Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bayou Segnette State Park, New Orleans and the 2014 New Orleans Jazz Fest

Campsite 14 at Bayou Segnette State Park
We arrived here at Bayou Segnette on April 19th.  We stayed in this park 10 years ago when we visited New Orleans for our 10th anniversary.  Our 20th anniversary is coming up this June, so we thought is was a great time to re-visit New Orleans.

Bayou Segnette is located in Westwego, LA which is about 15 minutes away from downtown New Orleans (on the West bank of the Mississippi).  The sites are very large and well spaced.  There's no sewer, but the sites have electric and water, and the campground has free wifi.  The bonus feature is that the campground has free laundry rooms.  I think that all of Louisiana state campgrounds offer this - what a nice feature!

Everything in this park is about flood control.  There are concrete levees all along the road where the Bayou runs, and it looks as if they've built new gates.

The levee wall at Bayou Segnette State Park

Levee Gate at Bayou Segnette State Park

The Bayou is very pretty, with lots of wild flowers growing along it - wild Iris and I think the pink ones are Mexican Primrose.

There used to be 20 cabins along the Bayou, but Katrina took them all out, and all that's left are pilings.

Remains of cabins after Katrina - Bayou Segnette State Park
On Monday, Mirra had an appointment for an "interview" at Camp Bow Wow where we would be boarding her for two separate nights - one when we went out to dinner, and another when we went to the Jazz Festival.  She got a few hours of free play time so that they could see how she behaved with other dogs.  We took the opportunity to walk around Lafayette Cemetery Number I in the Garden District.

Lafayette Cemetery Number 1 New Orleans
On Tuesday we decided to take the drive to "the end of the world" as they call the town of Venice.  It's pretty much as far as you can go on Highway 23 (the Great River Road), which is the only road that runs that far into the Mississippi Delta.  Hurricane Katrina devastated this area, and you can see that by how many mobile and manufactured homes there are.  Most homes were underwater, and only one school survived.  Most people lost their homes and simply couldn't rebuild.  Here's a picture of what Venice looked like after Katrina..

Wikipedia Commons - Venice after Katrina

It's not hard to image the place flooding so badly when you see how close the water is to the road.  This picture was taken from the truck, and the water comes pretty much right up to the highway.

Shrimp boats at Venice, Louisiana

This whole area is about fishing - sport fishing and shrimping - and OIL!  The oil and gas companies are down here in force, with refineries, natural gas plants, storage facilities - you name it.

Bob got a great picture of a Spider Lily while we were on our way back to the campsite.

Spider Lily
On Wednesday we dropped Mirra off at Camp Bow Wow and after touring the WWII Museum, enjoyed a delicious pre-anniversary meal at Emeril's Delmonico Restaurant.  Bob and I both got a cup of Gumbo, followed by the Shrimp Clemenceau , which was excellent.  After that we went gambling at Harrah's on the waterfront.  Neither of us won, but we managed to gamble for a few hours without spending much money.

Thursday we made an excursion to get andouille and boudin sausage.  We found excellent andouille sausage not too far away at Jacob's Smokehouse in LaPlace, but we had to drive another 65 miles into Cajun country to get boudin sausage.  Boudin is a combination of cooked rice, pork and onions. We finally ended up at Don's Specialty Meat Market in Scott, got our Boudin, and headed home to have it for dinner.  What a treat!

On Friday we took a hike in John Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.   We walked about two miles through some interesting swamp land with beautiful cypress trees.

Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve

This cypress must be hundreds of years old - a real giant!

On Saturday we took the drive down River Road to see the plantations.  We decided to take a tour of Laura, a Creole sugar plantation dating back to 1804.  Laura was owned by the French Duparc family.  You can tell immediately that it's a Creole plantation because of its bright colors.

Laura Plantation

What made this tour so interesting to me was that the guide (who was a Creole, and whose family had also owned a plantation) placed a huge emphasis on how horrible slavery was.  You got a feel for the suffering that the slaves must have gone through.  This tiny cabin actually housed two extended families, one on each side - possibly as many as 16 people crammed into this small space.

Sunday arrived, and Bob and I headed out for the main event of our Louisiana stay - the New Orleans Jazz Festival.   We were lucky to get perfect weather - partly cloudy and about 84 degrees with a nice breeze.  If the sun had been out all day we would have really felt the heat, but the sun hid behind the clouds most of the day.

We saw some great acts as we walked around and visited the different tents. One of them was John Boutte who sings the theme song from HBO's show "Treme".   There was lots of dancing going on around the Sheraton tent, featuring the Cajun band Fais Doo Doo.

We had a great time just roaming through the Fairgrounds.

I caught a parade going through the Fairgrounds:

At 5:15 the headliner, Eric Clapton came on, and blew the crowd away.

Here's a picture that I got from the Jazz Fest's Facebook page:

But here's all that we could see being so far back in the crowd:

What an outstanding performance.  Even though I could only see him on the screens, it was still great hearing him.  He's as good as ever, and hasn't lost anything.

It's been a great time in Louisiana, and I feel that we really got to see and do a lot while we were here.  It's one of my favorite states to visit.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Return to Gulf State Park

We pulled into Alabama's Gulf State Park on April 5th.  We camped here last year, and were really looking forward to our two week stay.  Things went a bit sour when we checked in, however.  Last year the policy was that you could rent the the Canal campsites on a first-come first-serve basis.  This year it ends up that you can only get those sites if you reserved them ahead of time.  Unfortunately when I reserved our campsite, you couldn't reserve the Canal sites - they changed their policy in mid-stream.  Much to my chagrin we were assigned a site on Quail Road.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that our pull-through site was absolutely wonderful, so my grumpiness about the whole thing quickly abated.  We set up camp and settled in for two weeks of beach and biking.

Unfortunately, neither the weather nor our health cooperated.  Bob and I both came down with some kind of upper respiratory infection that had us both under the weather for the entire stay.  Bob ended up going to a doctor to get antibiotics, and both of us took it pretty easy for the whole two weeks.  We did get to the beach a couple of days, but it was too cool to go into the water.  We didn't bike at all since neither one of us really felt up to it.  We did get to do a few things that really needed attending to - grooming Mirra and washing the RV.  Both were getting a bit dirty!

We went out to get a bird feeder since there were so many birds in the park.  Most of our days were spent sitting in our chairs reading and enjoying the many birds that were at the feeder - lots of cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, finches and even a red-headed woodpecker.

Although I was disappointed that we didn't get to do more, I have to say that if we were going to be under the weather, at least we had a pretty site and a beautiful park to recover in.  Gulf State Park is still one of our favorites.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fort Pickens Campground - Gulf Shores National Seashore

We stayed at Fort Pickens Campground from March 22nd to April 5th.  As you can see from the above picture, we had some storms come through that temporarily flooded the campground.  Our campsite was one of the better ones.  Some of the sites across the street were really under water.

Fort Pickens is a wonderful campground, but often times the road coming into the park floods over, so whenever there is a storm you need to check with the park office to see if the road has flooded or if it's still open.  They evacuate the island if the flooding is going to get too bad.  In fact, they were talking about evacuating before this storm came through.  I'm sure glad that they didn't have to.

I took this picture from the truck as we were going off of the island.  Normally the water from the Gulf comes up pretty close to the road, so it's doesn't take much to flood the road out.

We got to explore the Fort while we were at the park.  Fort Pickens is the largest of four forts that were built to defend Pensacola Bay.  Completed in 1834, it was one of the only forts never occupied by Confederate troops.  It was abandoned by the army at the end of World War II.

There were an abundance of osprey at Fort Pickens.  Hurricane Ivan pretty much devastated this area, and the saltwater killed many trees.  The osprey love to nest in these trees, though!

One of the biggest treats of our stay at Fort Pickens was that we got to watch the Blue Angels practicing. They took off from the Pensacola Naval Air Station and flew right over Fort Pickens.  We had also seen them practicing when we visited the National Naval Aviation Museum.  It was more exciting though watching them from Fort Pickens - they came so close!

We didn't get into the water at all.  It was really too cool and windy, and there weren't many good beach days.  Still, we enjoyed our stay here and would love to come back some day.