“No act of Jefferson’s administration presents such a variety of disgraceful features as this shameful purchase of a colony of Frenchmen.” Federalist Party, Circa 1803
The State Capitol in Baton Rouge, LA
It was a time of war, strife and heated debate! Napoleon was leading the crusade of a French empire in the nations of the old world while modern-day America was being jostled between French, Spanish, English and Union interests. By 1803 the United States consisted of 17 states and 4 territories in the East with the formidable Appalachian Mountains running down the middle. The key communication port of New Orleans on the Mississippi River belonged at that moment to France, but Napoleon was under pressure. Having lost strongholds in the Caribbean and under financial strain to fund his war in Europe, he and made a bargain that would change the future forever. On April 30, 1803 he authorized the sale of the entire 828,000 square mile French Territory of Louisiana for 60 million Francs (~$15 million).
Dates etched on the Capitol Steps reflect the order of each state's admission to the Union
The purchase almost doubled the size of the United States overnight, but it had surprisingly heavy opposition. The bargain had been struck in a rush and without formal approval of the president. Opponents in the Federalist Party, worried about their balance of power, argued the purchase was ”worthless desert” and unconstitutional, stricking back hot with comments like the quote above. But with historical foresight, Jefferson upheld the deal and the treaty was ratified.
Pasture and green by our park in Baton Rouge
The massive impact of this piece of history strikes me as I stand on the steps of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. It’s a spring day, cherry blossoms are blooming, the sky is a brilliant blue and the dates carved in stone by my feet take me back in time. We’re here for a quick stop to visit family and I’m amazed at how green and peaceful the town is despite the busy working traffic of the Mississippi River and the bustle of LSU (Louisiana State University). We’re parked in a horse park just outside town bounded by large, green pasture and the river. Here we’ll hang out and regenerate for a few days, watch the horses, walk the levee and enjoy some good meals before we run off to boondock in Texas. After this point we’ll be West of the Mississippi and into another phase of history. In the meantime I’ll walk and marvel on the land that was purchased so long ago for only 5 cents an acre.
On the banks of the Mississippi
Hiking the levee
Bring on the beads, it's Mardi Gras baby!
It’s the end of February and there’s a party in the works. Music fills the air, balconies are overflowing with beads and carnival masks, floats are parading and the streets are bursting with colors of gold, lilac and green. In this city of cities where the deep south converges in a mix of jazz, Creole and Cajun culture the vibe is magnetic. You’re drawn into the streets, swayed by the rhythm of the drums, and swept away to join the crowds in their festivities. It’s Mardi Gras, baby and New Orleans is just getting into the groove!
The French Quarter parade bursts with people, color and music
The party has been going for a long time. Mardi Gras is an old tradition tracing its roots back to the Roman ritual Lupercalia. The pagan tradition was incorporated into Christianity which re-marked the celebrations as beginning on the Epiphany and ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. The practice of eating richer foods before the start of Lenten fast gave the festival the name of Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”. The tradition sailed to the Americas in 1699 with the French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, who landed ~60 miles downriver from modern-day New Orleans. From there it grew and was both fêted and banned over the next few hundred years through to the first documented parade in 1837.
Food and romance in the French Quarter
These days Mardi Gras is a firm tradition in New Orleans and a big, massive, crazy party of ~4 million people. We just wanted a taste of the thing, so we decided to hit NOLA the week before the biggest celebrations. We sauntered into town Sunday morning and stepped right into the heart of the thing. Parades of horses, floats and marching bands were walking down Canal Street while musicians and costumed pets were parading in the French Quarter. We spent the whole afternoon saturating our senses with color, beads and music. As it turns out fellow RVers and bloggers Christy and Kali from Techosyncratic were also in NOLA, so next evening we ventured back out to make new friends and sample Creole food and the classic New Orleans Sazerac cocktail.
All in all, it was quite the visit. We head out of town with our hearts light, our bellies full and the beads to prove we were here for the party.
Jackson Square artists
Music on the streets
Lilac, green and gold
A dog shows off her feminine side
Beads...give us beads!
Sunday Parades down Canal Street
The classic Sazerac Cocktail
Our new friends, Christy and Kali