The MinnClan did New Orleans this year! Maija, Bill, Julie, Gail, and Al arrived on Saturday, Sept 30, for a little preliminary reconnaissance. Bill and Julie were coming from a family get together in Pennsylvania. Bob and Ann came on Sunday from a vacation in Nova Scotia. Bill, Julie, Ann, and Bob all headed home on Wednesday after their long absence, while Maija, Gail, and Al stayed for another day of sight-seeing. Much to the sadness of the other MinnClan folks, the Bowers had decided to drop out.

We stayed at a rental apartment a block off St. Charles Street. The location was great. There was street parking for our rental cars, making it easy to visit locations outside the city, yet there was a trolley on St. Charles Street that took us to the French Quarter and other sights in the city. For seniors a trolley ride was only 40¢ and we could get a transfer to the Canal Street line.

For the most part, the apartment was very nice. We occupied the entire second floor of the old house. The kitchen was fully equipped with both a dish washer and a Keurig coffee maker. One bedroom had a Taj Mahal of a shower; tour companies should put it on their itineraries. The only disadvantage was that the third bedroom was basically a hallway to the fourth bedroom. Not much privacy there. Oh, and when we checked in, the apartment was still full of trash, dirty sheets, and wet towels from the previous occupants. That was corrected while we went off to dinner.

Speaking of dinner, eating well is always a big part of a MinnClan gathering, and we did. Here is a rating of where we ate.

  • Lula Restaurant, St Charles Ave - Good food, but very, very noisy
  • Mr. Ed’s Seafood Restaurant, St Charles Ave - Good food
  • French Market Cafe, Decatur St - Large and tasty sandwiches plus a live jazz band
  • Coquette, Magazine Street - Tasty food, but very small portions
  • Creole House Cafe, Paulina, LA - Slow service, but good food
  • Olde N’awlins Cookery, Bourbon Street - Good food
  • American Sector Restaurant, WW2 Museum - Gumbo, soup, and fried green tomatoes were good
  • Voodoo BBQ & Grill, St Charles Ave - Tough ribs
The French Quarter was, surprise, very touristy. Also we experienced bands of rain on Sunday and Monday. Because of the rain on Sunday, Bill, Julie, Maija, Gail, and Al opted to visit the Audubon Aquarium.

The corner of Bourbon Street and Canal Street

Bourbon Street clogged by construction

At the corner of St Peter and Royal Streets

Antoine's Restaurant on St Louis Street since the 1840s

The entrance to Musical Legends Park

The Joan of Arc statue on Decatur Street

A trolley arrives

Local residents and tourists both use the trolleys

Whitney Plantation mansion (photo from website)
A highlight of our get together was our Monday visit to the Whitney Plantation Museum. The plantation tour and museum exhibits focussed on telling the stories of the slaves. When we arrived, each of us was given a tag with the picture of a statue of one of the child slaves and a portion of the ex-slaves story as recorded by the Federal Writers Project.

We saw statues of slave children and monuments listing all the names of slaves that have been identified. We learned about the backbreaking and hazardous work during the sugar cane harvest. We learned that the average live expectancy of a slave on the plantation was only 10 years. We learned about the 1811 German Coast Slave Rebellion, that slaves were not willing participants in the slavery system, and that preventing slaves from learning how to read or write was a means to avoid rebellions. We learned that, under Louisiana law, children could not be sold away from their mothers until they were 10 years old, unless the mother was already dead. We learned of the tortures inflicted on slaves if they tried to escape. We learned that by using slave labor the family was able to quickly acquire wealth.

Thanks to Ann for discovering this opportunity.

Monday evening Bill and Julie shared great photos from their Antarctic cruise.

Listening to our guide at the Whitney Plantation

Inside the dining room of the mansion on a dark and rainy day

A slave cabin at the Whitney Plantation (photo from website)

Ann Hawthorne’s story

On Tuesday, we had three adventures. The first was a visit to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, a short stroll from our rental apartment. We meandered past above-ground tombs, some simple, some elaborate, mostly in shades of grey or white, although there were a few with pastel shades.

According to the website, “[w]hen a family member dies, the funeral director has the tomb opened and the remains of the previous occupant are removed, bagged, and placed in the chamber underneath. The new occupant then moves into the chamber until it is needed again.” I wonder how this works when two family members die close in time to one another.

Our second adventure on Tuesday was disappointing. We booked a swamp tour from the Louisiana Tour Company in Marrero, LA. At the beginning the boat operator/guide told us that he was not a naturalist or a historian, and that was true. He took us through a maze of channels, some of which existed to service oil wells, told some elementary school jokes, and was quite knowledgeable about the requirements for hunting alligators on your property. We saw several egrets and three medium-sized alligators. The guide had a small alligator that he passed around to the tour passengers. I think that a good swamp tour would be interesting, but I don’t recommend this one.

Our swamp tour vehicle

A nice display of Spanish Moss

One of the wild alligators, not the one bribed with marshmallows

Maija with the pet alligator

Gail with the pet alligator

Julie with the pet alligator

Our final adventure on Tuesday was a concert at Preservation Hall by the six-piece Legacy Band. Good sounds from drums, bass, piano, trombone, trumpet, and clarinet!

Outside the hall

The stage - photos are not allowed during performances

Bill & Julie and Bob & Ann headed home on Wednesday. Maija, Gail, and Al spent the afternoon at the WW2 Museum. We saw the “ 4D” movie about the war narrated by Tom Hanks, we followed the Road to Berlin exhibits, and we visited the US Freedom Pavilion. The movie might be informative to younger people, who do not know much about World War 2, but its shaking seats and bright light flashes did not compensate for the lack of detail. The Road to Berlin exhibits were good. They provided a lot of information, including personal information about some of the soldiers. The exhibits were honest, including informing us about the mistaken decisions that resulted in US bombs leveling the 6th century abbey at Monte Cassino. The vehicles and planes in the US Freedom Pavilion left us to think about the soldiers who used them.

My Gal Sal, a B-17 salvaged from the Greenland ice cap

Maja and Gail in the US Freedom Pavilion of the WW2 Museum


The weekend after the MinnClan left New Orleans, Hurricane Nate hit the Gulf Coast. Only an inch of rain was dropped in New Orleans, but we were glad to have missed even that.

Maija, Gail, and Al stayed at a motel across from the airport after their last day in New Orleans. The next morning a man came into the breakfast room while they were eating breakfast and right after there had been a report on the TV about the Las Vegas shootings. He was accompanied by a woman but she soon left. He pulled a sheath out of his waistband and began talking to us incoherently. Then he extracted a knife with about a foot-long, double-edged blade from the sheath. It did not look very sharp but still looked dangerous. He cornered the breakfast room attendant at the door to her room and began whispering at her. Gail went to the check-in desk to report the danger and Al stayed to watch him. He did not wave the knife at the attendant but it still was threatening. Before any authorities showed up, the woman he was with returned, the guy put the knife away, and they left. The attendant said that the couple had been coming in for about a week, but he had not had the knife before. We never saw any authorities but the attendant said that the front desk clerk had come to talk with her.

Prepared by Al Holm, 9 October 2017; updated 10 Oct 2017