So the day has arrived and I'm going on a bike tour. The Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tour to be exact. I'm catching one of the last tours, before our guide, Derek takes a vacation to Colorado.
I'm instructed to meet up with the group on the Royal St. Side of Washington Square in Marginy at 9:30am. I grab a little breakfast early, throw on a cute riding outfit and head for the Canal Streetcar heading for the French Market. It's warm and sunny and although it's "rush hour" the streets aren't filled with people (but that too shall change, ha ha).
The Canal Streetcar drops me off at the mkt. and I proceed to walk down Esplanade Avenue and over to Frenchmen Street which is pretty close. For as long as I've been coming to the city of New Orleans I've never crossed over Esplanade Avenue on foot. I'd always wondered what was on the other side, and this was going to be that day of new discoveries. I made my way up Frenchman Street which to be eerily quiet, you know the kind of quiet after a long hard party has just ended. I'm peering into windows and gazing from side to side, but not trying to look like a lost soul. Well that didn't last for long, and by the time I arrived at the corner of Royal and Frenchmen, just at the entrance of the Washington Park, I proceeded to "post up" there on the corner and question anyone who crossed my path. Heck, I was early, with no sign of my group around. Some cops came strolling out of some nearby cafe, and all I could manage was a small "Hello", because I was so fixated on finding my group. Eventually I befriended a born & raised hometown man who was just about to give a course on "alchohal safety" to some tourism industry staff in the nearby tavern. His "classroom" was locked at the moment, so he gave me his perspective on the music scene and area of interest on Frenchmen St. Eventually I noticed a group gathered down by the park closer to Elysian Fields Ave and figured my tour had finally arrived. I thanked the kind stranger and made a hasty retreat to join the group.
There were eight of us which made for a nice, intimate size. All of us touring were from out of town and included folks from Alabama, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Australia, London and of course myself from NYC. It was a microcosim of adults, all so different but yet with the same focus, to see another side of New Orleans. Derek was the chatty, enthusiastic and sarcastic tour guide who is working towards his PH.D (in southern history I believe).
Derek had our measurments so he had bikes waiting on the curb according to what you told him your specifictions (height). Simple bikes with baskets, no bells and no hand breaks. After adjustments were made, we then participated in a group icebreaker to get to know each other and set a tone of what safety measures should be taken and what is to be expected on this tour.
The tour itself was just so cool. We managed to bike over a bridge (St. Claude) ride our bikes on top of a levee, "post up" on a flood wall, take a close look at houses built by Brad Pitt's "Make it Right" foundation, get a lesson on Louisanna architecture, look at rebuilt Shotgun style housing, have lunch, visit the museum House of Dance & Feathers, and all of this in the Lower Ninth Ward.
I won't give away all the details, but will say that I met some interesting folks who I ended up having dinner with the next evening, and hanging out with before I left town. There were chances to make connections with the locals, if we encountered some who wanted a small chat and in addition have lots of dialogue amoung the group on a bevy of topics that are connected to what we observed, some of which can be distrurbing, enlightening, hopeful and poignant all at the same time.
The tour was $60.00 for a 11 mile four hour bike tour. You should bring a little money for food at the lunch spot and a small donation to the Dance & Feathers Museum. We made numerous stops and Derek had plenty of commentary to give a sense of what you were looking at. One of the best ways to get out and see the city, I would recommend this to anyone.
Ended the day walking back down Frenchmen St. thru the French Qtr. and up to my hotel for a shower & a nap. Eventually I was able to get up & go out and have a small dinner at the Louisanna PIzza Kitchen located at 95 Frech Market Pl. I had the veggie pizza which was tasty. Oven grilled with fresh veggies, I also had dessert, Key Lime Pie.
I made a few calls and made arrangements to have dinner the following day with a couple of my tour mates in the French Qtr. Once again I went to bed early. Not to worry the nightime & daytime activities are about to heat up!