After we left Memphis we took a little detour into Arkansas to fill up the gas tank, just so we could say we’d been there and could fill in another state on our map. Perhaps another time we’ll visit longer. Back on the I-55 we turned south into Mississippi. By 6:00 pm we were still in Mississippi, but had had enough driving for one day. We found an accommodating Wal-Mart parking lot in Brookhaven, where we joined a few other motor homes and several semis.
At noon the next day we pulled into The KOA French Quarter RV Resort in New Orleans, and I thought “I want to stay here for the winter!” This is a resort indeed, with inter-locking brick streets and RV lots. Each lot is extra wide and has a furnished, screened, wooden gazebo. There are also all the other necessities such as a laundry, pool and hot tub, all housed in a beautiful southern style brick complex. There is even an outdoor ice machine to aid with your refreshments. Sounds rather expensive, right? Well, it definitely isn’t a place that we could stay long term, or return to often. The normal rate to rent a spot is $99 a night. Unfortunately, there were no KOA owned lots available at the time, but there were privately owned ones which go for $114 per night. That’s more than double what we would normally be willing to pay. But it was worth it for a couple of nights for the convenience. It’s situated right on the edge of The French Quarter, within walking distance of all the activity, and we were more than happy to not have to take the bike into the crowded streets or find a safe place to park it.
The first thing we did was book a tour and by 2:00 pm we were on a mini-bus with Sam, a very animated tour guide, easing through the streets of the French Quarter and the various historical districts and parks that make up this interesting city.
We drove by Jackson Square, originally known in the 18th century as “Place d’Armes,” and later renamed in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. Later we would stroll through it, listening to some of the buskers who try to make a living there, and browse the many artist stalls and shops.
The unique architecture of the French Quarter caught my eye with it’s many wrought iron balconies and gingerbread scroll work.
Sam pointed out “shot gun” houses, very long houses with narrow street frontage. Some were single; some were double; most were wood clapboard. We passed Dillard University and were told that it was the very first university built exclusively for the newly-freed blacks in the area. We drove past the new musicians homes, built by Brad Pitt and Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina, and we saw damaged homes that remain abandoned. We made a stop at the home of one retired musician who has turned it into a shrine in memory of the devastation of Katrina. The tour was to end at 5:00 pm but at 5:30 we were stuck in traffic just a couple of blocks from the restaurants of the French Quarter. We opted to get out and walk there in search of dinner. We found Deanie’s, one recommended by the staff at the RV Resort. We weren’t disappointed. The garlic buttered butterfly shrimp and the baked catfish were cooked to perfection and tasty enough to have us licking our fingers. We were curious about the “appetizer”, a bowl of small red potatoes cooked until just tender and lightly salted on the inside. When questioned, our waitress told us that they had been boiled in sea food seasoning. We had to resist eating them all or we’d have had no room for our entrée!
After returning to the RV for a quick change of clothes, as it was cooler after the sun went down, we spent a few hours walking up and down Bourbon Street, listening to impromptu jazz bands on the street and more soul music drifting from the bars. Young boys danced on the pavement, the metal bottle lids attached to the soles of their shoes clicking out the rhythm. We stopped to watch and a young performer held out his hand for payment. Jim had no small bills so emptied his pocket of change. As we walked away he noticed the lad throw it onto the street! Guess he didn’t need money that badly. When we finally returned home, I was over-tired and over-stimulated. I found it difficult to get to sleep. So it was during the night that I wrote and posted my last blog entry.
The next morning saw us walking the five or six blocks to the French Market where we had lunch while observing the architecture and people, then strolled through the many vendor booths, resisting making purchases. The motor home already seemed to be bulging. The sun was again very hot and I was beginning to fade, but we walked a few more blocks until we found the St. Charles Street trolley line. A $3.00 pass let us ride and get off and on for the rest of the day. We took it to the end of the line in the Upper Gardens District. I admit that my eyes closed and my head bobbed a few times along the way. We admired the elegant colonial homes and gardens, for some of which we had been given the history while on the tour bus. By 4:00 I was really dragging and in need of coffee if I was going to make it home. We switched to the returning trolley and went back a few stops. We decided we might as well have an early dinner and after a delicious plate of sea food and a cup of coffee at O’Henry’s I felt slightly revived.
Not enough, however, for the energy that was required to get off the trolley again further down the line to take a closer look at the homes on 4th Street, but I did it anyway. From the street we watched a wedding taking place in the garden of one on the original mansions that can now be rented for such occasions. Back in the French Quarter we spent a couple more hours strolling Bourbon Street before finding our way home. It had been a good day, but I was wiped and my body was reminding me that it won’t be pushed so hard. I was gone the minute my head hit the pillow.