Today we travelled those 200 odd miles and crossed three state lines. Journeying this way definitely gives you a better understanding of the geography of this vast country. At times we could almost have been at home, cold, wet and countryside not unlike our own. Evidence of the disaster this area was subjected too, is not apparent from the “motorway” But then when you pull into an RV site that you thought would be OK and you realise it’s far from the kind of place you want to be, the reality hits home. We haven’t been to areas that were hard hit, but in the tourist information centres the overwhelming feeling is “Well it’s not as beautiful as it was, well that state park is still shut, well it’ll be a long time before that area is open again…” On the other hand from the bumper stickers that read ”Together we will rebuild” to the enormous pride in the local football team…the Saints who are one game away from the superbowl final it’s obvious the indomitable spirit will win through; not this month, maybe not this year, but it will. (Update: unfortunately The Saints didn’t make it to the final, but the lift that it has given to the locals is humbling to witness, whatever happens their spirit is strong)
Some I know may think it’s macabre to have come here, but in some small way every tourist who visits is helping to get the region back on it’s feet. The visitors’ centres are immaculate and the staff work hard to make people feel welcome.
With their help we have found a state park that’s open on the northern shores of Lake Pontchartrain (New Orleans is about 30 miles away on the southern shore) there is evidence of damage, but the site is fairly busy.
Saturday saw us drive across the lake over a 24-mile causeway; we couldn’t see the other side! Our first site of this famous city made it look like a pile of children’s building blocks stacked high in the greyness beyond. The causeway took us straight into the centre of town, through the business district (much like any other) and onto the French Quarter. It was, I think just as we imagined it, perhaps a little tattier, not because of Katrina, but just because it’s old and any maintenance must now take second place to the very necessary re building elsewhere. It was a very cold, grey day, which didn’t help. We had expected it to be busier but given the weather and the Saints fans who had travelled to Chicago for the game I suppose it wasn’t that surprising. But the wrought iron balconies, the appetising smells from the many restaurants and the mesmeric sounds of the jazz and blues wafting through the streets were pure “south” A local wedding brought sunshine on a rainy day as the happy couple and their guests danced through the streets accompanied by a jazz band, hair on the back of the neck stuff! We ate fish gumbo from the ”world famous Gumbo shop” www.gumboshop.com so famous we had to queue for quite a while, but it gave us the opportunity to chat to some locals. We enjoyed our time but didn’t linger, we came to be warm…time to move on.