|11th May 2004
We haven't so far mentioned
the abrupt and discourteous treatment we have frequently
encountered in the French Quarter section of New Orleans. Maybe
this is a symptom of them receiving a never ending flood of tourists
and not having any worries about generating repeat business.
Anyhow, with a few notable exceptions, the shopkeepers and
public officials around the French Quarter were usually
downright abrupt and rude.
The rudeness very much reminded
us of experiences in Venice and Paris and this type of arrogant
attitude probably stems from the same type of tourist influx
causation. We should add that out in New Orleans proper it was a
completely different story.
Today is the day of truth when we
must turn our brains inside out and start driving on the wrong
side of the road. We've had to do it quite a few times over the
years and although the adaptation seems a little easier on each
successive occasion it is still a super scary experience!
The lady at Hertz is rude and
disinterested but at least our documents are in order and we
receive our Ford Taurus. Other customers claiming to have
reservations are not so lucky and are being given the bum's rush
in no uncertain manner, despite their protestations. "Got
no cars" is about the only response they can elicit from
the abrupt and rude individual behind the counter, "...told
you we aint got no cars".
Escaping from Hertz we set off to
find our way out of New Orleans. An hour later we were blessedly
out of the city and driving beside a pleasant bayou.
Lynn beside Ford Taurus and
The Ford Taurus which
had been originally described to us Australia as "full size
say like a Toyota Camry" is definitely smaller than that.
However it is comfortable enough, drives well and has (just)
enough trunk capacity to holds our bags, computer, knapsack and
mid size esky (that's a cooler or chilly bin to non Australian
These are easy going
roads and Brian's brain is coping well enough with driving on the
right hand side. In fact he's feeling so confident that it's
probably a little dangerous considering it's still Day One.
There are almost
continuous bayous (a romantic name for wetlands swamps) beside the
road. They are all populated with large swamp oaks and swamp
cypress trees which makes them much nicer than your typical garden
variety swamp. Southern Louisiana seems to be at least half water.
It's no wonder that crawdads and frogs legs feature so heavily in
We stop for lunch at a
typical American family diner which is part of a chain called
Shoney's. Comfortable, not over crowded and cheap as chips. We opt
for the 3 course buffet which looks pretty good. It only costs
$6.49 and represents fantastic value by Aussie standards. And oh what a
relief to receive the friendly and super efficient service we used
to always equate with visits to the US. In fact it will prove to
be typical of everyone we meet during the next two days at least.
Why the big difference
in manners, attitude and helpfulness? Well, for one thing we're
not in a big city anymore and for another, we're not in a so
called tourist "mecca".
During the afternoon
we spotted something called The Longfellow Evangeline Historic
Site and wheel into a almost deserted historical plantation with
large grassy expanses, huge old oak trees and squirrels scampering
everywhere we look. We decide to splurge on the $2 tour (would
have been at least $8 in Europe).
Longfellow wrote the
epic poem "Evangeline" here.
Our time is short so
we confine ourselves to an inspection of the old Plantation House
(circa 1790) where Fred, the world's greatest ham actor gives us a
2 person guided tour complete with never ending corny jokes which
include our own names and antipodean origins.
Walking along a
pathway through the forest we surprise a family of foxes... at
least 7 individuals including young pups. We've never seen more
than a solitary fox in our lives before and never so close as in
this encounter. There's a pregnant pause of about 5 to10 seconds
whilst they size us up and then they dart off into the scrub like
Resuming our journey
we end up on an almost deserted road which, unbeknown to us, is a
dual lane one way road. Unknown to us that is until we decide to
do a U turn and retrace our steps. Suddenly there's a string of
cars coming at us with idiot drivers honking their horns big time.
Lynn figures it out first and there is just enough time for Brian
to peel off into a deserted factory driveway and avoid a
Shortly afterwards we
find ourselves driving down the main street of a small town lined
with large old oak trees and antebellum (Latin = "before the
war") houses. We'll probably see much better examples as we
continue our travels but as it is often unwise to count on such
things we took a few snaps because the whole street had such a
typical movie-like American ambience.
Antebellum homes in
We finally arrived at
Maison des Amis in the town of Breaux Bridge but this "house
of friends" is completely deserted. It ultimately proves to
be a self drive bed and breakfast and we never get to meet the
owner or any staff. An envelope addressed to us includes keys to
our room and vouchers for breakfast at a nearby main street cafe
(also owned by our mysterious host).
Now here's something
off-putting. Our room comes complete with complementary
earplugs.... you know..... those industrial earplugs which are
packed as a pair inside a little cellophane packet or poly bag. We
kid you not. There were earplugs provided in every room. Not only
that, outside every room was a bottle of bug repellent. What have
we gotten ourselves into here???
The B&B is in an
old style slightly renovated house beside the Bayou Teche, an
advantage which will ultimately prove not so advantageous. Like
many such B&B's of this ilk it is a mixture of pleasantly
quaint and bloody annoying. Still at $100 per night it's about
what you'd probably expect for a decent size room with our own
decent size bathroom.
In the evening we took
dinner at a Cajun restaurant known as "Mulates". It was
recommended by our friend Diane Hopkins and it specialised in live
Cajun music and dancing.
Cajuns are the descendants
of French inhabitants of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick which the
British forced out after they took Canada from the French. Many of
these folks moved down to French owned Louisiana only to find
themselves "sold" to Anglo's again in 1803 when the "Louisiana
Purchase" took place.
All the singing was in
guttural Cajun French. The band comprised a flat bedded guitar, an
accordion and drums. The dance style was rather quaint and the
mainly elderly dancers utilised tiny little mincing dance steps.
Anyhow they were all nice folks and seemed to be having a good
time. The food however was over cooked to oblivion and is best
During the night it
started to rain..... BIG TIME!! The thunder was unbelievably loud
with peels so long they were almost continuous. We've never heard
anything like it in our lives before.
12th May 2004
We just discovered that all the Swamp Tours have been cancelled
due to the weather. So much
for that planned activity. We took ourselves to a Wal-Mart
store to buy cheap rain jackets and umbrellas. Wal-Mart stores are
like an Australian Big-W, Target or K-Mart.... only on steroids!
We couldn't believe
the unbelievable prices. Almost everything was super, super cheap.
We could bore you to death with dozens of examples but we won't.
Believe us though, when we say "cheap" we really mean
CHEAP. Most stuff was branded with respectable names too.
We heard that we could
do our own car based self guided swamp tour at nearby Lake Martin
so notwithstanding intermittent showers and downpours we headed
there to check it out.
Much of swamp is
covered with bright green weed
It was pretty amazing
stuff and if we'd had sun and a blue sky we could have taken some
exceptional photos. There were thousands of roosting water birds
including, white, grey, blue herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills
and others. Apparently there are lots of alligators too but as we
were confined to using the road we only saw one.
Two metre alligator
at Lake Martin
Lake Martin scenery
A White egret perfectly reflected
in swamp water
Whilst returning to
Breaux Bridge the heavens suddenly open and incredible amounts of
water start bucketing down. Streets are flooded and the Police and
out in force blocking intersections, diverting cars. Many
townsfolk can't get home and are forced to park wherever they can.
This greatly adds to the traffic mayhem.
These kids ride down
Rue Principale on an old mattress
With water up to our
doors and sometimes beyond, we dodge cops and abandoned stalled
cars as we try to feel our way back home via backstreets on
somewhat higher ground. We eventually succeed, thus avoiding the
necessity of spending hours (or all night) cooped up in our car.
Our back garden and
raised(?) gazebo beside Bayou Teche
We'd chosen Maison des
Amis B&B because it had the "advantage" of being
beside the river. That was beginning to look like a very bad idea
as the river crept closer and closer and the gazebo went fifty
We waded up to the
main street for dinner with our shoes and a bath towel in a
plastic bag. Alas, every restaurant had decided to close for the
night. We finally located a gas station that had some deep frozen
hamburgers and we took two of these back to the B&B for a
microwave treatment. We ground our way through these disgusting
articles whilst watching all the flood warnings on the local
Do you remember
Brian's plumbing problems back there in New Orleans? Well, Lynn
insisted that he take some Imodium pills she'd brought from home.
"I guarantee these will fix you up" she told a doubtful
Brian. Well that was days ago and we're now looking for the
antidote. Brian reckons that he ought to log onto the web and try
going to www.servesUright.com
And so to bed.