7. Houston to New Orleans

Day Seven: We planned a five hour drive to New Orleans back on our old favorite, I-10. On a whim, I decided to turn off on Highway 27 at Sulphur to check out the Bayou.

It turned out to be a great adventure passing through the bayou (marshy outlet of rivers and lakes). Dark clouds threatened thunderstorms but they passed by sprinkling lightly.

We passed locals fishing on inlets and their nearby shacks. As we neared Holly Beach (near Cameron) we saw a long stretch of beach houses on stilts and an assortment of trailers and RVs.

The only bathroom was a lonely porta-potty a ways off the beach. The water was brown from the rivers emptying into the Gulf. The signs outnumbered the few beachgoers who dared wade in the muddy breakers.

We found a "store" offering seafood, but it was deserted and crammed with more signs.

Further down the road at a dilapidated store selling pizza by the slice we met one of the locals who introduced himself as a real Cajun and welcomed us to Cajun country as he marveled at our California license plate. To reach Cameron we waited in line to take a free ferry boat across the channel. While we waited, I took pictures of a container ship headed up the channel towards Lake Charles.

After the ferry boat ride we headed north on Highway 27 to I-10 near Lake Charles. A few hours later after passing through Lafayette and Baton Rouge and riding on a series of long stretches of highway raised up on pilings crossing bayous and lakes, including Lake Pontchartrain, we found our motel in downtown New Orleans. The motel attendant advised us to spend forty cents apiece to go one way on the nearby street car to the French Quarter. It was the best deal in New Orleans.

I asked for advice from a few fellow passengers on what to do and where to go in the French Quarter. When we got off the street car, one of our new found friends directed us away from Bourbon Street where we disembarked to streets leading us down towards the river. We were also advised to guard wallet and purse carefully as we walked down the streets. We walked close to the curbs and away from entrances to the buildings looking over our shoulders at suspicious looking folks. Most of the streets and buildings seemed filthy and crowded with tourists mingling with the locals who loitered around suspiciously. At the end of one street we saw a restaurant advertising the best gumbo in town. We decided to sit outside where we could people-watch and sample the seafood gumbo along with a beer.

 

Then Barbara remembered the famous New Orleans beignets for dessert. The waitress gave us directions to the Café du Monde about a block away which was still open for the day.

Most of the tourists were gone on this Sunday evening, so we didn’t have to wait for our dark-roasted coffee with chicory and a couple of beignets (squared pieces of dough with no hole in the middle). I watched the pastry chef dip the batter in boiling oil just like making donuts. Then he put the beignets in a sack with a bunch of powdered sugar on the bottom. The directions were to shake the bag until the beignets were covered in powdered sugar, then to devour them. It was a treat to feast on those beignets although the powdered sugar got all over you, the table, and the floor. No one seemed to mind. Leaving our mess behind, we watched the cook and assistant clean up the mess of the day taking large plastic garbage sacks to the dumpster—our final glance at the French Quarter. Retracing our steps, two weary senior citizens guessed and prayed our way back to the street car where we gave the conductor our eighty cents and boarded the streetcar again for the return trip. With more assistance from our fellow travelers we figured out where to get off to return to our motel. Another day filled with adventure.

Next: Day 8: New Orleans to Birmingham

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