The day was Saturday, September 29, 2012. We took the forenoon flight in South West Airlines from Denver to New Orleans. Aparna also joined us in this tour.  We made the trip to see the 3 months old Samarth, the baby boy of Anusha and Sudhir. Anusha is my brother Babu's daughter.  My brother Babu, who is also on a visit to U.S., along with his his son-in-law Sudhir received us at Louis Armstrong Airport and took us home. It was raining cats and dogs. Hurricane 'Isaac'  had lashed New Orleans just a month back. The devastating effect was much less compared to the 'Katrina 'in 2005.  New Orleans fall in Central time Zone in US and the time was plus 1hour as compared to Denver which follows Mountain Time.

Anusha gave a rousing welcome with a song and by garlanding the three of us with fancy Mardi Gras beads, in a typical New Orleans style. Baby Samarth gave us a cute Gandhi  smile.  Babu for whom past time is cooking had  prepared a sumptuous lunch. We enjoyed eating together and took some rest after lunch.

The entire family with the baby boy Samarth left home in the evening in two cars for ‘ The Cafe Du Monde ‘ at Jackson Square which is a popular New Orleans landmark in the historic French Market. We tasted the exclusive rich blend of dark roasted french coffee with chicory which they serve with  pride 24 hours a day since 1830. We also had hot beignets (French Doughnuts) which is the only the other item available as their specialty.  You can see the beignets sprinkled with sugar over it in the picture and the steaming cup of coffee. 

With the flavor and taste of  the coffee, we started walking  along the Mississippi River ( 4th longest & 10th largest river in the world)  which the New Orleans call as‘ the river walk ‘.  Riverwalk Marketplace, which is celebrating the 20th year, features amazing shopping centers in a setting that overlooks the beautiful Mississippi River. A variety of eateries including the Cafe du Monde are located on the Down Town. Harrah’s Casino is another landmark(which is the extension of the one @ Las Vegas). We saw the place to be busy with people engaged in some games.

We returned home joyfully after the 'River Walk'. The hosts became enthusiastic in serving hot idlis with tasty side dishes. We played cards - rummy for some duration and it was a few minutes before midnight when we said ‘goodnight’.

Sep 30, we boarded a streetcar and got down at St.Charles Ave.  to visit Audubon Zoo & Audubon Park. We could see a few people running along the path of the street car. We got down on the way and started walking towards the park. The rain started playing truant & the umbrellas we carried proved to be less adequate. Luckily we had caps & light jackets to provide us with some shelter. We were enjoying the lush greenery and saw many tall trees covered by epiphytes.  Audubon in french means plantation De Boer. The Park was a plantation site originally and the

land was used for staging the ‘ Buffalo Soldiers ‘ during the American Civil war. The nickname was given to the ‘Negro Cavalry’ by the Native American tribes they fought, the term eventually became synonymous  with all of the  African-American Regiment formed in 1866. Audubon Park is directly across the Tulane and Loyola Universities situated in St.Charles Ave. The Park features a sports field and a picnic spot along the Mississippi river in an area called ‘Riverview Park’. We took a street car back home for lunch, after this adventurous walk in the rain for more than a mile.

Late in the afternoon, the weather was kind and we set out for an important visit. It was ‘ NOMA’ - The  New Orleans Museum of Art.  NOMA is the city’s oldest (100 years ) fine arts Institution and it is the most important Sculptor locations in U.S. It has a magnificent permanent collection of 40000 objects.

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA spreads in an expanse of five acres. There are over 60 sculptures situated on a beautifully landscaped site amongst meandering footpaths, reflecting lagoons, live oaks of 200 years old, pines and pedestrian bridges. The sculptures which are modern & contemporary are located in an open garden. Pictures taken at NOMA are exhibited below:-

Chain of human beings forming a shape of a Back bone

Henry Moore's Reclining Mother and Child 1975 Bronze

 (The Archer Sculpture at NOMA.)

After spending  almost 2 hours  in the museum fruitfully, we went for a drive round the Botanical Gardens. We stopped at ‘ French Fair Grinders ‘ where we saw many university students engrossed in discussions as a part of their combined studies, operating their lap tops with one hand and sipping a cuppa in the other. We relished Mocha coffee in a relaxing mood.  

'Overflow' made out of Alphabet Letters is the picture seen below taken at 'NOMA'.

ISKCON Temple is situated very near and when we entered , bhajans were going on. We listened to the songs, heard a lecture for sometime. The day was a Sunday when they host a dinner to the devotees. We were lucky to be seated in the front row. We received the Prasad and joined the buffet dinner.

October 1, 2012, being the penultimate day of our stay at New Orleans, we decided to visit yet another important place.  It was America’s National World War II Museum located at the corner of Andrew Higgins boulevard  and Magazine street. It was opened on June 6, 2000 , the 56th anniversary of the D-Day and maintains affiliation with Smithsonian Institution. The WW II Museum focuses the contribution made by U.S. to the victory of the Allied Forces. Presently it is in the midst of  US $ 30 million expansion program under the campaign ‘Road to Victory’.

There are two main reasons for the Museum to be in New Orleans.  Stephen Ambrose, the noted historian, who spear headed to build the museum was a native of New Orleans. Higgins boats which were vital to D-day operations were designed and built in New Orleans in Higgins Industry, named after its founder Andrew Higgins. He was admiringly given the credit by Eisenhower as 'the man who won the war for us'.

We first went to a theater behind the main museum to view a  4d-film ‘Beyond All Boundaries’ to get an overview of the war on every front.  The supreme Commander of the Allied Force was General Dwight Eisenhower. Thanks to the comprehensive  deceptive plan ‘ Operation Bodyguard, implemented months before the landings to distract the Germans (Axis Forces) from the possibility of landing in Normandy. The key to success was to convince Adolf Hitler that the landings were to take place in north  of France near CALAIS. There were also decoy operations under code names ‘Operation Glimmer’ and ‘Operation Taxable’ to distract the Axis (Germans) from the real landing areas. The landings took place along the 50 miles stretch of the Normandy Coast in France in 5 sectors Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.  Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy which launched the invasion of German occupied western Europe by Allied Forces during WW II. It was on June 6 1944 (D-Day-also called as Operation Neptune). The Battle of Normandy lasted for more than two months culminating in ‘Liberation of Paris’ on August 24th and retreat of German across Seine which was completed on Aug 30 1944.

The fighting spirit of America as an Allied Force becomes evident from the portrayal of catchy war-time slogans all through the museum. For example :-(1) “ Do With Less, So They will Have More or Enough”; (2) “Make it Do or Do Without”; (3) ‘1943-Make Pennies with steel’ (mint); (4) “Share Your Car and Spare Your Tyre”; (5) ‘Save Fat to Gain Gunpowder’ - take them to your Meat Dealer”; (6) “We Can’t Do Without Them - Women in War “.(7) “Choose Now while You Can” - Join The War” (8) ‘Save your cans for war’ (9)” Save Rubber, check your Tyre”

The war also provided 100% employment for the people. 'Necessity is the Mother of invention.' Mass production of penicillin was started in 1943 which was a life saver( drug) during war. polyester clothing, gas cigarette lighters, prefabricated houses, wax pencils were some of war time inventions.  Added to this list are production of jeeps, High Octane gasoline, DDT, Teflon, electron microscope ,Styrofoam,  M&Ms and so on. First all purpose electronic digital computer became operative in 1946.

We had to quicken our pace when we reached the Pacific War area depicting mainly the war between Japan & the USA. We hurriedly went through  the section depicting the scene of atom bomb dropping in Hiroshima & Nagasaki  which left us with a feeling of horror and dismay. No doubt 'it was a war without mercy'as 65 million innocent lives were lost in a gruesome battle, the bloodiest in the history of mankind..

When we pay homage to heroes of war, we think about cemeteries which are major tourist attraction in New Orleans. The city is built on swamp - the deceased are buried above ground. in stone crypts and mausoleums. Overtime, elaborate embellishments and decorative art works which are carried out makes the site resemble a village and they are now nicknamed as ‘the cities of the dead’. The most famous and oldest is St.Louis #1 in French Quarter in the Down Town area. Marie Laveau, the ‘Voodoo Queen’ is buried here. We visited St.Louis Cemetery #3 where we stood in silence before Mother Theresa statue. (Picture above) (there are special tours for seeing the cemeteries)

 In the evening, we went to see the oldest French Market in the city. There are series of commercial buildings and the French Market which portrays an arch in the entrance, bearing its name. We shopped in the French Market for about an hour.  We bought New Orleans T-shirts, Masks etc;. We also bought Pralines ( a cookie sized confection made especially of butter, brown sugar and pecans developed in New Orleans in the 19th century).

St.Louis Cathedral (Roman catholic Church) was not open by the time we reached the spot. It is the oldest continuously operated Church in U.S. and situated in French Quarter next to Jackson square.

General:-  New Orleans is a home to a truly unique melting pot of culture, food and music. The city is steeped in a history of French and Spanish culture. New Orleans gets its name from the city called ‘ORLEANS’ located in Louis River in Centre France. It is distinct for Creole (French) architecture. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday when practice of eating richer fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten Season is prevalent. during this time parades originate in the uptown and follows a route along St.Charles Avenue and Canal street. Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras day refers to that particular day. The City's attraction include historic Pontchartrain hotel, French Quarter, Bourbon Street’s notorious nightlife, 19th century mansions,

St.Charles Avenue, Magazine Street for its boutique stores and antique shops.

The symbol above is known by the name 'Fleur-de-lis'. (Fr.). It literally means ' lily flower.' As a religious symbol, it represents the Holy Trinity and also the Virgin Mary. The three petals are said to represent faith, wisdom and chivalry. In New Orleans, the symbol is used by Saints Football Team, Hornets Basket Ball Team and Zephyrs base ball team.The symbol finds place in coats of arms and logos for Louisiana University. After Katrina, New Orleans were tattooed with 'one of its cultural symbol' as a memorial of the storm. Two of the surgical procedures are called after 'fleur-de-lis'. In'the novel 'Da Vinci Code' it represents 'Priory of Sion'.

Superdome in New Orleans is a sports and exhibition arena . Its tenants include New Orleans Saints Sugar Bowl (7 times it hosted the matches), Jazz, Breakers and New Orleans Night. It has a huge capacity for housing NFL- Football(73200) , Baseball(63525) and Basketball (55635) Tournaments.. Its cost including repairs and renovation touch US $995 million.

New Orleans has a total area of 350 Square Miles out of which 181 Sq.miles are land. It is the lowest lying city averaging only 100 feet above sea level. Its flatness cause problem along the Gulf-coast. which is below the sea level and vulnerable for flooding which causes havoc sometimes. It is mainly rural with large areas of swamps and sluggish marshes filled with brackish water called bayous.

Preservation Hall in French Quarter is famous for noted Jazz performance featuring a rotating roster bands.The fee is affordable but a large portion of the audience stand in the back as there are only limited number of benches, chairs and floor cushions. One can tour the port in ‘Natchez’, an authentic steamboat with a calliope musical instrument.
(Exhibit shows a slanting Apartment on the bank of a Bayou)..
We took the opportunity during our stay, to visit Anusha's post doc-research Lab. attached to the Tulane University. She showed the specimen parasites causing malaria which were undergoing culture tests. We viewed them under microscope:-

We dined at an Ethiopian Cuisine ( for the first time)  as a way of celebration of our joyful and eventful stay at New Orleans. The  menu was a large cold dosa (forgot the name) made from a special Ethiopian grain along with some lentil dishes , vegetables & a kind of greens all served in a common plate which three of us shared.  For dessert we went to the Yogurt land and had dollops of  variety of yogurt as per our liking.

( The Family happily posing  relishing the yogurt in the ' Yogurt Land ' )

Dinner at Ethiopian cafe Abyssinia

Our New Orleans trip was quite enjoyable. Thanks to the meticulous plan and schedules drawn by Anusha and ably assisted by Sudhir and Babu despite the constrains like the inclement weather and the necessity for  taking turns to look after the baby at home when we set out for sight seeing and for fulfilling the itinerary.
We bade farewell to our hosts before the sun rose on 02 Oct 2012 and caught the South West FLt. leaving New Orleans @ 6.05 A.M.

We were received by Sekhar and Karthik at Denver Airport.

Visits to cities and places having historical background not only gives joy but also enlarges our vision, widens our knowledge and promotes our insight. The pleasure grows in abundance when we share our experience with our friends and dear ones. We have toured the city of New Orleans, enjoyed our stay, and have given a summary, illustrated with pictures of the scenic beauty of the largest city in the State of Louisiana.  Now it is up to you to discover New Orleans !!

( Sculpture of Violins in tandem in NOMA )

(Sky Line Of New Orleans )

Bye of now to all of you !!