Road trip New Orleans, Louisiana to Miami, Florida – March 2012

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Wynwood Arts District, Miami

Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.

After a few days chilling in Sarasota in the sun and showing Gary and his girlfriend, Tracey, the Gulf islands by boat, the city, the markets, cafes etc etc etc (none of which was very challenging πŸ˜‰ ) we decided to kick it up a notch and head north into the Deep South (via Pensacola Beach) …funny how we live in the southernmost part of the US but have to travel 12 hours north to get to the Deep South πŸ˜‰

New Orleans was beautiful as ever – we love the street musicians, all of the manic weird life you see there, the boutique shops, cafes and bars (with provisos as below!), the architecture – which is as fab in the French Quarter and the Garden District as it always was – dripping in ostentatious wealth and flowery balconies. Lafayette Cemetery was spooky – above ground graves and mausoleums like they have in Italy etc but these were liberally decorated with the left-over beads from the recently ended 2012 Mardi Gras celebrations…I’m sure that doesn’t show the requisite reverence to the dead but then it’s not a very conventional… nor reverential city πŸ˜‰

Bourbon Street and it’s seedy party atmosphere – littered with strip joints and college kids who can’t take more than a small beer before they pass out (or pass worse on the pavements πŸ˜‰ ) remains my worst nightmare – seen once for 2 minutes is more than enough….I don’t think Gary and Tracey bothered with it for more than 1 block before finding some more appealing way for us oldies to spend our time and $$$.

Wish we’d had time for a voodoo “experience” but we were rained out of NOLA somewhat dramatically by a huge storm and a few tornadoes…they seem to have a lot of them  πŸ˜¦

The Lower 9th Ward was considerably more disturbing, however, having barely started to recover from being flattened by Hurricane Katrina 7 years ago 😦 Doesn’t time fly?

We missed Brad Pitt visiting his charity housing project there by 24 hours (isn’t that always the way??!! πŸ˜‰ ). He seems to be trying to rectify the shameful lack of government assistance and general disinterest in returning this community to its home …..It was quite eery….not much more now than a huge field of swaying grasses with patches of concrete and a spattering of derelict houses you could see through the undergrowth…and the odd (still) inhabited house – collapsed roof or not….

We spoke to a local (well actually, we were pounced on by a local when we were photographing a house we thought was derelict until he told us a family of 12 lived there….wow…). I think the locals are so used to visitors coming to check it all out that they compete between them to get to the camera wielding tourists first to chat, explain what’s gone on, and give you a helpful local map of all the streets you’ve just driven for which you then feel compelled to give a donation to said impromptu tour guide’s roof  repairs ;-)…Not that anyone could actually object to “buying” the world’s most expensive A4 photocopied local street map when faced with the depressing evidence of the effects of extreme poverty and the lack of governmental assistance 7 years on 😦

Ho hum….anyway….we managed to cheer ourselves up with an afternoon of light trespassing courtesy of Tracey who has a slightly unusual but, never the less, fascinating hobby – urbexing . Those amongst us conventional tourists (who are obviously less cool and distinctly less renegade) might define urbexing as breaking and entering into derelict (and sometimes not) properties to take a bunch of urban style cool photos ;-). The slogan for those who engage in this hobby is actually “Take only photographs and leave only footprints” (same as all our state parks πŸ˜‰ ) so to be honest they aren’t really realllllly naughty…only mildly bad πŸ˜‰

As luck would have it (or not!), top of the hit list for all UK urbexers and many of the US urbexers turns out to be, by coincidence, the New Orleans Six Flags theme park abandoned after H. Katrina flooded it – it was then, of course, liberally ransacked and vandalized.

Tracey only likes to go to the very finest places on vacation ;-)!!

It has a reputation as almost impenetrable in this weirdy photographers underworld so she wasn’t holding out much hope of getting past the front gates. Still, being an expert in this field (the breaking in and the photography ;-)! ), we took some confidence from our expert guide and followed behind like lambs to the slaughter.

Gary spent his 2 hours evading arrest running round trying to keep an eye on us all and all under control in case the cops spotted us and we needed to run very fast ;-)… Geoff was like a kid in a sweet shop running round (badly! πŸ˜‰ ) photographing 7 year old coke cans in concession stands and business documents blowing around in the wind and rain. I spent my time trying to find nice tourist photos with some color – as usual πŸ˜‰ Tracey was gone in a puff of wind scrabbling about the undergrowth and clambering up the Big Wheel- she was very excited πŸ™‚

Did I mention that we did all this in torrential rain, thunder and lightning?  I think it all added rather to the spooky Scooby Doo atmosphere. It was all rather odd – a bit like a view of life after Armageddon. I suspect this very same hideous storm (which actually culminated in us leaving NOLA a day early as it was so huge and rather persistent) was the main reason we managed to drive straight in through the (I hasten to add) already broken down gate, hide the car (barely) behind a palm tree and encountered neither security nor the local cops for the entire time. No doubt THEY were not stupid enough to be running round an abandoned park totally drenched to the skin in a huge storm, and, probably quite reasonably assumed that nobody else would be doing it either ;-).

Not sure we’ll take up urbexing with the same relish as Tracey (running around filthy drain systems (yep – I did say that) and other places one really shouldn’t be, disguised in black fatigues, isn’t really my best look). Having said that, it was fun πŸ™‚ and, ironically, we all managed to navigate this pinnacle of urbexing destination sites dressed in shorts and flip-flops – poor Tracey wrecked a rather elegant pair of high-heeled espadrilles tip-toeing through the broken glass and vandalized rides – I guess she really didn’t think we’d be able to get in after all!! πŸ˜‰

I think you’ll spot the expert urban photographer’s photos (Six Flags photos 1 through 5) kindly donated to my blog πŸ˜‰ The rest of the weird stuff is alllllll mine – I had a quick lesson in Photoshop and strange effects! πŸ™‚

Anyway – if anyone asks – we were never there πŸ˜‰ ….and we didn’t see the No Trespassing sign until we drove out….they only put one by the main entrance and we went in the coach entrance ;-)…ssshhhhhh…On the way out we passed damage from a tornado which had ripped down road signs and crushed vehicles less than 30 minutes before – just round the corner after leaving Six Flags as it happens πŸ˜‰

12 hours on the road back to FL and we managed to collapse on a sun bed back home for a few hours by the pool to recover just enough to go out to dinner for my birthday – barely managing to avoid falling asleep in our desserts πŸ˜‰

After some more liberal loafing and a more energetic boat trip in the Gulf – we’ve never seen 2 foot swell in the Gulf  before – much less tried to navigate through it to get to our fave fish shack for lunch ( the option to turn back wasn’t really available in case anyone wonders πŸ˜‰ !)  – we (OK – maybe – I’m to blame here) decided we’d been sitting still for long enough so we headed south to Miami Beach for a few days.

The arts district is very cool, South Beach has it’s charms (none of them being naked 20 somethings flaunting their tans – to be honest we’ve probably got better tans anyway – it’s just we’ve got a lot more of it to flaunt πŸ˜‰ !!), the Art Deco district is eminently photographable, Little Havana was kinda nice with it’s Domino Club in the park and Cuban coffee bars etc (food – not so good) and the street art in Wynwood Arts District was very cool πŸ™‚  Shame we were hurriedly grabbed and shoved back into the car when the boys got nervous we’d wandered into gangland territory – as usual I was too busy taking photographs of fascinating graffiti to notice πŸ˜‰

So a good time was had by all until Geoff found a poor kitty lying by the side of the road which had been hit by a car – he tried desperately to get someone to help – but it seems neither the Animal Services nor the Miami police could find it in their hearts to help us get the poor animal to a vet. After a very stressful 40 minutes on the phone and no help likely to be forthcoming Geoff and Gary managed to get him in a box in a towel (bear in mind he was a very injured stray with probably very little human interaction until some b****** ran over him). I hailed a cab driven by a very bemused Haitian with very poor English language skills to take us to the nearest animal hospital – if nothing else we wanted someone to put him to sleep 😦  Anyway, it didn’t end well and just as we pulled into the vet’s forecourt the poor boy died 😦 The driver clearly thought we were nuts – all 4 of us sniffing and crying over a cat we’d picked up off the sidewalk…it wasn’t a good night…sigh….:-(…

For anyone who knows we have just adopted another cat a few days ago to join our current kitty family (now 2 boys and a girl) this might explain the impetus for us to rush off to the shelter at the first opportunity when we got home again….

I suppose, on that note I really should add the crime, other trauma and general ridiculous observations part of the blog at this point!

So….stuff we saw this trip – motorcyclists texting on the interstate at 85 mph; motorcyclists with both arms crossed – ditto;  ; the Darwin award however goes to a 23 year old driver of a sports car 5 miles from our home doing 100mph through road work construction on the interstate (we were doing 50 at best), he hit the end of the new construction… disappeared into a cloud of dust, smashed into the safety cones, launched 4′ in the air, cleared the central divider, flipped his car, landed on the other side of the interstate ( I’m guessing the poor souls in the oncoming cars will probably need therapy and undoubtedly needed a change of under garments as they saw the car flying through the air towards them), staggered out of his mangled sports car and died in the middle of the road…..amazingly he didn’t kill anyone else…anyway, we were so baffled at the incredible stupidity that we googled it when we got home and were not exactly surprised to read that said idiot was up to his neck in dangerous driving convictions!!

Frankly, it’s a good job he didn’t swerve and come through the cones on his right hand side as I’d probably be typing this from a puffy white cloud “upstairs”… πŸ˜‰

As if that wasn’t enough for one vacation, Gary and Tracey witnessed their final piece of classic US driving when a FL snowbird decided to reverse into the front of our van instead of pulling forward onto the main road and then drove off down the road leaving the scene of the accident and leaving poor Geoff to chase off after her down the centre of a four-lane main road…sigh….He was quite annoyed as she turned out to be quite nasty despite it being her fault!)… in the end he couldnt take her verbal abuse any longer, called the cops and she got a citation – which for some reason she was quite angry about! πŸ˜‰

It wouldn’t have been so bad if another snowbird hadn’t already reversed and parked his Lexus onto the front of our Merc not 4 weeks earlier……when will they ever go home??!!

So..that was quite enough for another vacation πŸ˜‰ Hope all of you are well.

Enjoy the photo’s from our latest adventure! πŸ˜‰

Luv Jenni and Geoff x


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