The South Coast, New Orleans and New Friends

So I’m way behind in my blogging.  I’ll try to bring things a little more up to date with this blog and then I’ll maybe catch up on the next one.

When I last posted we were arriving at Wolf River RV park in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Thursday was a bit of a relaxing day.  After lunch we drove to the beach at Long Beach.  That is just a little east of Pass Christian.  US 90 travels all along the coast from where we are to Biloxi to the east.  The beach on one side and homes and businesses on the other.  It’s interesting to see all of the newer construction (especially homes) being built on stilts.  After hurricane Katrina went through many of the buildings were destroyed.  If not by the winds, the storm surge was so strong and high it knocked over most everything.  There are still some older homes that withstood that storm, but most of them were on raised areas.  There are some beautiful homes all along the coast.  We stopped at a beach near Gulfport and Kim and I walked the beach for a while to do a little beach-combing.  It was a beautiful day and the wind was from the north so the water was very calm.  Kim managed to find a few things but there was no beach glass to be had.  If you are in this area at some point be sure to spend some time along the shore.

We decided to venture into New Orleans on Friday, so we headed out relatively early.  It took about an hour to drive into the city.  The traffic wasn’t too bad on the way in.  Parking is at a premium in the city, especially near the French Quarter, and that is where we were headed.  I had tried to read up on the parking ahead of time so I knew approximately where to go.  We found parking along the river within a relatively short walking distance to the quarter and parked in a compact car spot.  We made sure we weren’t hanging over the lines designating the short space.  If you decide to park close to the Quarter be prepared to pay quite a bit for parking.  It cost us $35 to park for 3 hrs.  If you go over your time or you are parked in a no parking zone there are many parking attendants who are quick to give you a ticket. Your ticket will include a boot being applied to one of your wheels.  They don’t seem to tow vehicles very much.  But the boot is a quick money grab for them.  To have the boot removed you must call a number on your ticket and they will remove it for $98.  When we arrived back at our car we had about 10 min left and there was an attendant busily issuing tickets and putting boots on wheels.  We heard him on his radio letting his people know he had just placed 17 boots on in our little area alone.  There were going to be a lot of unhappy people when they returned to their cars.  A full sized pickup was parked next to us and his was also a compact car space.  I noticed his boot was on.  So if you park in New Orleans be aware of the parking police.  There are some alternatives.  There are parking areas further away where you can leave your vehicles and take transit in to the city but of course they are a little less convenient.

So enough about parking.  We toured around the French Quarter for our time there.  It was a Friday but it was very crowded.  On the main streets it was wall to wall people.  We walked along Decatur St. which is the street that runs close to the River.  There are lots of shops along here as well as restaurants.  This is also where you will find Cafe du Monde which is popular for its Beignets.  We wanted to try some of them but there was a long line of people waiting to get in so we passed it by.  We walked along some of the side streets and checked out the buildings.  There are some really nice historic buildings in the Quarter.  Many with balconies overhanging the streets.  We also walked along the famous Bourbon St.  This is mostly all bars with a few eating places as well.  I know this is a popular area for visitors to New Orleans, but we found it very unsavoury, dirty and smelly.  Once down the street and we were done. 

There is a parklike area in the Quarter called Jackson Square and there were lots of artists displaying their wares and also some buskers.  Right next to the square is a Tobasco Country store and we did go in to look around and buy a few items including some Tobasco Louisiana Steak Sauce for our friend George Yates.  There was a jazz band playing near the square that was very good.  It looked like it might have been a family group.  There was a Sax, Trombone, Tuba and Drums.  They played real dixeland jazz and they were good. 

Before we left the quarter we did manage to try some beignets.  We went to Cafe Beignet..  The line at Cafe du Monde was still very long.  The line at Cafe Beignets was much shorter but it still took 45 minutes to get in and sit down.  Beignets are a square donut-like pastry covered in powdered sugar.  They were good but not what I was expecting.  Our parking time was just about up so we went back to the car and headed over to the Garden District.  Our impression of the French Quarter when leaving was a little meh.  Not real impressed.  We’re glad we went and saw it and some of it was nice, but overall it didn’t live up to all the hype.

The Garden District is fairly close to the French Quarter and is known for the large old homes that line the streets.  We had a walking tour map that we got at the visitor centre in the Quarter and so we toured around the neighbourhood on foot.  In the centre of the Garden District is an old cemetery that is surrounded by a high wall.  As were arrived they were closing the gates for the day so we didn’t get a chance to walk around in the cemetery.  I took a couple photos through the gate.  The cemetery is filled with large family crypts.  These are very old and this cemetery was used by the former affluent residents of the district.  The homes in this area are beautiful.  This is a must see in New Orleans.  There are many different architectural styles and they are all very unique.  Very Nice.  We spent about an hour and a half in the area.  Oh and the parking here is on the street and its free for 2 hours.

So that was our day in New Orleans.  I had hoped to see the ninth ward which is where the brunt of the damage from the levees breaking during Katrina was felt.  But we had run out of time, so maybe if we’re here again we will see that.

We met a couple here in the RV park one afternoon.  Brad and Shelley were their names.  They stopped by one afternoon and we chatted together for quite a while.  They are from the Gulfport area and live in their 5th wheel full time.  They stay here in this park in the winter and then head north in the summer when it gets very hot here in the south.  They returned a little later in the afternoon and invited us on the back of their golf cart for a little ride along the river.  It was a short ride back to an area with a small beach where people like to have campfires and such.  During our conversations Kim asked them where the good local places are to eat and they gave us some suggestions.  Its always nice to ask local people where they like to eat cause you know they are the good places.  They actually invited us with them for lunch the next day at a small local restaurant.  We went to Martha’s with them.  It’s only open for lunch during the week and lunch and dinner on the weekends. Each day they have a different special.  Today the special was Red Beans and Rice.  Kim loves red beans and rice.  The restaurant was fairly small but large enough for probably 40 people or so.  It was almost packed.  And we were probably the only non locals there.  Martha’s probably doesn’t show up on search engines like yelp or trip advisor.  But the food was great.  Kim had the rice and beans and I was unadventurous and had a BLT with fries.  There are a fair number of choices on their menu with some southern dishes in the mix.  Probably one of the best places we’ve eaten at on this trip.  Thanks Brad and Shelley for inviting us.  We spent another evening with Brad and Shelley around their campfire.  Southern hospitality at its best.

We went to the beach a couple more times during the week but none of the other days was as nice as the first.  The winds were blowing in from the gulf and the water was rougher and the winds stronger. We did stop at the Visitor’s Centre near the Lighthouse in Biloxi. This place is very nice. There is a display inside that gives some history of the area and talks about the damage done by Hurricane Katrina. It is well put together and worth seeing. When we entered the Visitor’s Centre we signed the guest register and listed our home city. As were walking around inside a fellow walked past me and I said “Hi” like I normally do. A few minutes later he walked past again and said… “Are you from Ingersoll?” He told me that when he signed the register he noticed our names from Ingersoll and when he walked by and I said “Hi” he knew that I was probably the one from Ingersoll. He said no one around here says “Hi” like that. LOL. This guy was from Otterville, Ontario about 20 minutes from Ingersoll.

Of course we couldn’t leave the area without going out for a catfish dinner one more time.  As we did on the way west back in January, we went to Jenny’s Catfish restaurant in Ocean Springs, east of Biloxi.  Kim had catfish and this time I had the Southern Fried Chicken.  Both were excellent.  The portions were quite large so we had leftovers to take with us.

Hope you enjoyed this belated post. I’ll try to bring it up to date on the next installment.