Monday, 2 April 2012

Gulf of Mexico

Continued south and east to the Texas coast. Camped on the beach at Port Aransas with a handful of neighbours. The skies were gray with fog and rain but the view was gorgeous and sound of the pounding waves was relaxing. We planned to stay for five nights here since it was the beginning of March Break and
campgrounds would be filled to the max.
We were parked near a pier where the locals came to fish and ocean liners entered the canal that lead to the main harbour. Although it remained gray and rainy, we enjoyed walking the beach, and the many seabirds, especially the pelican's ritual gliding in formation just above the waves edge. The first two days were great but by Monday, the beach began to be invaded! (see photos above)
We escaped to Corpus Cristi for a grand tour of the USS Lexington Air Craft Carrier/Museum. Explored the enormous ship and a great collection of jets parked on the flight deck. Toured the sleeping quarters, kitchens, dental and doctor's offices and posh officer's quarters. Examined the many dials and thousands of wires and control mechanisms throughout the vessel and were overwhelmed! Having watched many films and read novels about these ships, it was a real treat to be aboard one and imagine it out on the seas.
Upon returning to our campsite, we found seven trucks and cars parked and mobs of people directly in front of our lawn chairs. To top it off, music was blaring at top volume with our favourite bass-beat pounding! It was so kind of them to share their music with everyone within a mile's radius. NOT! Neither asking them outright or calling the police had any effect. We decided to forfeit a night's camp fee and got out of there the next morning. Note to self : avoid beach during spring break!

Drove east through rain and fog, small towns, bayous, grasslands and saw many fisher-folk trying their luck in the canals. Set up camp beside a pond at the Galveston Bay RV Resort. Had a great seafood dinner of shrimp and red snapper that we picked up "right off the boat" at a local fish mongers. Stayed two days in the heavy rain, lingering fog and heavy humidity. Local green parrots added a splash of colour when they regularly swooped in and out of the palms. We noticed many trailers in the park, including our next door neighbour whose lots were filled with plastic bins, bikes, toys and tools. Sadly, many Americans have lost their homes due to the recession and campgrounds are affordable alternatives to life on the street.

March 15 found us driving past many marshes, swamps and craw fish farms. Soggy fields hold baskets with floating markers about every ten feet where "farmers" haul in their catch of crawdaddys and I suppose crawmommys too! Arrived at the lakeside at Poche's Fish-N-Camp in Louisiana where a recent nine inches of rain had flooded the fields behind and around the camp. We enjoyed our books and beverages as we relaxed by the lakeside where turtles of many sizes popped up and down like ducks at a carnival shooting gallery. Sunshine, powder-blue sky and see-something-in-me clouds completed the scene.

Three couples befriended us and we "dined" with four of them (from Ontario) at the above Poche's Restaurant and market. Most food "joints" here feature shrimp, craw fish, gumbo and boudin: somewhat like a haggis sausage with cajun spices. PoBoy sandwiches feature shrimp or catfish. Locals love cracklins....deep fried hog belly....wooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! As you can see, decor is fairly rustic and based on huntin 'n fishin. Not much chance of mixing up Poche with Posh. As well as sharing some time with our new Ontario friends over cocktails, we also doled out some apples and carrots to our horse-neighbours whose paddocks were right in front of CC.

On March 18 we headed to Avery Island where we toured the Tabasco Factory. The grounds and history were interesting but we were disappointed to find the factory closed on the weekend so all the assembly lines were dead still. Continued east across many bridges, waterways and swamps filled with Cypress trees. Arrived at "Pontchartrain Landing RV" in New Orleans early afternoon. Caught the shuttle in to the French Quarter and were transplanted into "The Big Easy" on St. Patrick's Day. Heat and humidity, well-lubed tourists, live rhythms in the streets and explosive music from each bar and restaurant mixed in a whirlwind of energy.
We could not avoid being sucked into the vortex of Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, Blues and Jazz clubs and absorb the pulse of the historic place. Enjoyed a fabulous seafood dinner in the grand old dining room at the Louisiana/Cajun style Ralph & Kacoos Restaurant.

For breakfast, we munched on beignets from Cafe Du Monde, the famous French chain operating since 1862. Set out on a humid gray day, to the Plantation District where we toured the "Laura Plantation".
The manager's home at this creole operation featured amazing gardens with a variety of banana trees, flowers, herbs and vegetables; beautiful furnishings, lamps and porches and tiled wine cellars and food storage areas. In contrast, the small, rustic "slave cabins" were sparse and very basic. The grounds were shaded by gigantic "Live Oak Trees".

Up early, heading east to Slidell where we entered the bayou on the "Honey Island Swamp Tour". The water was very high due to spring run-off and recent rains. Water lapped at the edge of old fishing camp cabins and close to the backyards of expensive waterfront homes. The cypress forests, Spanish moss, blue iris, yellow water lilies, wild rice and reflective tea-coloured water created a spectacle to behold. Even though alligators are only beginning to come out of hibernation, we were able to see two babies. Both were about a metre long and one, lying on a log, was covered in bright green algae and the second was swimming.
They appeared even cuter when the Asian man sitting next to me said "Rook at the rittre arrigator!" We also saw a few snakes sunning themselves on the branches, egrets, blue herons, crawfish in a trap and catfish being hauled aboard a small fishing boat. As we landed the skies clouded over and the rains began.

Crazy wind and rain all night and predictions of storms all day. Spent a couple of hours wandering through the "Metarie Cemetery". Everyone who comes to New Orleans does at least one cemetery tour of the gorgeous above-ground old tombs and monuments decorated with mold. History and culture combine in these serene and fascinating places. 

While driving around New Orleans and its suburbs the evidence of Katrina is obvious. There are an amazing number of properties that are totally abandoned and others with roofs partly ripped off and windows boarded up still occupied. It is barely imaginable what things were like during the storm and for the first few months after.

We parked downtown and went for a damp stroll along the Mississippi River walk dodging downpours. At least the temperature of the air and the rain were warm. The "Ole Man River's" brown waters were flowing fast. A  madman, dressed in a yellow raincoat, frantically played the calliope on the upper deck of  a beautiful Mississippi paddle wheel. We assumed he was hoping to draw some passengers in for a boat ride We also went for a long hike in City Park, loaded with ponds, amazing oaks, blooming spring hedges and a great sculpture garden.

Constant storms and rain all night again. Dropped Dixie at daycare for a grooming and play day. Chris and I had a special lunch at one of Emeril's fabulous New Orleans Restaurant. Jumped on the St. Charles Streetcar which are restored cars with wooden seats, squeaky rails and loud cranky brakes. At $1.25 each, it was the best way to tour the west end and Garden District and stay out of the rain. We caught a walk past the pastel coloured antebellum mansions with their inviting porches, ornate fences covered in fragrant roses of all colours and amazing trees whose roots lay along the sidewalks like large sleeping dogs.

Despite the bad weather, we took a long stroll through the French Quarter and sipped a bourbon at "The Layfitte", the oldest bar in the quarter. We had one last dose of the Bourbon Street debauchery with its crazy neon sexual-invitation signs, tacky souvenir shops and loud music screaming into the street. After enduring the most consecutive thunderstorms in a row throughout the night and more predicted for the next
day, we decided to leave a day early and headed towards Florida.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You sure have been busy! Thanks for the whirlwind tour :-)))