Tuesday 14th August, New Orleans

Well, it took us two full days of driving to get from Wisconsin down to Louisiana, which was no great surprise when you look at a map. In contrast to the chain hotels and motels we’ve stayed in up to now, our accommodation in New Orleans is an early 19th century house that is run as a B&B – very quaint, if a little worn around the edges. The streetcars for which New Orleans is famous run from a stop just a few minutes walk from where we are staying and they have taken us into town to the famous French Quarter, home of jazz bands and the famous beignets – fried pastries – which are a New Orleans treat. On Sunday we visited St Charles Avenue Baptist Church, where Elizabeth Lott is the pastor. That the pastor is female is a strong clue that this is a Baptist Church at the more liberal end of the US Baptist spectrum. Ms Lott was preaching through the Letter to the Hebrews and spoke on Sunday about faith. I was grateful for her reminder of Thomas Merton’s famous prayer.

Today I had a brief chat with a member of the ACLUwho was looking for support for their various actions to oppose President Trump’s executive actions, such as his Muslim travel ban. I told him of my interest and that I was a pastor and he said that he had been brought up in church, but that being gay, he found that being called ‘an abomination’ made it hard to feel that church was now for him.

New Orleans is surrounded by lakes and a network of waterways as the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. This morning we paid a visit to one of the swamp areas to the north of the city which leads me on to this:

Wildlife Update: It was worth the wait! As we were taken in a flat-bottomed boat through the windy Pearl River towards Honey Island swamp we were asked by the skipper, what we hoped to see. Almost everyone said alligators. First of all we saw a solitary heron – a bit of a let down as they regular prey on fish in ponds in St Albans. But soon afterwards the skipper was pointing out a log with eyes – an alligator. Then there was another, and then another as a whole bunch of ‘gators swam towards the boat. This sounds more scary than it actually was as they knew that the tour guides carry meat to encourage them to leap out of the water – and they did. After that we saw turtles and then, almost as exciting as the alligators, were a family of racoons – or trash pandas as the skipper called them. While they may look cute, they’re actually quite mean.

Thursday morning and we are off again, for our last major drive, to Austin, Texas.