A Plantation, a Preserve and lots of seafood – NOLA

Comments 17 Standard
American Bullfrog

At the River Walk in New Orleans were 22 plaques describing interesting facts about the mighty Mississippi River.  One thing we learned is that this mud-laden water has flowed over 2,350 miles and takes about 66 days to get from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.  Our crossing of the Mississippi River was a unique trip, according to one of the plaques.  Because Louisiana is the only state divided by the river, and New Orleans the only city that straddles it, this is the only place you can cross the river without crossing a city or state line.  Oh yeah, we felt unique after leaving New Orleans.

Mississippi River

On other days our excursions around the area took us to a Plantation and a Preserve.

Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge are nine majestic historic plantation known collectively as the New Orleans Plantation Country.  The roots of these lavish estates began in 1718 with the founding of New Orleans.  Most plantations produced sugar, which provided their owners with the kind of vast wealth it took to build these huge estates.  To keep their place in history, the homes have been authentically restored to their original style.

We chose to tour the “Grande Dame of the Great River Road,” the Oak Alley Plantation, which is a protected National Historic Landmark.  It is named after its distinguishing feature, an alley or canopied path created by a double row of massive live oaks about a quarter mile long.  They were planted in the early 18th century, long before the present house was built.  The alley runs between the house and the Mississippi River.

Alley of Oaks

Mint Julep seems to be the favorite drink in this area, and they had a little bar set up at the house.  It was still early in the morning, but we didn’t want to seem out of place.  So, with a Mint Julep in hand we strolled the grounds after the guided tour and admired the majestic oak trees close-up.

On another day we took a trip to the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Barataria Preserve, which is 14 miles south of the state park where we stayed.  The preserve’s 23,000 acres include bayous, swamps, marshes, forests, alligators, nutrias, and over 300 species of birds – lots of them.  After a brief stop at the visitor center, we meandered down the boardwalk trails (Visitor Center Trail and Palmetto Trail) and dirt trails (Bayou Coquille Trail) which wind through the preserve.  Here is the trail map, or you can enjoy a self-guided tour or explore with a cell phone tour.

The swamp critters we encountered are quite fascinating.

American Bullfrog

American Bullfrog

 

Ibis

Ibis

American Alligator

American Alligator – Steve finally sees his first ‘gator!

The rest of our days at Bayou Segnette State Park were spent cooking seafood, for just outside the park is a bustling Seafood Market.  And we got busy, cooking and eating, and on other days we simply enjoyed the frequent visits of the Northern Cardinals, seven of them at one time!

After this stop, we need to double up our exercise!

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Gulf Shores, AL

Pensacola, FL

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Is that train moving? – Tough arrival in New Orleans

Comments 23 Standard

“Is that train moving?” Steve asked repeatedly.  After peering behind us I replied that it was moving – toward us!  That blaring horn was telling us to get out of its way.  “Let’s get out of here!” Steve yelled in exasperation, while I nervously signaled oncoming car traffic to stop.  They were not slowing down nor giving us enough space to enter the road with 60′ of RV/car.  But we had to get out of the way or risk getting crushed by the train, which would have definitely put a damper on our weekend.  With a tiny bit of clearance we turned left and Steve stepped on it.   Whew!  Holy smoke that was close.

So, you might ask, how the heck did we end up here?

It all began 25 miles west of New Orleans.  As we were merging onto I-10 East we noticed cars pulling over and backing down the onramp – not good.  Crazy drivers!  Then we saw the backup that we could not avoid and proceeded to sit there for 2 hours waiting for a fiery crash ahead to be cleared from the road.  We may be retired and not in a hurry, but when you are in this situation you get agitated and antsy.  But there was more excitement ahead!

20130301-RV-LA-4

When the jam cleared and we were approaching the Huey P Long Bridge, traffic was again heavy and cars were weaving in and out in front of us.  Some drivers here are really baaad!  Understand that we are now heading into Friday afternoon traffic due to the huge delay we had just experienced.  There was major construction underway on the bridge, and the two available lanes were literally not wide enough for Betsy and a truck to travel side by side.  So Steve drove right down the middle – let them honk, we want to live!

More traffic

If you plan to come into this area from the west very soon, we suggest you call your destination and get directions over the phone until maps are updated.  We thought we were prepared by having printed and GPS instructions.  However, the construction here is so recent and hugely changed, there are no current directions that we can find.  At the foot of the bridge we didn’t know whether to go straight or make a turn.  So we turned and soon noticed that phenomenon where the trees start closing in and the streets begin to get narrow.  Oh, we’re getting busy now!  If we had been driving a car this would have been easy, but with our size the stress sets in.  It turns out we would have gotten lost if we had gone straight ahead, too.

As we saw the river up ahead and the oncoming traffic we made a best-guess turn.  Ok, this looks better, we’ll follow the road under the bridge and get right back on track.  I grab my laptop and open Google Maps to find out where we are now (GM doesn’t know about the new roads, either).  We start re-plotting our course and settle down a bit.  What else can go wrong?  Then there’s the TRAIN…

Steve pulled up to an angled busy intersection with a RR crossing, with a train sitting a ways back at our right rear – almost impossible to see from inside the RV.  We stayed behind the crossing line as long as possible, but had to cross it to turn left onto a road.  Steve pulled up to the intersection when he saw a break, but a speeding motorcycle killed our opportunity.  Steve kept asking, “Is that train moving,” and for a while it wasn’t.  Then it was.  Right at us.  But the cross traffic was relentless, and of course nobody wants to stop for the train, even though the conductor was laying on his horn now.  I was signaling through the window for people to stop, but they either didn’t see or ignored me.  Finally, the traffic stopped and we “jumped” through that intersection as quickly as possible.  Sorry I didn’t get pictures, we were a little busy at the moment.  Would the train have stopped for us?  Probably, he was barely moving.  But I don’t want to ruin the suspense of the story!

Welcome to New Orleans!

After wiping off the sweat, we arrived safely at Bayou-Segnette State Park.  To calm our nerves following what was easily the worst driving day of our adventure, we explored our new digs.  We chose this State park after seeing a good rating from Nina of Wheeling It.  It is just a thirty-minute drive or a free ferry ride across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

Bayou Segnette State Park

At the park, all sites are long and paved, and have either a wood deck or cement patio with table and fire pit.  Sites are widely spaced with lush grass.  This is the second state park in Louisiana we’ve been to where laundry is FREE and wifi is available (but a bit slow).

As we explored further around the park, we noticed miles of levees, floodwalls, floodgates and water control structures.  They have been busy here indeed since Katrina showed up in 2005, and the construction continues throughout the area.

Flood Gate

Steve examining the flood gate.  That’s about 2′ of concrete with a bank vault-looking door!

Flood wall

Miles of flood wall

Levee

On top of a levee, with the flood wall behind.

We will be hanging out here for about a week to see the sights and food of New Orleans.  More to come!

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Biloxi, MS

Gulf Shores, AL

Pensacola, FL

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