Thursday, August 06, 2009

we went down to New Orleans

Whew! Exhaustion.

Bugg leaves next weekend for Kentucky and school for FYS will resume the following week. A trip to New Orleans was in order and we were manned with an itinerary that would blow anyone's socks off. There isn't a check mark by everything planned, but we made most of them.

Cafe du Monde is always a favorite and FYS agreed to smile for a photo

We happily posed for our photographer

...who took her own picture

This is the first time we had visited the Audubon Zoo. It was very hot and humid, but they have plenty of well-placed mist hoses and air conditioned buildings to cool you off.

The giraffe area was incredible

The aquarium offered interest one afternoon when it rained
this albino alligator gave me the creeps and the kids are still taking bets as to whether he was real or not

sharks swim fast

and I gave up trying to get a whole photo

FYS loved the sea horses and this one posed

The sting ray tank was mesmerizing

Do you realize it has been 4 years since Katrina left a good majority of New Orleans under water? When we walk through the French Quarter, it seemed like everything is going well and things are back to normal. During the Gray Line bus tour, we found out different.
Our tour guide was a New Orleans native who evacuated for over 4 months after the storm. He provided wonderful information as well as descriptions of specific causes for the flooding. I did not take photos during the tour, but listened intently as our guide described the meaning of the 'x' left on so many homes still today. It was sobering to realize that first responders could only reach the second level of some homes in the first week after Katrina hit. They left their 'x' on upper stories indicating that the had not entered some structures. A month later, lower level 'x's indicated they had searched after the water had subsided only to find fellow Americans who had perished. You can drive by these houses and know from the street that people suffered before passing as a result of flooding, storm surge, heat, or lack of basic necessities.
We were able to understand that many major retailers have not returned leaving a devastated area lacking in options for nearby replenishment of the everyday needs we've taken for granted. I wonder how these residents have coped in the last 4 years in the loss of their homes, loneliness for the family and friends who chose not to return, lack of vegetation from the salt water, and limited ability to walk around the corner to their favorite store or hangout.
As we continued, we saw a major theme park sitting silent in the distance. It, too, had sat in the water for days/weeks and has been abandoned. Our tour guide explained that the city had priorities in what should be repaired or demolished and that they would eventually get around to restoring these types of things. It was clear that it would be awhile even now as there is so much left to be done first.
There are success stories of stores that have returned and it left me wondering if there isn't something that we can all do...
Everyone knows that Brad Pitt (and Angelina) have a home in the French Quarter, right? I have read heartwarming stories of the work Brad has put together for the residents most effected. Our tour took us right by the area where his sponsored rebuilding continues. Although we did not experience a 'Brad Pitt sighting', we did find a stand-in for one scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The nighttime scene when Daisy dances for Benjamin was filmed in City Park. City Park was a complete delight and we fell in love with everything about it.
All in, we all agree that this was a great trip to experience. It seems a small contribution to be a tourist and spend money in New Orleans to help their economy, but every little bit counts. If you decide to visit, there is so much more to see and do besides Bourbon St. Take a tour, see the Garden District, eat at Camilla Grill, and ride the Trolley cars.

Don't forget to let the good times roll!


becky c. said...

Great photos and an important reminder that things are still not in order in that poor city.

Dianne MacDonald said...

How sad for people living there. It's so easy to forget the on-going struggles when you don't see them or hear about them everyday.
That Kentucky t-shirt looks familiar! Does he go to UK?

Jeanne said...

I can't believe its been 4 years - I met my husband in New Orleans and have wanted to go back for a long time. How sad that its still in such bad shape - and thanks for the reminder that it is.