Friday, July 03, 2009

Greetings from New Orleans, Day Three

We started the day Thursday driving out of the city past famous above-ground cemeteries to Destrehan Plantation, the 1787 manor on the Mississippi River that produced indigo, then sugar, then served as a refinery for Amoco before the manor house, slave cabins, and some of the other buildings were restored. The plantation has an 1804 document signed by Thomas Jefferson that appointed Jean Noel Destrehan to the council that governed the Louisiana Territory, plus reproductions of the papers that transferred the Louisiana Purchase from Spain to France to the United States. There's a tour of the home describing the lives of the plantation owners and their slaves, plus an outdoor demonstration of how sugar was refined there. It was beastly hot once outside the climate-controlled mansion, but we got to see dragonflies, lizards, and various birds that live along the Mississippi, including a flock of egrets.

We had a small lunch so that after stopping in a couple of stores, we could have beignets at Cafe du Monde. I think older son ate five of them. We walked to the Voodoo Museum and Voodoo Spiritual Temple, both off Dumaine, plus we visited the French Market and the Jazz National Historical Park, where two rangers were giving a terrific demonstration of the range of music developed and played in New Orleans, primarily blues and second-line funeral spirituals. We had dinner at Café Beignet, as much because the live jazz band Steamboat Willie plays at the Music Legends Park location on Bourbon Street as for the food (more gumbo, jambalaya, muffaletta, and fresh-squeezed lemonade, plus Paul stopped for a hand grenade at Tropical Isle because we figured we had to have that or a hurricane). I know a lot of people find the French Quarter loud and tacky these days but I really love it -- I adored standing on a corner at the start of a thunderstorm with live jazz behind me, live zydeco across one street and live blues-rock across another, watching people dancing to different rhythms.

A massive, nearly 200-year-old live oak tree draped with Spanish moss in front of the manor at Destrehan Plantation.

Here are Daniel and Adam in front of the manor house, which served as a home for oil executives and then for vagrants before Amoco turned it over to a volunteer group committed to its restoration.

Visitors to Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street enjoying beignets and iced coffee in the heat.

The best national park ranger show I have ever seen -- live music at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.

The Joan of Arc statue in the French Market, America's oldest city market, is a copy of an 1880 Emmanuel Fremiet statue from the Place des Pyramides, Paris.

Marie Laveau, Priestess Miriam and others appear in photographs over an altar in the Voodoo Spiritual Temple on Rampart Street.

Daniel and Adam at the entrance to Music Legends Park, with Cafe Beignet in the background.

Steamboat Willie playing jazz in the park. We only heard part of a set because of an evening thunderstorm, but it had cooled off -- plus there were spraying fans -- so it was very enjoyable, particularly with gumbo.

On Friday, sadly, we are leaving New Orleans, though we are going on a swamp tour before we head back into Alabama.

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