We returned to New Orleans at 6 pm and headed straight for the French Quarter for some creole food. We had craw fish etouffee and gator meat. Well - while you are in Rome don't you do what the Romans do? Bourbon Street at nighttime is something to be seen, many inebriated people around, entertainers of all sorts, jazz music sounds on all corners and bars and the X rated clubs have women in front enticing customers inside. Some of these women were painted silver and no clothing to cover what is expected. It is Anne's birthday tomorrow and the Fourth of July. We are doing nothing however we have a dinner booked at Nola's in the French Quarter at 6 pm. After our meal we will watch the fireworks along the Mississippi River. Cheers.

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