Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Swamp Tour and a 32 Foot Alligator

We started off the day back on the road towards Slidell, LA.

View Day 5 in a larger map
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world.

Our first activity of the day was a Honey Island Swamp Tour. The base of operations was located just on the outskirts of Slidell.

The tour was clearly geared toward alligator watching but in between sightings our guide gave us lots of interesting information about the plant life in the swamp. He said that Spanish Moss didn't come from Spain but was named such by the Native Americans who noticed the similarity between the plant and Spaniards' facial hair.

The swamp people houses were another big highlight for me. Many of them were in disrepair and had been abandoned since Hurricane Katrina.

After another crawfish laden meal in Slidell proper, we took yet another last minute detour before returning to New Orleans. I enjoy the quirky-crafty flavors of Abita Brewing Company, so when I saw Abita Springs on the map I was practically obligated to go and check it out.

Well it turns out that the brewery has since moved to nearby Covington (sellouts!) but the brewpub where the magic began is still in operation. They had even crazier beer flavors than the few you can buy in St. Louis. We had one made for springtime that tasted like strawberries.

Speaking of quirky, most definitely the weirdest place we saw on the whole trip was the Abita Mystery House. It was completely packed full of mysteries.

One room was completely filled with odd little moving dioramas that told the story of Louisiana. 

This one was my favorite. I would have totally got an A in 7th grade history class with this baby.

When the aliens crash landed right next to a giant bassigator, things really got weird.

Why not make a wall by cementing glass bottles together?

"Devil Dog Bar-B-Que Sign. Both barbecued meats and a firm belief in the existence of hell are staples of Southern culture. Hot, spicy foods can't help but get associated with the Lord of the Underworld. With a fine eye for the Southern scene, set artist Dave Kelsey made this sign to appear with Tom Cruise in the film Interview with a Vampire--The Night Shift Historian"

32 feet. Get it?

Back in New Orleans we headed to the Garden District by trolley.

It's a bit hard to tell from this picture but many a tree and power line were completely drenched in beads from the frequent parades.

We saw a really cool cemetery but it was already closed. Womp womp.

The Garden District was so named because there were only a couple of fancy houses on each block surrounded by large gardens. The short version of the district's story is that the existing Creole inhabitants of New Orleans didn't like the influx of rich Americans and resisted them moving into to the established parts of the city such as the French Quarter. So the rich newbies just built their own neighborhoods in order to properly thumb their rich noses. We took a nice little self guided walking tour of the houses, but strangely enough I thought the fences were the best part.

Corn stalk fence. Never has there been a cooler fence.

I noticed some trees that had a lot of these little resurrection ferns hanging out on them. They can tolerate extremely dry conditions by getting all brown and crinkled and then pop up back to life when it rains.

Precursor to the chain link fence.

Run out of places to put fences? Doubtful.

We shopped around quite a bit for our last dinner in New Orleans. The French Quarter is just so crowded with tourists. The places that looked good had long waits and there were lots of places that didn't look very authentic. I recall vetoing at least one Italian restaurant. We finally found this nice place called Olivier's Creole Restaurant In the French Quarter. I had to fight the urge to order the rabbit. I recall the food being good and the waiter was super nice, which came in handy later. Unbeknownst to us there was a massive group upstairs that had the kitchen at an apparent standstill. I like to think I am pretty patient so the hourish-long wait for our food would not have bothered me incredibly. I was on vacation and in a good mood after all. But the waiter felt bad so he brought us free salads. Then a free appetizer. Then said pretty much just order whatever drinks and dessert you want on the house. More than one hurricane was consumed that night. They washed down the bread pudding nicely.

The nightly craziness on Bourbon Street was fun to watch but I wasn't much in the mood to participate. Especially on a Tuesday. Too much adventurin' to do!

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