Monday, March 12, 2012

New Orleans Trip, part 2

Feb 9 my plan was to go to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. I love aquariums and natural history museums.
I started the day with beignets at Cafe Du Monde for breakfast. I went to the smaller location at the Riverwalk Marketplace (a mall, basically), rather than the Original location in the French Market. But they are still the same world-famous beignets. And yes, I got powdered sugar all over me!

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After my fried dough and sugar fix, I walked over to the aquarium.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is part of an Audubon complex of 4 attractions, and you can get a discount ticket for $35 that includes admission to all 4: The Aquarium, the zoo (one of the best zoos in the country), the IMAX theater, and the Insectarium. This is a really good deal.

You enter the aquarium walking through a glass tunnel that goes under a huge tank. You can actually watch the fish and sharks swim OVER you!
There are lots of different kinds of rays, which I could watch for hours. I just love the way they move and their smiley little faces.

They have several really large tanks including a Gulf of Mexico exhibit, as well as penguins and a huge greenhouse with an Amazon rainforest exhibit.

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They also had a good exhibit of Louisiana swamp wildlife including a beautiful white alligator.
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These white alligators are very rare because they are not albinos, they are called leucistic, which means they have a little bit of pigmentation around the mouth and a little touch on the tail and they have piercing blue eyes. Leucistic animals have rare genetic condition that reduces the color pigmentation in their skin.
Out of the 5 million American alligator population there are thought to be only 12 leucistic gators, and they were all found in the Louisiana swamps in 1986.
(There is an albino alligator at San Francisco's Steinhart Aquarium, but these leucistic alligators are much more beautiful.)

After the aquarium, I walked along the riverfront down past the Steamboat Natchez, which is the last working steamboat paddlewheeler in New Orleans. (It still runs on steam power, just like the ones 100 years ago did) There used to be lots of steamboats like this going up and down the Mississippi river, it was the main mode of transportation to New Orleans before the railroads. These days it only makes short dinner cruises and lunch cruises.

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I had an early dinner at the old Jackson Brewery, which is now a shopping mall.
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Then I walked back down to the Aquarium building complex, where they have an IMAX theater, and I watched the movie Hurricane in the Bayou. It's about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as it affected the swamps and wetlands south of New Orleans.

When the Levee Breaks , mama you got to move

After the movie I was pretty tired from walking all day, so I walked back to the hotel to relax a bit, I took a hot bath and enjoyed an Abita Turbodog beer, made at a local brewery on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. (New Orleans is bordered by this lake on it's north side.)

After a little rest and watching Project Runway Allstars on TV, I was getting hungry again. I didn't want to walk too far so I went to Krystal on Bourbon street for some takeout to eat in my room. Yeah, it's fast food and I usually don't like to eat at fast food chains when I travel, I prefer to support local businesses, BUT this is a regional Southern chain so it's still kind of local. We don't have them in California. Plus they have really good milkshakes and they are open 24 hours, so it's a good spot for the late night munchies.

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