Friday, May 29, 2015

Amtrak Adventure - Day 10 - New Orleans and the Mississippi

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than on a cruise on the Mississippi? And what better way to cruise the Mississippi than on an old-fashioned paddle steamer?

We took to the water on the Natchez,  a huge steamboat that could hold over a thousand passengers. Fortunately for us it wasn't that crowded on our tour, although to judge from the line to get on we thought it was going to be.  

Prior to a trip, the steamboat company entertains the passengers waiting to board with a loud, fifteen minute performance of Caliope music played on the top deck. Maybe they forgot to tune the instrument beforehand or maybe Caliope music is always this way, but to us (and most of the people around us) it sounded particularly discordant and it was a huge relief when it stopped!  

Many people think that New Orleans is on the gulf, but it is actually several miles up the Mississippi. Despite this, it is still the third largest port in the U.S. With river depths of up to two hundred feet in some places, huge container ships from all over the world can access the port.

The city looks very different from the river, much more built up and industrial than it had in our exploration yesterday. We passed the entrance to the Industrial Canal which connects the Mississippi to Lake Portchartrain.

Then we passed the Domino Sugar plant with its rundown buildings complete with broken windows. We were rather surprised to hear not only was it still functioning but was one of the largest refineries in the country!

Next came the Mobile Exxon Gas Refinery – rather a blight on the landscape.

We also got a glimpse of the 9th Ward, an area badly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Ten years later and many of the buildings have still not been repaired, as is the case with this large structure on the riverside.

But there were some prettier views as well, including an impressive one of St. Louis Cathedral.

Across the river from downtown New Orleans is Algiers Point with its old clock tower, part of the courthouse building.

And, of course, what would a river cruise be without a photo of downtown from the river? From this one you would never guess how old and beautiful the buildings in the historic districts of the city are. 

Verdict: A fun and informative way to see the city while enjoying the live jazz and refreshments available en route, not to mention the chance to give our feet a well deserved rest! 

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