Jan 12, 2013 - Countries, Louisiana, Travel, USA    8 Comments

City Tour of New Orleans

When I come to a big city, I like to take a city tour to get my bearings. I had pamphlets for a bunch of them here in New Orleans and picked the one that seemed to offer the best value, then I searched for online reviews to solidify my choice. I went with the Louisiana Tour Company, offering a three-hour tour for $44 (plus a $5 tip to the driver).

This tour is really a full three hours. They do not count the time it takes to pick up everyone at their hotels and drop them off again as being part of the tour. I was picked up in Gretna on the Westbank at about 1:20 for the 1:30 tour. By the time we’d picked up everybody and payment had been taken, it was well past 2:00. We finished the tour past 5:00 and I didn’t get back to my car in Gretna until 6:30.

The tour offers a general overview of the main areas of the city that are of interest to tourists, including the Central Business District; the French Quarter; and the Lower 9th Ward, the area most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We also got out of the bus to explore a Catholic Cemetery and took a break for beignets in City Park.

Our tour guide, Eugene, is a New Orleans native whose love and knowledge of his city was obvious. I couldn’t even begin to get into all the information he gave us, from talking about famous landmarks to pointing out little architectural details I would never have otherwise noticed. He was very friendly, professional, and spun a good yarn without sounding like he was full of bull. I’ve been on city tours where the drivers liked to feed cockamamie stories to gullible tourists and this was not the case here.

The best part of the tour was definitely the visit to the Lower 9th Ward where Eugene gave us the scoop on what really happened down there by sharing the story of a man who chose to ride out the storm with his family. This man has returned to his neighborhood and lives in one of the Brad Pitt foundation homes.

The Lower 9th Ward, being the poorest area of the city, is the slowest to come back to life and is still full of blighted homes. But the community that is rising from the ruins appears to be full of promise. The tour companies are not allowed to actually go into the community, as per a federal decree, but apparently the residents liked having the tour groups go through as they made money selling lemonade, cookies, and pralines to the tourists.

We covered a lot of ground today, but I am now well prepared to explore the French Quarter (possibly tomorrow) having seen where the Algier Ferry docks (right in front of Harrah’s) and being armed with a list of good restaurants that won’t break the bank.

Eugene and I had a nice chat about my RVing life on the way back to Gretna and he pointed out a few restaurants I could try, but admitted that he drives into the city to eat as the Westbank options are uninspiring.

I’m really glad I did the city tour offered by the Louisiana Tour Company!

The following pictures are the best I was able to take on a moving bus through glass! I really wish I had been able to get a few good ones of the ginormous magnificent homes along St. Charles Avenue.

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  • I think all your pictures are great! You certainly couldn’t tell that you were taking them through glass on a moving bus! I am enjoying your tour a great deal so keep those pictures coming!!

  • Mom, for every good one, I have 10 blurry and shaky shots full of reflections, LOL!

  • The Lower Ninth Ward is an interesting area. Many of the houses in this low income area were unofficially “inherited” by folks. When people died their children or grandchildren simply moved in without bothering with the expensive legalities. When the floods destroyed the houses, federal aid could only be paid to the registered owners of the properties. These people were of course, a generation or two dead so no payments were made and the people could not afford to repair their homes.

    The levee in the Lower Ninth Ward should probably not have failed. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers who let out the contract to the lowest bidder who used substandard materials and methods, not going far enough into the ground to prevent undermining by the flood waters. What they did was unconscionable and charges should have been filed.

    Here is my account of my visit there in 2010.

  • There’s another reason why the levee broke as badly as it did and why so many people cannot afford to rebuild. This was told to us by our guide as it was told to him by a guy who witnessed the levee breaking. I have no reason to disbelieve this story.

    There was apparently a huge barge on the canal and when the levee started to give way, the barge struck it, making the damage even worse. Insurance companies then refused claims saying that the flood damage was caused by the barge and to sue the barge company for damages. Of course, the barge company was bankrupt.

    I really like the Brad Pitt project in that the houses are not donations. People still have to pay for their homes, but at a price that is affordable to them. I think that’s the way to go to get people back into the neighbourhood who will be houseproud and ready to fight for their community.

    Thanks for that link; I tried to find that post earlier today!

  • We visited New Orleans before we became full time RVers and before Katrina hit. We arrived by train and stayed at a hostel in the Garden District just a block from the St Charles trolley line. It was wonderful!

    I hope you make it to Preservation Hall for a concert. Be aware there are no bathrooms in the hall, though, so take care of that need before you get in line. 🙂

  • Unfortunately, I won’t have time to take in a concert. 🙁

  • Great photos Rae! Sorry you didn’t like the Beneits, will you go and have
    a muffleta sandwich for us now? YOu will love that, and have two or three meals out of a big one..

  • Gina, I did not not like the beignets, they just weren’t something that were particularly memorable. 🙂 No muffuleta for me as olives make me yech. There very few things I don’t eat: eggs (including mayo), olives, mushrooms, and red meat. So I’m not as picky as I might sound. 🙂

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