A gorgeous day in The Big Easy today, but so, SO humid! I think we started sweating the moment we stepped out of our hotel. We are staying right on Canal St, so we headed past dozens of colorful souvenir stores (all selling the same T-shirts, Mardi Gras masks, bead necklaces, etc) to Jackson Square. There are some incredible artists set up at the square, their paintings hung on the Square’s cast iron fence. I loved looking (and buying) some prints (because I can’t fit originals into my suitcase!) while a little jazz band played on one of the balconies overlooking the square. Then there are the buskers, fortune tellers, the street performers, the guy with a boa constrictor around his neck, the young guys tap dancing in the sweltering heat, the lines of mule drawn carts, the Café du Monde and coffee/beignets. Can you tell that New Orleans fascinates me?
We also stopped in at the Presbytere (one of the Louisiana State Museums) to visit the Hurricane Katrina exhibit. DH and I went last year while we were here, but we wanted the girls to have an appreciation of what a major catastrophe this was to the city. Also on display at the museum was a Mardi Gras display and the costumes we saw were incredible. Going to Mardi Gras one year is now firmly on my bucket list.
Back to our room to cool off, I bought my first pumpkin spice latte – wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be! Not something that exists in New Zealand, so I thought I may as well try while I can. After a relaxing swim in the pool, we headed to a restaurant called Daisy Duke’s for dinner. Tee was brave enough to try an alligator sausage po-boy, while I wasn’t so brave and had a popcorn shrimp po-boy with a cup of gumbo on the side. Unfortunately, the gumbo was a little too spicy for me so I didn’t eat most of it.
Our evening’s entertainment was the Haunted History 5-in-1 tour which was the same tour we did last year. We’d enjoyed it so much, we wanted to share the experience with the girls – and in one of those funny coincidences, we ended up with the same tour guide! Once again, we thoroughly enjoyed Gabriel’s way of storytelling, even though the subject matter was fascinatingly gruesome at times. Personally we didn’t spot any ghosts, but a woman on our tour took a photo of an empty window and there was definitely a shadowy shape in the photo that wasn’t there when we were looking at it. Spoooooky.
Once the tour had finished, we led the teens back through Bourban St which was really pumping and packed solid. The noise and craziness got the best of Miss 16 after a few blocks, so we crossed over to a quieter street in the French Quarter to make our way back to the hotel.
The next morning we overslept and had to wolf down a quick breakfast before heading in light rain to our city bus tour. We had a very engaging lady driver called Mickey who kept us entertained and informed as we drove. One of the stops was at a ‘City of the Dead’ cemetary (not sure which one) which we couldn’t really see much of as the rain was really coming down at that point. One tomb that she did tell us about made me smile – a woman who’d spent a quarter of a million on a family crypt for her and her dog, and her son was told he couldn’t be buried with her. Mickey surmised that maybe he’d kicked her dog and got himself disinherited…
We were also shown where the 17th Street canal breeched it’s banks after hurricane Katrina, and we could barely imagine how horrific the damage and aftermath must’ve been. Sobering stuff, especially when we saw by Lake Pontchartrain a new ‘dam’ that had been constructed and our tour guide asked us if we thought it would be effective against a rising lake level…to be honest, I thought the ‘dam’ was part of the sidewalk, so that was a big ‘no’ from me.
Later in the afternoon we drove out of town to do a Cajun Encounter tour in the Pearl River Honey Island Swamp. My day, nay, week was made when we spotted two raccoons snuffling around the undergrowth behind the public restrooms. OMG they were just the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
The boat tour was also fascinating. We saw a few ‘gators, another cute but shy raccoon, and two wild pigs that are evidently well known to the tour guides as they’d named them Oreo and Mama. One of the sows, Mama, was not at all shy and came right up to the boat waiting for the guide to feed her some dried corn.
On the return trip up river, our very cool guide gave us some Cajun cooking 101 tips. Sadly, he didn’t know me well enough to realise it was completely wasted information on me as cooking and me aren’t buddies. Once again we really loved our time in New Orleans, but there is still more of this fascinating city we want to explore.