Tuesday, 17 May 2011

New Orleans - Louisiana - Part 1

15th April 2011

We arrived at Peoria Airport around 9:00 am in the morning. The weather was chilly overcast but dry. Having checking in, we decided to take a coffee before passing through security, and so arrived at the gate around 10:00am for an 11:00am departure. It was here we were advised that our flight was delayed by 1 hour due to severe winds in the south..... Panic struck; we only had 1 hour to change flights in Dallas so we would almost certainly miss the connection.
I went to the AA clerk and asked what she could do. The best was that our planned 2:15 flight from Dallas would be changed to 9:50 pm, we would loose a whole evening in New Orleans.

Eventually we departed Peoria (1 hour 10 minutes late) and we arrived safely in Dallas. We quickly went to the departure board only to find our original flight was delayed 35 minutes, and we had around 30 minutes left to get from terminal B to terminal C. We went off like mad-men through the building to catch the shuttle. It was evident that we had to make 4 stops on the shuttle before we got to our terminal, and I started to get concerned that we may miss the flight. I got even more concerned when the shuttled stalled at stop 3 because the doors would not close. We arrived at terminal C with around 10 minutes spare, and again we were off at high speed towards the gate, apologising to all the other people we were having to pass along the way.

Hey-Presto.... we arrived just in time and got on the flight which left for New Orleans around 2:45, arriving around 4:15... we would still be able to make a good evening in New Orleans ..... Yipee!!!!

Ch√Ęteau Hotel
We took a Taxi to our Hotel, a quaint traditional French building with courtyard, and several blocks away from Bourbon Street, so away from the noise of the nightly celebrations.

The room was basic with a Double bed, and en-suite bathroom. It faced directly onto the courtyard, so had a nice view of the building.

The Hotel itself was a 5 minute walk from both the French Market, and the mighty Mississippi River, and just 3 minutes from the Cathedral a great location.

St Louis Cathedral
 After checking into the Hotel we took a walk to the River (Pictures etc below), and then went to the Cathedral. What a splendid building with a square in front as well as a huge park. This imposing building dominates the area, and its architecture is typical of the 18th century style used in France. The first church built here was in 1727, and it survived 6 decades before being destroyed by a fire in 1788. In 1793 the Cathedral in its current from was completed

In 1975/76, the bicentennial was held in the city for the 200th year of the Cathedral, and a plaque proudly adorns the wall of the Cathedral next to another plaque in honour of the visit by  Pope John Paul II in 1987.
Bicentennial Plaque

Plaque recording a visit from the Pope

Cathedral Alter
After the Cathedral we went back to the Hotel to freshen up, then took the short walk through the rustic colonial roads to the famous Bourbon Street.

The first bar we went to was called 'Bourbon Jazz' The music was fantastic, and the bar is supposedly famous for its Irish Coffee, however we did not try it, instead we had some cocktails and enjoyed the music and singing.
The band was real friendly and we talked with the players for a while during the interval.

We moved on to another bar called Chris Evans. This was real fun, the band wanted audience participation and it was not long before I was on stage (Representing England) dancing with the two singers.

The crowd was very supportive and started to call me English for the rest of the evening.

Below are some additional pictures from the evening.

After an hour or so we moved on the the courtyard at the far end of Bourbon street where another Jazz band was playing for the evening. Just like the first Band we saw, they were great, and played really together. Many people in the audience were dancing, however we were starting to feel a little tired, and after an hour or so the band finished playing and we went back to the Hotel for a good nights sleep.


16th April 2011

We woke around 10am, hand breakfast in the Hotel courtyard (Muffins and Coffee), and then decided to go to the French market. It was immense, there must have been at least 150 stalls selling everything from spices to clothes and art work. Here we bought a hand painted slate roof tile dating back to 1790 that was salvaged from colonial building that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Below are some of the images from the market.

It was at the market we first saw this youth Jazz Band, they played well together, and we saw them many times afterwards at various different areas of the city.

We had dinner at a small restaurant by the market. The service was awful, but the food was good. They had a door attached to one of the walls. It transpired that this was a door from one of the houses destroyed by Katrina. The top part of the door was covered in painted writing. This was a signal to rescue workers that this house had been searched, and anyone inside had been recovered. The bottom half of the door had a painting on it dedicated to the city before Katrina.
After we walked around the park in front of the Cathedral where local artists were selling paintings, and some locals in carnival dress were trying to earn a few dollars by giving us tourists a photo opportunity.

Below are pictures from around the park.

When we had finished admiring the art we took a ride on a horse and carriage through the French quarter the pictures below show some of the architectural features of the old colonial buildings.

After the ride, we went back to freshen up at the Hotel, and returned to Bourbon Street to visit the bars and listen to the great music.

One the way we saw a wedding procession. It appears that it is tradition in New Orleans for a newly married couple to walk from the church to the reception following a typical New Orleans Jazz Band.
The Bride, Groom and Guests were following the band and all were dancing and full of happiness. I thought this was such a great way to celebrate a marriage.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Cinco de Mayo

What is Cinco de Mayo?  And why should Americans celebrate this day?  Because 4,000 Mexican soldiers smashed the French army of 8,000 at Puebla, Mexico, 100 miles east of Mexico City on the morning of May 5, 1862.

The French had landed in Mexico five months earlier on the pretext of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President Benito Juarez.

Under Emperor Napoleon III, the French had come to stay.  They brought a Hapsburg prince with them to rule a new Mexican empire.  His name was Maximilian; his wife, Carolota.

Napoleon's French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion.  The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War.

The French Army left the port of Vera Cruz to attack Mexico City to the west. Under the command of Texas-born General Zaragosa, the Mexicans awaited. Brightly dressed French Dragoons led the enemy columns.  

General Zaragosa ordered his cavalry, the best in the world, out to the French flanks.  In response, the French did a most stupid thing; they sent their cavalry off to chase Diaz and his men, who proceeded to butcher them.  The remaining French infantrymen charged the Mexican defenders through sloppy mud from a thunderstorm and through hundreds of stampeding cattle stirred up by Indians armed only with machetes.

When the battle was over, many French were killed or wounded and their cavalry was being chased by the Mexican horsemen miles away.  The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen.  This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the US Civil War.

So we decided to go to the Mexican Restaurant Jalapenos to see what was going on..... and wow..... they had a great celebration in full swing.

A Mexican Band, Margaritas, Dancing, Food.... it was all there. Below are some images of the evening (Quality not so good - Sorry).