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.