Trip to New Orleans proved educational as well as fun

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

When I vacationed in Las Vegas in November 1999, I thought the city was really out of sight! However, a vacation that I went on last week to New Orleans was absolutely the bomb!

The Suffolk Chapter of Les Gemmes sponsored the trip from Aug. 3 – 10, which included stops in Montgomery, Ala., Atlanta, Ga., and Biloxi, Miss. We also learned some interesting history about Louisiana and a popular musician. Now, I would like to share my summer vacation with you, the readers, and the best way to do this is with day-by-day events.


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The 57-passenger bus was filled to capacity for this eight-day adventure and over half of us admitted that we have never traveled to New Orleans, which made the trip even more interesting and something to look forward to.

Six of us Gemmes made the trip: Lezma Cobb, Gracie Eure, Gail Hinton-Copeland, Joyce Garrison, Audrey Knight, and yours truly.

Day one began at 11 p.m. with the departure of the bus from the home of our president, Knight, on Truman Road, enroute to our first stop, Atlanta.

At noon on day two, we visited the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ebenezer Baptist Church across the street from the gravesite. Next to the site is a museum with memorabilia such as tapes, books, records, souvenir shirts, and miniature statues of Dr. King. Videos were shown on many TV sets of King during the Civil Rights Movement and the sound of his voice in speeches was heard throughout the museum. When we left, we traveled to Peach Street and checked into a motel for a one-night stay in Atlanta.

We rose early on day three, and left Atlanta at 9 a.m. for a four-day stay in New Orleans, which is known as the birthplace of jazz. About nine hours later, we checked into another motel on Canal Street, which is located in the heart of jazz and about four streets from Bourbon Street. The street is advertised on about every souvenir item and shirt in New Orleans; so Gail Hinton-Copeland, Evelyn Godette and myself headed in that direction. As we began walking down Canal Street we noticed that it was lined up with gift shops and fast food restaurants. The stores are colorful and just about all of them have items used in the Mardi Gras such as beads, masks, feathered boa, costumes, post cards, and other souvenir items. Shops are also located on Bourbon Street along with clubs that advertise no cover charge. People sitting high up on porches steadily throw beads down to people in the streets welcoming them to the area. Sometimes the street is so full of people it is hard to pass someone.

On day four, we were treated to a guided tour by Zina with our bus driver, Brian Harris, at the wheel of our motor coach. We learned that black influence on food, music, architecture, and art is the ingredient that brought New Orleans international acclaim. People of color have a large history in Louisiana .We also learned that Louis &uot;Sachmo&uot; Armstrong learned to play the trumphet that someone gave him in jail after he was arrested at the age of 17 for shooting a gun on his premises which the law forbade anyone to do at a single family dwelling. He left the state when he was released because of that incident, but later on returned to perform a concert that made the people of the state stand up to take notice of him. The state soon gained respect for his talent and named the Louis Armstrong Airport in his honor.

Some homes that we were shown had two staircases on each side of their porches. They were built this way because at one time it used to be unlawful for a man to see the ankles of a female. So they had to go up separate staircases.

We also learned that some slaves were permitted to work after hours away from their regular locations or masters for a wage as a way to purchase their freedom.

Cemeteries are unique in New Orleans. When a person dies, he is buried in a crypt that may already be holding other deceased members of his family. These tombs are built with shelves above ground because coffins won’t stay down. The reason for this is that New Orleans is below water level because the Mississippi River is located nearby. Bodies are also not embalmed, which means that they will decay sooner to make room for new ones.

On day five we traveled to Biloxi, for a complementary lunch at Casino Magic. The evening was then left free to do whatever until the bus picked us up at 10 p.m. A DJ was spinning records in one of the ballrooms and, as usual, Gail, others and myself took advantage of it and learned steps to new line dances, &uot;The Step Love Slide&uot; and the &uot;Bunny Hop.&uot;

On day six, some people went on a river walk, others to the French Quarters and some back on Bourbon Street. Gail, Evelyn and myself, of course, chose to walk on the wild side once more.

On day seven, we departed to Montgomery for an eight-hour ride coming back to Suffolk for an overnight stay at a hotel. Prior to that stay we had dinner in a nearby food mall and afterward attended the Victoryland Greyhound Dog Race.

We arrived back at the hotel at 11 p.m. to get up early Sunday, day eight, for the 13-hour ride home. We arrived home at about 2 a.m. Monday morning to find out that while we experienced beautiful weather most of the time, Suffolk had endured a lot of rain.

This was an educational as well as a fun-trip filled with plenty of excitement. Las Vegas is thrilling but you haven’t lived until you’ve travel down Bourbon Street.

The Suffolk Chapter Les Gemmes would like to thank all of our guests who traveled with us, and Brian Harris with Eddie’s Bus Service from Chesapeake for taking and bringing us safely to our homes and beyond.