New Orleans Past and Present Tour

June 13, 2013 by

North America, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

When staying in a city known for parades and parties, my husband was perplexed that I chose a tour that strayed far from that vacation theme, but the New Orleans Past and Present tour is the very best for those that want to feel the real heart of the city.

Small and intimate in a 13-passenger van and led by a charismatic, proud and knowledgeable guide whose family has survived multiple hurricanes, the four-hour tour provides a close-up view of the power of hurricane flood waters and their devastating effects. That may not sound like the best way to spend vacation time, but during the tour I felt the desperation and helplessness and then the hope and determination of the citizens of New Orleans… I  felt like part of the community and not just a tourist. I felt their pride.

New Orleans Katrina tour

17th Street Canal Floodwall. Photo courtesy of Teri Dutts.

New Orleans abandoned home

Abandoned home

Our tour guide told the story of the past when Hurricane Katrina came to town and the hot sunny day that the levee broke and waters as deep as 200 feet swept down the city streets.  When we stopped at the historical marker, I closed my eyes and could envision the wall of water coming down the street. I felt the panic, I saw the holes in the roofs where people climbed out of their attics to escape their flooded homes. The salt lines still visible on the buildings, the markings still on the buildings from the painstaking house-to-house searches done by the National Guard and SPCA over two months, the buckled streets, the still-closed schools, shopping centers and hospitals were humbling to see. The very noticeable absence of trees saddened me, yet I was mesmerized by what I was seeing and by the first hand stories of what daily life was like for months, even years, post-Katrina. I felt the pain of the people who experienced what I saw on the news.

Bayou St John

Houses and buildings along Bayou St John. Photo credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans via Flickr.

New Orleans City Park

New Orleans City Park. Photo credit: Britt Reints via Flickr.

After our time in the past, the tour continued with a look at the present and the rebuilding of the community. We saw the 250 trees donated to the city from all over the country, the school that took 7 years to rebuild, the new urban homes and apartments, the urban hospital that is still a year away from completion, the new city parks. Our guide told us what the city learned from its experience and I heard the pride in his voice. We passed a grocery store and a bank, where our guide told us that both just reopened several months ago and I felt the joy of a city being rebuilt. By the end of the tour, I felt like I had just watched a major motion picture, except I was personally on the set for every scene.

Visually astounding and full of facts and jaw-dropping real life stories from Hurricane Katrina, this tour was a perfect way to get to know more about New Orleans and to better understand the city’s past, its present, and the hope for the future.

Book a New Orleans Past and Present tour and read more about things to do in New Orleans

– Teri Dutts

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