Day 67 - You've Changed Your Tune!June 27 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C
Our lovely hotel is old, the 1st recorded transaction for the property occurred back on 12th May 1784.
We are on the 4th floor in the Loft, but I still went down to reception to get coffee for the both of us! Around 9.30am we ventured out & went straight to Cafe Du Monde, close to the banks of the Mississippi.
Cafe Du Monde is a famous destination in New Orleans, that is open 24/7 apart from Christmas Day & when forced out by hurricanes & is a tourist ‘must visit’ location. We did & grabbed a table. Our waitress turned out to be new & struggled with English. We ordered two of the famous ‘Cafe Au Laits’ & a portion of 3 Beignets each.
As our waitress took our order, she balanced a tray of dirty plates against a chair. I think I accidentally put my foot on the chair, I’m not sure, but the whole tray fell to the floor, smashing glass & crockery everywhere. Everyone was very apologetic & I didn’t hint that I may have been responsible!!
Our Coffee & Beignets arrived & god were they good & so reasonably priced. Our total bill was $12.
After, we raced to our car & headed out south for The Original New Orleans Airboat Tours In Crown Point, where we had an 11.30am appointment. As we parked up, an employee said to us “That must have been caused by hailstones”. I asked what he meant & he said “All the dents on your bonnet”. If it was that obvious to him then we are going to have to ‘fess up to Enterprise!
At midday, we boarded our Airboat with just 6 others our Captain, Capt’n Ken introduced himself. He was born & bred on the Bayou & had been a commercial fisherman & trapper all his working life. We then headed out on to the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from Texas to Florida & is used for industrial barges.
First we went along to look at the Pump Station at the West Closure Complex in Belle Chasse, which is recognised to be the World’s Largest Pump Station. It can pump water the equivalent to 15 Olympic sized swimming pools every minute. It has 11 pumps, each with a 5,400-horsepower Diesel engine. The Pump Station was built in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina & was completed in 2012. It is effectively a 225 foot metal gate designed to block a storm surge coming up the Intracoastal Waterway & into the Algiers Canal. The Pump Station is surrounded on all sides by levees.
Fascinating stuff, then we jetted at 45mph along the bayous of the swamplands. We stopped at many points to feed the wild Alligators marshmallows & chicken, the bigger ones had names like Psycho & Benji. One poor old guy was called BJ, because he had a broken jaw!!! The end of his lower jaw was almost at right angle to the rest of him. Capt’n Ken was actually able to stroke the alligators as he fed them. I suspect they knew they were on to good thing.
As one would expect, the swamps were teeming with wildlife. As we motored along, large fish were jumping out of the water, herons & egrets were flying up from the reeds & alligators & turtles were ducking down out of the way. It was beautiful, but not a place you’d want to get stuck in. It is a hostile environment.
Capt’n Ken provided us with lots of interesting facts about the wildlife & plant life in the swamp. Ford Motors purchased most of the Cypress Trees that inhabited the swamp, initially just for the Spanish Moss that grew in it for car seat stuffing. Henry Ford continued to buy them despite him now using foam in his seats & then it was discovered he was using the Cypress Tree wooden crates it came in for his car dashboards!
The swamp is suffering from 4 invasive species, Asian Carp, Nutria Rats (Swamp Rats), Apple Snails & Water Hyacinths.
Asian Carp, which can grow to 4ft long, are the jumping fish that are infesting the Waterways of Louisiana, thus damaging the native fish population by out competing them for space & food.
Nutria Rats, known as Swamp Rats, look like ugly beavers with 2 large orange teeth. Nutria Rats are native to South America, but the Tabasco factory kept some on Aviary Island until they escaped during flooding . These Swamp Rats multiple like crazy & in the 1950’s there were 20 million of the vermin reeking havoc across the wetlands of Louisiana. In 2002, the government authorised a cull in which they paid $5 for each one killed. One of Ken’s mates allegedly killed 5,000 of them. Their population is currently still 5 million.
Apple Snails are a real problem because they have huge appetites for the vegetation that is the food of Crawfish, Louisiana’s staple diet, plus they are clogging up the Crawfish traps. Capt’n Ken pointed out pink clusters of Apple Snail eggs. He explained that normally other creatures would eat the eggs keeping populations down, but unusually Apple Snail eggs contain a neurotoxin that scares off all other predators except for Red Fire Ants. Apparently, they are deadly if eaten by humans because contain a parasite that eats away at the brain.
Finally, Water Hyacinths (originally from ornamental garden ponds) are spreading at an alarming rate & clogging up all the Waterways. The Water Agencies have been forced to spray the plants to kill them off & dredge them out.
Capt’n Ken pointed out some Alligators nests, then introduced us to little Fluffy, his pet baby Alligator, which he had rescued from the swamp by the Airboat Tours Office. Jackie & I both had the opportunity to hold him & I bravely did. So did Jackie. It was a wonderful end to a fantastic 2 hour tour, that has been on both our bucket lists for a long time. We weren’t disappointed.
We drove straight back to our cheap car park, albeit with a slight mistaken diversion that took us on a road under the flyover instead of on it. It was fascinating, because there was a whole tented city under there & sadly a lot of the residents looked like normal people down on their luck or just homeless following the hurricanes.
We took a lengthy stroll through the streets of the French Quarter. Our 1st port was Louis Armstrong Park with all it’s fountains & sculptures, then to the Museum of Death for a look around the foyer area. We continued pacing the streets, admiring the fine architecture, but in the oppressive 100 degree humid heat we were melting.
When we could stand it no longer, we took refuge in a very nice bar/restaurant called Curio. Luckily for us it was Happy Hour, so we had a couple of beers, gallons of water & a starter each of the most amazing candied pork ribs. We spent a very enjoyable & cool hour watching the Street life outside.
We eventually dragged ourselves away & went down to the banks of the Mississippi, where the ‘Natchez’ paddle steamer had just returned from a trip. Jackie now with a thirst for boat trips wanted to book a paddle steamer trip & stay a third night in New Orleans. Wow this is a complete turn around from her views the previous evening!
We walked through Jackson Square, along Chartres Street with all its Jazz musicians, down Pirate Alley beside St. Louis Cathedral & stopped at Tony Seville’s Pirate’s Alley Café (And Olde Absinthe House). We found ourselves a prime outside table in the cool alley & supped a cold beer. It was the perfect spot to watch all the colourful characters passing by, often stopping for a quick drink. It was helped by the fact that next door was the starting place for the Ghost & Horror Tours.
There were too many people to mention, but one woman stood out & wins our freakiest award. She was about 30, shaven headed, but wore a headband with two enormous horns sticking out. She wore just a flimsy silky dress, no shoes & to complete the look she was hobbling around on crutches. She popped in twice for a drink at our bar, but we also saw her at the end of the Alley screaming & shouting at a car driver.
We had such a lovely time, we stayed at the bar for nearly 3 hours during which time we had just 4 beers & a nightcap of Absinthe, when in Rome.........
We returned to our hotel around 9.00pm shattered, but both agreeing that it had been an utterly wonderful day from start to finish.
Song of the Day - Born On The Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Bonus Songs of the Day :-
Swamp Music by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Swamp Thing by The ChameleonsRead more