Something I will never forget is when Hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi and New Orleans. It was so horrible, watching all that suffering and devastation, and feeling like there wasn't a thing I could do to help. My heart just bled for the people of New Orleans during that awful time. I was desperate to pitch in, to really help, but all I could do was round up blankets and send money to the relief funds it felt so small in the face of such a big tragedy.
I'm also a little embarrassed to say that one of my early thoughts was sadness that I'd never get to see the French Quarter that everyone talks about so much. I'd always wanted to go to New Orleans -- ever since I took High School French! But it just hadn't happened. And when the hurricane hit, I really thought I'd lost my chance.
Well, imagine my surprise when Steve brought it up the other day. Turns out, he'd heard from another RVer at one of our campgrounds that New Orleans is working hard to put its city back together. There's plenty to do and see, he said, and a whole lot has been repaired in the last two years. Steve and I agreed that the best thing we could do to help was to spend our tourist dollars there, where it could do the most good.
I sure was excited! New Orleans is such a melting pot, taking little bits from French culture, West African, American, Spanish, and Italian. And then there's the music. Our biggest trouble was figuring out what to see first, though of course I lobbied for a walk through the French Quarter. And once I mentioned beignets (French donuts that I read about online), Steve made it his personal mission to find the very best ones in the city. We found fantastic ones - and cafe au lait -- at Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street. And the French Quarter was so charming! I just loved the balconies and plaster walls - it felt like Paris to me, but with a special American twist. Steve said he was glad he didn't have to speak French to get by here, ha-ha, but I thought the little bits in French were the best part.
Since I got to pick our first destination, Steve chose the second. He took us to a Zephyrs baseball game, then out for crawfish at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen on Chartres Street. We ordered the crawfish without their heads, and only felt a little silly doing it. But what can I say? We're from Minnesota!
I love a place with a neat history, where you learn things you didnít expect. For instance, did you know that by 1852, New Orleans was the third largest city in the U.S.? Or that it belonged to the French, then Spanish, and then French again before the Americans finally bought it as part of the Louisiana Purchase? No wonder things feel so European here.
One of the things I really wanted to do in New Orleans was to see The Cabildo, the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer. This is also a museum with a Spanish Arsenal right next door. And because Iím interested in the Civil War, I got Sally to go with me to the Confederate Museum, where we learned all about Jefferson Davis, who died here in New Orleans.
You probably already know how much I like to golf, so it shouldnít be a stunner to hear that I wanted to play at the English Turn Golf & Country Club, where they hold the Zurich Classic. What an unbelievable course! It was tough, of course, but just beautiful. And the Louisiana weather is just perfect for early-morning golfing.
Everywhere we went in New Orleans, Sally and I talked about Hurricane Katrina and how sad it was that we couldn't do more to help out. That got me curious, so I started asking around at our RV park and, sure enough, it turned out that there were way for us to pitch in. The city's organizing all kinds of volunteer crews to do jobs like clearing debris and building houses. You should have seen Sally's eyes light up when I suggested we spend a few days helping out. "I'm not much good at building," she said, "but I can sure paint"!