Dewi's Trains,
Trams & Trolleys

Around America by train:
Atlanta to New Orleans

[Previous segment]  [Around America Page]  [Next segment

 

The Crescent (again)

The initial route from Atlanta lay almost directly west to Anniston, Alabama. But the track was the most winding that we had so far encountered! it was as bad as that north of Brisbane: and there, the Queensland government was straightening it out - like holding both ends and pulling hard. But for us, the train was quite slow, and wiggled one way and then the other. It rained continuously, but there is nowhere better to be on a rainy day than in a warm, dry train, watching the soggy countryside go by. At one point there was an announcement: "We have crossed the state line into Alabama, we are now in the Central time zone. The time is now 10:44 am". In spite of this, our stomachs were still on Atlanta time, so we had an early lunch of the baguette, ham and cheese we had bought. The pocket knife that our son Colin had given us years ago, when we'd started travelling, was invaluable. Of course, we couldn't have carried it on board an aircraft.

We'd expected to see agriculture, possibly cotton growing. but there was no sign. At all times we were either in towns or in forest, mostly deciduous, but very green. There were a few meadows, but only once did we see animals: a few cows lying down - a sure sign of rain, as though it weren't raining already. We noticed a few other things: The cab and front of Norfolk Southern locomotives in black and white livery look like Darth Vader in his mask and cowl. Tuscaloosa is a real Amtrak station but the train stops right across the road blocking the level crossing. On a long-distance train, one gets into conversation with other people. We were chatting with a woman who was returning home with a small girl (possibly her grand-daughter). She lived in New Orleans: on hearing that we were to stay in the French Quarter her advice to us was "Don't go out at night". This was somewhat disconcerting.
New Orleans.

 

New Orleans

On approaching New Orleans, you can see the high buildings of downtown long before you get there. What happens to the train is that it passes to one side of the SuperBowl, then backs up past the other side, entering the terminal station rear end first. After the advice we'd been given, rather than look for buses, we took a taxi to the hotel, cutting through parking garages to avoid busy Bourbon St.
The Saint Ann/Marie Antoinette hotel is in the Vieux Carré and it has a courtyard paved in red brick, with a small swimming pool - very pleasant. But the dining room has been closed since 9/11 - so has the bar. Then the concierge warned us not to take buses, just use the streetcars as the buses could go through dangerous neighbourhoods. Combined with the advice we received previously, this does not give us a good feeling about New Orleans! It seems that a street can be safe for a few blocks, then turn into a "hood", then a few blocks later become a safe street again. Then later in TGIFriday's the waiter made a similar point. Eufron was awakened during the night. A drunk had hit a taxi (or vice versa) and a mounted policeman clip-clopped along the street to sort out the fuss. Voiced were raised, oh they were raised.

We started the next day without breakfast as the dining room was closed, so we started walking towards the riverfront. At Jackson Square, at the Brewery building, there was a food court. And it had a fried-chicken stand open. And the fried-chicken stand did offer eggs and toast and coffee. Which was just as well, for we needed re-fuelling! After that we "tripped over" the Riverfront trolley line. A chance conversation told us about 3-day passes, so back we went to the office that sold tour and cruise tickets. There was nothing to show where passes might be purchased, and fact I lined up at the wrong window only to be passed over to another queue. Finally, armed with passes, we took the trolley to the end of the line at the end of the riverfront walkway, then to the end nearer the convention centre, and finally back to Canal Street. The ferry dock is near there, though not signposted, but by asking the driver of a car obviously in line for the ferry, we found the foot-passenger entry and rode the ferry across to Algiers. By now, the rain was tipping down. We rode the ferry right back again. Threads of cloud dipping down from the black clouds above were beginning to move in a circle, and we were wondering whether a twister were developing, along with the lightning, thunder, and driving rain. But it didn't develop, luckily. Back at the Canal Street dock, we tried to find a way to get to the covered Riverside Walk without getting soaked. We ran towards a streetcar which stopped for us in the middle of an intersection, and which took us in the right direction. The driver made a special stop for us and opened the door right at the steps to the covered walk. We made a dash!

After lunch, the rain had stopped and re-started and was coming in squalls. We tried not to get too wet, and went in one door of the casino, worked our way between rows of one-armed bandits and out the other door, avoiding getting soaked in two ways. The Canal Street trolley drifted towards us and we tried to board it, but it was about to reverse. The driver told us to get it on its way back, so we crossed the median and waited in the shelter at the stop for the opposite direction. After a very long time, the
trolley came back - and ignored us! It drifted steadily up Canal Street away from us. We were infuriated but there was not much we could do about it. In contrast, our drivers on the Riverfront trolley had been cheerful and helpful, telling us about where to descend and where to find other rides and attractions. I did manage a snap of the Canal Street trolley as it echoed Buzz Lightyear's exclamation in the movie Toy Story: "To Infinity - and beyond!"

When the rain had now stopped (once more), we walked up Canal Street and found the Charles Street trolley line. When the green car came, we climbed aboard, the pass giving us an advantage - we could board while lesser mortals were struggling with dollar bills and quarters. The Charles street line gives a magnificent ride through the garden district, seeing the big houses, the two universities side-by-side, and the gardens at the entrance to the zoo. We even saw our driver of the Riverfront car! She took the Charles car to where she had parked her mini-van. At the end of the line, we, and half the passengers, walked over to the next car to leave and re-boarded for the journey back to town. At the corner of Charles St. we got off and went to "The Trolley Café" but they only served full meals. They did direct us to the "CC" café where we got our coffee and snack. Then we got the next car back to town. Walked along Bourbon Street (dirty and smelly) to Conti, and to our hotel. Sat in the delightful courtyard at the back of the hotel, and wished that the bar still operated so that we could sip a drink in the courtyard. Took stock, decided on what tours to try for, and went in search of supper. Looked at the dining room of the "sister" hotel, the St. Louis, decided it would be good for breakfast but not for dinner. Re-stocked on cookies at the drugstore on Royal St., and had fish and chips at TGIF. Neither of us could finish! We were full.

Monday morning: arose a little late and went to the "sister" hotel, St. Louis, for breakfast, in a courtyard with a translucent fabric cover to it. Very satisfying.

We walked to the market and the flea market, then took the Riverfront streetcar to the end of the line, and back to Toulouse Street (the lighthouse) to pick up the tour. To our surprise, we visited a sugar-cane plantation, not cotton. We toured the owner's house and then had coffee and a muffin at the plantation's restaurant. On the way back we went through the cemeteries, with their above-ground tombs (with the high water table, bodies buried in the ground tended to float to the surface). On return to New Orleans, we found the no. 3 mini-bus and went through the Quarter, through the Elysian Fields, through the Vieux Carré, past Poland Avenue to an un-made street consisting of gravel over a pair of railway tracks. These areas were in some ways reminiscent of Mechanicsville in Ottawa: small houses of individual designs, packed together. Then back, past Desire, to Bienville near our hotel. Once again, we were tired and did not wish to seek out Cajun cuisine: we went to TGIF, this time for soup & salad.

The following morning we had coffee and a newspaper from the lounge, then walked out to Canal St. Wendy's seemed to be the only place there open for breakfast, so we had egg/sausage tea-biscuits. Walked to see the new Canal St. trolley track being laid (federal project!) in the "neutral zone", which is new Orleans-ese for "median", took photos, picked up the Charles St. car on Carondelet St. and went to the end of the line at Carollton, then back to corner of Charles St., and had coffee at CC coffee shop while Dewi walked up the levee. Just a bank really, no view of river because of trees, bush, etc. Bike track on top. Another car back to Canal St., tand took advice of hotel staff: to Napoleon house for a po'boy (a toasted pastrami sandwich, shared) for lunch. A fascinating house - built for the mayor in 1794, purchased by a group of Napoleon's supporters who hoped to do a commando raid on St. Helena and instal him in his New Orleans house. Luckily for us, he died before this could happen. Walked to the Cathedral - musicians in space in front - and down to the French Market to buy fruit. While on Decatur St., we realised that although "A Streetcar Named Desire" is no more (at least in New Orleans), there IS a bus named Desire - the 82 route. We had intended to take the ferry, but we had to wait SO long for !@#$%^  riverfront trolley that we decided not to. Trolleys hunt in pairs or threes.

Click on thumbnail for larger picture.

image 1066_09
"Private Varnish": private rail car, on the way to New Orleans.
Photo 1066_09 on 27/04/2002
image DSCF1165
Riverfront streetcar, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1165 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1166
Riverfront streetcar tracks in stormy weather, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1166 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1167
Driver's controls, Riverfront streetcar, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1167 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1168
Handicapped lift, Riverfront streetcar
Photo DSCF1168 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1169
Handicapped lift, Riverfront streetcar
Photo DSCF1169 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1180
Riverfront streetcar approaches Toulouse Street station, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1180 on 01/04/2002
image DSCF1181
The truck reveals that these are in fact modern cars, built to look like vintage streetcars.
Photo DSCF1181 on 01/04/2002
image DSCF1182
Streetcar approaching Canal Street station, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1182 on 01/04/2002
image DSCF1184
Looking out past the operator of a streetcar on the Riverfront line, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1184 on 01/04/2002
image DSCF1183
The Riverfront streetcar line runs through the Convention Centre, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1183 on 01/04/2002
image DSCF1172
St. Charles streetcar line, downtown New Orleans
Photo DSCF1172 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1173
St. Charles streetcar line, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1173 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1174
St. Charles streetcar line, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1174 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1175
St. Charles streetcar line, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1175 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1194
The St. Charles streetcar, New Orleans
Photo DSCF1194 on 02/04/2002
image DSCF1171
Close inspection of the sign on the shelter shows that this streetcar on Canal St. has followed Buzz Lightyear's wish: "To Infinity - and Beyond!"
Photo DSCF1171 on 31/03/2002
image DSCF1193
Track being laid for the Canal trolley line in New Orleans. This is the the "neutral ground", which in other parts of North America would be called the "median".
Photo DSCF1193 on 02/04/2002
image DSCF1196
"A Streetcar Named Desire" has long gone, but there is still a bus named "Desire" in New Orleans.
Photo DSCF1196 on 02/04/2002

[Around America Page]  [Trains Page]  [Home]  [About]
This page last updated on 20/04/2006 15:22:44.