Day 25: October 23, 2015--NOLA with the McClains

Don't miss today's Gallery!

Despite owning multiple capture devices, none of us captured the boat itself. This will have to do.

After Jackson Square and jazz, what does one do in New Orleans? Why, take the steamboat and visit a cemetery, of course!

We met up with the McClains and headed for the Natchez, the "Last Authentic Steamboat on the Mississippi River!" It was almost as good as the one at Disneyland (kidding).

We took the two-hour "Harbor Cruise" at 11:30, in which the boat drifts downstream for a little ways, then turns around and beats its way against the tide (upriver) again. We, like many, oooo'd and aaaaah'd on the way out; then, on the way back, we went below decks to see the "innards," and hung out in the salon for a while and heard more jazz.

See the Gallery for pictures of some of the sights.

All hands on deck: moi, Miles, Harriet, Taylor, Nicki, Daniel. Lila's behind the camera, as usual.

And of course, we talked. It was that feeling of new-friends-who-are-old-friends all over again. I hadn't really known Harriet all that well when we were kids, and it was a first meeting for everyone else (outside of Facebook), but we had so much in common, and everyone was in good spirits, so a lot of relationship was built quickly. All the pieces fit.

Afterward, we walked over to nearby Jackson Square for a quick goodbye to Mr. Jackson, then through the back streets to Louis Armstrong Park, at the "back of town" and just across Rampart from the laundromat/historic recording studio we had been in a couple of days before.

Mr. Armstrong in his park
If I look back, I can find only a handful of heroes whose influence over me has been evolving throughout my life. Mr. Armstrong is unquestionably one of them, and not just for the music. His joyous persona (despite what must have been a tough life), his breaking of race barriers, his cool--all of these have earned him a place in my heart. Even the way he signed letters--"Red and beans and ricely yours"--touched a chord in the life of a boy who ate them every Saturday night well into his teens.

And I'm not alone. If you watch the ten-part Ken Burns series, Jazz, you'll find Satch a key player from start to finish.

So to stand in the shadow of his statue, to know that we had been in his city, hearing music he would have known, was quite a thrill.

In one corner of the park--alas, a corner we missed--is the site of Congo Square. This space has long been used as a sliver of freedom, as the slaves who were given Sundays off would congregate there for music, as well as for some spiritual practices you probably wouldn't find in church (yeah, voodoo).

It was a short walk from there to one of those little disappointments that sometimes happen when you travel: It turns out that the "best" of all the cemeteries, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, had been closed (controversially) by the Catholic Archdiocese, and was available only through organized tours--and it was too late in the day to get on one. Even with multiple peace officers in our group trying to talk their way past the police officer put there to keep out pushy people like us, we hadn't a chance.

Instead, we walked to the nearest (0.4 mile) substitute, St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. (When you're Number 2, you try harder.) There may have been a better second choice, but it was late in the day, and we wouldn't have made it.

Still, what we saw struck the right note in terms of atmosphere. Again, check the Gallery. Unlike Number One's police presence, there was no one (No. One.) in attendance at Number 2.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2

From there we walked all the way back to our hotels. Lila clocked the day at around six miles--not bad, considering all we saw between hikes.

We also checked out of Old 77 that day. The McClains had wanted to do something nice for us--nicer than, say, driving over 500 miles to meet us. So they had booked us into their hotel, but we had already booked our own. Not knowing how long we would be in the city, though--we were kind of winging it--we didn't have anything reserved for that night. So, just to make them happy, we moved to one of the most amazing hotel rooms I've ever been in.

It's called "Homewood Suites by Hilton." Sure, I've stayed in suites before; I'm a veteran traveler. But seriously: never before or since have I stayed in a hotel that had a dishwasher.

We had dinner together that night at a sports bar (Walk-On's) and chatted away the evening. Tomorrow would be farewell--not just to the McClains, but to New Orleans, and to the Terrific Train Trip itself.

Don't miss today's Gallery!

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