Day Twenty Seven – Lafayette Square

Day Twenty Seven – Lafayette Square

Blues Idiom – Gutbucket – On plantations down south during slavery, the hogs were slaughtered in December. The ham and chops went to the main house and the hog guts, ears and feet and other leftovers were given to the slaves. The gut bucket was the bucket the slaves took to the slaughterhouse to collect the hog parts. Slaves improvised dishes with the kitchen cast offs, which became ‘soul food,’ such as chitlins, ham hocks and cracklins. Gutbucket also referred to the bucket placed underneath whisky barrels in dive bars to catch any leaking liquor. Soon anything low was called Gutbucket i.e. gutbucket blues.

Another late morning. Lunch/Breakfast at the I Hop diner on Canal Street. Open 24 hours but clean and good food. Kate has seen (unlike most menus we look at) many dishes she can eat. I had a turkey melt sandwich which came with the biggest fried onion rings I have every seen.

We crossed over Canal street and walked for 10 minutes or so to get to the World War Two Museum I have visited the museum before. There is a new building to explore. The girls have tickets and I am just going to laze about. I have a copy of the latest Off Beat Magazine (Jazz Fest Bible) and I need to research and lock in some artists as ‘must sees.’ Included in the tickets for entry to the sprawling museum is a couple of interactive movies. We have planned to meet up at 4:30 and then walk across the street to have a look at the much smaller Confederate War Museum. When we did rendezvous Wendy said that they have hardly scratched the surface of what is on view. She asked at the ticket counter if they could come back tomorrow. All good as the tickets are good for one week.

My main aim was to be up and about for the free music at Lafayette Square. Every Wednesday throughout spring there is a two band show from 5PM to 8PM. New Orleans finest are showcased to a mainly local audience. The two bands tonight are Sweet Crude followed by Flow Tribe. Kate was surprised by how young the first band where and she really enjoyed the band. Stew is sending out free beer to me from the artist area. A recognised a few faces from previous years. The guy  with the bright green handle bar moustache stands out as usual. It really is a great park for live music. Food is available and everyone is out for a good time. Flow Tribe are sensational, a mix of New Orleans R’n’B, reggae and hip-hop. They are real energetic as well as being excellent musicians. I got talking to a local (Cheryl) who is the step mother of one of the band members from Sweet Crude. She has had a few to drink and is very talkative. She spotted Kate’s ‘crikey’ tattoo and got into a conversation with Kate on how much she loved the late Steve Irwin. Kate told her about her course she completed at R.M.I.T and Cheryl has offered to get her a job with Sweet Crude. Kate has now two job offers here in New Orleans, stripper and sound engineer! While Flow Tribe are doing their thing a guy left of stage has set up an artists easel and is painting the band in action. The end result is amazing.

As we left the park after the music has finished we were offered some free pizza from one of the stalls.

We headed over to the casino for a few drinks and had no luck with the slots. Walked back down Bourbon so as Kate could witness the street later at night. We picked up a couple of pieces of pie at the local corner market for a late night snack. Our friend Cheryl McEvoy is back in the apartment next door and we spent some time catching up.

Rob Rowe

Day Twenty Six – On The Bayou

Day Twenty Six – Down On The Bayou

Blues Idiom – Gris-Gris is a French adaptation of the Sengalese word ‘grigri. Used as a noun, ‘grigri’ means charm or amulet. The verb, ‘grigri’ means to bewitch. Simply put a Gris Gris is an amulet or charm used to protect the wearer from curses. It may also be used to cast a curse.

We have a big day ahead of us. Yesterday we booked tickets for a ‘Cajun Encounter Tour.’ This will be my third visit to the swamps, Wendy’s second and of course Kate’s first. I have a feeling that this trip is what Kate has been looking forward to the most.

As usual I am thirty minutes early for our pick-up on Decatur Street. While the girls go in search of some bottled water I went over to (on the suggestion of the tour operator) to a little funky Creperie on Dumaine Street called De Ville. I ordered a cafe au lait & the ‘Lucy.’ A sweet crepe of fresh strawberries, powdered sugar and ameretto custard. Real tasty. Strawberry season is now in full swing down here in Louisiana.

The driver over to West Pearl River takes us around 35 minutes. The driver is very knowledgable and points out many interesting facts. We crossed Lake Pontchatrain and noted that this is a new causeway. The old causeway was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This causeway has three lanes plus two emergency stopping lanes. If the city every needs to be evacuated again then there will be 5 lanes plus another five lanes inwards that will be used to escape. When the Gulf of Mexico storm surge pushed back the lake was some 18 feet higher than the norm. An unbelievable amount of water.

Captain Troy is our tour guide. I always learn something new on this tour. We all had to introduce ourselves and where we were from. Behind us is a guy from Sydney and his mate from Brunswick. Turtles up resting on logs. Captain Troy said there are 25 different species of turtle around here. The river itself turns from fresh water to brackish which in turn has an influence on the type of tree and plant life. Also to note is that swamps are fresh water and marsh is brackish. Bayou are in turn inlets off the river system. The alligators don’t mind either type of water. The weather is perfect, warm but not oppressive For every mile and a half of river there is one dominate male alligator with anywhere between 10 to 35 females. The dominant male will defend his territory. It is not long before we have sight of the reptiles Kate has came to see. Captain Troy coaxed a couple over by skipping some marshmallows close by. The alligators mistake them for turtle eggs. The gut of the alligator is so acidic that the sugar of the marshmallow has no detrimental effect. It was cool watching the smaller alligator leap out of the water to take a piece of hot dog off a stick.

We headed back up river (after Katrina the river was 25 feet higher) to a nature reserve ‘Honey Island Swamp.’ Many more ‘gators lazing on logs, a snake and bird life. The Cypress tree is much favoured for building in Louisiana. Termites are a big problem in this humid climate however they cannot harm the Cyprus. The wood is so enduring that it can lay under water for three hundred years and still by usable. Trees cannot be cut down here as they are protected. One tree we pull up alongside is anywhere from 800 to 1000 years old.
We pulled into the swamp and just took in it’s beauty. No mosquitoes to worry about as they can only breed in still water and this river and swamp is tidal. Next we heard the grunting of wild boars. I had heard there loud grunts on previous trips but never seen any. We were literally surrounded by as may as 30 wild pigs of all ages. They are not shy and have also taken a liking to marshmallows. In fact one huge boar had it’s feet up on the boats railing.

Ater we got back to town we were all a little hungry. We don’t want a big feed (3P.M.) as we are going out to dinner tonight with Pat. We called into the French Marker for a small snack.

I have always wanted to go to a seafood restaurant called Drago’s. It is reputed to have the best oysters in town. The restaurant is over in Metarie and without a car is not easy to get to. We were talking with Gentilly Jnr and Pat last Friday and I mentioned Drago’s. Pat has been there many times and she very kindly offered us a lift there after she finished her day’s work.
We were not disappointed with the charred grilled oysters. We shared two dozen (don’t include Kate here) and then followed up with a lobster cheesy mac, a real tasty dish of squid and a side of Collard Greens (like Kale). I had to get Wendy to taste the Collard for the first time. Very strong taste that you need to get used to. Don’t think she will give them another go. Kate had a chicken parma (again) Another great day and night in New Orleans. Our thanks once again to the lovely Pat for going out of her way to make our trip even more special.

Rob Rowe