Friday morning we got to the French Quarter as soon as possible. Our list of things to do was very long and we wanted to accomplish as much as possible.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve has six locations. When we were in Lafayette, LA, we visited the Acadian Cultural Center. This morning we went to the French Quarter Visitor Center which shares the history and traditions of New Orleans and the delta region.
While Eva earned her Jr. Ranger Badge, Barry spent time on the phone doing business. It was another busy morning for him but fortunately, the center wasn’t very busy so he could stay in the courtyard while on the phone.
Our family has toured Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) several times which is the site of the first land engagement of the War of 1812. We came full circle today when we visited Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery which is the site of the last battle of the same war. Chalmette is also part of Jean Lafitte. We watched a short movie before entering the museum area. A map lit up under the movie, showing the various positions of the American and British troops as they coincided with what was happening on the screen. It was very helpful; especially when we walked out to the battlefield.
As soon as Eva finished her badge requirements at Chalmette we headed to our last Jean Lafitte site of the day: Barataria Preserve. Eva was getting a little burned out on earning Jr. Ranger badges so she was delighted when the Barataria Ranger told her she only had to finished the treasure hunt and could do the rest of the booklet at home. (I was glad, too!) We walked through the very interesting museum and then headed out to complete the hunt on a nature hike through the preserve. We didn’t think we would find very much because it was only in the 50s but the swamp was beautiful and it was nice to be outside in what to us was a nice fall day.
I’ve said before that one of the great things about this trip is the many people we have met. We enjoyed talking with three women whom we met on the path at Barataria. Two of them were from New Jersey and one from the Keys. We’ll be in the Keys in a month so we got a lot of ideas as to where we should visit. (Thank you!) All three of them were completing Jr. Ranger Badge requirements. These are made for the kids but many adults pick them up because they are so beneficial in leading you to so many aspects of the National Parks. We really enjoyed talking with each of you and loved your enthusiasm!
By the time we reached the end of the path, Eva had completed about half of the treasure hunt. We found that the longer we stayed in one place, the more we found. She had already crossed off a snake, lizard, egret, warbler, spider, cypress tree and a few others. We also saw a young and very adorable raccoon up in a tree eating some berries.On our way back down the path, we stopped to talk to a man who hikes the path very often. While speaking with him, we spotted a small alligator swimming between two patches of grass! We finally saw our alligator. It was very brief but we saw one!
We talked to the man for quite awhile as we walked the mile back to our vehicles. He grew up hunting, fishing and even swimming in the swamp so we pummeled him with questions. He was very kind to help us spot more things on Eva’s list, even the nocturnal barn owl! We asked him a lot about Katrina and the many storms and floods that are so much a part of life in the area. Once again we felt as if our girls had Science, History, Social Studies and Geography in a beautiful classroom from an expert teacher. Thank you so much for all you taught and showed us today! Thanks for the many laughs as well!
We headed back to the preserve’s visitor center to get Eva’s badge where we enjoyed talking to the ranger, who also grew up in the area. I especially liked Eva’s ‘swearing-in’ at this park because the ranger had her stand by our country’s flag. We picked up a National Park Civil War guide and headed out to get Barry his much desired Po’ Boy sandwich.
The man we talked to at Barataria had recommended a local restaurant for great Po’ Boys. On the way there Barry remembered that Chef Gordan Ramsey had featured a restaurant from Metairie (near New Orleans) on his show Kitchen Nightmares. Being a fan of the show, Barry wanted to try it out. We drove past the Superdome through heavy traffic and a beautiful sunset before arriving at Zeke’s. It’s a very quaint little restaurant with great food. They didn’t have a gluten-free menu but the chef was very happy to accommodate us. We’ve learned to be able to tell if a chef can be trusted to cook a safe meal for Eva by the language that he/she or the waitress uses. We knew right away that this restaurant was going to work out very nicely. Barry got his Po’ Boy while the rest of us ordered different meals. We couldn’t keep our forks off each others’ plates. Everything was so fantastic! The chef caught us as we left to make sure Eva was happy with her meal. I’ll write more about this restaurant for our Gluten-Free Across American section.
After such a wonderful day, you would think that we would have been exhausted. No one wanted to go home so we drove across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the dark. We didn’t see very much but the drive made us ready to return home and to bed. Our kitties were very happy to see us and were waiting for us at the window.
It was out last night in New Orleans but we hope to be back. We have a long list of things we still want to do!