Gulf Coast Communities Seek to Rebound
LIANE HANSEN, host:
In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina we spoke with Rachel Walton who, along with her husband, Eric, own the Bohemian Armadillo Guesthouse, a bed and breakfast two blocks from the French Quarter in New Orleans. She joins us on the line now from New Orleans.
Ms. RACHEL WALTON (Owner, Bohemian Armadillo Guesthouse): Hi. How you doing?
HANSEN: I'm well, thank you.
You were in Austin last time we spoke, but obviously, you're back home. When did you get back?
Ms. WALTON: We got back the day we were able to come back and the mayor--in the area, which I have no idea when that is anymore. All the days kind of came together.
HANSEN: Yeah. What was the condition of your bed and breakfast?
Ms. WALTON: The actual bed and breakfast where we have people was great. It was in great condition. Got rid of a couple of refrigerators, but other than that it was fine. Our house has been completely destroyed. We've gutted it and we're waiting for contractors to come in and--we'll wait for insurance to settle. But we've managed to take a little one-bedroom apartment around the corner in the meantime.
HANSEN: I was wondering if you're staying at your own B&B?
Ms. WALTON: I did at first, but then I really needed to get it--rent it out, and I ended up renting it out from under us.
HANSEN: When will you able to reopen?
Ms. WALTON: We reopened October the 14th, as soon as I was able to get it clean. And I was cleaning it and getting it ready without electricity.
HANSEN: So how's business?
Ms. WALTON: Business is great. I have two female contractors staying with me and a displaced New Orleanian.
Ms. WALTON: Yeah, and I'm booked up until the end of December.
HANSEN: Oh, that's fabulous for you.
Ms. WALTON: We've had some wonderful times together. A bunch of women staying there, so we've had, like, dinner parties together and just, you know, hung out, drank wine in the courtyard and just talked about everything.
HANSEN: So how are you going to celebrate Christmas?
Ms. WALTON: Well, this weekend, we're going to decorate the courtyard. We're going to actually decorate our courtyard with all the stuff that we normally decorate our home with. We're just going to create this--hopefully, this beautiful courtyard of just, you know, tinsel and just mainly focus on staying here and being thankful that, well, we are here.
HANSEN: And back in business.
Ms. WALTON: Back in business. I'm loving it.
HANSEN: Rachel Walton is co-owner of the Bohemian Armadillo Guesthouse in New Orleans.
Rachel, thanks a lot.
Ms. WALTON: Thank you very much.
HANSEN: East of New Orleans, in Biloxi, Mississippi, Carla Beaugez(ph) operated a 40-year-old tour business that ran tourist trains past historic antebellum homes, ancient oaks and the Biloxi Lighthouse. She joins us now.
Ms. CARLA BEAUGEZ (Biloxi Historic Tours): Good morning.
HANSEN: So what state is your business in right now?
Ms. BEAUGEZ: Actually, we're in what we call suspended animation. As of August the 27th, we haven't been able to conduct any tours because the heavy equipment is still on the street. And for the most part, there really aren't people here to come and see Biloxi as we would love her to be presented.
HANSEN: Yeah. Give us a snapshot of what it's like in Biloxi. How's the community holding up?
Ms. BEAUGEZ: The community is still stunned by what's happened to us. Most of them are unemployed. Most of them now have mortgage payments that are due. A lot of people still need gasoline to get around.
HANSEN: Is there no temporary housing, FEMA trailers?
Ms. BEAUGEZ: Yes, there's quite an abundance of assistance that's coming down here. In addition to the active FEMA trailers coming in, we also have produced tent cities. They have at this point virtually shut down all of the shelters with few exceptions. But for the most part in our communities, everybody works, even if it's doing a little piece of something. They're still trying to keep moving forward and not let it totally take you.
HANSEN: I imagine it's very emotional.
Ms. BEAUGEZ: Yes, that may be the biggest challenge to Biloxi, just what this storm did to the psychology of Biloxi's people. It's mainly in the faces of the people who were passionate about what this town and this region of America represented. As a tour operator, the east end of town--which most of the nation now knows is called The Point--that was our canvas. And every day, four times a day, we would bring tourists through this area. And you would be amazed at the people who have nothing down there who still see me and say, `Baby, would you please get back. You know, we're ready to see you,' and they want to show off what's left of their neck of the woods, and we take each day at a time.
HANSEN: Carla Beaugez from Biloxi Historic Tours, thank you so much for your time and best of luck to you.
Ms. BEAUGEZ: Thank you.
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