On Monday, we were able to sleep in a little bit before we spent our day off in New Orleans. I was so excited to explore the city and I was not disappointed once I got there! I could see the approaching city from the highway, but the skyline was pretty small, even compared to Boston. I also thought that a lot more of the city would be structured like the French Quarter and was kinda surprised to see big skyscrapers at all.
When we finally arrived at the French Quarter, I looked around at the scenery. I loved the balconies that overlooked the street, many still decorated with Mardi Gras beads. Once we parked, we walked to what I considered to be the center of the Quarter, where there was a beautiful church and a park in the center. After taking a couple group pictures, we made our way to check into our bus tour, which was right by a dock where a steamboat was preparing to board passengers. A lady, who was on top of the boat, was playing some recognizable songs on a type of organ (the Sesame Street theme, some Disney songs). After she had quit playing, a drum player came up to us and was selling cds which were made by a local high school. He then played some songs for us: "Wiggle Jiggle" and one of my favorites "I'll Fly Away" which I knew from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? He said that this song is usually played at funerals which I thought was interesting. After he had gone, we found out that our tour had been delayed and so we went around to some souvenir shops and got a bite to eat.
At 12:30, we got on our tour bus where we met our driver Diane. She was very informative throughout the entire tour and was a great tour guide! First, she talked about the history of the Hurricane and showed us maps and clippings. She also told us that the Hurricane was not the tragedy that had hit Louisiana; in fact, she said that the Hurricane barely hit them at all. She noted the tragedy as a man-made disaster caused by the levees. This completely affected my outlook on the tragedy. Before the trip started, I thought it was just a natural disaster, but after only two days of being on the trip, I became more enlightened of the politics that were involved in Hurricane Katrina and how it seemed that the government had their priorities in the wrong place when they were occupied with the war.
Once we got started on the tour, Diane drove us around the city, showing us the Superdome where they housed survivors of Hurricane Katrina until help could come. We also passed a cemetery which had the mausoleums that I had always heard about and associated with the area. We then passed some houses that had been remodeled in the aftermath of the Hurricane. Some other sites we saw were Lake Pontchartrain with the 26 mile bridge that Joey had told us about and the houses that Brad Pitt is helping to build. She also told us where he lives which many girls on the trip were pretty excited about as they began to devise plans to get him to come out of his house.
After the tour, we split up and went around the flea market and other shops around the French Quarter. I didn't buy much the first day, but I browsed a lot of cool antique shops with Rachel, Julie and Tom and made mental notes to go back to certain spots during the week. On our way, we passed a street guitarist who serenaded the tourists with a song he wrote about World of Warcraft and a homeless man who had an ambulance called for him because someone thought he died. After that, we all meet up for dinner at the Marketplace Cafe where I had a cheeseburger po-boy that was delicious! After a long day, we were all tired as we headed back to the van. After being hissed at by a street performing vampire, we hopped into the van and headed back to the Mission, eager to start our first day at the work site with Habitat for Humanity!