Coming back to New Orleans is such a treat. Even in our ‘ever so slightly done in’ state when we arrived last night, we still went out to dinner, still watched some American football (New Orleans won!) and much appreciated the hotel being just as good as last time. We were able to fully take in the scenery on our arrival into the city, as this time, our transport was via a taxi from the airport. You always wonder if a place will be as good as you remember it, but, catching sight of familiar buildings was reassuring and our short walk in search of dinner left us comfortable that little had changed. Creaky floors and a steep staircase in the restaurant, coupled with friendly service and good food, spoke of an easy homecoming, as did the fun and laughter on the street below. As for the music, it is still loud, still vibrant and still pouring out of every bar and restaurant.
Today, our first full day, in the heat – even for me, it is off the scale – and in the hot, bright sun, my sun glasses broke. Bother, or words to that effect, so a walk to buy more and an even longer walk to claim back some tax. There is no doubt that walking enables you to see more of the scenery and the river front which we followed was certainly worth looking at. How amazing to bump into Allan Oldfield, Chief Exec of Fylde. I am not sure who was the more surprised, Allan or Carolyn, but we enjoyed some lighthearted banter before continuing what we thought to be a short stroll. However, by the time we had taken a couple of wrong turns in search of the shopping centre which housed a small tax refund office, we were much in need of a cold drink. This was accomplished quickly, along with some beignets (a New Orleans speciality which are a bit like donuts). After the small tax refund and pondering whether it was worth the few thousand steps it took to find it, we went back into the sun and had lunch along the way with oysters and cold beer. Fabulous and we will definitely go back should we return to New Orleans in the future. But the afternoon had begun to really sizzle so we thought it prudent to step inside the air conditioned hotel for a while, plan tomorrow properly and prepare to visit a few bars this evening (it’s for the music, honestly!!)
For our last full day, we began with a walk down to the river to pick up the Hop-on Hop-off tour bus. We decided to do the walking tour at the Garden District… not exactly gardens, it turns out, but a visit to the outside of homes belonging to the rich and famous. Anyway, I now know where Sandra Bullock and John Goodman live, how much their homes are worth and how the previous owners had decorated. Actually, our guide was fun. Then it was more walking back to the bus (did I say it was hot, hot, hot with high humidity?!) before deciding we had earned lunch.
The guides here on the various tour buses all remind you to tip but I was hugely amused when one guy, possibly even older than me, asked for a contribution which would go towards his grandmother’s facelift!! Our New Orleans visit has been fabulous. In addition to the miles we have covered on foot, we have been shown the mighty Mississippi, the Casino, the Cathedral, the Superdome, the cemeteries, the World War 2 Museum, the Mardi Gras World, a variety of architecture and been told all sorts of fascinating claims and stories about the city and its occupants. The tour guides certainly inject a sense of fun with pointing out local ‘peculiarities’, including a car park mural of whales – known as the ‘whaling wall’ and a gold statue of Joan of Arc on a horse which is called ‘Joannie on her Pony’. Well, it appealed to my sense of humour.
Tomorrow the road trip begins as we pick up the car and drive to Houston.
Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities
After 22 hours on the go, a Cajun Platter and this Half Ass Beer (a couple!) round the corner from our hotel seemed the least we could do! — at Bourbon Orleans Hotel.
Food later included Fried Alligator bites followed by ribs with Mac ‘n’ Cheese at Crescent City Brewhouse. Oh, and, yes, beer as it was a brewhouse! Highly recommended.
Kath mentioned the amazing coincidence of ‘bumping into’ Allan Oldfield and his partner as they walked along the Mississippi. As a man was walking towards me from a distance, I, as I often do, thought that “vaguely looks like… ” However, I paid no more attention until he came closer and, as he passed me, I turned to look at the what I thought was a mere similarity. Allan, too, had turned and, as we faced each other… “Carolyn?”, he exclaimed incredulously. “Allan?!”, I replied as I moved from questioning to certainty with amazement. Wow! It wasn’t a gin joint, nor Casablanca but… a fabulous moment reminding us how small our world is and where our individual paths in life frequently cross!
Our usual Big Red Bus Tour started with a loop around ‘The Big Easy’ taking in, amongst so much else, Cemeteries (Nicholas Cage has a pyramid ready for himself in one!); Mardi Gras Exhibition; Basin Street, Armstrong Park, Harrah’s Casino (with some outdoor gaming machines for smokers!), World War 2 Museum and… Beyoncé’s New Orleans house.
Unlike the torrential rain on our New York Bus Tour, New Orleans had 35 degree wall-to-wall sunshine as a Kath and I tried to top up our tans on the open upper deck.
After starting to plan our schedule of ’get off and ons’ for tomorrow, lunch called and a beef Po’boy arrived in front of Kath! I have to report that she didn’t eat all of the fries but absolutely loved the rest! (Po’boy, by the way, came from ‘Poor boys’ who, when there was a closedown of the Streetcar Line, were given French bread to help them eat.)
Another fun day with a Gumbo demonstration this evening!
Street cleaning took on a whole new dimension for me this morning. Whilst walking down the pavement of Toulouse Street, I heard the deep, guttural sound of a large U.S. truck’s distinctive horn. Not once but several times it honked and I turned to face the monster and saw it coming towards me from the centre of the road spraying soapy water across the whole carriageway. As I stepped closer to the wall, it came past and the driver and I exchanged smiles and waves. “They don’t do things by halves”, I thought, as the suds shone and twinkled in the sunshine for several minutes after it passed by.
An extra thought, as I continued the long walk down Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, … could my efforts be titled… Toulouse – le trek?! Perhaps not!
An evening on Bourbon Street culminating with a Bourbon on Bourbon Street! What’s not to like?!
You don’t just walk down the Mississippi – you sail on it and the tram system is, we were told, the oldest!
Some extra fun – aka silliness – took place towards the end of a fun-filled day.