When we got back to Chattanooga, I think Jess and I would both admit, we were ready to get out of the RV. It had been a tough couple of days in Colorado, capped by three straight days of driving. That feeling for me lasted from when we arrived in town Saturday until my conference ended Wednesday. Once it was over, I was ready to roll. I think Jess was ready to get on the road even sooner. And roll we did.
For starters, it was a different kind of trip for us. Braden was staying with one set of grandparents and then the other. The plan was for my folks to fly out to Big Bend National Park with Braden in about 10 days. They were happy to have him, and we were happy to head to New Orleans without a 4-year-old.
We took I-59 from Chattanooga all the way to Louisiana. Luckily, the road is much better than it used to be. I can remember only a few years ago, I-59 felt like riding a horse.
We stopped and ate a Zoës Kitchen in Birmingham. We called my cousin Teresa from I-459 to ask them to dinner, giving them at least 10 minutes to come join us. They missed seeing Braden but we had a good visit.
A little farther down the road, we had a new experience when we were passed by half a house and then passed by the second half a little while later. I’m fine with driving slow, but when you see a “wide load” buzzing past you, it stings a little.
We zipped through Alabama, stayed a night in Meridian, Mississippi and drove into Louisiana.
While in Chattanooga and Atlanta, several people asked me if I had lost weight. Best I can tell, I lost 15-20 pounds from May to September. Eating out less and drinking more water is probably what did it.
I bring that up only to say that I did my best to gain the 15 pounds back in New Orleans. Our first night, we went with a Hank Williams special: jambalaya, crawfish pie, file gumbo. The jambalaya was good, the gumbo was okay and the crawfish pie was excellent. We also added some boudin (boo-dan) for the appetizer which is kind of like sausage with rice stuffed inside. It’s better than it sounds.
While there, we also had beignets at Cafe Du Monde (great) and barbecue shrimp at Dinny’s, which were okay and the messiest thing I’ve ever eaten. The name is a little deceiving because it was a lot more garlic than smoky or like BBQ sauce, but still tasty.
Our former neighbor Jenna had blogged about how people either love or hate New Orleans. I think we were somewhere in the middle.
When we first arrived, the state park I had booked a month back was closed due to flooding. It would have been nice if the folks at Bayou Segnette had let me know, but it wasn’t a huge deal. They pointed me toward another state park on the other side of town. Both were about 30 minutes from the French Quarter and both were about $24 so it wasn’t a big deal. En route, we saw a RV park downtown so we pulled off to check it out. In case you were wondering, RV spots at the French Quarter RV Park start at $100 at night. For a parking spot. On a week night in September.
Needless to say, our state park was sounding good. We stayed for three nights for less than one night would have cost at French Quarter. The campground was practically empty, aside from some giant spiders.
During the day, I worked (including a video conference call from a library), but at night, we went into the French Quarter. The first night, we stuck to Bourbon Street. It was a big disappointment, starting with the music. Having heard blues on Beale Street in Memphis and honky tonk music on Broadway in Nashville, we expected to hear jazz. Instead, we heard cover bands playing things like “Taking Care of Business” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”
There were also a shocking number of strip clubs mixed in, including the super trashy “Barely Legal Hustler Club” that advertised young dancers. A woman smacked Jess on the bottom while we walked down the street and a man on a balcony asked her to show off her tatas. She didn’t, but he threw some beads to her anyway. On a Tuesday night. In September. I kept waiting, but no one did either of those to me. Maybe next time.
There were lots of puddles in the road, despite the fact it hadn’t rained. I don’t want to think about it. Give me Broadway, Beale, Austin’s 6th Street or Fremont Street in Vegas any day over Bourbon Street.
But let’s not dwell on the negatives. The food was incredible and once we got off of Bourbon Street, we really liked the French Quarter. The architecture was beautiful and we found some really neat high-end antique shops and artist studios.
Best of all, we finally found some excellent jazz at the Preservation Music Hall. Now, personally, the Weather Channel just about ruined jazz for me growing up in the 1990s, but these guys may have brought it back.
The Music Hall was a dilapidated building without AC or any concession stands. They don’t allow any photos or video once the show begins and you can see the hip-high water stains on the wall where the floodwaters from Katrina came through. We paid $15 each to get in and I would have easily been happy paying twice that. The band consisted of a drummer, trombone, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and piano. There was not a microphone in sight. These guys had obviously been around the block a few times and the way they played off of each other was great. They do three shows a night, but the whole show took us way back to what we were hoping for. As it turns out the Preservation Hall Band tours and is a bigger deal than we realized.
The next night we he saw the Daper Dandies play a concert at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens. They were clearly very talented, but their stage presence, along with the audience and atmosphere were a far cry from Preservation Hall. It was a pretty botanical gardens, but not anywhere near as nice as San Diego, Atlanta or St. Louis. It was, however, the first botanical gardens we’ve seen that had a miniature train village with replicas of landmarks built in.
Another highlight was the architecture. I took the Thursday afternoon off after my conference call and we explored the Garden District and one of the cemeteries on the St. Charles streetcar. The houses were gorgeous and we felt very safe walking through that area in the daylight. No one tried to smack Jess’s bottom there.
On the way back to the campground, we did wind up unexpectedly taking a ferry. Luckily this was in the Honda, not the tow car. We followed our GPS right into the line to get onboard. Oops. It was only $1, but it did take an extra 90 minutes to get home. FYI, a Garmin GPS has an “Avoid Ferries” setting that you should use when driving around New Orleans.
New Orleans bills itself as the most unique city in America, and it’s unfortunate that I’ve found myself comparing it so much to other cities. Maybe that’s my problem. Either way, it was indeed unique.
Onward to Texas Part 2!