From Key West to New Orleans via The Everglades National Park & Pensacola. Read all about it below.
Our last newsletter you may remember we were in warm and sunny Key West. Luckily as I was in the internet café sending the last newsletter Mike stayed faithful to me as he was chatted up and had poetry read to him by a single man in the bar.
Following a two night stop in Key West we headed north again and had a night on the Everglades National Park. This is a huge and beautiful wetland nature reserve. The ecosystem is extremely fragile and struggles to compete for water with the huge urban sprawl of Miami just a few miles away. It was the start of the high season but luckily no-one had arrived yet so we had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately there were too many mosquitoes for us to go walking but we certainly appreciated the vastness of it. We saw a beautiful osprey perched on a tree. Not an owl as a lady had helpfully pointed it out to us. After leaving the park we also took an airboat ride which we thoroughly enjoyed. As you can see from the picture below they are flat bottomed and are powered forward by a huge fan instead of a propeller to prevent damage to the grasses. The engine was actually from a Chevrolet car. A very informative Native American Micosukee Indian took us on a 40 minute guided tour.
After leaving the everglades we drove up the West Coast through the exclusive resorts of Fort Lauderdale and Little Venice and on to the ‘undiscovered coast’ of the Florida panhandle. This coastline hasn’t been developed yet although they are moving in fast. We stayed on a beautiful state park called Grayton Beach. The sand was white and the sea a gorgeous green colour. We spent an afternoon at the naval airbase in Pensacola and then headed west to Louisiana-destination New Orleans.
Before our departure we rang Mitch’s brother Ivan who lives in New Orleans. Mitch, who you may remember we met in Charleston, had given us his number so that we could give him a call and have a contact in New Orleans. Ivan and his partner Mark live in a beautiful house in the historic district of New Orleans. It had belonged to a governor in the past and they had lovingly restored it complete with chandelier in the main entrance hall. They gave us loads of invaluable advice on what to see and do as well as taking us to New Orleans’ finest restaurants in the evenings. This included Galatoire’s which is so exclusive there are no reservations for anybody including the likes of Madeleine Albright and the odd US president!! (Oh and their CIA minders of course). A few years ago the main downstairs restaurant closed for refurbishment. When it re opened it had hand painted wall paper and each 2 inch square floor tile had been individually placed. I imagine they won’t refurbish too often, for profitability’s sake as it took 2 years to complete the work. Mark and Ivan introduced us to New Orleans cuisine and we enjoyed trying various specialities at different establishments over a 3 night stay including barbecued oysters in garlic butter, turtle soup, lobster, crab, steak and even a deep fried oyster filled baguette called a po-boy. (Poor boy) We still have to go back for gumbo which we didn’t have room to try!
We enjoyed site seeing during the day and visited 2 plantations one in a similar style to a ‘Gone with the Wind’ family and a ‘working’ Creole plantation for a contrast. They both did excellent high quality guided tours. They were both located on the banks of the Mississippi river. We also had a day in the famous French Quarter and enjoyed some street performers, the catholic cathedral as well as just taking in the wonderful atmosphere. We then took the original 1800’s streetcar back to Ivan’s house.