Our arrival three days before the big event gave us a chance to explore New Orleans in a similar fashion to our sight seeing in Pittsburgh. Rising early on the first day we left our B & B by 8:00 am to venture across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway an approximately 24 mile long bridge made up of two parallel spans supported on 9,500 concrete pilings. According to Wikipedia, 630 square mile Lake Ponchartrain is "a brackish estuary . . . not a true lake . . . it is, however, one of the largest wetlands in North America." It wasn't long before all we could see was water in every direction.
In addition to our interest in the lake, our plan was to rent bikes in Mandeville and ride on the 31 mile Tammany Trace. Unfortunately the bike shop was too far from where we wanted to start our ride so instead we hiked in Fontainebleau State Park. The park, once a sugar plantation, still has evidence of the past - the ruins of a sugar mill and an alley of oaks.
Unfamiliar wildlife and tropical vegetation let us know we were no longer in the Pacific Northwest.
After a quick bite to eat we made our way back across the causeway to our next destination the exclusive Garden District. The area developed between 1832 and 1900 is a National Historic Landmark District and one of the best preserved examples of southern mansions.
One of the most interesting discoveries was the walled Lafayette Cemetery Number One established in the 1830s. Narrow aisles between rows of above ground crypts extend out from a central axis. The cemetery was busy with All Saints Day visitors.
We enjoyed a brief visit with young Gary as we walked through the Garden District then left him to pick up Aaron and Elizabeth at the airport.
After collecting our son and daughter-in-law, we found our way to Longue Vue the Edgar and Edith Stern House & Gardens. The Sterns, well known New Orleans philanthropists, worked with noted landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman in the 1930s to create a perfectly integrated house and garden. We were intrigued by the similar goal of the family behind Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" also built in the 1930s. Two properties designed to connect to their surroundings with a vastly different architectural outcome.
Tired by a long day of sight seeing we drove back to our B & B in the Bywater District. Maison de McCarty, built in 1860, was once the city home of plantation owners.
Aaron and Elizabeth went out to dinner with a friend while we joined the bride's family at Ye Olde College Inn a New Orleans landmark. After dinner and pleasant conversation with our new extended family we passed on an invitation to Rock and Bowl. Instead we wandered down Frenchman Street listening to live jazz pouring out onto the sidewalk from bar after bar.
Friday morning we rose early to walk the streets of the famous French Quarter located along the Mississippi about a mile from our B & B. Here we saw the iconic New Orleans architecture on streets named Burgundy, Royal, Dauphine and of course Bourbon. The streets were wet with disinfectant sprayed from large trucks to neutralize the effects of partying from the night before. Even at 7:00 in the morning bars were open serving eager customers.
The river and the buildings including the Saint Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square were softened by early morning fog.
Two hours of walking in the Quarter built an appetite for a delicious 9:00 breakfast back at our B & B.
New Orleans architecture is not like anything I have seen before. The typical one story houses although narrow at the street extend to the back of each property in a configuration resembling a railroad car. This design, referred to as shotgun, is the result of property taxes that determined value by the width and height of the building. Many houses in the Bywater where we stayed were painted in combinations of vibrant colors.
On Friday afternoon we lunched on barbecued pulled pork sandwiches and local Abita beer at a neighborhood spot called "The Joint" then took a break from the sight seeing portion of our trip to help set up for the wedding in the garden of the B & B. That evening out of town guest joined us for a Vietnamese dinner of Banh Mi (sandwiches) and Pho (soup).
Last minute wedding preparations such as engineering a frame to hold an arch of ribbons filled Saturday morning.
Before long it was time to dress and gather for the main event.
Gary and Elise's wedding ceremony officiated by a New Orleans friend was beautiful and moving. I cried, Gary cried, the bride cried, the groom cried we all cried happy tears to celebrate the union of two hearts.
A dinner of greens, pulled pork, two kinds of grits, and spatzle, catered by a friend who is part owner of Boucherie was followed by two kinds of luscious cupcakes and the caterer's famous bacon brownies. Dancing and partying lasted well into the night.
A Sunday morning brunch was nearly eaten before a sudden rain drove us all inside. The chaos of packing up the bride and groom almost made us late delivering Rebecca to the airport for her afternoon flight back to Santa Fe. To fill the time between her afternoon and our late evening flight Gary talked me into a 40 minute drive out to the Old River Road west of New Orleans where several Antebellum homes are located. We didn't have time for a tour, but the drive was worth it for this view of 300 year old live oaks at Oak Alley Plantation as well as fields of sugar cane.
Our flight brought us home after midnight exhausted, but richer from the glimpse of a different culture and the joining of two young lives and two families.