Tuesday, May 8, 2012

To Algiers and Venice

A fifteen-minute ferry ride from the foot of Canal Street offers a
view of the New Orleans skyline and transports riders and vehicles
"...to the area known as Old Algiers, nestled in the curve of the Mississippi River's West Bank (which incidentally is not west of the rest of the City of New Orleans).

"(It) was established in 1719, making it the second oldest part of the city (of New Orleans).... For nearly a century and a half, the area served as the place where African slaves were held before they were sold into a lifetime of slavery. Some scholars argue that this place is actually sacred ground, the site of the origins of jazz. The slaves--frightened, sick, isolated from the families--quite likely used their tradition of 'call and response' and single-line melodies to communicate and comfort themselves and their families. These sounds form the basis of jazz today" (oldalgiersmainstreet.com).

I was not aware of this historical note when I visited Algiers on a solo walking tour of the Quarter that inclulded a ferry ride to Algiers Point for lunch at the Dry Dock Cafe.

I imagined the Dry Dock having an interesting history just because of its appearance.

And a very respectable burger--medium rare with a crusty exterior--comes out of its kitchen.

A second trip across the Mississippi included taking US 90 over the Mississippi River bridge and connecting with Highway 23 for a 75-mile trip to Venice, LA.

We had hoped to see some working fishing or shrimp boats on the trip to the end of the highway. We passed through small rural towns of Jesuit Bend, Naomi, Myrtle Grove, West Pointe A La Hache, Port Sulphur, Nairn, Empire, Buras, Triumph, and Bootheville.

LA 23 connects Gretna and Venice and serves as the main road along the west bank of the Mississippi River. In Belle Chasse, the highway crosses the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway via two antiquated crossings: southbound traffic uses the 1955-vintage Belle Chasse Tunnel, a narrow crossing that does not allow passing and northbound traffic uses the 1967-vintage Judge Perez Bridge, a vertical lift bridge.

Toward the end of the highway, there were sections that seemed to be mere threads through the water.

We overlooked one important detail about the area--well, actually two important points. We had planned this tip to Plaquemines and Jefferson Parishes on a Monday. Well, since many
restaurants are closed on Mondays, many of the shrimp boats (above and right) were not out in the Gulf.

The second point that we overlooked was that this area is a popular sport fishing area. We saw many charter boats at the dock, so the area was obviously doing a very good charter business--on the weekends. Also, in a couple of weeks a major tournament was expected to draw quite a crowd.

So after finding little activity around the docks, we walked near the marshes and caught these photos of shorebirds.

Before leaving the area, we saw some of the smaller working boats and talked to the captain of the Lady Josie (below), one of the largest tugs we had seen along the Mississiippi.

We talked briefly with the captain about the shrimping industry. The amount of shrimp that the larger boats need to bring in each day before they begin to make a profit was sobering. A challenging life indeed.

Before parting, we received a lunch recommendation from the captian.

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