In the French Quarter of New Orleans, at Jackson Square. This is the first photo that we're going to start switching photographers on, so it doesn't look as much like 'Kelly & the Kids on vacation' when Mark takes all of the photos.

It looked just like in the movies! Wait, this is what the movies recreate- the French Quarter is the real ting! This band of 4 men were playing a fiddle, guitar, washtub bass and washboard (with kazoo, bells and chimes) like pros. It was fun to listen to the music, and mesmerizing to watch them perform. Each of them had a cheap can of beer positioned at their feet, and it was only 1030 am or so.

Four nights and three days in this interesting city was only enough time to scratch the surface of all this city has to offer (both good and not so good).  We did pack in as much as we could, although the combination of seven children and unseasonably cold temperatures dictated our schedule to a large degree.  First, we followed the advice of our oil rig tour guide (see Morgan City) and bought all day street car passes traveling from the art museum area down to the French Quarters.  We checked out some shops, the Jamie Hayes Art Gallery, the city’s Hurricane Katrina exhibit, enjoyed some street performers and tried to avoid the “naughtiest” streets and “inappropriate” shops and activities. Both Mark and I commented that this may be a city that we would like to return to without the children.  Not so much for the naughty things, but for the richness of the culture and great people watching opportunities!

We boarded at the end of the line, and got to see the operator 'change over' the car- since it was going to run backwards along the track: the outside overhead power pick up cable had to be changed from the front one to the back, the backs of the benches flipped the other direction, and the operator controls covered on one end, and opened on the other.

The trip back out of downtown began here, on Canal Street as we waited over an hour for an overdue streetcar in a breezy 45 degrees, but had the chance to talk with a homeless man that had a 'broken' hip. After he left we had an interesting conversation about why Mark didn't give him money, and then watched him start walking better as he crossed the street and right past the pharmacy that he told us he had to get to....

Next, we took the streetcar through the garden district to a fun little diner where the kids loved watching them make our burgers right in front of us.  They decided that food arrives much faster this way as the cooks can’t talk or mess around when you can see them working. Several hours and two trolleys later we were very cold and a bit more educated in panhandling, but safely back at the bus. We stayed at Pontchartrain Landing RV Park about 7 miles from the downtown area. This was on a big canal and allowed Ethan and Meila some time to fish and mess around outside (still haven’t caught anything).  Interesting fact: this was the first area hit by Hurricane Katrina and was under 12 feet of water.

In the hurricane rescue effort, these markings indicated: (top) date searched, (left) who searched it, (right) hazards, and (bottom) whether anyone or any bodies were found inside. This home was in the lower 9th ward, amidst hundreds of others. Almost 50% of the homes were still damaged beyond repair, abandoned or razed and not rebuilt.

We took another whole day to tour the areas that were devastated by the hurricane.  Mark found a series of geocaches that took you to each area and then had pictures and information about what had happened there.  We learned a ton about the levees (how and why they were made), the canals that had been made to control river flooding (helped tons with river flooding but made the hurricane flooding much worse), and the amazing forces of God and nature.  We saw the houses that Brad Pitt helped have rebuilt (had a contest for green home designs and then winning designs were built). Very interesting designs that will even float like a house boat if the waters raise high enough to lift them off their foundations.

A geocache destination, one of 2 steamboat houses along the shore of the mighty Mississippi.

View Carre was the name of this geocache... The 'location' was at the top of a 32 story building- 450 feet above the street, with a dozen travel bugs to trade from, and a hundred prizes. Don't geocache yet? THIS might be a good reason to start! One of our favorites- and a special privilege only for geocachers.

We also checked out the Mississippi River which Simon and Henry thought were cool just because they love the fact that it is the longest word that they can spell (and they have taken the opportunity to spell it for us often on this trip in a very loud and very fast voice).  We ended the day with beignets at the Café Du Monde…yummy French doughnuts.

We asked our server if he would stand in the picture with Lauren and he backed up, folded his hands and looked at us very suspicious... but allowed the photo. Most of the serving staff were Chinese.

Anya and I have just read The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White for language arts and one of the things that the main character, Sam, always does at night is to end his daily diary entry with a question which he then ponders until he falls asleep. Kind of a cool idea…I haven’t ended my night with a question that I ponder, but I have taken to thinking over random travel thought as I fall asleep. Last night’s thought was… How we think of and remember each city we have been in relation to the weather that we experienced those few days that we were there….it could be unusually hot, cold, sunny, rainy or whatever when we were there, but when we talk later about that city we seem to say, “Oh yeah, New Orleans is so cold.”  Not really fair to judge the city’s entire climate on our brief stay there...

Poking around one of the Crescent City's eerie graveyards- this one called the firemen's graveyard- and included a Chinese burial tomb.

By now (if you have made it all the way to the end of this very long post) you probably already know that it was written by me and not Mark.  We are on the road for a couple days worth of driving and since I refuse to learn how to drive the bus, I have been given the job of catching up the blog.  There may even be a few more to come later today..

Something was filming along St Charles Avenue the day we were in New Orleans, but we couldn't place it. Any ideas?