In 1801, when President Thomas Jefferson sent Robert R. Livingston to Paris to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson was primarily interested in one acquisition: the city of New Orleans. This city, which sits at the mouth of the Mississippi River, was then and is now of utmost importance to our country. Join us in April for a four-day, three-night study tour. We are pleased to present the city through the eyes of three prominent experts who will speak to us during our stay.
Douglas Brinkley, professor of history and fellow of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, will join us for this tour and will speak on post Katrina New Orleans. When the hurricane hit, Professor Brinkley witnessed its fury from a high-rise building, where he and his young family watched the waters of the Mississippi River flow backwards. After that experience and its aftermath, he wrote The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Marsha Recknagel, writer-in-residence in the English department at Rice University and author of the memoir, If Nights Could Talk, grew up in neighboring Baton Rouge. In her essay, “Between Two Storms,” she wrote that “almost every street of New Orleans has a literary history.” She will accompany us to talk about that rich literary tradition and will recommend books to read before the trip.
Stephen Fox, fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, lecturer on architectural history at Rice University and the University of Houston, and author of The Country Houses of John F. Staub, will lead our walking and driving tours of the French Quarter and adjoining Creole faubourgs and of the “new” American neighborhoods that stretch from Faubourg St. Mary (downtown) through the Lower Garden District to the Garden District and Uptown. We will visit buildings from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries that materialize the layered cultures of New Orleans.
We will stay at the historic Soniat House in the French Quarter, the only New Orleans hotel featured in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Built in 1830, the hotel surrounds and is surrounded by lush gardens. Each room is comfortable and unique. We will eat at Galatoire’s, Bayona, and Elizabeth’s, among other restaurants.
There will be an excursion through the swamps and bayous of southern Louisiana in a custom built, all-weather swamp boat, and a local naturalist will talk to us about wildlife in the bayous around New Orleans.
The effects of Hurricane Katrina will be the focus of one day of the trip. After spending the morning touring some of the most devastated areas of the city, those who wish may join a pre-arranged work detail and spend the afternoon helping to rebuild New Orleans.
On Sunday, for those so inclined, we will attend a church service at the historic St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square. Afterward, we will eat lunch at one of the outstanding restaurants in the French Quarter.
As we move around the city, we will be on foot or on a luxury motor coach.
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