New Orleans

We head out of Memphis with a long 5 hour drive ahead of us to make it to New Orleans. We pretty much drive it straight and only stop for gas. We finally pull into New Orleans around 8 pm and I already have a list of things that I want to do during our stay. I program our first stop into the GPS which drives us right through the heart of the French Quarter including driving across Bourbon Street. I don’t think Dad enjoyed being thrown right into the middle of New Orleans’ madness while driving. Finally, we find a parking lot so we could go explore.

We wandered a few blocks to our first stop, Hotel Monteleone, to have a Sazerac at the Carousal Bar. Check one – go to classic New Orleans hotel in the French Quarter and have a Sazerac! Perfect way to start the visit. Plus, we meet up with another young woman who is visiting New Orleans with her parents, but she’s done a similar cross-country adventure with her boyfriend. It was definitely fun to trade adventure stories.

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Then we head out to explore the streets. I have no real intention of going to Bourbon Street, that is not my kind of party. But it was only a block away, so we walked it for two blocks just to see. There were plenty of super drunk people. It was super loud so I couldn’t hear an of the music coming out of the bars. Plus, the smell was horrendous; stale beer, urine, BO, throw up, and who knows what other smells do not combine together to make anything pleasant. We had one lady nail Dad in the head with beads when he wasn’t even looking. It was completely overwhelming, and far from my idea from fun.

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Luckily, as soon as we step off Bourbon Street things improve. We find a fantastic bar, 21st Amendment, that had a 3-piece Dixieland Jazz ensemble playing exceptional well. Plus, the bar specialized in old school cocktails. The drink menu looked fantastic, but it’s Sazerac for me while in New Orleans. We hangout in the bar for an hour listening to the music and then return to the car to camp for the night. Those two Sazerac cocktails kicked my ass, but I did sleep well that night.

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The next morning, we drive into New Orleans and the sky is crystal blue for a great view of the skyline.

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We headed straight to Cafe du Monde to get there before the long Saturday lines get started. I know that Dad will not tolerate a long line, even if this place is a New Orleans institution. Luckily, the line moves quickly and we are at our table. The beignets are just as good as everyone has ever said, with mounds of powdered sugar. My dad is a total neat freak, so this powder sugar is his worst nightmare. He tries to shake it off and tell him he can’t because that’s not the proper way to eat them. Unfortunately, neither Dad or I liked the chicory coffee from Cafe du Monde. It was super bitter and tasted burnt 😦

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It was still early in the day when we left to start exploring. My recommendation for my next visit to New Orleans – Don’t start early and take it easy during the day. We wander around Jackson Square to see the art, which is such high quality. I’ve been to street markets in other cities but this art was gallery quality. Then we headed down Royal Street to check out the architecture of the French Quarters. Street musicians were already setting up to play for the day. The French Quarter architecture is even more beautiful than what I’ve seen in pictures and movies. And the street musicians create the soundtrack for Dad and I’s New Orleans adventure.

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The absolute best part of wandering around was when Dad had a street performer show him how to do his gig. The man would stand perfectly still mid-stride walking his dog. What was amazing, the street act was Uncle Louie and Lil Willie. How perfect is it that my dad’s name is Louie too! It was so much fun to watch I could barely stop laughing enough to get these pictures!

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Dad is not as found as I am for wandering around exploring architecture and looking at the shops. I had checked off two other items on my New Orleans list – beignets and explore the French Quarter. I have ghost tour and drink a hurricane at Pat O’Briens left. So I decide to take the swamp tour which I had been planning for the next day in the afternoon and to do the ghost tour that night. We head back towards the car and ate at a great little bar, Backspace Bar & Kitchen. This was one of the best burgers we’ve had on the journey. We were fueled up and ready to head out to the swamp.

I think that a Swamp Tour is a must do activity for a trip to New Orleans. I read the reviews and we go with Cajun Pride Tours. Cajun Pride owns a 25-acre swamp sanctuary that there is no hunting or fishing and only their tours are allowed. Our tour guide Brandon is fantastic. He tells us about the ecology of the swamp that we are boating through. He also brings aboard a few of the animals that make this swamp home. We get to hold baby turtles, a snake, and a baby alligator with it’s mouth taped shut. There were several people who were scared to scared the animals, the only one I was nervous about was the tiny baby turtle. I was afraid I would hurt it picking it up. Dad wasn’t so worried so he scoped it up and put it in my hands. Our guide also stopped and called over the alligators and fed them some chicken. He fed them straight from his hand. Brandon admitted getting bit was sometimes and occupational hazard, but he loved what he was doing.

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Being on the swamp was super nice. It wasn’t that hot and the boat provided plenty of shade. There weren’t even mosquitos around to suck out more of my blood. Finally, when the tour was over our guide brought us over to see his pet Louisiana alligator snapping turtle that was 40 years old. He brought his pet turtle to the tour because he knew everyone would love to see it, and his boss then built a nice tank for the turtle. He was huge and definitely snapped when he’d rub the neck of the turtle to show how the turtle hunted.

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I definitely loved the swamp tour. It was one of the best tours I’ve ever been on. The bummer after the tour was I ended up with a horrendous headache which colored the rest of my experience. I fought hard to ignore the pain and to enjoy, but I was bummed I wasn’t feeling 100%. Dad thinks I was allergic to something in the swamp which gave me the headache, and that is probably true.

We headed back into the French Quarter to be back for our Ghost Tour. A Ghost Tour is another requirement for visiting New Orleans. This place is haunted! We went with the Walking Phantom’s Tour, and our guide Luke was excellent. New Orleans has some grizzly history and horrifying residents in it’s past. Dad was daring to walk under the balcony of the lalaurie mansion and opened up the mailboxes and such to try to find some ghosts. I stayed across the street sending him blessings of protection.

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The tour did get interrupted twice by a second line parade for weddings. The entire wedding party would march through the streets of the French Quarter lead by the first line made up of a marching band. I really loved this New Orleans tradition.

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I still wasn’t feeling better after the tour, so we headed to get dinner. I found another great restaurant off the beaten path. Mojo Lounge was a total dive with fantastic food. We had toasted brie with apples and chicken cordon bleu. It was perfect. I swore I saw Dad lick the plate. After, we walked right past Pat O’Briens but there would be no hurricanes for me this visit. I wasn’t even up to listening to more jazz. We just headed back to the car to get some sleep and hopefully I would feel better in the morning. Luckily, I did, but I still have a few items left on my checklist, so I will just need to visit New Orleans again!

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