Having just about recovered from my journey to the United States the previous day, I set about finding more about this city in Louisiana and making my first acquaintance from the cycling tour.
One of the famous red street cars in New Orleans
The first thing was a guided bus top ride through the city and discovering how this city ended up, for the most part, being built below the water line. As we all saw on the news after Hurricane Katrina, vast areas of the city were flooded and many buildings were either destroyed or substantially damaged in 2005. Some 1800 people lost their lives and the total bill for repairs is still growing and was originally estimated at being $125 billion but many homes still remain in disrepair.
Rather like London, New Orleans sits on the banks of a major river which acts like an artery to the Country, the mighty Mississippi. The sheer scale of water flowing through this river is just immense. Despite New Orleans’ proximity to the Gulf Coast, the sheer volume of water flowing past the city means that it is surrounded by fresh water. When the city was flooded in 2005, hardly any salt water came into the city as the levees which protect the city from the Mississippi were breached and 80% of the city was flooded. The orchestra pit in the famous Saenger Theatre was 12ft underwater! Only recently was the theatre reopened, not helped by the Covid pandemic.
New Orleans is also famous for its cemeteries where all the bodies are buried above the waterline. If you dig down 6ft, all you find is water so tombs and mausoleums are used to keep the bodies out of the water. On the bus tour we were shown Nicolas Cage’s pyramid tomb that has yet to be occupied!! For those film buffs out there, could it be John Travolta’s to be instead??? (Face Off)
Having driven passed the Superdome (home of the New Orleans Saints NFL Team) and around the downtown Business District and the Garden Quarter, I climbed off the bus and climbed on a traditional paddle steamer to take a trip on the Mississippi. There is a steady flow of traffic on the river as it serves as a major artery of industry for the nation. The Domino Sugar factory is the second biggest sugar refinery in the world!! However, with the threat of global warming and rising sea levels, this city is very much living on a knife edge! There are billions of dollars still being spent to develop the city but I was reminded of the scripture in the bible which talked of the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. I hate to be a prophet of doom but I fear for this city in the future unless we take significant strides to tackle global warming.
On the positive side, I met up with yet another person from Ohio who is going on the up and coming Fuller Centre Bike Azdventure! Rob McConaghy is going to be one of the support drivers for the first two weeks of the tour from Louisiana to Tennessee along the route of the famous Underground Railroad. Rob is a good friend of Rob Erskine, who I cycled across the country within in 2019. Despite having cerebral palsy down the right side of his body, Rob remains active and the two of them did some touring and cycling together in the UK last year. I love to meet people who remain resilient in the face of difficulty and Rob certainly fits that bill! I look forward to more time together over the coming 2 weeks.
We shared a meal and some drinks together whilst taking in some jazz and often loud music along Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter. Trying to hold a discussion was tricky at times. If a bunch of musicians started to play, the philosophy seemed to be to play as loud as possible to drown out all the others, but then the other musicians play louder so as not the be drowned out. The result is almost comically stupid as no-one can be heard at all, in the din of music! Either that or most people in New Orleans are deaf. This is the place to come to if you want to loss your hearing folks! You heard is here first! (Or did you?!?!)