First of all, I would like to apologize to my friends who were kind enough to accompany me on this adventure. Why am I apologizing? Because I’m an adventure-holic travel zombie who tries to squeeze a lot of activities into a small amount of time. So, if I rushed you and/or wore you out, sorry. My bad.
My latest adventure involved New Orleans! Friend T and I flew from our home city to New Orleans, LA late on Monday, where friend E picked us up. I haven’t traveled with T in years, and E lives in another state and was luckily able to meet us in NOLA. It was really nice to travel with both!
At first, I was apprehensive that our hotel would be some sort of dystopian, prostitute-filled, reeking hell based on the TripAdvisor reviews. But it was cheap, and for the price, just fine. I think people on TripAdvisor are sometimes overly dramatic. Get it together, people. I searched for bed bugs, and am 97% confident that there weren’t any. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was fine.
Tuesday, we started our day at Cafe Du Monde, which is apparently a pretty famous cafe. It’s open 24 hours, but we arrived mid-morning for a cafe au lait, orange juices, and (of course) beignets. Beignets are delicious, but powdered sugar might not be the greatest way to start your day…especially when one friend crop-dusts another with it (actually, that is the greatest way to start my day!) on accident. I made them shop around the Market with me before we piled into the car.
We went to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, where we were able to enter for free and even receive a behind-the-scenes tour due to E’s aquarist connections. Also, big thanks to Konnor, the aquarist who gave us our insightful little tour. It was a cool aquarium with lots to see. I especially enjoyed the cuttlefish, frogs, and giant-ass tarpons. Seriously, those things were HUGE. It was also really cool to see some new animals: alligator gar, and paddlefish.
After we finished through the Aquarium, we hopped on to the streetcar. T saw the Famous Gumbo Pot, so we hopped off and had some gumbo and fried eggplant. It was tasty, and just right for a small lunch. The Gumbo Yaya came with shrimp, chicken, and sausage – as a vegetarian with loose morals, I tasted the chicken and sausage before putting it in my friends’ bowls (shrimp is nasty, and also now I can’t stop hearing E pronounce it with a painfully southern accent). There was a weird little half-crab in the soup, too, but none of us knew how to eat that. Plus, I’m not a fan of crab either.
Bellies full, we meandered over to the French Quarter. It was very fun just looking in shops and at artwork, and absorbing the vibrant street life. There were people playing music everywhere, reading fortunes, and performing side-show acts (swallowing knives, being a teddy bear, etc.). While we were looking for stuff to do as we walked, I realized that the Faulkner House was there. William Faulkner is my favorite writer; The Sound and the Fury has some of the most beautiful writing in the English language and some of the most beautiful characters, and Light in August is wonderfully bittersweet.
So of course I got us lost in search of the Faulkner House. We were standing in Jackson Park, across from the Church. The House was just across the walkway, but Google Maps decided to take me the most confusing route possible. We ended up on Bourbon Street, which was fine, but none of us seemed too keen to drink alcohol, so we left. After some confused searching, we found the Faulkner House. It was being painted, so no wonder I missed it on the first go.
This year will be ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, so we opted to go to the Hurricane Katrina museum and the Louisiana History museum. Both were fascinating, but the Katrina museum was much more engaging for me personally. The use of media really hit home the human aspect of how much was lost from that Hurricane. As an environmentalist, I believe very strongly in protecting the environment and in the intrinsic value of nature itself, but first and foremost, humans depend on a healthy environment in order to survive and thrive. The egregious loss of wetland in Louisiana (the Bayou) exacerbated the effects of Hurricane Katrina and, when coupled with further loss, sea level rise, and changing weather, will continue to be an issue.
But preaching aside, we enjoyed both museums until they closed. We walked back to the car; I thought it would have taken longer, but we were actually not that far away after all. Walking along the Mississippi River was interesting. It was dinner time, and we were hungry, but it was difficult to find somewhere to eat. Everywhere we thought sounded good was either closed or too pricey for our poor little budgets. When we ended back up in the French Quarter, we just gave up and ate at the Gumbo Shop. They even had a veggie meal!
After dinner, we strolled down to the Louis Armstrong park. With all of its trees and statues, it was beautiful; I’m sure the archway sign is beautiful when illuminated. However, it was also a little sketchy looking. I’m pretty sure I saw one teenager sell drugs to another. Youths!
At 7:30 pm, we went on a walking tour of New Orleans. Naturally, we chose the one that focused on the haunted aspects! While I personally do not believe in ghosts or the supernatural (although I may be more easily persuaded when I’m home alone, tired, and have been watching scary movies), I really liked our tour. Our guide, Denise, was a sweet older lady with just the right amount of sass who grew up in the French Quarter. Hearing her family’s story, histories, and experiences, along with the history behind the “hauntings” was really really cool.
The next day, we woke up sort of early, grabbed some breakfast at an IHOP about 45 minutes out of NOLA, and hit up Grand Isle, Louisiana. It is a barrier island with actual beaches on the Gulf (not just marsh). After some worried driving, we found a “park” with beach access. There were no bathrooms, so we just changed into our swimsuits behind a car. I know that the Gulf is gross, and there are all sorts of oil rigs in the water, and all sorts of oil in the water (it was washed up on the beach – GROSS!), but I just can’t help myself. I love, love, LOVE swimming in the water. So I ran in and we swam in the waves for a good couple of hours.
Since there were no sinks or anything, we just changed back into our clothes and headed down the road to Grand Isle State Park. The $6 admission would have been more worth it if I’d waited to go to the beach, because they had nice enough beaches for swimming, plus a shower and bathrooms. Oops! We just took pictures and walked along the pier. There were some beautiful shorebirds congregating in the marsh, though, and that was lovely to see. I will say, I am glad we went to the beach we did, because it was very empty. Both places were fun, though.
I got to help drive on the way back, which I’m sure was really fun for my friends because I’m an excellent driver. Don’t listen to anybody who tells you otherwise. I mean, it’s not like we hit anyone, even when they were driving like fools. We drove back to the French Quarter and tasted some hot sauces, grabbed some dinner at a snooty, expensive pizza place with excellent artichoke appetizers and amazing vanilla bourbon pecan pie (although I don’t really like pecan pie). After some half-hearted wandering and a stop in a witch-craft store, we headed back to the hotel, cleaned up good, and packed our things away.
In the morning, T and I said goodbye to E before heading home ourselves. My cat definitely missed me, and I definitely missed my bed, but that night I did have to work. Oh well! Such is life.
Days in Photos:
Well! That’s it for the South for now. I look forward to What Adventures Await me there in the coming future as well!