Day 21 ~ In which #KiwiChickInUSA visits the Big Easy…
We left Baton Rouge where we’d spent the night and drove through a torrential rain shower to New Orleans. Like the weather in the Far North of New Zealand (shameless plug for my Far North series Hide Your Heart and Know Your Heart) the weather can go from sunshine to rain to back to sunshine again in only a short space of time. The cloud cover was appreciated as even though it was a little muggy, we didn’t have the heat of the sun to contend with as we finally found some reasonably price parking (OMG the parking is EXPENSIVE in the city) and walked to the Segway tour of the city we’d booked.
I have to admit to a teensy bit of smugness at being able to hop on a Segway this time as a seasoned pro (LOL) and without too much instruction, we were off bouncing down the very rough streets of the French Quarter. Some amazing buildings and architectural styles here, and very cool to buzz down the famous Bourban Street and see the beads/flowers etc hanging off the wrought iron balconies, just how I’d seen them in books/movies etc. We stopped briefly in Jackson Square and were able to wander through the park and take a peek inside the USA’s oldest cathedral (though I believe it’d been rebuilt since a fire razed it in the 1800s?). We did get caught by a fairly heavy shower and while others in the tour put on their bright blue Oompa-Loompa rain ponchos, DH and I are made of tough Kiwi stuff and waited it out. Sure enough, the sun was back out again in ten minutes or so.
For lunch we backtracked to Cafe Du Monde, famous for it’s coffee and beignets. I ordered with a mumble because I had no idea how to pronounce ‘beignets’ but since everyone in the Cafe was getting the exact same thing, it was cool and the server knew what I meant. Word of advice, don’t go here if you’re in a hurry as the servers are rushed off their feet with the huge volume of customers. The coffee and beignets were well worth the wait though – yum!
After lunch we strolled down one side of Jackson Square to the Louisiana museum where we spent an hour looking at a exhibition about Hurricane Katrina. While the disaster was in the news a lot in New Zealand back in 2005, the impact of it didn’t really hit me until I had walked through the exhibition and had seen some of the streets that were affected. The spirit of bravery and resilience of the communities of NOLA, the everyday heroes and stories of strength have given me much admiration for this city.
This evening we went on a Haunted History 5-in-1 tour in the French Quarter. Our guide was Gabriel and during the 2 hour walking tour he had me completely spellbound with his stories of ghosts, vampires, and crimes committed in New Orleans. Gabriel was a natural storyteller and while chatting with him afterwards it came as no surprise that he was also a writer, working on his first novel. He if writes half as well as he tells stories I would totally buy his book. We had a lovely stroll around the streets of the French Quarter, and I think it was then, with the gas lamps, and the live bands and the beautiful old buildings and the OMG the amazing history that I fell in love with NOLA.
After the tour, we stopped at Pat O’Brian’s pub to try a New Orleans’ classic cocktail, the Hurricane. We sat in the piano bar and listened to some amazing live music with a very enthusiastic bar. By the time DH and I went to leave I realized three things (one of them just now as I’m typing this – that ‘realized’ is a reeeeaaally hard word to spell at times). The first is the Hurricane is bloody lethal to someone who doesn’t drink much alcohol. Two, New Orleans is super awesome and I could spend a LOT more time here quite happily – it’s funky and raw and real and weird and cool all rolled into one sweaty mass (at least in summer). And having typed a lot of this, I think this slightly tipsy writer who got the giggles mistaking a black and white taxi cab for the PO-lice, better go to bed.
Day 22 ~ In which #KiwiChickInUSA eats a Po-Boy and walks through the City of the Dead…
Before you ask, no, I didn’t wake up with a hangover, though I was still pretty damn tired. All this amazing touring stuff is taking it out of me – I need a vacation. Bet you don’t feel sorry for me…I wouldn’t either. So, today. We drove into the Garden District of New Orleans this morning, taking the chance that we’d be able to find some parking near the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, and as luck would have it, we found one right outside. Inside the cemetery it’s kinda creepy and beautiful and sad and damn fascinating reading the tomb inscriptions and imagining the lives of the people who once walked NOLA’s streets. Above all, it was peaceful…though really, really hot!
Back in the Dodge, we drove around some of the Garden District, goggling at the amazing houses and stopping briefly outside Ann Rice’s old residence. Interview with the Vampire was one of the first vampire books I read as a teenager and it’s made me want to reread the whole series now that I’ve visited Ann’s ‘vampire town.’ We also cruised by Sandra Bullock’s residence (one of my favorite actresses) but unfortunately she wasn’t around to invite DH and I in for a cuppa.
Next, we parked up in the cheapest parking garage we could find near the French Quarter – which as you can imagine, involved A LOT of walking to reach the actual French Quarter. And holy crap, does American cities need to install MORE FREE PUBLIC RESTROOMS. Tourists need to pee, officials! Especially when they’re not used to chugging 50 litres of water a day to try and stay hydrated. Anyway, I digress. We finally made it to Jackson Square again, where I *again* felt sorry for the mules lined up with their carriages ready to pull tourists around in the stinking heat, and met up with the tour guide for our Tastebud Tours. Tastebud tours is a walking/sampling of NOLA cuisine tour, and of course if it involves food, DH and I are in. 😉 We stopped in at five places and sampled a Po-Boy, jambalaya and gumbo, cannoli, muffaletta sandwich, and a pecan praline. The food was very tasty, but learning more about New Orlean’s history and the cultures that make up it were wonderful.
After the tour had finished I just had to go back to a souvenir shop where I’d discovered these treasures and buy one of my own. He’ll hang from the shelf of my office desk at home and remind me of NOLA.
We opted to take a bike taxi to the St Charles streetcar stop from the French Quarter because we were just too stuffed to walk the 7+ blocks in the heat. We jumped on a streetcar and traveled the length of the St Charles line, just enjoying resting our feet and watching the world go by. Some incredible houses on this route, blew our minds.