Natchez, MS, Natchez State Park, Camp B, Site 43 — 1 day
Thursday, January 29, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 8 Months
Tuesday, January 27. We take a two-hour walking tour of the French Quarter.
The sun came out and it was 57° at 8:08 am so it looked like our last day in New Orleans would be a warmer day. I had one last tour scheduled for 1:00 pm, a two-hour walking tour in the French Quarter. By 11:30 am when we started our drive downtown it was 72° although there was a breeze and I was careful to bring a jacket.
After parking near the tour ticket Lighthouse we walked over to Café du Monde and had two café au laits with one order of three beignets. These are not as I remembered them when I visited in 1992. I recall light and delicious pastries, a blown puff pastry covered with powdered sugar. Today they are still smothered in sugar but they are heavy and greasy. Our walking guide later told me that they are basically sopapillas. Why yes! That is what they are but the ones we had in New Mexico were far superior.
We killed an hour waiting for our tour and it was fun to sit in the outdoor patio to watch the crowds and listen to the street musicians. Then we met our guide, Jill, and together with one other couple we set out. We stood on the Moonwalk and learned about the founding of New Orleans by Bienville. Jill says New Orleans residents don’t speak of directions (N, E, S, or W). Although the river twists and turns so that the French Quarter happens to sit on a NW bend in the river, as the river flows, downriver is downtown and upriver is uptown. Everything towards the river is Riverside and everything towards the lake is Lakeside.
“We walked into Jackson Square to learn more history. La Nouvelle Orléans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste La Moyne, Sieur de Bienville and established New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana and a fortress to control the wealth of the North American interior for the French. Reclaimed from a swamp and centered around the Palace d’ Armes — now Jackson Square — New Orleans was originally confined to what is now called the French Quarter or Vieux Carré (Old Square).” I took some history reminders from this website: http://www.inetours.com/New_Orleans/French_Quarter_History.html
We followed St. Ann up to Chartres St. (pronounced Charter) and turned downtown (downriver) towards Faubourg Marigny. We learned how to distinguish between typical French and Spanish architecture and to judge their ages accordingly.
Sometimes the Internet really pays off. I googled “S. Giallanza stalls” and found my man. Salvador Joseph Giallanza was born on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1917 in New Orleans and died in North Carolina at the age of 88 on Feb. 3, 2006. He worked in the family produce business with stalls in the New Orleans French Market. “The name “Giallanza” in sidewalk tiles still fronts three homes in the French Quarter.” The photo of tiles that I took are at 921 Chartres St. http://www.dlfaquifer.org (Search: bananas stalls)
http://www.wataugademocrat.com (Search: 2006 obituaries)
What did WID stand for? Wagons Invited Daily? Walk In Delivery? Welcome Inside Daily? Women Inside Denied? What’s your guess or what do you know? Please tell me!
“Although Spanish rule was relatively short — 1762 to 1800 — it was during this period when two fires virtually destroyed the French Quarter. The first in 1788 burned over 850 structures and then another 200 were lost in 1794. Rebuilding was done in the Spanish style with wrought iron balconies and central courtyards. Unlike New Orleans Square at Disneyland, New Orleans French Quarter is authentic, not a reproduction of history. Many buildings date back to the rebuilding efforts of the 1700’s which is why the dominant architectural style is Spanish not French.”
We walked as far as Ursalines and stopped to walk through the Old Ursaline Convent. In 1727 twelve women — Ursuline Nuns from France — established the first school for girls, ran the first free school and the first orphanage and held the first classes for African slave and Native American girls in what is now the United States. Following the Natchez massacre, the Convent took in the orphaned children of the French colonists killed at Fort Rosalie.
The Victorian with the “cornstalk fence” (below) is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the home of Judge Francois Xavier-Martin, first Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court and author of the first history of Louisiana. Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed here and was inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin after seeing the nearby slave markets.
After the convent, we cut east a block further away from the river and walked back upriver on Royal St. to St. Ann. Here, we parted and Dennis and I walked back a block to Pere Antoine Restaurant, Cajun Kitchen, on Royal and Dumaine. It was early and we were seated at a window table, an entertaining place to watch the street while eating. We both ordered Crawfish Etoufee. Served with rice and bread it was a bit spicy but we both found it to be delicious. For dessert, I had a homemade pecan pie. It was the best I’ve ever had.
Unfortunately, the restaurant where we ate is not the same as the Antoine’s of book and movie fame. (See Beauregard Keyes house above.) “Antoine’s is a Louisiana Creole cuisine restaurant located at 713 Rue St. Louis (St. Louis Street) in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It has the distinction of being the oldest family run restaurant in the United States, having been established in 1840 by Antoine Alciatore….Dinner at Antoine’s, a 1947 murder mystery by Frances Parkinson Keyes, begins with a dinner party in the 1840 Room and includes another dinner party at Antoine’s near the end.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine%27s
After dinner we walked back three blocks to Governor Nicholls St. because, I am ashamed to admit, I wanted to see the New Orleans home of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We were told it was gray and our guide told us the address was 720 Gov. Nicholls St. There was no 720 in the 700 block between Royal and Bourbon. However, on the corner of Royal there was a very large and imposing 3-story gray building, well maintained and in good shape. Next to it we stopped to admire 2-story pink and yellow home with balconies decorated for Mardi Gras. An elderly lady stood opposite it. We stopped and I said to her, “That’s a pretty home, isn’t it?”
She replied, “Why thank you. That’s my home.”
We began to talk and visited for more than twenty minutes with Miss Margy who was born in 1925. She was born and raised in Gulfport, MI and moved to New Orleans when she married a physician. They had a big home in the outskirts of town and raised two daughters and a son. Later they moved into town. He passed on and she lives alone but her children take her to parties or events and she can walk around the block to do small errands. We really enjoyed talking to Miss Margie and I believe she enjoyed talking to us. She told us that Nicholas Cage lived in the gray building and that he was “very odd”. She said that Brad and Angie lived in the next block.
We walked down Gov. Nicholls past Chartres St. and found a much more modest 2-story gray building with a balcony situated not on a corner but in the middle of the street between other residences. I later discovered that they purchased the six-bedroom, 150-year-old mansion for £1.92 million in January 2007. Two large flags were flying from poles on the balcony, an American flag and a Louisiana state flag.
The latter flag puzzled me so I looked it up. It features a white pelican against a blue field above a white ribbon with the state motto: “Union, Justice, and Confidence.” The Brown Pelican is the Louisiana state bird. However, this white heraldic charge is a symbol of Christian charity called a “pelican in her piety,” and represents a mother pelican wounding her breast to feed her young from the blood. Hmmm, this sounds perfect for Angelina.
We were told that if flags were out, it meant the couple was in residence. They just finished attending the SAG awards and in an interview I heard Angie say that their kids are “always packing” so we thought they might have just arrived here for the Mardi Gras season. However, I think the flags fly all the time because they are not in town. I read that they arrived with all six of their children in Narita, Chiba, Japan for the premiere of Brad’s latest film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.
Wednesday, January 28. We drive to Natchez, MS under a cloud.
I will probably never get used to precipitous weather changes. This morning all was normal until suddenly about six I heard wind and rain. I checked the forecast and we have rain today with winds from 20 to 25 mph. A storm is blowing SE from Shreveport toward Baton Rouge and will arrive at Lake Pontchartrain this afternoon. Meanwhile, there is a major winter storm sliding out of the southern Plains and Mid-South bringing snow from the northern Ohio Valley to the Northeast this morning. And we are heading north — although not that far north. But I’m sure it is going to be cold in Red Bay on the NE border of Alabama.
Dennis took a look at the rain and said, “Why drive in this?” We are supposed to drive 170 miles northwest to Natchez, MS. We have an extra day if we want to delay because I scheduled a sightseeing day in Natchez for tomorrow.
The rain stopped and we did decide to leave. But first Dennis tried to boil some eggs and discovered he was out of propane. So we drove the bus to the propane tank as we were leaving and a Pontchartrain Landing staff member put in 8 quarts before it was full. So the tank wasn’t empty at all and the dial is wrong. Dennis decided that probably he hadn’t waited long enough for the flame to come on and jumped to the conclusion that the tank was empty. Next, I tried to open the canopy so I could stand out of the rain with the dogs for a potty break. The canopy didn’t open. So we have one more repair to add to our list in Red Bay.
Finally we left at ten o’clock and drove 170 miles northwest to Natchez, Mississippi. Despite our weather concerns the drive was easy. The first part is on piers as the highway crosses bayous and the southern and west ends of the lake. The highway is concrete and very rough. Our Spartan chassis got a workout: bump, bump, bump.
It was overcast all day and we had a few sprinkles. It was 57° when we left and it was 46° when we arrived at Natchez State Park at 1:50 pm. The park told us not to follow the MapQuest directions that say to turn off of US-84 & US-98 on Tate Rd. I can see why! It’s a dirt road. We continued west and turned north on US-61 and saw signs for the entrance on the right a few miles later. The long entrance road does not look promising and we are always paranoid that we will come to a dead end where we can’t turn around. Co-Pilot had no digitized roads and we felt like we were wandering around — not sure if we were in the park and going on the correct road or not. We turned at a second entrance sign and passed Campground B. There was no sign or indication that it is the RV camp. Finally we came to a lake and an office and there was a small turnaround circle. Dennis unhitched the car and I went to the office. They thought they’d told us to go to Campground B. We drove back in the car and selected #43, a pull-through, and then came back to the bus. Sites are not particularly large or level but they are concrete and we got set up easily enough. We overlook a lake in a pine and deciduous woods.
We saw a couple walking two little white Bichons. Later we walked our little white dogs as they drove out so they stopped to speak to us. They never heard of Cotons and were amazed at the similarities. We plan to introduce them tomorrow. We drove back to the office to pay. While we were inside a huge flying insect landed on my jacket and then flew to a window. I am not exaggerating when I say it was one and a half inches long. They said it was a wasp! There were two flying around. Ohmigod. We have to remember to keep our door shut at all times.
It was only 3:30 pm so we decided to drive into town but this was a mistake. Dennis was tired (but did not say so) and we should have stayed put. We are supposed to be ten miles north of Natchez but that is just to the outskirts. Dennis began complaining about the town and how we’d driven 20 miles and where was it? He always acts as if these things are my fault. We did drive for thirty minutes and I finally told him to stop at a Shoney’s. We didn’t make it to the river or the historic downtown, which I discovered is another ten or fifteen minutes beyond. Shoney’s is a chain coffee shop but not a good one. I’m crossing it off my list. We sat in a booth and listened to very loud hip-hop and rap music for one hour. This is OK when I’m watching So You Think You Can Dance, but not so great over dinner. I said, “I can’t believe I’m listening to hip-hop in a restaurant.” The beat is continuous and repetitive and by the end of an hour I felt like my brains were dribbling out of my ears. We drove exactly 15 miles back to camp but it did take 28 minutes.
The camp is very dark and very quiet. We have no cell phone and no Internet. Fortunately we do have satellite so I was able to watch the new installment of LOST.
Thursday, January 29. We relax in Natchez State Park, MS
Last night Rudi woke me up about midnight. He generally sleeps on the rug under the bed or at the bottom of the bed leaning against my legs. But once in awhile he comes up to my head and curls up on my pillow and then he shakes. I used to think this meant he had to go potty and I would get up and take him out. Then I thought he was cold but he doesn’t want to be covered with blankets. Now I think he hears or smells something and is frightened. I got him to curl up by my chest and he slept there the rest of the night. Fortunately he doesn’t smell bad and he doesn’t breathe loudly. I forget he is there. Once in awhile he takes a deep breath and lets it out with a little sigh, like a child who has found comfort and is beginning to relax. It is very endearing.
It was 32° this morning at 5:30 am. Dennis disconnected the water last night and left the gas heat set at 55° so it wasn’t too cold when I got up. We are moving north and rediscovering winter.
It was my intention to explore the Mississippi River and the old town of Natchez today. But we flaked out. It feels wonderful to be in a quiet wilderness area and I guess we are tired. We took the dogs for a walk on a nature trail down to the lake. They were so excited. Their hair sticks out in all directions and they get all puffed up. They try to go in all directions at once and their noses are going overtime. Clearly, everything has fascinating smells — and I’m not talking that everyday, ho hum dog pee. This is different! They bury their noses in leaves. What do they smell? We were told there is a badger around. There must be raccoons, possums, skunks, and squirrels. We are worried about fleas and ticks but we gamble that it is too early in the season and too cold. It was very nippy out but sunny and Dennis says this is the kind of weather the dogs like best. He’s right. They get very active in cool temperatures.
When we got back we decided to get out our camp chairs and sit outside in the sun. By now it was 43° so that sounds nuts but there was no wind and with jackets we felt fine facing the sun. There are almost no people here and we had a picnic table on a hill above the bus. Sitting away from the street and with no traffic or people walking by (or dogs) we could sit outside peacefully and not have to put up with a lot of barking and agitation.
We stayed outdoors for hours and I really can’t remember when we were last in a wilderness area like this where the weather and circumstances allowed us to sit outside. It was great. Soon we were snacking on chips and salsa.
I spotted a black cat walking through a camp site below and walked down to investigate. The cat showed himself but kept his distance and cast a watchful eye on me. Clearly wild, I decided to help him out. We had just thrown out some leftover fried catfish that was still good. I dug it out, broke it into bits and left it on a concrete picnic table pad on a corner close to the woods where the cat disappeared. There was too much for a cat but I checked half an hour later and half of it was gone. Gosh, how does a cat survive in woods? It’s cold out there and cats are not all that hardy. I suspect he scouts for leftovers in the campground.
I feel very badly that we missed out on Natchez. It is a historic city and there is much to see. But we really enjoyed our camping day off. We were going to BBQ but by four o’clock it was getting cold and we were indoors. I did get ambitious and made a cake. And we took a four-cheese frozen pizza and added fresh vegetables to it before we baked it in the convection oven. Shades of my favorite vegetarian pizza, Round Table’s Guineviere’s Garden — it turned out great.