The Nuestra Señora de Atocha – An experience of a lifetime taken in July 1986

In 1978, with Janeen pregnant with Jason, we moved from Bethlehem PA to Alhambra California.  This was ‘coming home’ for us as we  met in 1968 while at the University of California Riverside and David started a new position in 1978 at the University of Southern California (USC).  While in that position he realized that he could sign up for free classes and decided to take a scuba diving course.  After achieving the Advanced Scuba Diving requirements, he became active in a dive club – The California Wreck Divers.  This club had as its primary focus diving on shipwrecks.  Each year there was a banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of the past 12 months and to acknowledge individual accomplishments.  At this banquet, at the end of 1985 the guest speaker was an underwater archeologist – Duncan Mathewson.  Duncan had been working with Treasure Salvors from Key West Florida looking for various Spanish shipwrecks with the goal of recovering the treasure they were carrying back to Spain from the New World.  Mel Fisher, and his crew, had found The Nuestra Senora de Atocha after nearly a 20 year search.

Duncan shared his experience with Treasure Salvors (Mel’s salvage company) showed off a number of artifacts and generally told us about the wreck.  At the end of his presentation, sitting next to David, he casually invited us to come to Key West and dive on the wreck.  Well, after much discussion and planning, David took up the challenge and invited 15 or so of his closest dive friends and went to Key West.  David created a small business “Diving Adventures” and rented a dive boat (More Bottom Time), bought some 20 scuba tanks and generally organized the entire trip.    David continued to stay in touch with Duncan Mathewson even going to New York City where he received the Lowell Thomas Award at the NY Yacht Club and to Jamaica to attend his wedding in 1991.  Duncan  used our Alhambra home as a stopover spot for trips that took him from Florida to Guam a couple of times.  Over the years, contact became limited to exchanging Christmas Cards and occasional emails.  However, the adventure all those years ago has remained a significant diving highlight.

What follows are pictures and general information from that trip so many years ago.

While they had all this “free labor” that got us to move a lot of the ballast pile.  during this process of moving stuff from point a to point b, David found a silver coin.

After all efforts, David was given the coin as a memento along with the formal Certificate of Authenticity. This now hangs proudly on his wall.

After diving on the wreck, we spent a day or two in Key West touring the conservation lab, the museum and the “treasure room”.

In 2014, Nuestra Señora de Atocha was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most valuable shipwreck to be recovered, as it was carrying roughly 40 tons of gold and silver, and 32 kilograms (71 pds) of emeralds.

01-10-20 Panama Canal Transit

After leaving Aruba, we motored along the north coast of Venezuela getting read to enter the “cue” for the Panama Canal transit. It took the better part of a day and a half to get from Aruba to Colon the entrance to the Canal.

The main reason to take our cruise in January was to transit the Panama Canal. Sure, it was enjoyable to visit Aruba and be entertained by the on-board activities, but the highlight was clearly the Canal. In anticipation of this adventure we both read David McCullough’s book The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 first published in 1978. This book tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year old dream of construction an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

This is a current map showing the route of the Panama Canal. About 50 miles long.
Our first look at the locks.

Our passage through the Canal was early morning – really before sunrise but that didn’t stop most of the passengers from being out to view the process.

Entering the first lock from the Atlantic side.

Having been on a number of river cruises that had to pass through various locks on rivers, the canal passage wasn’t as amazing as it might have been. Sure the size of the ship was significantly bigger but the system operates just the same.

Very smooth operation
A nice perspective showing the locks and our need to move up.

We arrived at the first lock at 5:45 and began the process. I’m guessing our Captain  has done this kind of thing before so it went very smoothly. Transit through the first lock took about 45 minutes – most of that time taken up by the inflow of the water to raise the ship. Overall the ship was lifted some 85 feet from sea level and by 7:30 we were through both locks and on Gatun Lake.

Gatun Lake Dam – a critical piece of the entire canal system. This creates Gatun Lake, some 164 square miles of land was flooded to create this.

This man made lake was the largest man made lake when it was created – 164 square miles. Covering approximately 21 miles of the transit between the seas, it is staging space for ships waiting passage through the locks. We were required to anchor for several hours until our time slot for the next part of the journey.

Gatun Lake – at anchor for a couple of hours before continuing along our way.
This is the jail where Manuel Noriega former head of state for Panama ended up after being busted.

Once back underway we passed through the Culebra Cut.

The Culebra Cut was done in steps ever widening the path through the area.
Proof I was there!

This area required one of the most difficult construction challenges: excavating the Culebra Cut through the continental divide to connect Gatun Lake to the Pacific Panama Canal locks. Seen from the deck of the Pacific Princess it’s amazing to think how much mountain had to be removed to create the passage.

Cruising along through the Culebra Cut

Once through the cut it was a quick transition to the Pacific side locks and we were underway.

Moving along
The size of the gates was rather impressive
Some of the equipment dates back to the beginning – all still working.
Here we are entering the lock – we were followed throughout the transit by a Norwegian Cruise ship

We passed through the final sections and into the Pacific Ocean by mid afternoon.

Here we are enjoying the lovely weather overlooking the lock
This was the final Lock on the Pacific side.

Overall the transit took about 10 hours and was a wonderful experience.

The view of the City of Panama as we head out to the Pacific Ocean to head north.

If you are going to make plans to go through the Canal, I do strongly recommend McCullough’s book. It really gave some wonderful insights into how it was created and the difficulties involved. Today more than 14,000 ships transit the Canal using both the old locks (which we used) and the new larger locks for the bigger ships.

 

01-08-20 Aruba – First port of Call – Princess Cruise day 4

Aruba was our first port of call on our trip through the Panama Canal.

Janeen on our balcony overlooking the port in Oranjestad

Aruba is a lovely island in the southern Caribbean and still a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is 19 miles off the coast of Venezuela in the west part of the Lesser Antilles. The island measures 20 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point. Along with Bonaire and Curacao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC Islands.

A lot of Dutch  influence on the buildings for sure.

As a result of its link to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the citizens are all Dutch nationals. Unlike much of the Caribbean, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate clearly has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather – and our visit in January was certainly was beautiful.

Sure, I could love Aruba!

Early human presence on Aruba dates back to as early as circa 2000 BC. The first identifiable group, the Arwak Caquetio Amerindians migrated from South American about 1000 AD and there is Archaeological evidence on many parts of the island.

Ayo Rock Formations – sure looks like the face of a monkey and maybe a dog on the hillside.
Yes, cactus and desert plants all around

We visited the Ayo Rock Formations – with one area showing rock drawings dating back thousands of years.

The gate protects the early cave drawings
Maybe 1000 years old!
Interesting color and designs
Nice little park at the Ayo Rock Formations

The first Europeans to visit the island were from Spain in 1499 – who of course claimed it. The early explorers described Aruba as an “island of giants” as the locals seemed to have a comparatively large stature. Spain began colonizing the island in 1508 and controlled it for the next 100 years or so. The Netherlands seized Aruba from Spain in 1636 in the course of the Thirty Years’ War and it has been under Dutch  control ever since.

No, this cactus is NOT giving you the finger.

With not a lot of resources on the island there wasn’t much industrialization. There are ruins of a gold mine but no active work being done at this time. In the 1920’s two oil refineries were built to process crude oil from the vast Venezuelan oil fields. This brought greater prosperity to the island and it grew to be come one of the largest processors in the world. These closed around 2009. Another industry on the island is Aloe.

A field of aloe with a windswept tree – clearly the wind blows in one direction over the island

First planted on Aruba in 1850, aloes seem to love the desert conditions. With a healthy demand for aloe products, it has become a continuing part of Aruba’s economy. One of our tours was to the Aruba Aloe plant where a new modern facility is active and selling a number of Aloe products in their gift shop.

In 1947, Aruba presented its first constitution as an autonomous state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Ultimately the Netherlands Antilles was created that united all of the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean into one administrative structure.

Taking a rest and sharing some bull..
For years, Aruba had a large horse breeding operation – this is a reference to that history.

Our visit to the Island included an excursion out and about the island – The Butterfly Farm, Ayo Rock Formations, Aloe Plant and a general overview of the island. As we had some free time before our actual tour, we headed off the ship and walked around the town Oranjestad. Located on the northern end of the Island, it was lovely to walk around, pick up a few post cards and explore. We did find a Starbucks (I was asked to get a coffee mugs for one of Jason’s coworkers) and walked past, but not into, the Casino. We also were able to get a stamp in our passport!

First stop on our tour was the Butterfly Farm (www.buterflyfarm.com).

Jim and Sally joined us on the Butterfly Tour.

Started on Aruba in 1999 with hundreds of exotic butterflies from all around the world. Among some of the favorites are the iridescent beautiful Blue Morpho from the rainforests of South America. We started off with an introduction by a

Our guide for the tour showing off a butterfly

member of the Butterfly Farm Team and learned about all the various examples flying around us in the enclosed area.

Beautiful blue guy hanging around
Here’s a green one to enjoy
Everywhere I looked butterflies.

Butterflies all around us – landing on us, drinking from the various fruit plates set out for them and generally a lovely environment.

It said to be good luck to have one land on you.
Fruit plates around the enclosure ferment – and yes, the butterflies enjoy the juice, getting a little drunk before courting dances
Butterfly cocoons getting ready to hatch

 

After getting our fill of the beauty of the butterflies, we re-boarded the bus and headed out to Ayo Rock Foundations. It is clear the island is arid – lots of cactus along the way and dry desert plants for sure. The place is so dry they have to import water – and you see lots of rain catching systems on houses to collect what rainfall the do get. Ayo Rock Formations are monolithic rock boulders located around the island mostly on the northern end. While there are a number of areas, the one we stopped to view included an enclosed area with early cave paintings – most likely from about 1000 years ago or so. The boulders have unusual shapes resembling birds and dragons as well as other things we noticed as we traveled along. After visiting the rocks, we went to the Aloe plant.

Located across the street from a major school, and next to a large field of Aloe plants, the Aruba Aloe Company is clearly a going concern.

Aloe Balm Factory tour

A demonstration was given on what parts of the Aloe plant are used, how they are processed and what kinds of products are created. The history of the plant, how it’s been part of the Aruba culture for 150 years or so was interesting and filled out the day with a pleasant tour.

These aloe plants were next to the factory – makes harvest easy.

Once back to the ship, and everyone on board, we slipped away to continue our adventure towards the Panama Canal.

 

 

01-05-20 January Cruise – Pacific Princess

This past January, we took a Princes Cruise through the Panama Canal.  Our voyage started in Fort Lauderdale, Florida made stops in Aruba, Costa Rica and two stops in Mexico – Puerto Chiapas and Cabo San Lucas before ending the journey in Los Angeles

Our friends Sally and Jim

 This was a much different cruse then we experienced over Thanksgiving on Carnival Cruise – first, this is a small ship, only 650 passengers and didn’t do anything like a round trip cruise as we did in November.  In fact, we boarded the ship on its first leg of an around the world trip lasting 111 days.  Our part of the overall trip was only 15 days so just a small piece of the trip being taken by a lot of the passengers on board.  The entire trip had only the four stops so most time was spent at sea.

Pacific Princess off Cabo San Lucas

We had booked this cruise after a long conversation with our friends Jim and Sally.  They have been on a number of cruises but never on a small ship such as the Pacific Princess.  As a matter of fact, Jim had recommended we try this ship for our Alaska cruise that is scheduled for June.  After we booked that cruise,he started looking at it’s overall itinerary and found the Panama Canal leg of the around the world trip (the ship goes completely around before we re-board it in Alaska in June).  Once he discovered the Panama Transit trip he booked passage and we did too.

The stairs from the “front desk” to the retail area of the ship.
One of the shops in the retail area – there were only 2 actual shops on board.

Pacific Princes, as I mentioned, is the smallest ship in the Princess Fleet – with 11 decks and is 592 feet long as compared to their other ships with 19 decks and over 1,000 feet long.  The smaller ship still provides many of the same amenities found on the larger ships, specialty restaurants, bar entertainment and cabaret shows, but certainly nothing like the crowds for sure.  Yes, there was a small Casino on board – with various game tables (no craps for some reason) and slot machines but we were not tempted to play.

Slots were part of the casino for sure
Entrance to the Spa and fitness center.
The pool area and sun deck
Our dinner group – Sally with our waiter Alex next to Jim with Janeen sitting next to Denise with David behind her next to Al and Ron and Carol on the right side of the group.
Janeen with Executive Chef Giuseppe Pollara

Our cabin was on deck 7 as was Sally and Jim’s.  We had a nice room with a balcony but we didn’t spend a lot of time in the cabin, as there were things to do and places to explore.  Dining was either in the dining room with wait service on deck 4 (most evenings were there) or in the buffet on deck 9.  Also on deck 9 was the spa (Janeen spent several relaxing hours there) with the pool in the middle.  On deck 10 forward was the Pacific Lounge Bar where we met each evening for an adult beverage before dinner or to just hang out and see the sights.  A nice library and reading room on deck 10 aft was also a quiet place to enjoy the afternoon.  At the opposite end of the ship from the dining room was the Cabaret Lounge with entertainment in the evening and various presentations during the day.  

Here we are enjoying a bit of outside time
There was a fireplace in the library – of course it was not functional but a nice touch anyway
Lots of board and other types of games available
Janeen with the Capitan – Paolo Arrigo

Our Dinner seating was early, 5:30 or so, and we shared the table with 2 other couples along with Sally and Jim.  One couple – Al and Denise – were on board for the entire adventure of 111 days while the other couple – Ron and Carol  – were getting off with us in Los Angeles.  I would have to say we had a good group of people at our table and really all the people we spoke to seem to be having a good time and enjoying the adventure.  I did speak with one passenger who was on his 10th around the world cruise (on the same ship!) and he had his grandson with him as his full time caregiver. I’m not certain about going on a cruise for 111 days ,but to do it 10 times seems a bit much ,however if you enjoy it and have the money why not?

Rondell Sheridan – a Comedian did a good job keeping us laughing
Sonia Selbie – vocalist very enjoyable and loved her act.
The on board dance and singing company did several nice musical evenings in the Lounge.
Eric Buss did comedy magic

Over the next few blogs I will try and give some highlights about the various port of call and of course the adventure of going through the Panama Canal.  Until then, as Rick Steve’s always says, “Keep on traveling”.

Jim, Sally, Janeen and David waiting for the evening’s entertainment to start – everyone has their own device!

1-1-20 Gosh, it’s been 3 months since there was an update!

Well, it’s been a while since I updated the blog. The last blog, done while we were in New Orleans in October seems like a long time ago. Since that time, we visited with friends in Savanna Georgia (Hello to Bob and Linda) and found our way back to our son’s home in Springfield VA.

Well, it’s been a while since I updated the blog. The last blog we did was from our adventure in New Orleans in October; seems like a long time ago. Since that time, we visited with friends in Savanna, Georgia (Hello to Bob and Linda) and found our way back to our son’s home in Springfield VA.   Once we returned to Virginia, we got serious about buying a home of our own .We purchased a lovely 3 bedroom place in Williamsburg VA – we have room ,so come and visit!

Our new home in Williamsburg VA – come and visit!

Several months ago, we had agreed to join several other families and go on a Carnival  ocean cruise to the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving Weekend. This eliminated the need for anyone to actually have to cook a turkey (although it also meant there were not going to be any left overs for sandwiches).  Joining with about 20 other folks (3 different families with extended relations) we hired a party bus and headed to Baltimore to join Carnival Cruise for a weeklong trip south to the Bahamas.  It was nice to have the bus as that meant we didn’t have to drive, find parking and could  have an adult beverage along the way!

Katie gives her sister, Trebor, a hug while daddy checks his phone.

This was our first “ocean” cruise, having done a bunch of River Cruises through Europe; it was a very different experience for us.  Carnival is clearly a party boat and as such there were lots of families and entertainment (and drinks) for all to enjoy. 

While we did get off the ship in Nassau (to get a stamp in our passport!), we didn’t get off on the Carnival Island or in Freeport – it was nice to just relax on the ship and let all the “kids” go explore. 

There were comedians (not really that good) and other entertainment options.  One of the events was a “build a bear” where Katie had the opportunity to pick out something – she created a cat. 

Terri and Molly having an adult beverage in the lounge

Jackson, G’Pa and Katie in the pool having a good time.

Janeen catching up on her reading on our room’s balcony.

All in all it was a nice adventure and I’m sure everyone had a great time.

After the cruise it was time to actually “visit” our new home, arrange appliances, have our furniture moved from California and do all the things needed to make it our place – plus of course get ready for Christmas.  We purchased the place prior to Thanksgiving and by the end of the year we had slept in our own bed all of 5 nights!

When we left California, we didn’t store much furniture ,basically a bedroom suite, some living room storage units and a carpet or two plus kitchen stuff and artwork.  Needless to say, we have some furniture and other things to arrange and have spent a good amount of time checking out the Salvation Army and consignment stores in both the Springfield Area and Williamsburg.  So, at this point we have several easy chairs, a dining table and 6 chairs plus some stools for the kitchen counter area.  Lots more to get, but we can now sleep in our own bed, and eat meals at a table with real plates and utensils.

Between getting the house set up we tried to squeeze in some Christmas shopping and general holiday planning. 

Our little Santa bundle of joy.
Katie got a Star Wars Light Saber night night while Trebor checks out the package.

We had a nice family Christmas holiday with our grandkids and closed out the year feeling good about all that happened in the past year.  Next up things happening in 2020 including a Cruise through the Panama Canal, a trip to Alaska and other adventures.

11-11-19 Plantations Whitney and Houmas on the Mississippi River

On our last adventure in New Orleans, we Traveled back in time to the era of the antebellum South on a guided tour from New Orleans to the Whitney Plantation, a former indigo and sugar plantation on the River Road now dedicated to promoting an understanding of slavery in Louisiana and after lunch, visited Houmas, also known, as Burnside Plantation, a historic plantation complex and house.

Our entry ‘ticket’ had a picture and story about a slave on the plantation.

These two Plantations couldn’t be any further apart. The Whitney Plantation is a collection of buildings but the main focus is devoted to slavery in the Southern United States. German immigrants Ambroise Haydel started the Whitney Plantation in 1752 and his wife and their decedents owned it until 1867. After the Civil War (1867) the plantation was sold to Bradish Johnson of New York, who named the property after his grandson, Harry Whitney. Over the next 100 years or so it changed hands several times. In 1999 John Cummings, a trial attorney from New Orleans, who has spent more than $8 million of his own fortune on this long-term project, purchased it.

Front of the Whitney House French Caribbean architecture

The museum, comprising main portions of the 2,000-acre plantation property contain imaginative exhibits designed by Cummings representing persons born into slavery before the Civil War commissions original.

Before the Civil War, the Whitney Plantation counted 22 slave cabins on its site. They were made of cypress and comprised two living sections – on either side of the main wall.

Inside slave cabin – basically one room.

The site includes the main house, several slave cabins, various out buildings and a church (not original to the property). There is a large memorial that includes the names of number of enslaved peoples that includes their personal histories (where known) on the property.

Memorial Wall

Our guide at Whitney Plantation slave history

Slave memorial wall recognizing Slaves

Not all of them were directly associated with the Plantation but in the general area and time frame. The only interior tour was of the slave cabins and the church – the main house isn’t included at this time. The entire property is dedicated to how enslaved people were treated throughout this dark period of the US history.

The church at Whitney

Inside church at Whitney, statues represent known children of slaves

By contrast, the Houmas, really is a focus on the plantation owner, not the slave population. Dating from the late 1700s, with the current main house completed in 1840, the Houmas Plantation is named after the Houma people who originally occupied this area of Louisiana. The complex contains eight buildings on about 10 acres.   Alexander Latil and Maurice Conway ‘appropriated’ all of the Houma tribe’s land on the east side of the Mississippi River in 1774 to create the plantation.

Front of Houmas note veranda architecture for coolingv – and Janeen relaxing on the bench

Similar to the Whitney Plantation, the Houmas was a working sugarcane plantation by the early 1800’s.   Purchased by Daniel Clark in about 1805, he began to develop the property and built one of the first sugar mills along this stretch of the river.

Bette Davis bedroom where she stayed during hiatus in film – Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte in 1964

Changing hands several times over the years it grew to over 12,000 acres with approximately 750 slaves. After 1900, the house and ground began to fall into disrepair further damaged by the Mississippi River flood of 1927 and during The Great Depression it fall into worse condition.

Janeen at Houmas under Resurrection Fern on tree

George B Corzat purchased the house in 1940 and began an ambitious program of restoration of the house and gardens.

Parlor at Houmas

Lincoln sculpture purchased at auction with bronze dog, which when cleaned proved to be pure silver

Another shot of one of the rooms on the first floor at Houmas.

In the spring of 2003, the Estate of Dr. George Crozat auctioned off the entire contents of the mansion and grounds. Kevin Kelly, a New Orleans Businessman, purchased the mansion and surrounding grounds and began the task of restoring the mansion and gardens. The mansion, having undergone over 200 years of construction and remodeling by various owners, reflected a multitude of styles. It was impossible to restore the house to a definite period without sacrificing elements from other important periods of its history. The choice was made to select the best features from various periods to showcase a legacy of each family in the mansion. After extensive restorations to the house and grounds, the Houmas re-opened for tours in November of 2003. Mr. Kelly allows tours of the mansion and gardens, however the Houmas remains his private residence, as it was for its previous owners for over 240 years.

Hallway on the 2nd floor

Owners bedroom fireplace Houmas

Owners bedroom steps for dogs to get on bed

The tour of the main house reflects a period of opulence reflective of the ‘gold era’ of plantations in the South. Furniture, artwork and decorations all depict a rich history of the area and are well maintained.

Oaks on the pond – levee in the background at Houmas thru the trees

The view out the front porch is quite lovely with stately old Oak trees lined up along the drive. Unfortunately the levee along the Mississippi River is just out the front blocking what would have been a lovely view of the river.

The children’s room with movable chair and desk that closes.

Artifact display including the canine memorabilia of the current owner

Today the property is used for weddings, film shoots and private events.

This was the final adventure as part of our Road Scholar – Signature City New Orleans: City of Mystery & Intrigue.  We had a good time, learned a lot and achieved our goal of learning about this wonderful City.  There is no question that we will be back sometime in the future to explore more of this city.

Here we are!

10-10-19 New Orleans Various Events

Here’s a brief overview of some of the other things we did while in New Orleans – lots of good times, lots of great music for sure.  Wedding Procession . Just as we walked out the front of our Hotel this wedding march was passing by. There were several that occurred during our stay.

One lunchtime, our Road Scholar Program included a couple of hours with Doreen Ketchens.

Doreen and her ‘group’ performed for several hours after lunch one day.

Blowing a clarinet on the corner of Royal and St Peter streets for some 32 years as the leader of Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans Band is a far cry from Ketchens’ ambition of being the principal clarinetist in the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra. Over the course of a couple of hours, Doreen treated us to some history of Jazz in New Orleans, how the street musicians survive and some insights into the reasons for the traditional music we hear all over the City.

Doreen Ketchens – did a great job of entertaining us and teaching us about Jazz in New Orleans.

It was a foot stomping, hand clapping session so  we purchased one of her CD’s.

One evening, we had a pass to go to Fritzel’s – the oldest operated Jazz Club in New Orleans. We arrived early, which was good given the limited seating, and had a wonderful hour of Dixie Land Jazz. Housed in a 1831 building it is home for some of the city’s best musicians. In addition to regular weekend programs, there are frequent jam sessions in the wee hours of the night.

Tom Fischer on clarinet and Richard Scott on piano entertained us for an hour or so and it was wonderful.

Janeen attended the lecture by Joanne Sealy introducing the writers and authors who have been influenced, and reflected the City. G.Washington Cable and Lafcadio Hearn were outsiders who found a home in the Crescent City, as did Mississippi transplants Wm.Faulkner and T. Williams. Gumbo Ya-Ya by Lyle Saxon has been republished as a treasury of Creole and Cajan sayings. We visited Anne Rice’s writing arie in the Garden District where  she enlarged tales of Yellow Fever and Dysentery and Malaria  that wiped out entire districts and households, leaving the almost dead to cope. Lillian Hellman followed in the steps of Kate Chopin and Truman Capote recorded the eccentrics of the area, perhaps not as concisely as John Kennedy Toole in A Confederacy of Dunces.

On one of our excursion days, we went to the National WWII Museum. We have been in a number of museums both in the USA and in Europe over the last couple of years and this place ranks right up there at the top. The museum focuses on the contribution made by the United States to Allied victor in WWII. Founded in 2000, it was later designated by the U.S. Congress as America’s official National WWII Museum. One of the highlights is a movie narrated by Tom Hanks which covered both the Pacific and European theaters and was very moving.

Higgins Boat – designed and built in New Orleans this boat was critical to all the landings made throughout WWII. This is one of only a few that survived the war.

Lots of airplanes on display in this museum.

The Exhibit is fantastic, aircraft, weaponry, uniforms, personal stories, for both theaters.

There were displays for both areas and well documented with lots of interesting things to look at.

Guns, guns and more guns on display.

1934  comandered Opel Sedan in winter camouflage

 One afternoon, I took off and Janeen went to the New Orleans School of Cooking.

Cooking Class – getting things together.

Over the course of an hour or two they made Gumbo, Shrimp Etouffee  Pralines and Bananas Foster – getting to eat everything at the end of the meal.

Janeen and Chef Harriet  Robin at the Cooking Class.

10-8-19 New Orleans Architecture

Sure, New Orleans is clearly a ‘party city’ but it is steeped in history and interesting architecture. The buildings and architecture are reflective of its history and multicultural heritage. In the morning, Nellie Watson, a local architect and long time resident, held a discussion about the culture and architecture of the City. After spending time in the ‘classroom’, so to speak, we boarded the Coach and headed out for a tour to see some of the fantastic homes throughout the City. From Creole cottages to historic mansions on St. Charles Avenue there is a rich diversity to explore.

French Quarter Creole cottages

Creole Cottages (The term “Creole” was created to describe citizens in New Orleans after America took control of the city in 1803. French and Spanish descendants who were early settlers of the city adopted the name to distinguish themselves from the influx of American citizens occupying the city.) These are scattered throughout the city with most being built between 1790 and 1850. Creole cottages are 1 or 11/2-story, set at ground level almost touching the street with steeply pitched roofs. They have a symmetrical four-opening façade wall and a wood or stucco exterior.

An example of an American Townhouse

American Townhouses ,a style found in the Central business district and Lower garden District, are narrow brick or stucco three-story structures featuring asymmetric windows and iron balconies on the second and third floor. Built between 1820 and 1850 in the area mostly occupied by the ‘new’ residents coming into New Orleans.

French Quarter Creole Townhouse

Creole Town Houses – these are the most iconic pieces of architecture in the city of New Orleans, comprising a large portion of the French Quarter. Creole townhouses were built after the great fire of 1788 that destroyed much of the city. They were built from about 1788 through the mid 1850’s or so. The original wooden buildings were replaced with structures with courtyards, thick walls, arcades and cast-iron balconies. The façade of the building sits on the property line with an asymmetrical arrangement of arched openings. These come with steeply pitched roof with a parapets, side-gabled with several roof dormers and strongly show their French and Spanish influence. The exterior was usually brick or stucco. These are the beautiful buildings spread throughout the French Quarter with many having retail or restaurants on the first level with either additional restaurant space above or homes.

Raised Central Hall cottage

Found in the Garden District, Uptown and other areas are Raised Center-Hall cottages. These homes were raised enough above street level that there is sometimes a garage or work area on the ground level. They feature porches that stretch all the way across the front with columns. Greek Revival and Italianate center Hall Cottages are most common but Queen Anne and other Victorian styles stand proudly in between.   These were built between 1803 and 1870 supporting the influx of new Americans coming into the City and usually away from the old section – French quarter.

Shotgun House

Found all over New Orleans, and built between 1850 and 1910 are Shotgun Houses. These are long and narrow single-story homes that have a wood exterior and are easy to spot. Many feature charming Victorian embellishments beneath the large front eve. The term “shotgun” originates from the idea that when standing in the front of the house, you can fire a bullet clear through every room in the house. Some of these have been converted to have what is called a camelback – a second story set at the rear of the house.

Mansion on St. Charles Avenue.

Double-gallery houses on Esplanade Avenue

One of the last styles of housing is the Double-Gallery house. Found in the lower Garden District these two-story houses feature stacked and covered front porches, box columns and front door off to one side. They look a lot like townhouses but they are set much further back from the sidewalk. These were built between 1850 and 1910.

Houses in uptown New Orleans

“Madame John’s Legacy” was built just after the great fire of 1788, in the older, French colonial style.

In 1905, Paul Doullut, a steamboat captain, designed and constructed a home facing the Mississippi River in what is now known as the Holy Cross neighborhood of New Orleans. The captain wanted a home reminiscent of the steamboats he and his wife, who was, also, a steamboat captain, guided up and down the river.

After WWII, the California bungalow style of home started to be built in neighborhoods. These are noted for their low slung appearance, being more horizontal than vertical with exterior wood siding maybe with a brick, stucco or stone porch with flared columns and roof overhang. Not the most pleasing of the styles as it really doesn’t “fit into” the general architectural style of most neighborhoods where they have been built.

This was for sale – something like 2.3 million dollars.

The wrap around porch was lovely.

Lovely home with a large balcony over the entrance.

Nellie gave us a great tour and a good appreciation of the different histories and styles being built reflecting changes over time. Glad we had this as part of our Tour of New Orleans.

This is our “group” – folks from all over the country. Road Scholar did a great job of showing us around this lovely city.

10-7-19 New Orleans Introduction

New Orleans – reflections about this lovely City. We had visited many years ago when we drove across country in 1978 on our way to Los Angeles. So, when we found the Road Scholar Tour of New Orleans, City Of Mystery & Intrigue it seemed like the right thing to do.

Around every corner is a beautiful building with lovely ironwork. The cast iron on the second level is more difficult than the wrought iron on the upper level.

Lovely – just another street corner in the French Quarter.

After checking into the Hotel Monteleone we joined 28 other Scholars to learn about this wonderful city.

Here we are across the street from the Hotel Monteleone. A lovely old hotel in the heart of the French Quarter.

We would meet at the Clock in the Lobby of the Hotel before going out on tour.

Dubbed affectionately by some as the northernmost Caribbean city, New Orleans revels in its giddy blend of European refinement and carefree effervescence, a place where virtue and vice are celebrated in equal measure. We where invited to surrender to the intoxicating charms of “the Crescent City” that have long fascinated artists, writers, musicians and scholars. We experienced live New Orleans jazz, took field trips inside and outside the French Quarter and Garden District; got perspectives on architectural and literary landmarks, and enjoyed the unique culinary adventures as well as the National World War II Museum.

Jackson Square with the Basilica of St. Louis in the middle, the The Presbytere on the right and the The Cabildo on the left.

The Presbytere – Designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo, the building was used by the Louisiana Supreme Court and now part of the Louisiana State Museum system

As the seat of colonial government, the Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies in late 1803. Now part of the Louisiana State Museum system

Pontalba Buildings – These are on one side of the Jackson Square park.

New Orleans is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi river. With a population of about 391,000 it has the most residents of any city in Louisiana. The Port of New Orleans, that extends to Baton Rouge on the Mississippi river, is considered the economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region and the gateway to the world, both with shipments out of the port and products brought in from all over the world.

Proof that David was there.

Walking along Bourbon Street early in the morning. Clearly early for this city – no one is really out yet to Party!

Founded in 1718 by French colonists, New Orleans was once the territorial capital of French Louisiana – was ruled by the Spanish from 1762-1801,given back to France and ultimately sold to the United States by Napoleon  in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In 1840, New Orleans was the third-most populated city in the United States and was the largest city in the American South until after World War II.

A typical levee along the Mississippi

Needless to say, the flat elevation (New Orleans is actually below sea level) has resulted in flooding, resulting in various levees being created, large drainage pumps being installed and general a fear of the Mississippi and any hurricanes (think Katrina in August 2005).

Our first day started with a general introduction by Ms Ann, a lifetime resident of New Orleans, covering its history culture and discussion about levees and the role Lake Pontchartrain plays in protecting the City from flooding.

Lake Pontchartrain – we stopped here while on our couch tour.  The lake is about 40 miles by 24 miles so it’s really a large estatuary.

Following our “classroom intro”, we boarded the coach and drove around getting a feel for the city and learning about the various areas.

Janeen keeping track of where we were going on the city tour.

This included a visit to the one of the famed St. Louis above-ground cemeteries of the City.

Each of the crypts would ‘house’ multiple generations of decedents. The names would be placed on the front or sides. Not something I would want to take on.

You can see the names engraved on the fronts showing the many people inside.

Along the way, we stopped at the The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture. Atypical of most sculpture gardens, this garden is located within a mature existing landscape of pines, magnolias and live oaks surrounding two lagoons. Lots of very interesting sculptures including some familiar artists  and pieces we have seen in other locations.

Spider, 1996 Louise Bourgeois – This is by the same artist who did a similar spider we saw at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Spain.

Janeen and the Spider at the Park.

Mother and child, 1988 – Fernando Botero

The Spanish Moss was hanging on these trees. Lovely to see.

Hercules the Archer, 1909 Antoine Bourdelle

Ww stand together, 2005 George Rodrigue

10-8-19 New Orleans and Halloween – A tradition of good times.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween in Uptown! The Skeleton House, an annual tradition, is back in all its glory at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and State Street in New Orleans.

Little Dead Riding Hood

The owner has been decorating it for years — and both locals and tourists love it, especially the puns! Louellen Berger, who lives in the home and is in charge of the decorations, says it’s something she looks forward to year after year.

Beauty and the Beast

Gone with the Wind has been outdone

View of the side yard

 

“To see people of all walks of life, and from in town out of town and whatever get excited and enjoy this, because I don’t want it to be scary, want to be funny,” Berger said. “I want to be lighthearted and make everyone laugh. I hope I created that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped here during our Architectural tour of the City. It was great to see all the decorations – kinda reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland (well, not really but hey, it’s my Blog and I can say what I want). In any event it was a nice quick visit to an interesting part of this wonderful City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on New Orleans as time permits.