Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Young & Stupid? Yes. Have Fun. Pt. 2: New Orleans
We finally got on the road to New Orleans with little issues. We did stop at the Louisiana welcome center for a quick photo session with the Louisiana welcome sign and a random leather-clad biker (apparently New Zealand and England don't have bikers like ours).
When we arrive at the hotel that we had picked before we left I felt a bit...uneasy about it. I had been warned that it may be in a sketchy neighborhood...So I drove down to the French Quarter to see if we could find something better. Instead, we got mildly stuck crossing Bourbon street and found a lot of 'no vacancy' hotels. Back we went to the Midtown Regency Hotel to check in. It actually turned out to be delightful in that broken-elevator-wonky-lamp kinda way. There was also the one bed that we immediately deemed the 'Retarded Bed' due to the fact that one leg was broken and therefore tilted dangerously to one corner. The hotel had incredibly friendly and helpful staff though and only cost $44 a night; PLUS the air conditioning was in superb condition. We threw our stuff down, attempted to mask the smell of traveling and grabbed a cab to Bourbon St.
We begin at the beginning of Bourbon St and wander, stopping for jello shots, a daquiri for me and some delightfully cheap beer for the boys. Wandering the streets with an alcoholic beverage is a new experience for me, coming from Texas where liquor laws are strict and meant to stop most fun. There was a lovely moment where we stopped to lean on a police fence and people watch. We saw more than one high-heeled woman fall in the street. Due to drunkeness or the crappy broken asphalt, I can't say, but it was amusing all the same. We stopped in for a couple songs by a zydeco band at a place called Tropical Isle and sipped some 'grenades.' Apparently these are the strongest drinks on Bourbon. The band finished their set and we were ushered back out into the staggering heat and humidty that NOLA has to offer. We came upon another bar with live music and popped in for a few songs. By a few songs, I mean at 3:15am I checked my phone and wondered how on Earth it had gotten to be 3:15am. By 4am we were back at the hotel full of the worst cardboard-tasting pizza of all time. A small battle occurred over the Retarded Bed, which I thankfully won and we slept...till 11am.
So another important fact about our room that I forgot to mention: there were no windows. Our sorry asses finally got out of bed around 11am and met up with my old friends Amanda and Laura at a place called The Green Goddess in The French Quarter. It was down a charming French-looking alley and turned out to be absolutely beyond compare. Sam said it was the best food he'd eaten in America (he and Francesco split shrimp & grits). I even got some good photos of Sam licking the plate (those will come later). I had French Toast stuffed with fig compote and honey goat cheese and I cleaned my plate. After lunch we popped into an old bookstore down the street where I got some amazing old New Orleans postcards for my collection. Both were written on and sent in 1948. Amanda and Laura left us and we began our slow crawl through the city. We saw some colorful jazz art in Jackson Square, took photos of the river and stopped for necessary water and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans' famous beignet location. Once we finished Jackson Square we aimed ourselves towards a French Market that we could see on our map. As we approached this market we realized it was merely a collection of shops. Something did catch our eye though: a Jazz Heritage Museum. We popped in and found a concert going on! A group of brass instrument students and their teacher played an amazing jazz set including 'When You're Smiling." Turns out it was a celebration of Satchmo (aka Louis Armstrong). It was really cool to see a bit of New Orleans in real life.
We continued on our wandering and stumbled upon The Gazebo. Of course it was hot outside and their advertisements for Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade were irresistible to me. We rested our feet and listened to a live jazz band in the shade. I believe that's when we agree we all officially fell in love with New Orleans. It was just so nice in the shade with our cold drinks and the amazing band, nothing could have been better. Our love affair with the city continued as we wandered the farmer's market, eating alligator sausage and looking at all the knick-knacks. By the end of the market the heat had gotten to us all though, so we headed back to the hotel room to crash until dinner.
Dinner in New Orleans was another amazing moment in the culinary aspect of our trip. Our search for traditional New Orleans food led us to Gumbo Shop (thanks to Amanda). The boys had no idea what to get so I ordered for everyone. We all shared gumbo, jambalaya, cajun pasta and red beans & rice. I don't think there was a morsel left on any of our plates. As we wandered full & happy back to the car we voted New Orleans as best food of the trip...that title still belongs to NOLA.
So we met up with Amanda and Laura again and went out to another part of the city. Apparently more locals hang out at Frenchmen Street than on Bourbon so we headed that way. It was a good night overall. We had a couple drinks at one bar that used to be dubbed "Reggae Bar" (I have no idea what it actually is called) while we listened to some more live music, but we had an early morning the next day, so we headed back to the hotel for sleep.
laissez bon temps rouler!