Beware. This is going to be a very long post. I missed you guys and I haven't written in so long!
We love New Orleans and couldn't wait to spend a few days there. And when we arrived we did what everyone goes to NOLA to do: hibernate.
It's funny. New Orleans is known as a party city - and while that's certainly the case, and we don't shy away from a good party - by the time we arrived we were exhausted.
Originally we thought we might try to take a beginner's scuba course at Ginnie Springs and then camp there on the Saturday before Easter, but we soon realized a lot of the eastern portion of the gulf coast was experiencing flooding and had to come up with a revised plan. We had decided that we would rather wake up in New Orleans on Easter morning than somewhere in the Florida panhandle or in Alabama or Mississippi so we drove the 9 hours and then flopped onto a king sized bed at a Days Hotel near the Louis Armstrong airport. The sleep was very deep.
We woke up seemingly energized on Easter morning, I threw on a flowery dress and my sun hat in lieu of an Easter bonnet, Sam donned a shirt with a collar that matched his shorts after I asked nicely and we headed to Marigny to check into the Lion's Inn. Little did I know that it was there that we would spend the bulk of our time.
We dropped off our stuff, parked the car, and ate an awesome breakfast at New Orleans Cake Cafe up the block. We split poached eggs, boudin, and grits, as well as the red velvet cupcake they let us add to the meal for a buck. Feeling full we thought we were all charged up for an Easter Sunday full of parades and exploring.
We did manage to catch a parade before the exhaustion set in, the Chris Owens Easter parade. There were a number of floats, antique cars, and lots of people throwing beads, stuffed animals, Easter eggs filled with candy, hell - anything really. I caught two brand new shower loofahs. No joke.
We found a spot with shade and good photo ops and started chatting up the family next to us when suddenly we heard someone yell Sam's name from across the street. It was a high school friend of his from long island, Nick, and his wife, Rina, and their 10 month old daughter, Ava.
We run into Nick more than anyone we know so initially I was mostly shocked to see that Nick was a father because I had no idea. You see the last time I ran into him it was in Coney Island nearly two years ago and it was just him and Rina. And then my brain realized that not only had we run into them, but we ran into him at a parade in New Orleans! How crazy is that? They had moved down recently and seemed to be really happy. They had decided to swing by the parade while they were out for groceries and we both picked the same block to watch. It was nice to see them and meet their daughter.
After that we had a cocktail on the balcony of Muriel's, where we had our fancy honeymoon dinner over a year and a half ago.
And then it was time for a swim at the pool at the Lion's Inn. The water was pretty cold, but the air temperature was in the 80s so we enjoyed ourselves and then took what we thought would be a short and reenergizing nap. When we got up we went to try Dat Dog, a New Orleans establishment that has grown in number of locations as well as people heart's.
Here's where the exhaustion I initially mentioned kicked in. The nap we took hadn't served to wake us up. It gave us a taste of simmering we sorely lacked. It felt like the jet lag you get from a transatlantic flight. We were sitting on the corner of Frenchman and Chartres streets. We could hear the great live music that Frenchman street promises. We could see people getting their nights started. We had already taken a nap. And yet, we were so tired we headed back to our room after we ate, to get a fix (of sleep, that is).
The next morning we had plans to go to the Audubon Park Zoo with our friend Lisa and he boyfriend Craig, but before we could do that we went to see Lisa's dad, an ophthalmologist, about a little problem I'd been having with my contacts ever since we hit the road. He fixed me right up, but time is part of the fixing, so for the time being I've been using just one contact lens or wearing my dorky glasses. I sure was grateful he could take care of me though!
The zoo was great. Craig does security there so our visit was full of insider stories and anecdotes about the animals and we got a taste of many of their personalities from the stories he told.
We got some awesome food at Juan's Flying Burrito, another NOLA favorite, and soon thereafter Lisa had to head out to Monroe, Mississippi to do her final week on a movie she was working on.
After we parted ways, Sam and I decided we felt very inspired by the sun bears we had seen sprawled out sleeping in the sun in their cozy pens at the zoo. It was decided that we should try to reenact their relaxation back at the Lion's Inn, only to wake up and decide we would feel perfectly happy just sleeping more. We did a blog post and then crashed again. I'm sure the sun bears would have been very proud.
Every now and then on the road we get a taste of the responsibilities we have that we couldn't manage to leave behind. Health issues were one. So was this computer issue that came up in Austin. Washing clothes. Long-term budgeting. It brings you back to realty in a way that doesn't happen as often as when you're just on a short vacation. Usually that realty happens when you get back home.
The Realty vs. Vacation concept started swirling in my mind after the eye issue while at the same time I gave a lot of thought about the fact that we spent so much time resting in New Orleans. The activities we wound up doing on our first two days there weren't unlike having a weekend at home. We went to the parade and napped. We went to the zoo and napped. Then we went to bed after the nap!
I saw us sleeping our time away and wanted to rally on our last day. I wanted it to be full of the things that I love about New Orleans. Food. Music. Art. Exploring. And we made that happen. And we still found time for our newest favorite activity -- you guessed it! Napping.
We ate breakfast at Cafe du Monde and it was lovely though I swear they shrank their beignets! Then we walked around and discovered Dutch Alley artists complex that featured local art, including some printmaking work that left me feeling really inspired. A sleepy haze started to set in, but I knew I had to push through it.
After a lot of dazed wandering we decided it was time to get Po'Boys and managed to sneak in the door before Domilise's (tripadvisor!) closed at 3. By 4, we were munching on snowballs from Hansen's Sno-bliz.
As a near expert in the art of the Mittagsschlaf, I can tell you naps are much better with a full belly and knowing that something has actually been accomplished that day. We had covered a lot of the eating/exploring by 5 and knew that the Rebirth Brass Band set at the Maple Leaf wouldn't start til 11, so we did the only sensible thing that a full and weary traveler could do: we napped.
Good food is a great wake to jolt me back to full consciousness, so let's fast forward to dinner. I was a super picky eater for most if my life and after I met Sam I branched out a lot. I try not to say no to a bite of anything offered my way at this point and thusly get very excited about new and tasty food. New Orleans is like the Holy Land for me. The budget was getting tight but we were dying to try the food at Jaques-Imo's because Lisa told us it was fantastic. We put out names down, nursed a beer at their bar for an hour (if you read the statistics post you know this wasn't our longest wait if the trip, though it's still the most worthwhile) and were treated to one of the most excellent meals we will have on this trip.
We had to split one entree because of our budget and ordered the quail because we had never eaten quail before, so why not! We knew it came with a salad and sides so we would have enough food that we wouldn't go hungry. Instead we were given the biggest lagniappe (New Orleans speak for "the hook-up") we could have imagined. We each got a tasty little salad, each topped with a fried oyster - that we enjoyed a lot more than the raw one in Key West - along with an awesome piece of cornbread. When the entrée came out we each had a plate with a quail on it. I was terrified that there had been a misunderstanding and the waiter thought we had ordered two, but after the first bite I didn't care. Sam and I were eating and grinning like idiots and I was more awake than I had been in days. It was so good we decided that if we were only charged for one entrée we would go for dessert. The check came out and wouldn't you know! We asked about dessert but everything aside from Bread pudding was sold out. Worry not! Our luck hadn't run out! The waitress said that only "ugly pieces" of bread pudding were left and she gave it to us for free despite our protests in an attempt to be noble. It was the tastiest bread pudding I have ever had, free or otherwise. Needless to say, we were so glad we spent our money there and felt really special and full by the end.
We rolled - almost literally - over to the Maple Leaf and got to listen to the first set and a half of the Rebirth Brass Band, though we retreated to the back of the bar by the third song so we could actually hear (surprisingly, this popular music venue has pretty rough acoustics) and had a nice time listening to them jam. We drove back to the Lion's Inn one last time before heading out to Austin.
Number of crimes we have been moments away from witnessing: 2 that we know of! Remember Charleston? That was one. The second was a young man who shot up a truck at a gas station along with several other gun-related activities. We let a cop pass us at a light in New Orleans and then we drove by as the truck owner pointed the cop in the direction of the perp. The truck had at least 5 bullet holes though the man and his young son were OK. As we took a ramp to enter a highway a few blocks later, we saw a cop draw his gun and a figure down a street we were overlooking duck behind his car. We're pretty sure he was the guy. We never witnessed a gun crime in New York so it's remarkable to be close to two in a matter of weeks.
Best meal we had: definitely Jaques-Imo's
Coolest animal at the zoo: the elephant took a small tree apart while we watched her, so she wins for the action-packed experience. The sun bears win for most inspiring.
Biggest jerks at the zoo: big white pelicans that definitely enjoyed pushing sunbathing turtles off of logs.
Number of naps we took: 3 plus going to bed early 2 nights in a row. What is happening to me? I used to be a night owl!
Best bathroom decorations: Audubon Zoo's animal tiles