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Published: June 29th 2016
So......... we extended our stay to spend time with Hippy Jim & Donna and attend the beach party. It was also Graeme’s birthday, what a nice way to celebrate it. Well, one day turned into two then three. Not only did we have a lovely party day but on Sunday Jim took us out in his boat on the Intracoastal Waterway which his house backs onto. It is the waterway that runs 3,000-mile (4,800 km) along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico from Boston Massachusetts to Brownsville Texas. We sailed about 5 miles of it so only have 2,995 mile to go. We spotted a pod of Dolphins, looked at beautiful scenery, saw many birds, enjoyed lunch, had a few beers, and briefly got the boat grounded, due to Jims high speed approach on a non navigable channel. He was the perfect gentleman as he got out and pushed whilst we continued to drink beer! We had a great day.
We were making preparations to leave, but things just sort of drifted, how easily one day merges into another, then along came Hurricane Colin and Titusville was on the fringe of the storm path. Was that a warning,
Bit of a common theme going on here.
had we had been here too long? Experiencing the fringe was good enough for us, no need to experience more, time to go
We really enjoyed our time in Florida, a very different experience for us than our previous two week holidays here, seeing much more of the beautiful countryside.
Sadly during this time the terrible shooting in Orlando took place.
As we all know if you want to keep the peace there are two things you should never discuss, Religion and Politics and here gun control comes into the political category.
So I won’t..........EXCEPT to say that.....
Below follows a list of five things that in Florida are harder to get than a gun
A driving licence: - you need to be 21, take a written test and driving test; you can buy a gun at 18.
Cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine: - sales are restricted to 9 grams in 30 days. Photo ID required to purchase.
A pet adoption: - full background check required
Alcohol: - legal age to purchase alcohol is
On the intracoastal waterway.
21yrs and ID will be asked for.
Solar Panels. The law favours the utility companies, fewer than 9000 houses in the “Sunshine State” have solar panels............ And there are many more examples
Oh and Kinder eggs are banned as they conceal a hidden toy!
Still there is hope because as I type the Democrats are staging a “sit in” on the House floor.
So, after much preparation and even more shopping we were fully loaded and ready for our first journey.
We headed north to avoid the humidity and heat but then thought, “well, Louisiana can’t get much more humid than this, so turned west towards to New Orleans.
We enjoyed our first road trip, Graeme getting used to the Rig and the local drivers (that’s another topic entirely) me, looking out the window, enjoying the view, getting drinks and reading the map! We stopped a couple of nights along the way in two randomly picked Parks, both really nice. We had forgotten how easy it is to find stops. En Route we passed
Graeme's various shopping faces
Happy RV shopping face, bemused face, and "now time for beer face"
from Florida touched Alabama, into Mississippi and then Louisiana.
One of the fun things of travelling in the USA is spotting that place name that is a song title. We passed signs for Suwannee river, (I never knew it was spelt like that!) and best of all Sweet home Alabama.
We had been told there was an RV park that was in walking distance of the New Orleans French Quarter. City RV parks, by their very nature are not usually that good, so we booked this one with an open mind.
The approach was a little tricky, poor signposting not poor map reading, and got a little caught up with the city tourist buses, but after a quick phone call to establish their whereabouts we found to our joy an excellent, spacious, flat, well protected, city site, with a very nice swimming pool & Hot Tub, and as we have come to appreciate in this heat, free ice. Most importantly for us it was, as promised, in easy walking distance of town. We were parked just under the I-10 flyover but so what ... I have always wondered how those people
Jim & Donna
We spent a great week with them in Florida.
in Hammersmith felt. .
New Orleans....... a place we have always wanted to go. We didn’t make it last time due to Hurricane Katrina. Ten years later here we are.
What can I say? So often you are disappointed when you eventually see somewhere you have always wanted to visit, it doesn’t quite reach your expectations.
Well ....... It is amazing. We had booked a week and thought that would probably be enough. I don’t think so.
We set about sightseeing, each day was crammed packed. There was so much history, excellent food and of course music, so much music, music everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Not only is there music in almost every bar but in a lot of the venues they played about three sets a night with different bands. Multiply that by the hundreds of bars and it is overwhelming and that’s without the street music. Most of this is free, just buy a drink each set and a small donation to the band, You can wander in and out, try a little Blues, or fancy some Jazz , perhaps rock music or Cajun is
Looking out for Dolphins, you can just see one in the distance.
more your style tonight, you can sample them all.
We also did educational stuff. There are museums aplenty. The WW2 Museum is here, along with a statue of Winston Churchill. ?? Why is that? Well Andrew Higgins had a tug boat yard here. Eisenhower, Churchill and the Allies knew they needed a special sort of boat for the D-Day landings; such a craft did not exist. Andrew Higgins said he could build such a craft and in his boat yard, which is where the museum now exists. He designed and built the Eureka or “Higgins craft” used on D-Day, based on swamp boats. Eisenhower said without the Higgins boat the war would not have been won.
It is a wonderful museum but much in need of someone with appropriate skills (Sue) to sort out the signage. The museum consists of four separate buildings linked by glass bridges on different levels. It is almost impossible to know where you are. A bit like wartime when they removed all street signs, I should think. When I mentioned to a guide “you have a fabulous museum but it is so poorly signed” he said “I know I
Captain Hippy Jim
Studying nautical map, not that it made that much difference.
have never worked anywhere so sign adverse”!!
We did graveyard tours, N Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, river trips, Katrina museum, Confederate museum, voodoo museum , Preservation Hall, an iconic music venue , viewed the interesting people on Bourbon street and so much more.
We ate Gumbo, Jambalaya, Po boys, Etouffée , Beignets, crawfish, deep fried crabs, breaded, stuffed then deep fried shrimp (the holy trinity of southern cooking ) We did pass on the alligator and squirrel dishes, although I am sure they both taste like chicken.
In 1717 Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville was granted permission to establish a settlement at the crescent of the river, which is why New Orleans is known not only as “The Big Easy” but “The Crescent City”. The city developed into the seven by eleven grid system it still uses today, making it very easy for even someone with my sense of direction to get around.
In 1762 Louis XV, ceded ownership of the city to his Bourbon cousin Charles III Spain. It was during this period the city was destroyed twice by fire. The Spanish insisted
that all buildings were rebuilt with brick and the mixing of Spanish and Caribbean architecture gave it the distinctive style it still has today.
After secret negotiations between 1800 & 1803, Spain agreed to relinquish control of Louisiana to Napoleon. In fact he needed the money to fight an upcoming war with the British, so in 1803 he sold it to America for $15 million. This was known as the “Louisiana Purchase.”
The inhabitants of New Orleans always felt French. They spoke French, were cultured, enjoyed opera, theatre, fine food, & good wine, so when it was sold to the Americans things didn’t go that well. They considered the Americans brash & loud, they didn’t like the arts, they paraded their wealth, etc. When they came to Vieux Carre to settle The French wouldn’t let them so the Americans settled on the other side of Canal Street or neutral ground as it is also known. To this day left of Canal street is the “American area”, large houses in leafy suburbs with large grounds , lush front gardens fenced by beautiful iron railings, their porches and
Nice table for .....
....my morning cup of tea
doorways built to receive carriages, all shouting out “ look how wealthy I am” . The French quarter, or Vieux Carre as the locals call it, looks just that, pavement fronting houses with small wrought iron balconies, hidden alleyways leading to beautiful quadrant gardens, all signs of wealth tucked away, inward facing. So the different areas have quite an individual feel to them.
We walked miles, all in about 95%humidity interrupted by the most amazing sudden thunder storms. You sort of get used to being, well, basically wet all the time. In some ways it makes life easy. Take the washing out the dryer, not quite dry? It doesn’t matter put it on anyway because it’s going to be so much wetter very soon. Get out of the shower, you can save drying time, just put your clothes on. Either you will be rained on big time or sweat, big time. I wondered how the local people get used to it. The secret is, they don’t, they just sweat as much, and it’s just the way it is.
Alf, a friend of Graeme’s put us in touch with Mark an old friend of his
who now lives in NO. We made contact and met up. Mark drove us around the less touristy areas. We were able to see the Lower 9th
ward; one of the areas’s most devastated by Katrina. Mark pointed out some of the “Make it right” project houses. This project was founded and supported by Brad Pitt. Its aim is to build eco friendly, flood safe houses. Homeowners can choose from 21 innovative designs and then customise it to a style that best suit their needs. Eleven years later only approx 106 have been built. Very much still a work in progress.
We visited several interesting out of the way bars and met with a Voodoo priestess, or Mambo. Voodoo is misrepresented in the media. It is an ancestral worship based religion bought over from Haiti, having been fused from an uneasy union of African and Roman Catholic elements, it features greatly in New Orleans life. The two primary functions of the priests are religious services and healing.
Mark also told us of a Cajun and Zydeco festival to be held in the Louis Armstrong Park at the weekend. We were just opposite the park,
and some of the interesting characters you see.
so it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.......we extended our stay so we could go.
I knew nothing about Zydeco music so was keen to experience some. Cajun music is the music of the white Cajuns of south Louisiana, while Zydeco is the music of the black Creoles of the same region. Zydeco is a musical genre that evolved in southwest Louisiana forged by French Creole speakers; it blends blues, rhythm and blues, and music indigenous to the Louisiana Creoles and the Native people of Louisiana. it is commonly suggested that "zydeco" derives from the French phrase Les haricots ne sont pas salés
, which, when spoken in the Louisiana Creole French, sounds as "leh-zy-dee-co nuh sohn pah salay" or literally translates as "the snap beans aren't salty". In Zydeco bands the accordion and wash board are the essential instruments.
That morning started with a New Orleans torrential but warm downpour. We felt a little local now and knew it would stop. So we waited and then pottered across the road to see what this was all about
Well, it was fabulous. We listened to Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspot
swiftly followed by Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, ate crawfish, drank Margaritas, watched the dancing, a sort of mix between slow R&R, folk and Waltz, and generally just embraced the atmosphere. We were so pleased Mark recommended it. Thanks Mark.
One thing we did note was that everyone we spoke to, whether they were born here or moved here, just loved “Their New Orleans”. They may have come some years ago to visit or work and then just felt at home so never left. Each said they could not imagine living anywhere else. They acknowledged that the weather was difficult at times, the roads awful, everything slow, eg post just arrives in its own time, but hey that’s just how it is, there is no rush anyway.
We sort of knew what they meant. We could have stayed here so much longer but felt that as there appeared no good time to leave, it was time to leave.
So, what more can I say, this is one of the best places I have ever been. I recommend you come, book your ticket
now but first some advice.
Be prepared to sweat, and if taking statins, up the dose, if not consider taking some.
Don’t worry about your salt content, you will sweat it all out.
Alcohol intake can only go up, forget the low cholesterol diet and enjoy.......... unforgettable.
Reluctantly we set off, still not really that sure exactly where we were heading but aiming towards Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Then I noticed a scenic route so we diverted to that. A second diversion took us to Avery Island which is not really an Island at all, but a Salt dome situated 3 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the home of the Tabasco Distillery; it was a really fascinating stop. We did all the usual tour things, gazed at the production line, tasted all the different type of Tabasco sauces, pickles and ice cream which was strangely nice. However the thing we liked best was the series of six colour lithographs produced to celebrate the 125th
Anniversary of Tabasco sauce. Each poster created in a style of one the different Art
movements of the last 125 years, look then up. We loved the surrealism one.
We picked up a flyer advertising a site outside Lafayette called McGee’s landing which offered swamp tours. It is situated on the Atchafalaya basin. That appealed to us so we headed that way. The directions said “turn left over the Levee”. We gazed in astonishment as we faced a very steep earth embankment not sure if they really meant go over the Levee, well not in a 40 ft bus anyway, but they did and we did and we arrived at McGee’s Landing for one of the best stops so far.
The Atchafalaya basin is the largest wetland and swamp in the USA. It is best known for its iconic cypress – tupelo swamps, which give it a very surreal waterscape. It is sparsely populated and deep Cajun country. As well as our boat trip we spent a great evening with the other guests and staff, listening & dancing to local musicians, eating Cajun food,, and possibly strangest of all each taking turns to try on Brenda’s wig. How come Graeme looks so much better than
me as a blond?
Our RV site overlooked the bayou. We were talking to the man who was cutting the grass. We got chatting about the alligators and he told us there were about six that lived in the Bayou in front of us but you didn’t see them much in the day. He told us to go out at night with a torch and spot their red eyes. We did and yes he was right there were little red eyes all around us.
From here we decided it really was now too hot, so abandoned plans to see Lafayette and headed up the I48 towards Shreveport then into Arkansas. Next monday is Independence Day and all major RV sites would be very busy so we decided we would delay arriving in Hot Springs until after the weekend. We stopped in a tourist centre at ask for information about local RV parks. Usually these centres are really good but I think this one was staffed by Sunday staff, very nice but not that helpful. We went back to look at the map and our RV park book. We noted Coushatta
Casino RV Park, and remembered someone had told us this was a nice place to stay. Also, as they want to encourage you to stay there and gamble they offer really good deals. We looked on the map and noted Coushatta was about 70 miles north which was in the right direction, gave them a call and decided to book in.
Now, sometimes you have to remember one of the big differences between the UK & USA is scale. We reset the Sat Nav, I had the map, and off we went. The Sat Nav instructed us to leave the 48 and take the 165, Coushatta Road, I checked, Uhmm it’s taking the scenic route but that OK it goes to Coushatta. Strange, we now appear to be heading south. Graeme is saying “is this right” I reply “no idea, I have not yet got a point of reference”. Anyway the lesson of the day was...... Just because we were on Coushatta Road, and just because the address was Coushatta RV Park does not mean to say it was the Coushatta we thought we were going to. It turns out that Coushatta road is about 200 +
miles long, we ended up about an hour away from where we started earlier that day!
Just before we arrived we stopped to stock up. Being somewhat depressed by the news from the UK (any excuse will do) I decided to buy some Tequila. As we were standing in the store a staff member went by and informed us that we could not buy the Tequila as it was Sunday. Somewhat bemused but compliant I removed the bottle from the trolley and left it on the counter where you could buy your gun.
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