The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Greetings from New Orleans

I am writing this from the Ramada Inn on Bourbon Street, former location of the French opera house at the corner of Toulouse, where we have returned after a fabulous Cajun dinner at La Bayou -- I'm sure there are better restaurants in the French Quarter but I'm not sure there are many where one can get so many different dishes so well done for so little money -- and wandering around stores selling Mardi Gras beads, voodoo charms, fleur de lis jewelry, images of women my sons probably did not need to see (well, they had probably seen them before, but they didn't need to see them with me around!) and vampire collectibles. It's all utterly delightful, particularly since we are in the quiet part of the hotel where the all-night music can't be heard at 2 a.m.

We started our day very early in Pensacola, since we had good weather -- big breakfast buffet, then a couple of hours on the beach, where we saw lots of fish and comb jellies in the clear water, followed by a visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore visitor center and their exhibits on sustainable lumber, shipbuilding, and wildlife in the region. It started to rain hard before we could walk the circular path by the water, so we went on to Davis Bayou in Mississippi after a quick stop for lunch. There were no alligators in the swamp that we could see, but there were turtles, crabs, fish, dragonflies, herons, and lots of other wildlife.

We made a brief stop in Biloxi to see the lighthouse and beach, then drove over the Louisiana border, across the enormous bridge spanning Lake Pontchartrain, and into the devastated area of New Orleans near the water there, with dozens of buildings still abandoned or partially collapsed. The French Quarter, however, is very lively even at this hour on a weeknight, with both the music and adult nightclub scenes thriving. Thus far we haven't done any serious sightseeing so I'll save city photos for tomorrow and stick with the delights of the waterways of Florida and Mississippi...

The sky over Pensacola Beach early Tuesday morning.

An exhibit at the Gulf Islands National Seashore visitor center on the advantages of live oak as a building material for wooden ships includes this model of Old Ironsides' construction. ("She's Yankee-built, sir. Will, here, he was getting married, and his wife's second cousin works in the yards, so Will saw the ship out of water...and he described it to me, and I knocked you up a model.")

Little fiddler crabs scuttling across the mud at Davis Bayou.

There were also big blue crabs stealing bait off fishing lines... well as turtles in the alligator swamp...

...and herons in the tidal marshes...

...and dragonflies all around the plants both near the water and in the desert-like dune areas.

Biloxi's 1848 lighthouse is the only lighthouse in the United States to stand in the middle of a four-lane highway, and it survived Hurricane Katrina, though presently it is under construction. Much of the rest of the city features big casinos -- I felt like we'd stumbled into Atlantic City.

Wednesday we will visit Jackson Square and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas!
Tags: trip south 09

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