New Orleans, Louisiana (part 3) Friday, May 26 2017 

Ann Rice's Former Home

Ann Rice’s Former Home

On Wednesday, we drove to the edge of New Orleans and boarded a street car. We got off in the Garden District and followed a self-guided tour recommended in the Louisiana AAA Tour Book. The following information comes from that tour. The Bradish Johnson House is identified as a Second Empire-style mansion erected in 1872 by New Orleans architect James Feret for a wealthy sugar planter. Toby’s Corner, a Greek Revival dating from 1838, is the district’s oldest house. Two Italianate mansions built simultaneously in 1869 by architect Samuel Johnson have identical ironwork. We saw Anne Rice’s former home, an 1857 combination of Greek Revival and Italianate styles noted for its cast-iron adornments. The guardian oaks’ gnarly roots have corrupted the sidewalk. The Payne House, a Greek Revival, was the home where Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, died in 1869. Sugar broker Samuel Delgado’s frame Italianate was occupied by his nephew Isaac, who donated his art collection to form the basis of the New Orleans Museum of Art. We passed a series of eight shotgun houses including one camelback (having a second story atop the rear section). The Michel Musson House, built around 1853, was the home of a Creole cotton magnate and maternal uncle of the artist Edgar Degas. The Robinson House is one of the area’s largest residences. Its architect was Henry Howard, designer of Nottoway Plantation and several other Garden District homes. The gables, ironwork galleries, and gingerbread trim on the chalet-style Koch mansion make for an interesting contrast to the other classic Garden District homes. Lafayette Cemetery, established in 1833, was going to close at 3 p.m., the time when we passed by so we only briefly entered it. We stopped for a few minutes in the former Rink, an 1884 skating rink, which now contains upscale shops and an active Garden District real estate agent. Col. Short’s Villa is an 1859 Italianate residence designed by Henry Howard. Despite the heat and humidity, we enjoyed an interesting walk about this historic area.

We then used our Jazzy pass, which allows unlimited transfers on the streetcars for a 24-hour period, to visit the French Quarter, some 90 blocks that represents the heart of the city. Interestingly, the architecture is Spanish, not French. We found an air-conditioned spot on Bourbon Street for a beer and tasty form of nachos. A line of tourists lined up outside Preservation Hall. Music could be heard pulsating from several venues and we enjoyed listening to street performers. As a local might say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll).

New Orleans, Louisiana (part 2) Friday, May 26 2017 

Henry Moore Sculpture

Henry Moore Sculpture

On Tuesday, we visited the Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, located on five acres, that displays more than 60 sculptures. We enjoyed meandering along the footpaths shaded by Spanish moss-laden 200-year-old live oaks. Some of the sculptures we particularly enjoyed were the following: Henry Moore’s “Reclining Mother and Child,” Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ “Diana,” Do-Ho Suh’s “Karma,” Leandro Erlich’s “Window with Ladder – Too Late for Help,” Gaston Lachaise’s “Heroic Man,” Elisabeth Frink’s “Riace Warriors,” Robert Graham’s “Source Figure,” Audrey Flack’s “Civitas,” William Zorach’s “Future Generations, and Michael Sandle’s “The Drummer.”

The Sculpture Garden is adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art, known for its strengths in French and American art, and African and Japanese works. Our walk through started on the third floor in a special exhibit devoted to local artist Regina Scully, “Japanese Landscape: Inner Journeys.” Several of her pieces use one color. The juxtaposition of her work with traditional Japanese landscapes encouraged reflection on imaginary journeys. Another special exhibit focuses on local artist Jim Steg. He used many media, especially print-making. I liked the colors painted on wood in Alessandro Mendini’s “Proust Armchair.” The museum includes “Woman in an Armchair” by Pablo Picasso. The most unusual piece for me was Will Ryman’s “America.” He gold-plated a log cabin with access to various materials composing the interior.

Sunflower

Sunflower

The entrance to the New Orleans Botanical Garden is also located in City Park, a half-mile from the Museum of Art. The Garden contains several sculptures by Enrique Alferez and a Hellis Foundation exhibit that celebrates the life and work of this artist. The Rose Parterre features several colorful roses such as “Winter Sun” and “Coretta Scott King.” The Lily Pond showcases several varieties of water lilies. The Japanese Garden Society of New Orleans needs to take better care of the Yakumo Nihon Telen Japanese Garden. I especially liked the sunflowers in the Plano Demonstration Garden. We enjoyed our walk through the Garden.

Orangutan

Orangutan

The Audubon Zoo, named after local ornithologist John James Audubon, has an interesting collection of animals with generally large exhibits and much shadier walkways than anticipated. We saw several animals that I have not previously seen such as a babirua, capybara, and nutria. Many animals were active like a sun bear, a Sumatran orangutan, the Asian elephants, and giraffes. A peacock honored us with a full view of its plumage. One emu, separated from another, kept trying to position itself to see its mate. One spider monkey demonstrated its ability to hang by its tail. We got a closeup view of an anteater and several African painted dogs. The alligators in the Louisiana Swamp display were scary. Not the ones sunning on a dock, but those showing only their eyes in the water covered with green growth. We also admired a rare white alligator.

New Orleans, Louisiana (part 1) Friday, May 26 2017 

Natchez

Natchez

On Monday, we took a shuttle that dropped us off in the French Quarter of New Orleans. We walked to Jackson Square where we saw a statue of Andrew Jackson atop a horse. Across the street, we entered the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States dated from 1718. The present church, built and enlarged over the Spanish foundations, was completed in 1851. We then cruised on the Mississippi River aboard the Natchez paddlewheel. Before boarding we listened to calliope music. Once on board we listened to jazz while enjoying a buffet lunch. Shortly after the boat trip, we boarded a “Super City” Gray Line bus tour for an excellent overview of New Orleans. We learned about the distinctions between Cajun and Creole. We were introduced to the unique architecture of this historic city. We visited a cemetery where we learned about the city’s traditions with the dead. We also had an opportunity to try beignets.

Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana Friday, May 26 2017 

Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation

We left Galveston Island via the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula. On Saturday, we took a test drive on the ferry. We were amazed at the number of jeeps thronging to Crystal Beach and the surrounding area. On our return the line in Galveston waiting for the ferry stretched more than two miles. We avoided any such line on Sunday with an early start. We drove through sporadic rainfall to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I believe this is my first visit to this state. From the Baton Rouge KOA RV Park, we drove to the Oak Alley Plantation which is on the Mississippi River about half-way between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. This Greek Revival mansion was named for the two rows of live oaks, planted in the early 1700s, that form a quarter-mile alley from the Mississippi River to the house. Built 1837-1839 by the Creole aristocrat Jacques T. Roman, 600 of Oak Alley’s 1200 acres were in sugar cane maintained by some 80 field slaves who were tasked with planting, tending and harvesting the crop. Between 1836 and the Civil War more than 220 men, women, and children were enslaved at Oak Alley. After the Civil War the property passed through several hands until purchased by the Stewarts in 1925. Mrs. Stewart, who died in 1972, was responsible for creating a Foundation to make 25 acres of the larger estate available for public exhibition. This plantation is a popular one for film and TV shows. 300-year-old Virginia Live Oaks line a pathway from the house toward the Mississippi. Six recreated structures share information about the slave quarters. We enjoyed mint juleps and Cajun food at the related restaurant.

Galveston, Texas Sunday, May 21 2017 

By traveling mainly back roads from Corpus Christi to Galveston, we saw local crops. We stayed at the Sandpiper RV Park located next to Stewart Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, it was convenient to walk on the beach.

Moody Gardens

Moody Gardens

On Friday, we visited Moody Gardens. We were impressed with the 3-D photography for “Secret Ocean,” a presentation by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques. Alongside marine biologist Holly Lohuis, they examine the smallest life in the sea, plankton, on which we all depend. Narrated by oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, we were introduced to more than 30 marine species. The illuminating behaviors are captured using underwater filming in 3-D, ultra-HD, 5K, slow motion, macro, and with motion control. A very special presentation of marine exploration and a plea for conservation. Our experiences in the 4-D Theater and SpongeBob SubPants Adventure Theater couldn’t match “Secret Ocean.” Once again, our museum visit coincided with school field trips. Even our hour-long Colonel Paddlewheel Boat trip included middle school young people. The Aquarium Pyramid officially re-opens on May 27. We got a sense of the awesome 1.5-million-gallon aquarium teeming with sea life. We saw the ten Humboldt penguins as they acclimate to their new home. The Rainforest Pyramid is organized so that you can experience the various levels of a rainforest. Fortunately, hot and steamy segments are interspersed with cooler educational areas. We saw a female white-face Saki which did not have a white-face. The most interesting creatures to me were two prehensile-tailed porcupines that were feeding on leaves. Several beautiful orchids were in bloom. On the grounds of Moody Gardens were several different colorful hibiscuses in bloom.

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop’s Palace, originally known as Gresham’s Castle, is a 19,000-square foot Victorian home made of stone and ornately decorated with carved wood, stained-glass windows, and unique fireplaces. Built in 1892, it is cited as one of the 100 most important buildings in the country by the American Institute of Architects. In 1923, the castle was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston. As Bishop Byrne’s home, it became known as the “Bishop’s Palace.” The Galveston Historical Society provides visitors with an iPod tape system for self-guided tours of the first and second level. Across the street is Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The present building was constructed in 1903-04 because the original was destroyed during the destructive 1900 hurricane. It features ornate octagonal towers, flying buttresses, elaborate ornamentation, and a variety of arches.  The design reflects influences of the Moorish, Byzantine, Gothic, and the Romanesque styles.  The buildings’ original dome. damaged in a 1915 hurricane, was redesigned by Nicholas Clayton, the architect of the Bishop’s Palace and many other homes in Galveston.

Elissa

Elissa

The first floor of the Texas Seaport Museum is devoted to a history of Galveston’s role welcoming immigrants. In all, some 133,000 immigrants entered the United States through Galveston including many Germans and later many Jews. The second floor is devoted to detailing different eras of Texas naval history. The 1877 tall-ship Elissa, docked outside the museum, also has an iPod self-guided tape system.  The Museum’s excellent short film documenting the dramatic rescue of the Elissa from a Greek scrap yard and her meticulous restoration should be recommended viewing before touring the tall ship. Nearby, the Pier 21 Theater offers some interesting historical pieces. “The Great Storm,” the story of the 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston Island on Sept. 8 shares the personal stories of survivors and the recovery of Galveston following the deadliest natural disaster in United States history. Some 6,000-people died in the storm. We also saw “The Pirate Island of Jean Laffite” and learned about his complicated life. Was he a pirate or a patriot? Smuggler or businessman? Merciless murderer and thief, or hero in time of war? We may hear more about him when we visit New Orleans.

Corpus Christi, Texas Thursday, May 18 2017 

Actually, we stayed just north of Corpus Christi in Portland at Sea Breeze RV Park where the winds were mostly at gale force. Upon arriving, we visited the Corpus Christi Visitor Center and walked along the sea wall with views of a heron and brown pelicans. We passed a statue dedicated to Selena who died in 1995. We dined on the Gulf of Mexico at Harrison’s Landing.

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore

On Tuesday, we visited Padre Island National Seashore, the world’s longest undeveloped stretch of barrier island. It embraces 70 miles of sand-and-shell beaches, windswept dunes, grasslands, and tidal flats. We stopped at the Malaquite Visitor Center, a popular destination for end-of-the-year school field trips, and walked along the Gulf Coast dunes covered with blooming goat’s foot morning glories. Bird Island Basin, located on the shallow, warm waters of Laguna Madre, is a popular wind surfing beach. We returned via Mustang Island where we had lunch at Victoria’s on the Beach in Port Aransas. After crossing many of the area’s bridges, it was interesting to take a short ferry ride as we completed our circular route.

Texas State Aquarium

Texas State Aquarium

On Wednesday, we joined throngs of school children visiting the Texas State Aquarium.  We watched Caribbean flamingos and a Linnaeus’ two-toed sloth before seeing the following water animals: sting rays, red lionfish, green moray eels, spotted rum, nurse shark, groupers, and Caribbean spiny lobsters. A scuba diver fed fish in one tank before cleaning it. We especially enjoyed the dolphin show. The 4-D show on sharks was enjoyable, especially with the unrestrained responses of the children in the audience.

USS Lexington

USS Lexington

In the afternoon, we toured the USS Lexington, activated during World War II. This aircraft carrier, the fifth with this name, is huge. On the Hangar Deck we liked the 3-D presentation, “Aircraft Carrier: Guardians of the Sea,” with its emphasis on avoiding future wars. The flight deck features several planes such as an A-4B Skyhawk, a F9F-8T Cougar, and a TA-4F Skyhawk. We went up to the bridge and I descended to examine the anti-aircraft guns. The Foc’sle features a special media presentation on the Pearl Harbor attack. This ship, known as the Blue Ghost, was falsely reportedly sunk many times by Tokyo Rose (Do you know where she went to college?). I also liked an exhibit on knots. Junior officers and officer’s quarters were on view. The Gallery Deck contains the Captain’s cabin and the library. The Lower Deck displays the crew’s galley, a dental exhibit, and the chapel.

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