Saturday, June 1, 2013

New Orleans: Angry French Tourists, defying physics, and braving new foods

Last week I packed up the car and drove off in to the sunset.  Well, I drove South East so not really but that is beside the point. I went home and saw some people there. I then headed for the Big Easy (New Orleans in case you didn't want to take the time to Google it but feel free to once you're done reading). I intended to spend two days and nights down there before jumping over to Houston to see some family, but that was not to be the case. It was still a fantastic trip. It just got cut a little short.

So, let's start with the drive. Personally, this was my first jaunt South of Shreveport, Louisiana, and I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it was flat. That was pretty much all I had to go on. What I didn't know was that it was basically a no man's land. The speed limit is 75 mph out there. I presume this is because there is pretty much NOTHING between Shreveport and Alexandria for you to damage other than yourself and some trees. Needless to say, it was a long, quiet 4 hours until I hit Lafayette. From that point, the traffic and the weather became a little more interesting. I had heard about the random rain patterns down there but I honestly didn't believe the tales. Nope. All true. Random rain every afternoon. Apparently, there is SO much humidity that it just gets over saturated and you get rained on. Going across Lake Pontchartrain wasn't so much a site to see as a site to stay alive across. Thanks, Science! 

I made it to New Orleans and began to have some second thoughts about the hotel I chose. The neighborhood was...less than friendly looking. It all worked out though! The Olde Town Inn turned out to be a little hidden treasure. It's an older set of buildings that may have been a boarding house at one time (can't find any history on it...its frustrating me). It is located a few blocks from Frenchman Street and just a little further than that from Bourbon Street. I never even had to move the car! Maybe I am weird but I slept better in that creaky old house than I do in most modern hotels. I guess it reminded me of home. It is even yellow like my parent's place!! 

Now, when I got to the main building to check in, there was a group of people in various states of repose outside and inside. Inside was where the action was, however. A small Asian woman and a large French man were at the desk behind which was a more than slightly frazzled looking man. I don't speak French but it was obvious the larger mammal was pissed. He was all bent out of shape about something. Well, I was hot and hungry and had made my reservation via my phone. I carefully edged my way to the desk and did the socially awkward non verbal dance of "hey can i get in here?" with the small Asian woman (who also looked very frazzled at this point). I introduced myself and the desk clerk, Sam, got me signed in, grabbed some keys and darted out the front door with me in tow. 

"Thank God you showed up! Could you see the look of terror in my eyes?!" -Sam

You did look a bit stressed. What was his problem? Well seems that tour groups generally bunk down dorm style and that massive old French dude thought he was getting a private room and was essentially throwing a fit. I was a welcome respite in Sam's day so he might regroup and come at that problem from another side. He showed me to my room (#13) and left me to my devices (i.e. drag bags from car to room etc.).

Once I was settled in, I wandered back to the front office to ask about where to go and what to do while I was in town. Sam provided pretty much my entire itinerary.  According to Sam, Frenchman Street is where the local music scene has resettled since Bourbon has become so commercial. I didn't care. I thought it was amazing. As I was walking down Frenchman, there was a brass ensemble on the corner across from the Praline Connection. Full on Zydeco brass joy to my ears! I had dinner at The Praline Connection on Frenchman Street at the suggestion of Sam, the desk clerk at the hotel. It was fantastic. I had my first Po Boy and it was a shrimp Po Boy. It was MASSIVE and yes I took half of it home. That was also where I tried my first praline. Before you judge me on having never tried these things, remember that I am a food coward and not normally into trying new foods....period. While I was having dinner, I got to see some of the local color. By that I mean, I VERY large trumpet player got knocked straight out by a tiny little woman. She was tiny and mad as hell about something. He was large and laid out cold on the curb. Police were called. Statements were taken. Necks and hands were moved fiercely back and forth to display just how serious this all was. It was very thrilling. I got dinner AND a show. 

flaming fountain at Pat O'brien's!
Newest family member
I strolled on down to Bourbon Street because that is what tourists in New Orleans are supposed to do. I got a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's (the big one was full of tasty tasty regret and poor life choices). I visited a simply wonderful voodoo shop (no pictures allowed inside alas). It is understood that when any of us go out of town at least two things must be acquired; a shot glass for my collection of shot glasses and a mug for Minion's coffee mug collection. I also was on a mission to find some kitschy "Your Name street/ave/place" sign or what have you for the younger spawn to hang on their door since the bigger one had something from Vegas. Into the not all that original or surprising tourist junk shop I went. Found a street sign for the kid and matching shot glass/mug set for the Minion and myself. But this little guy over here was the true find. Minion also has a thing fro giraffes. So, of course, we can't NOT buy her giraffes when we see them. As the newly added NGSW Minion, he is the PERFECT little addition to her giraffe family. Voodoo giraffe. I may have actually squeed...out public. People looked at me funny. 

 I didn't stay out too late as I was starting to hurt again (see this post for more details) and wanted more than anything to make that stop. It didn't. Not for a good long while. Once it finally did subside, I slept better than I had in any other hotel in the last year or so. Again, I think it's because I grew up in a house from the same era and it was pretty much like being home. Breakfast was about the only let down of the Olde Town Inn. It didn't really offer much and I chose to ask the office about a good place to have brunch. Who Dat Coffee Cafe was right around the block. Amazing French toast, fresh fruit, and artsy decor made for a fine brunch before setting off to the French Market and my final stops for the day before heading home thanks to the kidney stones. I simply needed to be home. My body was being very firm about this point. 

While I was in New Orleans, I saw gorgeous architecture, beautiful plants, a melange of cultures and heard the strangest language known to the human ear; Louisiana Creole (I think). This completely perplexing language (to anyone NOT used to it) is a mix of French, Spanish, African, and Native American. I would hear someone speaking it and try to grasp what I was hearing only to be no less mystified and shaking my head. I enjoyed my time in New Orleans quite a lot. There were a few things I wanted to see that I was unable to, but that just means I get to go back at some point to do so. 

Now, I have to start working on other things (side jobs and cartoon drawing and what not). 

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