Dec 28-30
In heavy rain, we leave Orlando and head west to the Florida Panhandle.  We stop briefly in Panama City and Navarre at the Gulf beaches.  We use one of the rain days for a good visit to the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum.  Lots of aircraft to see here from WWI to WWII, as well as the Blue Angels.  Onwards through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana.

Dec 31-Jan 3
Our campground is close to New Orleans but in a very sketchy area of town.  Luckily the campground provides a shuttle into the French Quarter.  We wander Bourbon Street in the French Quarter – lots of bars, music, bead throwing from balconies.  Royal Street is a little quieter with lots of shops including voodoo shops. Fireworks nonstop around us through the 31st and into the early morning hours of Jan 1.  There are few restrictions on buying and using fireworks here, unlike Victoria’s restrictions.

During our NOLA stay, we visit the incredible Mardi Gras World where the elaborate floats for parades are constructed  The floats are commissioned by groups (krewes) who are nonprofit organizations.  That means the members pay for the floats, pay to ride the floats, pay to go to the balls, and pay for the “throws” (beads and decorated coconuts, handbags, shoes that are tossed or given to the audience).  Floats may cost up to $250,000 US.  It was fabulous to see how the props are made and how the floats are decorated.

  We visit the Garden District in New Orleans to see the fancy homes of the rich and famous. We also see one of the famous above-ground cemeteries.  There is lots of street entertainment around the French Quarter and we enjoy our stay.

As we head out of New Orleans, we get some good photos of the bayou.  We stop at Avery Island to visit the McIlhenny Tabasco plant.  This was established in 1868 and still operates full speed (bottling about 250,000 bottles a day!  We learn that Tabasco sauce is made from peppers that are mashed up with salt added.  This is then aged in a barrel for three years.  Then vinegar is added and the tabasco sits for about 2-3 weeks.  Finally, it is strained and bottled ready for use. 

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