On Thursday Maryann and I missed out on the U.S. Park Department’s free walking tour of the Riverfront. They only take 25 people a day and the line for the 9:30 am tour started at 8:30. We tried again on Sunday and were rewarded with a ticket.
A ranger, who’d come to NOLA from Iowa and knew his stuff, led the tour. He entertained us with a lot of history of this spirited city that has been ruled by the French, the Spanish and the Americans by turn. Among the many facts I learned were:
- The term Dixie derives from the currency used in NOLA. The bills used to be bilingual and ten dollar notes said “dix.” Hence outsiders called NOLA, Dixieland.
- No one really wanted to live in NOLA with its mosquitoes and humidity so the French “coaxed” prisoners, prostitutes and those unemployed for more than a few days to board a ship for their new homeland.
- Spaniards who came to NOLA did not bring wives so they wound up marrying French women, who taught their children French thus keeping the language in play during Spanish rule.
- The for-profit tour companies have lobbied for reducing the number of tours, participants and locales of the Park Service’s tours to ensure they make a profit. Considering that I find most commercial tours disappointing, this irks me. Why not embrace the challenge and provide better tours to ensure success? Considering that the National Park Service’s mission is to preserve wildlife and culture they do have a place in the Big Easy.