I have travelled a lot in the United States. I’ve been to big huge glistening cities and lazy beaches. I’ve lived in the high desert of southern New Mexico and spent hours exploring the adjacent mountains. Of all the places I’ve been my favorite is New Orleans.
I always wanted to go to N’awlins as the locals call it, but it wasn’t until my daughter was about 18 months old that we finally went. We stayed in a hotel that had previously been an apartment building on Rampart St. which is the north edge of the French Quarter. Everyday, we’d put the baby in her stroller and we’d walk. We had discovered that parking in the Quarter was both precarious and costly, so we just walked. We’d walk down to Cafe du Monde and have beignets and cafe lattes every morning. Then we’d wander the French Market or just walk up and down the streets and look at everything. We got our picture taken with a guy painted gold who freaked me out just a little and I took a picture of a little boy who was tap dancing with a bike wheel spinning on top of his head. We saw fortune tellers and artists set up around Jackson Square. We saw bums and runaways. For a couple of years after the trip, every time my daughter saw pictures, she would point and say “ORLEEEENS!! I wanna go back to Orleeeens!!” It was amazing.
For the last two years, we’ve gone to NOLA for spring break, and she has not disappointed. We’ve seen people walking around in Mardi Gras costumes, we’ve gone to The Presbytere, a free museum near Jackson Square that will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about Mardi Gras. We found a state park office on Decatur St. that is in possession of the cleanest, safest bathrooms in the Quarter. We tend to walk waaaay out of our way to get there too, believe me. We ate popcorn alligator at The Gazebo Cafe right at the edge of Latrobe Park. We ate on a restaurant balcony overlooking the Joan of Arc statue near the French Market. There was a storm moving in, and the clouds were spectacular, but I had a hard time fully appreciating it because I was so afraid that the balcony was going to collapse. It didn’t collapse and the food was great and I want to go back again.
We also went out to Bayou Coquille to see what a real swamp looks like. It was full of amazing wildlife, like alligators that like to lay right next to the wooden boardwalk, which is a really quick way to cut your walk short I might add. We saw huge turtles, ok, just one and it was in the mouth of an enormous gator, but I digress. We also saw snakes and frogs and weird bugs. We heard an owl hoot in the middle of the day. We saw cyprus trees and their weird little knees. It was amazing.
I also ate the first oyster of my life in New Orleans. My husband had been there on business and took us to a restaurant called Drago’s. They had oysters on the half shell that were encrusted with parm cheese, breadcrumbs, butter and various spices, then broiled on a platter together. We, kids included, ate so many and kept ordering more, that we couldn’t eat any more. Oysters are generally like slimy little phlegm balls, but not these. It’s the only place I think I’ll ever be able to have them. We also ate at a place called Tommy’s that had me eating another thing I hate. Bananas. We had some kind of caramelly, wonderful, flaming banana dessert there and I couldn’t stop eating them. The food in New Orleans is unbelievable.
I could go on and on and on, but blog entries that get too long tend to lose people, so I’ll stop, but next time you are looking for a cool, weird, live and let live kind of place to go on vacation, give The Big Easy a try. It’s awesome and kids love it too.
Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!