Well there is a lot to catch up on, so I apologise for the length of this post!!
The first day in Pensacola saw us going to the National Naval Aviation Museum at the US Navy’s base at Pensacola. It is also the premiere base in the Navy for training US Navy pilots and the home of the US Navy aerobatic team, the Blue Angels. If the weather was good, we had managed to do this on a day when the Blue Angels were practising, and they would do a display to anyone who wanted to come along and watch, free of charge!! Note if you do this, as it is a working Navy airfield you have to have photo ID with you or you will not be let in!!
Well we were lucky the clouds and rain stayed away and we were treated to over half an hour of top quality aerobatics and also were able to see the training squadron training navigators and pilots.
A group of volunteers manned the “flight line” (a row of seats positioned alongside the live runway), and as they all appeared to be ex Navy, USAF and Army veterans they provided a very knowledgeable and funny running commentary on what was going on.
Some of the “team”.
Then we all had to clap a fire truck that had to positioned at the end of the runway whilst the practise took place!!
And finally the Blue Angels taxied out (six of them).
There were 4 in main group who took off together and two singletons who filled in the gaps in the main display as the main group repositioned for the next formation.
Wow were they good, really tight flying in the formations, and the singletons did some very good opposition rolls etc. The noise the F18 Hornets made on full reheat was something to behold, made the air in your chest vibrate.
Missed the other one singletons doing opposition barrel rolls. Look at the smoke!!
Look carefully that is an inverted singleton alongside his partner with the flaps and wheels down (hard to do)!!
Classic star burst.
Unfortunately one of the singletons developed an engine problem so the team aerobatics ended up with 5 members.
If you ever get the chance I would recommend this, especially if you are an aircraft nut like me, and even Anne said it was worth sitting out in the hot sun for an hour and a half to see this.
Then we went onto the National Naval Aviation Museum, again free although they asked you for a contribution to the upkeep.
No amount of photographs is going to do this place justice. It took us over 5 hours to walk around most of the exhibits and even then I am sure we missed quite a lot. I will put up a few photos but please take it from me this is a great place to go, especially if you like aircraft.
Phantom Sopworth Pup used for early carrier trials
Mitchell bombers used from carriers to bomb Tokyo in WWII
Actually made my FitBit steps walking around here!!
Next day dawned and we decided to do a suggestion in our guide book which was to drive down Route 30A which is called the Emerald Coast Scenic Route. It promised views of little inlets and beautiful white sand beaches, with quaint little towns on the way.
Well we certainly saw some white beaches
but I am afraid views of them were few and far between and commercialism has overtaken the “quaint inlets and little towns”. Nothing but wall to wall private properties with private beach access and when we got down to the Panama City end massive condos with private bridges across 30A to equally massive multi-storey car parks. Think the worst Spanish resorts American style and as the car rules massive car parks and also funnily enough loads of massive Churches of every faith and denomination you can think of. I can only say we were disappointed, but managed to make up for it by getting back to Pensacola Old Town as the sun set.
Much better all together and we wished we had decided to come here first!!
And then we moved on again to New Orleans. Quite a long drive down I10 but we arrived at our campground about 10 miles outside of central New Orleans in plenty of time.
Not a bad campground with back in concrete pads with full hook ups and cable at a very reasonable rate considering the proximity to New Orleans.
We decided to have an easy first day and just do a river boat cruise on the Natchez. But first we had to do the customary thing (apparently according to Claire) and have some Beignets (New Orleans sugared doughnuts).
After that and some lovely iced coffee (it was boiling hot over 96F) we proceeded to the Natchez the only real steam driven paddle boat still operating on the Mississippi in New Orleans. There is another one but its paddle wheel is driven by diesel engines. It also features a rather interesting steam whistle piano which is played at boarding times and sometimes just for the fun of it!!
We had a very interesting and peaceful (except when the Captain blew the steamer’s steam horn!!) trip. We saw evidence of the damage caused by hurricane Katrina still not fixed twelve years later.
Also saw the canal that breached and caused the flooding in District 9.
Then returned to the dock and had a walk around Jackson Square 9 (too hot to do much else!!).
As we left for the day so did the Carnival Triumph!!
And here is the other paddle boat.
Having figured out that parking in New Orleans was horrendously expensive we found that the camp ground ran a FREE shuttle service to and from a stop right next to the Natchez embarkation dock!!
So we set off early the next day with the intention of taking the Hop on Hop off bus around New Orleans, only to find the shuttle driver was intent on showing us a great deal of it. Very informative driver and it was all free!!.
Got into central NOLA and bought our tickets, and jumped on the bus. Another very interesting trip with guide of Creole descent who had lived there all his life and knew what New Orleans used to look like in the 1960s. “Know the difference between Creole and American, Creole’s paint everything coloured, American’s paint everything white”, he said it not me!!
Very interesting tour, above ground cemeteries, wrought iron balconies, grand houses, Mardi Gras floats I simply cannot do it justice.
We got off after the first circuit and looked around the Flea Market, and then got back on intending to get off at the Civil War Museum only to find it was closed on a Sunday, so we completed a second circuit with a different guide, which gave us a slightly different perspective as he was American, not Creole!! There are always two sides to a story.
After another very long hot day (even hotter than the day before!!) we got back on the return air-conditioned (bliss) bus and the same driver as this morning who took us back a different route and we learnt a lot more including where the prison is!!
And so we came to our last day in New Orleans and decided to drive out to the Whitney Plantation which is a sugar plantation dedicated to the story of the Haydel family of German immigrants and their slaves who helped(sic) them build their fortune.
There are a series of monuments with the upwards of 110,000 slaves names who were slaves in Louisiana only. It also contains quotes from former slaves taken down as part of a Writers project that was part of Roosevelt’s WPA project that employed people made unemployed by the Great Depression. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
Very sobering place to visit especially some of the indoor exhibits that show how many people were enslaved from Africa and by whom.
While we there the solar eclipse happened (75% in New Orleans), but it was still extremely hot. I cannot imagine having to work in the heat especially as it turns out the next 4 months (Sept – Dec) are the sugar cane harvesting and processing months!!
They gave us umbrellas.
We left the plantation and ate at a local restaurant where Anne had catfish jambalaya and I had crawfish pasta, very interesting.
And for our last evening in the campground New Orleans decided to say goodbye with a massive thunderstorm, the lightening was something to behold.
Tomorrow we move on again with two overnight stops and then we arrive in Houston on 24th August in time to pick up Tim at the Airport on the 25th.