Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NOLA this morning, Beaumont Texas tonight

Y'up we are back in Texas!  Hard to imagine that we were still in New Orleans this morning.  We had another great week there and still have so many things on our to do list that we could keep going back and still have lots to enjoy.
While in New Orleans we decided to take the free ferry over to Algiers, Louisana.  This was a French settlement started in 1719.  It is a 15 minute ride over the Mississippi to get to this pretty town that is now a suburb of New Orleans.  It is very quiet, quite unlike the streets of N'Awlins.  There is a self guided tour of the area which is about 2 miles round trip from the ferry dock.  You can pick up the guide when getting on to the ferry.  We only did part of the tour, since we were limited in time, needed to get back to our shuttle pick up by 4pm.  There were a few other tourists who were doing the quick tour, thankfully not many of us, so not a crowd walking the streets. This is a nice way to spend an afternoon if you have the time.







http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algiers,_New_Orleans

So, we were here during the French Quarter Festival.  Wow, it wasn't as big as Mardi Gras, but this is still a big time.  It was crowded, there was lots of good music but it was also a bit overwhelming at times.  This is a major street party that lasts for 4 days.  It was hot and sunny and humid, it was N'Awlins!
Glad we did it once but it is not our type of thing to do often.

Options were many, so we drove across Lake Pontchartrain to see what was on the other side.  The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest bridge in the world, almost 24 miles long.  When you are in the middle you can not see land in any direction.  It was wild!    It is free going north and just $3 when driving south on the causeway.







http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Pontchartrain
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Pontchartrain_Causeway

Once on the other side, we went to Fontainbleau State Park and spent the day hiking around a former plantation.  Saw some gators, crabs and a turtle.  A beautiful park with some great looking campsites that would even hold our rig easily.

alligator snapping turtle shell ...just a bit impressive! head is model to give you an idea of its size.



yes that is real!  and close!



I am standing about 7-8 feet away from this gator, on a low walkway.  Mating season, he was probably establishing territory.  Another gator was in the area with him but about 12 feet away from me.  It is quite an impression to be with these animals in there natural environment.  You do need to pay attention to where you are and what they are doing.  There is no park ranger or other person around to keep an eye on them while you are walking around.  This is not behind a fence of any kind.

http://fontainebleaustatepark.com/

Another trip we took during the week was to Jean Lafitte Preserve. Yes, this was where the real Jean Lafitte pirate hung out when he wasn't helping Andrew Jackson run goods up the coast and thru the swamps. This is about 25 miles south of NOLA and is a swamp area.  Here again it was seeing the diversity of what a swamp is - marshy, lots of trees, no trees, dense brush, palmettos, gators, lots of birds, turtles, fish. There are swamp irises and water lilies even.  There is such a diversity in the swamps that we have seen so far. It is so different than what I imagined a swamp was like. it is much more complex than I ever thought.

gator resting in the foliage as we walk by





http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Lafitte
http://www.nps.gov/jela/index.htm

 We have more exploring to do in this beautiful area.  This coastal area of Louisiana is beautiful and full of history.  Next time we want to spend more time in the Cajun area which is more towards Lafayette and Baton Rouge ( or Red Stick as Fred keeps calling it!).

Tomorrow we will be back at our campsite in Somerset Texas.  We will be there for just 4 days before we head north to Seattle.  We will be leaving the Roulotte in Somerset and driving in the car.  It will take us 5 days to get there, which hopefully with give us some time to adjust to the colder climate....we'll see.
We have a week of stuff to keep us busy, then our son is getting married on May 5th.  We are so looking forward to having his fiancee Amanda becoming part of our family!
Then after the wedding, May 9th we leave for France.  Lots of time will be spent at the house in Le Cannet, but we also plan to take some side trips.  We have already booked tickets to Basel Switzerland in June.  We will be visiting our South African cousin Maurice and his partner Gus, in Basel, where they are currently living.  It will be a full summer to say the least.

Stay tuned,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!