Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Week Down In N'awlins

Last month my dad had a business conference in New Orleans, a place I'd wanted to visit for a long time, so my sister, nephew and I decided to tag along for a week-long vacation in Louisiana. 

New Orleans is about an 8 hour drive from Dallas, so we packed into a rental van and road-tripped it down south. It was interesting for me to see how the geography changed as we went eastward; eastern Texas was much greener and hillier than where we live, and that eventually gave way to bayous as we got closer to New Orleans.

Our hotel was the Four Corners Sheraton right on Bourbon Street. In our ignorance, we didn't realize till we got there just what that meant. I've been to Kabuki-cho in Tokyo and the Vegas strip, but it's hard to find so much concentrated sleaziness all in one small place like you do on Bourbon Street. You'll bypass mounted policeman, hordes of drunk tourists flashing each other to get more beads and hookers dressed in pleather every color of the rainbow as you attempt to bar-hop (or just get to your hotel, like in our case.) There were bars that crunched underfoot and actually dripped on me. The key to having a good time on Bourbon Street seems to be getting so drunk you stop noticing the slime.

That said, staying down in the French Quarter was awesome. The architecture and crazy little shops and bars everywhere you turned made for some fun adventures. We took in the major sites, like St. Louis Cathedral, one of the oldest in the U.S., Jackson Square and the Mississippi River. We spent an afternoon shopping at the French Market, America's oldest open-air marketplace, and got beignets and cafe au laits at the Cafe du Monde.

St. Louis Cathedral
Beignets at the Cafe du Monde (beware the powdered sugar!!)
We celebrated Mother's Day while we were there by going to a live Gospel brunch at The House of Blues. The music was amazing and the food awesome. 

Of course we also ate a lot of good Cajun food, like Jamabalaya and crawfish etoufee. We also went on a ghost tour, which was a little kooky but a fun way to hear about the city's history, heard amazing live jazz music and visited the Lafayette Graveyard that was used in Interview With a Vampire.

For me, the highlight of the trip was the boat tour we did in the bayou. It was through an agency called Cajun Encounters, who use Louisiana natives and biologists for their guides. Our guide was knowledgeable and really entertaining, and we loved getting an up close look at the bayou and a number of alligators.

Apparently traditional gator-bait in the bayou is hot dogs and marshmallows.
I really have to recommend visiting New Orleans; the history of the place is fascinating and the modern city is equally vibrant. Just don't stay on Bourbon Street, or if you do, bring your ear plugs.

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