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Louisiana and East Texas

Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2009 - 2017

Day One: Not So Easy Getting to the Big Easy

We had returned home from our Texas trip just six days earlier, but I wasn't working and expected to be soon, so we squeezed in this trip while we could so my wife could visit her parents who had recently moved to Baton Rouge. Also I was looking for three more Texas Missions they were in east Texas and what is now Louisiana. After the usual hassle with baggage check and security, we left Los Angeles on time at 12:55 on a Saturday afternoon and flew east for three and a half hours, landing in New Orleans in early evening. We knew we had landed in the right place when we were greeted by a life-size (maybe a lit bigger) fiberglass Louis Armstrong in the terminal.

Before long we were heading the short distance into town and found our hotel. Although the hotel had French Quarter in the name, I was surprised when it was actually in the French Quarter, so often the hotel is only near the place in the name. Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel, we were walking along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. It was evening and a bit dark, yet the atmosphere of the historic section shown through - every night is party night in the French Quarter. The French Quarter, also sometimes called Vieux Carré, is the original part of the city, preserved in its rustic splendor. We walked past Saint Louis Cathedral and found the restaurant that had been recommended, Café Maspero, an old and popular place to find good Orleans style food - cash only. We then slowly walked back to our hotel, absorbing what we could of the Quarter. Across the street, searchlights advertised the reopening of Armstrong Park just two days earlier. Slowly the city is coming back after Hurricane Katrina.
Best Westewrn French Quarter

Armstrog Park had just reopened.

Back side of Saint Louis Cathedral at night with statue shadow.

Day Two: The French Quarter

We had a simple continental breakfast and were on our way by 8:30. We walked along Saint Ann Street to attend Mass at Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest continuously operating church in theUS. We were a few minutes early and looked at a statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square across the street. The church was as beautiful as one might expect and we stayed to photograph it after.

After Mass, we walked a few steps to the Louisiana State Museum Cabildo which has exhibits on Louisiana History. I felt rushed to get my ticket. There are different prices depending on which of the museums you buy tickets for and

Saint Louis Cathedral.
the AAA discount only applies for an individual ticket, not the whole package. I became upset when I found we were entitled to a student rate and they refused a refund. The museums where I volunteer would have made the adjustment. When I complained to a supervisor and said I would tell people what I think, she said, "We hope you do." So I have. Feeling a little cheated, I didn't enjoy the museum even though it probably had some nice exhibits. It was in this building that the treaty was signed selling French owned Louisiana to the US - the Louisiana Purchase.

We next walked to the other side of the cathedral to Louisiana State Museum Presbytere. Originally built as a residence for the priests, it matches the Cabildo on the opposite side of the church which was once the City Hall. The Presbytere is now dedicated to exhibits on Marti Gras and Festival. It was filled with elaborate, garish, and colorful costumes and other ornamentations from the festivals and parades.
Marti Gras costumes.

The last of the three Louisiana State Museums that I overpaid for was the 1850 House. Over one hundred years ago, two matching row apartments were built on opposite sides of Jackson Square. These were among the first apartments built anywhere and had many innovative ideas. Later the apartments were divided further, but one was left in 1850 condition as a museum filled with intricately
Sitting Room in 1850 House.
carved furniture and beautiful accessories. The rest of the apartments are still rented out and I was surprised by how many people actually make their homes in the French Quarter which I had previously assumed to be only shops and restaurants.

The French Quarter isn't huge, so it took only a few minutes to walk to the edge of the Mighty Mississippi River. We gave serious consideration to taking a river boat cruise on the Natchez steam boat, but decided we would have to pass up on other things we hoped to see. I hope to ride the Natchez the next time.
Natchez Steam Boat

Several people had recommended the Gumbo Shop so we decided to try it for lunch. The jambalaya was even better than the one I had the night before and my wife loved her red beans and sausage.

The were two free museums as part of the Louisiana Museum, one was closed and the other, the Old Mint had some very interesting contemporary art works in addition to some displays on coin making. Too bad they weren't giving samples of the coins.

As we walked back from the Mint, my wife found her minor goal by finding Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville which has a bar/restaurant and adjacent gift shop. My wife loves Christmas so we walked through Santa's Quarters which is a Christmas all year store filled with wonderful decorations. My wife had earlier objected to wearing her heavy coat, but as we walked back to the hotel, she admitted she was glad I made her bring it. It had been overcast all day and although we never felt rain, we expected it all day. We retreated to our room and had something light sent over for dinner. We liked the French Quarter better in daylight so decided to stay in this evening and catch up with planning the rest of the trip.

Day Three: Plantations

After breakfast, I began with a short walk through Armstrong Park which had only reopened a few days earlier. There are performing arts venues, water features, and garden areas. It was early and no one else was in the park except a few staff people going about their business. Not far beyond the park is Saint Louis Cemetery #1 which looked old and historic. Mark Twain is said to have remarked of New Orleans, "The city has no architecture except those that can be found in the cemeteries." This is because the water table is so high that the dead can't be buried below the ground, so tombs are built above the ground. Some of the tombs are quite elaborate but sadly, many are in poor condition. I walked through the
Saint Louis Cemetery #1

Saint Louis Cemetery #1
cemetery a while, found one with my family name of it, and decided it was time to leave. Then rather than walk back along North Rampart Street, I walked through several blocks of the French Quarter. In total, we probably explored less than a quarter of the French Quarter, but maybe we will return some day. As I walked into the room, my wife was almost ready for me to order our tour tickets for NASA Houston a few days later. We had tried ordering on-line the night before but just after clicking submit, the connection dropped and we weren't sure if we had tickets or not. We didn't, but now we did. We finished packing and left about 9:30 heading northwest along I-10.

It wasn't long until we turned onto Highway 310 and crossed the river to a small road, Highway 18 which parallels the river and passes several plantations, some open to the public. I enjoyed this drive along a back road and once or twice found access to the river where we saw tow-boats pushing barges. The name is a bit odd, but maybe there was a time when tow-boats actually towed rather than pushed. There were also several places where huge pipes crossed over the road connecting refineries and power plants to the river. For some reason I took a notion to stop a minute at Saint John the Baptist Church because it looked old and historic. It was. The sign said it was founded in 1770 and gave its name to Saint John the
Baptist Parish. Just in case you don't already know, Louisiana does not have counties. Because of its deep religious past, when the governmental regions were set up that we would call counties, they were based on the Catholic Church Parishes already in place and took the same boundaries and names.
Saint John the Baptist Church.

The first stop was Laura: A Creole Plantation. Once there were thousands of these plantations, long and narrow, each with a little river front property. Today there are a half dozen open to the public. Creole plantation houses were more colorful than those by the Anglos and were built above the ground to reduce flooding. We enjoyed the tour of Laura's plantation and
Front of house, faces the river.
learned a lot about the Creole society which had it's origins in French, but with many influences and unique differences. I was surprised to learn that most of these plantations were operated as business by families who lived in New Orleans (French Quarter) and only stayed at the plantations for extended visits.

It was only a few minutes to St Joseph Plantation but we didn't feel that we had the time to stop, so we pressed on the Oak Alley Plantation which had been recommended several times. Built in the Greek Revival style, Oak Alley is very different from Laura's Creole Plantation, both in architecture and social makeup. The plantation was occupied by members of the family that built it as recently as 1962 when it was given to a non-profit group to protect it. Oak Alley is also a bed and breakfast and has a gift shop and also a restaurant where we had gumbo for lunch. Most notable, and the source of the name, are the 28 oak trees in two perfectly spaced rows leading from the house to the river. The trees predate the house by

Oak Alley.
one hundred years and are 300 years old now with a life expectancy of another 300 years. So the name Oak Alley is safe for three more centuries before it will need to be changed to Stump Alley. Our guide lead us through two floors containing several rooms and the upstairs wrap-around porch. We enjoyed this tour as well and then continued toward Baton Rouge.

We arrived at my wife's parents' house about 4:00 and spent the rest of the evening with them.They moved to Baton Rouge only a few days before Hurricane Gustav last August and werehappy for their only daughter to be visiting. We found our hotel easily enough and settled in.

Day Four: Capitols and Mansions

We enjoyed a satisfying continental breakfast and headed west toward downtown. We drove around downtown a bit before finally getting our bearings and finding a place to park a short walk from the New State Capitol. The New Capitol isn't new any more, having been completed in 1932, but it's newer than the Old Capitol. In the middle of the large
State Capitol
garden area in front of the capitol is the resting place of, and monument to, Huey Long, former Governor and Senator from the great state of Louisiana who's political power pushed for the construction of the capitol despite the depression. Three years later, Long was assassinated in the same building. The statue faces the capitol so Huey can keep a watchful eye over the proceedings. Once inside the Capitol we learned more about Huey Long, and saw one of the bullet holes left from the assassination. We also saw both House and Senate chambers which were not in session but filed with fine woodwork and desks. We then took the elevators to the 27th floor observation level and walked around for a 360 degree panorama to the distant horizon. We looked down to the river, Huey's memorial, barges, refineries, bridges, a distant stadium to the south, and other points of interest. It was hard to hold my long lens steady in the cold wind at the top of the tower.

We spent about an hour at the Louisiana State Museum Baton Rouge with exhibits on Louisiana history, battles, a Confederate submarine, agriculture, wildlife, and more. One the third floor were contemporary art, exhibits on Mardi Gras, and Louisiana culture. We returned to our car for the short drive to find the Old Capitol and Old Governor's Mansion.

We found the Governor's Mansion with some difficulty owing to the construction of a new Courthouse which had the surrounding area tied up. The Old Governor's Mansion isn't all that old, but still it isn't used for that purpose any more. Governor Huey Long felt that the old mansion needed replacing but the legislature wouldn't approve Front Facade.
Old Governor's Mansion.
it, so Long requested a crew of convicts be sent over and in short order, they had demolished the old house. Long was then granted money to build a new mansion. Some time later, siting lack of air conditioning and security issues, a new mansion was built closer to the New Capitol and the old mansion became a historic site with tours and special events. The tour was quite interesting as our guide told us about Huey Long and colorful
Governor Jimmy Davis who rode his horse through the doors of the capitol and was a music recording star. We enjoyed the tour of the Old Governor's Mansion but not the Old Capitol. The Old Capitol was closed for renovation and should have reopened the day before. All we could do was walk past it and hope to return another day. Ball Room
Old Governor's Mansion.

We were done with today's adventures and spent the evening with my wife's parents who took us to Bistro Cheesecake where I had ravioli crawfish and cheesecake too good to describe. We returned to our room and prepared to head southwest tomorrow.

Day Five: Return to Tejas

We got up and packed and enjoyed our breakfast and headed west. About a half hour west of Baton Rouge, I realized we were on a bridge over a swamp or shallow lake that extended for several miles. It was just a concrete ribbon on concrete piers about twenty feet above the water stretching for miles. On our return, I noticed the signs saying the whole expanse was the Atchafalaya Basin and within it were Lake Bigeux, Henderson Swamp, and a number of other named bodies of water. I would have liked to have stopped a bit in Lafayette, but there just wasn't time. It was a little west of Lafayette that the landscape started to look less like the area around Baton Rouge and more like Texas with more open areas and less trees. We were enjoying the drive when a half hour later I notice the windshield of our rental car had a crack slowly growing from a small pit near the edge. I was so intent on worrying about this that I missed the sign for the rest stop we were looking for. Instead, we stopped for gas and restrooms in Jennings before continuing. Not long after passing through Lake Charles, we crossed the Sabine River on a tall bridge and midway across was a sign noting the border with Texas. So we entered Orange County, Texas, not to be confused with Orange County, Florida
which we visited a year earlier or Orange County, California which we visit a few times each year. I also noticed a sign that said it was almost 900 miles to El Paso at the other side of the state. Texas is big. We stopped at theTexas Welcome Center for information and continued a short distance to our major stop for today. Welcome to Texas
Welcome to Texas

We were in Orange, Texas, a small industrial town on the border with Louisiana not far from the Gulf. We pulled into the parking lot for the Stark Museum of Art, one of the finest museums on western art in the country. Many years ago, the museum was involved with a PBS series on western art and I had wanted to visit this little known Exterior of Stark Museum.
Exterior of Stark Museum.
museum in a little known corner of Texas ever since. I had been warned before we left home that three of the five galleries would be closed for installation of new exhibit, still the other two galleries, corridor exhibits, and lobby contained some wonderful pieces of art. One gallery had an exhibit of exquisitely painted porcelain bird sculptures and another of Steuben Glass containers with seals from the US and 50 states.

Before we were able to view much of the galleries, our guide was ready to take us across the street to the Stark House which is a beautiful Victorian built of long leaf pine, a hard species of pine we were told. Lumber was one of the industries the Starks were involved with and Mrs. Stark selected the best pieces of curly pine for the house. The house was filled with beautiful furniture, Stark House.
Stark House.
ceramics, glass, wall coverings, rugs, and fabrics. The Carriage House wasn't open because it suffered a lot of flood damage in Hurricane Ike and will not reopen for a while. We were told that the house and museum did not flood, but the water came close to the top step, so they were lucky. Several times during this trip we encountered stories of the recent devastating hurricanes.

Photography within the museum and house were not allowed, so after the tour we walked back to photograph the exterior of the house. We then bought some deli sandwiches and continued west toward Houston. It was almost dark when we arrived at our motel near NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. We got two excellent burritos to-go from Freebirds World Burrito and relaxed in our room.

Day Six: NASA

We got up early but didn't need to. I allowed plenty of time so we could get lost but easily found our destination, 45 minutes before it opened. The (public) Space Center in Houston isn't as large as the one at Cape Kennedy in Florida which we saw a year earlier, but we spent a full day and enjoyed the experience. We had reserved the Level 9 Tour so we checked in and had an hour and a half before the tour to see the rest of the center. We started with the Starship Gallery Artifact Museum which was filled with bits of space hardware, exhibits on examining Moon rocks, and a collection of Moon rocks, one that you can touch. There is usually a pre-show film that can be skipped, but it was too early. We rushed to the IMAX Space Center theater where we saw the film To Be an Astronaut where we learned all about becoming an astronaut. They alternate between two films, but there wasn't time for the other. We were a minute or two late for the pre-show for Blast Off which did confuse us. The Map and Show Guide said it was the same Launch Simulator we had experienced in Florida followed by an live update, but we only saw the update which was better for us anyway. A woman showed us up-to-the-minute mission reports, live video from the Space Station, discussed NASA's plans for the future, and a map showed us the distance traveled by the Space Station during the 30 minute presentation. There were now only a few minutes before our tour.

There is a tour as part of the general admission, but the Level 9 is better, and costs more. Most days, there is only one Level 9 Tour and a maximum of twelve people on a tour. When we tried to order our ticket on-line and the hotel computer dropped the internet connection, I was worried they might sell out, but fortunately, we got through on the phone the next day and got our tickets. Today there were only eight on the tour. The Johnson Space Center is a bit over 1,600 acres, one of 10 Directorates around the country, and we were told, they all look about the same. We boarded our van and raced off to the Space Center to our first stop - lunch in the cafeteria. We did see a few astronauts and other important people from a distance eating their lunch along with a few hundred other unsung but important people who make it all work. After lunch, we headed off base to the Neutral Buoyancy Training Pool about ten miles away. This is the world's largest indoor pool, measuring 102 feet wide, 202 feet long, and 40 fee deep. The pool was built in 1997, named in honor of Astronaut Sonny Carter who died in a civilian airplane crash. Inside this pool are full size replicas of the Space Shuttle cargo bay and most of the International Space Station, although not all in the actual configuration since the Space Station is bigger then even this pool. Four divers attend to each Astronaut and there were four Astronauts in the pool today. It was hard to see clearly through the crystal clear water because of the bubbles and surface waves, but the monitors had perfect images of what was going on under water. We could have stayed all day, but needed to move on.

Back at the Space Center, we were taken through three Control Centers. One was in the midst of training for the next Shuttle launch. These control room operators come up with all sorts of simulated disasters for the Astronauts to get out of. Mission controller Bill Foster, who has supervised 33 launches and landings, spoke to us and answered questions. There is only one control room for the Space Shuttle, so there can only be one mission at a time with training in between. The Houston Control Center takes over from the Florida facility at the moment the Shuttle leaves the pad. The next Control Center we visited was no simulation. The controllers were monitoring the three-person crew of the International Space Station. The third Control Center is no longer in use. The Historic Mission Control was used until 1996 and handled most flights before then. This is where Apollo 11 was controlled through the first Moon landing and Apollo 13 was saved from disaster. Early Shuttle missions were controlled here. As I sat and listened to our guide, I noticed the buttons in the consoles, they were the same type that I've used to make control panels for sets for several movies. In one corner of the room is a flag that was flown on Apollo 11 and Apollo 17. Apollo 17 was the last Moon landing before the public lost interest and the program was canceled..

The third main stop was the training center. This building was filled with simulators and mock-ups of Shuttles, Space Station parts, even a prototype of the next generation of Lunar Rover. The only disappointment was that last September 13, Hurricane Ike damaged the building and our views were obscured by blue tarps protecting many of the simulators. There was one last stop, the Saturn V building. Until recently, this Saturn V lay on its side, exposed to the whether. Today, the best preserved and most complete remaining Saturn V rocket is protected by a large building next to the Rocket Garden. The Rocket Garden itself was closed due to construction. There are two similar rockets in Florida, but they are less complete and one, I think, is a Saturn 1.

By the time our tour returned us to the Space Center, everything was starting to close - winter hours. So the Level 9 tour, as wonderful as it was, prevented us from seeing everything. We could have returned the next day on the same admission, but we had other plans. We did cover most of it so we took a last look around, bought a few souvenirs, and returned to our motel. We were told that NASA also has a center in Alabama, but that's another trip. The Space Center in Florida was better, but this was still very enjoyable. The one disappointment for me as a space fan is that when the International Space Station is completed in 2010, the Shuttle that helped build it will be retired. The Space Station operations will be turned over to industry and other nations, and the US will not have another manned launch until 2015, a year after the end of the four year primary mission of the Space Station. That new mission, Aries and Orion will return us to the Moon in 2020, a half century after our last visit, and Mars in 2030. Star Trek or 2001 is ain't.

Day Seven: On a Mission, Again

We got off early heading north on Highway 45, then west on 610, the Beltway. As a former Architecture student, I had to exit the freeway at the Astrodome, the first domed stadium. Although it's been replaced by a new stadium with an retractable roof, the Astrodome set the standard for covered stadiums. It was when the grass wouldn't grow under the dome that Astroturf
was developed. Of course it was closed this early in the morning, so I took a few photos through the gate and we continued. The beltway brought us back to Highway 45 on the other side of town and we continued north. Just two weeks earlier we had visited Central Texas from Fort Worth to Refugio near Corpus Christi. As we drove around the beltway, we came to interchanges leading to all the cities we had visited so recently, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas. We were heading toward Dallas on I-45, but that city was about 200 miles further than we were going today. We continued north to Huntsville where we caught Highway 19 to Crockett and then Highway 21 which we would follow back to Louisiana. but that's where the day ended and I just passed this day, so let's back up.

Highway 21 follows the route of the old Camino Real, or the old Spanish King's Highway which connected the Missions of Texas. Every few miles there was a historic marker. We stopped to study these marker every few miles - it took a while. Eventually we came to the marker indicating the original location of the Rice Cabin that was moved to our next stop, Mission Tejas State Park.

When we reached the park, there was the relocated cabin. We then went on to the Mission itself, San Francisco de los Tejas, the first Mission founded in Texas. The Missions of east Texas were too close to French held Louisiana and there were other issues, so they were all moved west. Mission Tejas and the other two Missions moved to San Antonio after they first Rice Cabin
Rice Cabin.
spent a year in Austin. Just two weeks earlier, we had visited San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio along with the Austin site, now we were where it was founded in 1690. The mission didn't look anything like the other Missions we anything like the other Missions we saw in Texas
or California, but more like the one we saw in Florida. It is wetter here and there are a lot of trees, so it looked more like a conventional wooden church that we might find in a small eastern town of the day. A short distance from the Mission is the last small remaining piece of the Camino Real. We moved on along Highway 21. Mission San Francisco de los Tejas.
Mission San Francisco de los Tejas.

About five miles further along Highway 21, we stopped at yet another roadside marker which turned out to be another mission that I hadn't expected to find. Mission Santissimo Nombre de Maria was established near this site in the summer of 1690 along the banks of Archangel San Miguel River, now called Neches River. I stopped to take a few pictures, which wasn't easy with all the trash and old tires that littered the former Mission site. A short distance on, a bridge carries the highway across the river as we crossed into Cherokee County. I wanted a photo of the river beside which the Mission Santissimo Nombre de Maria had been built. Here the litter consisted of eight or so dead pigs in a neat pile just below the bridge. I took my photos and continued northeast along Highway 21.

We stopped for just a few minutes at Caddoan Mounds, a collection of three mounds of a former Caddoan village. The mounds have been excavated but now there is a movement to return the burial remains to the earth. We stopped for about a half hour in the town of Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas. There is a historic old core and other sites around town.
Caddoan Mounds
Unfortunately, it was growing late and we had more stops to make, so we pressed on.

A little more than a half hour later we came to the town of San Augustine, the oldest Anglo town in Texas. Our third Mission stop for today was Mission Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, established in 1716. The town operates an RV park on one side of the road and a Visitor Center and Mission Museum on the other. We were very disappointed when the museum was unexpectedly closed, but Bill from the Visitor Center explained that the woman who normally runs the museum was ill today but he opened the museum for us and ran the video. It turns out that the town is nearing its financial goal of raising enough money to build a full size reproduction of the mission. The reproduction will probably be built on the other side of the parking lot since the highway now runs through the center of the actual site. The hope is to complete the restoration in two or three years, so we're already making plans to return. We later learned that the architect was coming the next day to discuss the project and I wish them success.

Bill also referred us to two other must-sees in town. The Ezekiel Cullen House was built in 1839 and San Houston often enjoyed dances in the second floor dance hall. The other stop was Pinto Pony Cookie Factory which ships delicious cookies in decorator tins. It was almost 5:00 and would soon be dark so we hurried east, across the Sabine River back into Louisiana.
Ezekiel Cullen House.

We passed the turnoff to our last stop for the day because now it was dark and the Mission was closed. We continued on what was now Highway 6, entered the town of Natchitoches (pronounced something like nak-a-tish), crossed under Interstate 49, and drove past our motel without seeing the sign. Half and hour later, and quite frustrated, we found the motel. It seems that the sign is positioned to be easily seen from Interstate 49, but we were on highway 6, seeing the sign edge-on at some distance to the side. We had a simple but filling dinner at a local chain and settled in for the night, anticipating a busy day tomorrow catching up with that last mission we missed today.

Day Eight: Return to Baton Rouge

As we usually do, we awoke before the wake up call. We first headed into town to see the Natchitoches historic district, then west about 15 miles to Robeline and Los Adaes State Historic Site, the former site of a presidio, mission, and the Spanish capital of Tejas. Today it is a few acres with logs marking the outline of the fort and the mission sites is on an Los Adaes State Historic Site
Los Adaes State Historic Site.
adjacent hill. The Mission is adjacent to a hunting area and it's not safe to visit the site and nothing there to risk life to see. We were told they too might build a reproduction some day. In total, we saw three Mission sites in East Texas and one in Louisiana. My research shows that there was another Mission in Louisiana, but I have not yet learned the location. The Missions in Louisiana were Texas Missions when built which brings the total number of Texas Mission sites we visited in one month to 15 out of about 50. We wandered a while and visited the museum, then headed back to Natchitoches to visit Fort Saint Jean Baptiste State Historic Site.

Fort Saint Jean Baptiste was the French outpost to counter the Spanish at Adaes about fifteen miles west. The border was about midway between these two forts. Although the two countries were officially on unfriendly terms, because of the isolation, these two opposing forts sometimes cooperated and traded. The fort at Saint Jean is restored and looks as closely as possible like the drawings found in a French archive. Two living history park staff members showed us around and described life in the fort. Back in the Visitor Center, a model showed the terrain then which was quite different than now. Then there were a number of islands and a river, now there is a small lake and the river runs around it.
Fort, between the Guardhouse and Warehouse, toward Commandant's Quarters.
Fort, interior.

We needed to get back to Baton Rouge so we headed south on Highway 49 and I-10 to Baton Rouge in time to visit the Old State Capitol which had only reopened two days earlier after a month of annual maintenance and was still closed when we tried to visit on Tuesday. The interior of the building was beautiful and several exhibits told the Louisiana story. An audioanamatronics Huey Long addressed us and other exhibits on Long and other governors helped tell the story. There was an exhibit on the history of this building which burned during the Civil War and was rebuilt differently with a later restoration returning it to the pre-fire look. Of course it was retired when the new capitol opened in 1932.
Old State Capitol, Exterior facade.

Old State Capitol, Interior, rotunda.

I had hoped to visit the destroyer Kidd docked nearby but when I realized how extensive the adjacent museum was, we decided to see it during another visit when we could devote more time to it. We also skipped the Louisiana Art and Science Museum because we wouldn't have time to finish. We decided we could spend a day here seeing these museums along with the
USS Kidd, now a museum.
LSU Art Museum across the street and other point of interest within walking distance. We will just have to come back.

We visited again with my wife's parents for the final visit of this trip, and retired to our hotel to get ready for our flight home tomorrow.

Day Nine: The Long Journey Home

We got off early, attended Mass at Saint Thomas More Church, and headed back to New Orleans. Our route was a little different than when we drove to Baton Rouge because that time we took a smaller road on the other side of the river to see the plantations. This time it was on I-10 and for a short while, it passed by and over parts of Lake Pontchartrain.

My wife wanted to see where the levees broke and other areas related to Hurricane Katrina so we drove around and found some. Although it was
evident something bad had happen, it did look like things were getting back to normal. In Saint Bernard Parish we found concrete slabs that were once homes. I stumbled onto Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve (Chalmette Battlefield) which I hadn't heard of before. I spent an hour wandering around the site looking at the headquarter house, fortifications, batteries, canons, a large obelisk, and signs. The battle commemorated was in 1815, the obelisk was started before the north and south had that disagreement of their's and finished about 50 years later in a simplified design. The park was against the levee and almost allowed a good view of the river, but the gate was locked.

Chalmette Battlefield

Chalmette Battlefield, Battery 2, 3, and 4.

Next we drove across town to Live Oaks Park on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain for a better look at this large lake. Access wasn't as easy as I expected but way off in the distance, I was just able to see Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It's been a while since the last time I saw a lake I couldn't see across but this lake looked like the ocean extending to the horizon.

We now had only an hour and a half left and we decided we had enough time for the New Orleans Museum of Art. We were very satisfied with the diversity and quality of the collection and particularly admired the ceramic and glass arts. What we did not have time for was the sculpture garden. I thought it was a loop. Well, it was. And another loop and another. We had to rush through the last part. You just don't know how much there is to see until you get there.

Front facade of NOMA


I felt guilty about turning in our rental car of eight days with a cracked windshield, but it wasn't my fault. We arrived at our gate about three hours early, but only then did I find out about new airline ticket policies. It seems we had two tickets on a United flight, but not seats. Assigned seats are $50.00 extra. The agent wasn't too helpful as I tried to understand why we didn't have seats when we were
The crack wasn't my fault, but I still had to pay for it.
three hours early. Maybe I will fly another airline next time, but then maybe they will all go this way, a right to fly on the airplane, but not sit down. Maybe I'll just drive next time.

Our Airbus 320 left a few minutes early and I slept most of the flight, awaking to see Palm Springs and the "Desert Communities" below us. The flight arrived a half hour early for once, we waited only ten minutes for the Flyaway, and were home by 11:00. The cats were glad to see us and even the (4 1/2 -year-old) kitten warmed faster than usual. We started getting our lives back to normal.


My wife spent three evenings with her parents, we visited four more Texas Mission sites - three in Texas and one in Louisiana, two very different plantations, two Louisiana State Capitols and the former Governor's Mansion, The French Quarter, and numerous museums and historic sites. We touched the Mississippi River in one place and observed it in several places. We tied up some loose ends from our trip to Texas only a week before by seeing Johnson Space Center, the Astrodome, and those four Missions. That time we saw the Hill Country, this time we saw the Piney Woods region. Everyone was nice, friendly, and helpful (except that woman at the museum) and the scenery was beautiful. Assuming my in-laws are still there, we hope to return to Louisiana again in a year, if I can get time off work - we've already planned the next four Louisiana trips.

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This page last updated: Friday, 28-Apr-2017 12:54:18 EDT

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