By Paula Walter
Members of the Johnson County Senior Center recently returned from a fun-filled adventure to New Orleans. This seven day adventure began on Sunday, April 23rd and the group rolled back into our mountains the following Saturday.
The trip was orchestrated by Sue Shupe, who has organized quite a few trips in the past. Over 40 people signed up quickly for the Diamond Tour excursion that was surprisingly reasonably priced at $585 per person. This includes the cost of the bus ride round trip, hotels costs, breakfast each morning and five evening meals.
The group stopped for their first night in Birmingham, Alabama before heading out the following morning. Their first outing was to Merrehope Manor in Meridian, Mississippi where they toured two Victorian mansion estates that still had all the original furnishings from the late 1800s time period, including clothing, quilt and furniture.
The group stopped at Harrah’s Casino, the only casino in the United States not on a river. While everyone had a good time, there were no big winners, with the exception of one lucky person who won $100. In addition to gambling, there was a lot of shopping to do and a steamboat ride on the S.S. Natchez as they viewed the historical sites along the river.
The next destination was to New Orleans where the group too a motor coach tour through the city. According to John Mast, carriage rides pulled by mules were available to tour the city. It was explained to the travelers that they use mules because they eat less, make less of a mess, are one-third stronger than horses, and the heat doesn’t seem to bother them as much as it does the horses.
After the organized tours for the day, the group was free to go off on their own and explore. Mast found graveyards in the city to be interesting as they are above ground. There are burial crypts that can hold two to four bodies. According to Mast, the bodies are lightly embalmed. After approximately one year, the body has turned to dust and ashes, which are placed in a family crypt. In the past, a string was attached to a bell and placed in an opening where someone who had recently died was placed. The string was tied to a foot or a hand. People were stationed to see if the bell rang. If it did, the person inside had not died.
The group had time to explore on their own, and although Bourbon Street didn’t seem to be in the best area of the city, it was hoping with activity at night time, including street performers and dancers.
According to Mast, the group also toured a World War II museum where all branches of the military were represented. They toured the inside of the Destrehan Plantation that dates back to 1790. According to Mast, it was once an indigo plantation before they began to grow sugar. Some of the Creole houses were painted in vibrant, bright colors. Back in the day, a brightly colored house represented prosperity. The brighter the color, the more well off the owners were. The homes were built close together were long and narrow. Front doors were painted red if the owners had a daughter eligible for marriage. “We saw several red door,” said Shupe.
That last night, the group had dinner in a casino, along with 17 other busloads of people who had come to visit the area. Early Friday morning, they were back on the road again.
If you are interested in joining the group on one of their adventures, check in at the Johnson County Senior Center for more information. As of now, they are looking at a trip to Mackinac Island in September. It has become a favorite for many seniors who have gone on several bus tours. The group is also looking at the possibility of a Charleston/ Savannah trip in the spring.