When I come to a big city, I like to take a city tour to get my bearings. I had pamphlets for a bunch of them here in New Orleans and picked the one that seemed to offer the best value, then I searched for online reviews to solidify my choice. I went with the Louisiana Tour Company, offering a three-hour tour for $44 (plus a $5 tip to the driver).
This tour is really a full three hours. They do not count the time it takes to pick up everyone at their hotels and drop them off again as being part of the tour. I was picked up in Gretna on the Westbank at about 1:20 for the 1:30 tour. By the time we’d picked up everybody and payment had been taken, it was well past 2:00. We finished the tour past 5:00 and I didn’t get back to my car in Gretna until 6:30.
The tour offers a general overview of the main areas of the city that are of interest to tourists, including the Central Business District; the French Quarter; and the Lower 9th Ward, the area most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We also got out of the bus to explore a Catholic Cemetery and took a break for beignets in City Park.
Our tour guide, Eugene, is a New Orleans native whose love and knowledge of his city was obvious. I couldn’t even begin to get into all the information he gave us, from talking about famous landmarks to pointing out little architectural details I would never have otherwise noticed. He was very friendly, professional, and spun a good yarn without sounding like he was full of bull. I’ve been on city tours where the drivers liked to feed cockamamie stories to gullible tourists and this was not the case here.
The best part of the tour was definitely the visit to the Lower 9th Ward where Eugene gave us the scoop on what really happened down there by sharing the story of a man who chose to ride out the storm with his family. This man has returned to his neighborhood and lives in one of the Brad Pitt foundation homes.
The Lower 9th Ward, being the poorest area of the city, is the slowest to come back to life and is still full of blighted homes. But the community that is rising from the ruins appears to be full of promise. The tour companies are not allowed to actually go into the community, as per a federal decree, but apparently the residents liked having the tour groups go through as they made money selling lemonade, cookies, and pralines to the tourists.
We covered a lot of ground today, but I am now well prepared to explore the French Quarter (possibly tomorrow) having seen where the Algier Ferry docks (right in front of Harrah’s) and being armed with a list of good restaurants that won’t break the bank.
Eugene and I had a nice chat about my RVing life on the way back to Gretna and he pointed out a few restaurants I could try, but admitted that he drives into the city to eat as the Westbank options are uninspiring.
I’m really glad I did the city tour offered by the Louisiana Tour Company!
The following pictures are the best I was able to take on a moving bus through glass! I really wish I had been able to get a few good ones of the ginormous magnificent homes along St. Charles Avenue.
The architecture feels very French.
I like the mix of old and new architecture.
This 50-story tall building used to be Shell Headquarters, which have now moved to Houston, Texas.
These bleachers are for the Mardi Gras parades.
Robert E Lee
One of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants.
The streetcars are good value for getting to some parts of the city. I witnessed a ton of construction going on to prolong this line.
There were Mardi Gras beads hanging from the trees on St. Charles Avenue. I couldn’t believe that nearly eight years ago, St. Charles Avenue was under 16 feet of water.
The owner of this house dresses up his stone pigs for every possible occasion.
A lemon tree!!!
This house that looks like it was cut in half was built on a property line.
This building with a lighthouse sticking out of it is for sale.
US. Marshal parking only!
The Harrah’s casino. Gambling is illegal in the area, so there is no gambling in the casino, only gaming. 🙂
The Riverwalk shopping centre.
Driving down Decatur Street in the French Quarter.
You can rent these hilarious little cars.
These are mules, which are hardier than horses.
The Central Grocery, home of the Muffuleta sandwich.
A statue of Joan of Arc.
One of the many beautiful statues in a Catholic cemetery.
Everyone is buried above ground in New Orleans.
Perpetual care means that extra money was paid in the 18th century for the church diocese to maintain the tombs forever!
This new tomb is a monstrosity, methinks. Some people have more money than sense.
Masons sneaked into this cemetery and built a tomb, but only one person was ever allowed to be interred here.
This tomb is getting a new door.
This little boy was catching small flat silver fishes.
We stopped at the Morning Call café for refreshments, including beignets and café au lait. I was unable to get service and didn’t really want to eat there anyway since the place did not feel clean.
The New Orleans Museum of Art.
Statue of Beauregard, the guy who fired the first shot of the US Civil War.
The rich parts of New Orleans look like nothing happened. But when you reach the 9th Ward, you see many houses that need repair or to simply be bulldozed.
This is where the levee broke that flooded the Lower 9th Ward.
All those colourful houses were built by the Brad Pitt Foundation. He promised to build 150 homes and 90 have been built so far. To qualify for a home, you had to have a home in the Lower 9th Ward with a clear title. The homes cost $125,000 and up and the residents have a 10-year interest free loan on them, which is about $700 a month in payments. They all have solar panels to reduce the monthly power bills.
The water levels in the Lower 9th Ward rose to over 25′ feet, then settled at 16′, which is the top of the tallest blue post.