no matter where you go, there you are

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

goin' down the bayou, takin' ya all the way

New Orleans was one of the few places neither Molly nor I had been. For my American travels, the southeast was always one of the places I'd never really been to except for Florida so when plotting details out, I made sure we both got to experience the South. We left in the morning from our hotel at the Harrah's in Mississippi, went to Dunkies in the casino and headed down to New Orleans. Because we were on the western edge of the state and the interstate runs down the middle, it wasn't any faster for us to take the interstate versus state highways; and as we learned at the beginning of the trip, state highways were preferable.

We entered New Orleans from the West on I-10 and even spending time on the sliver of highway that is made up of concrete columns over the bayou showed us we were somewhere we'd never been before. We checked into our hotel, chose a place to dine in the French Quarter, got a little lost getting there but soon parked and began our stroll down Bourbon St. Now, I'm not a party girl by any means so the appeal of Bourbon St. doesn't attract me in any way but I see why people love it so much. Sure it was Friday, but the bars were hopping and tons of people were strolling the streets with their beverages. It was crazy thinking this wasn't for an event, just a typical Friday night. The restaurant was nice and I ventured out of my comfort zone to try "local cuisine" of fried catfish, shrimp and oysters. The oysters were the most disgusting thing ever, but the rest wasn't bad. Molly had jambalaya which she really enjoyed.

We spent the rest of the night in watching the start of Harry Potter weekend and planning our adventures for the next day. Although I really wanted to see the bayou and go on a swamp tour, we didn't have enough time as it takes a half or full day commitment and prior reservations. Neither of us knew much about what N'Orleans had to offer so we took the pamphlets from the hotel up to our room and devised a plan. There are multiple plantations around the city open for tours and so we chose to visit Destrehan Plantation since it was on the inexpensive side and wasn't that long a drive from the city. It was really neat and Molly and I both really enjoyed the tour. We got to see the rooms, furniture, and even got a little seminar on tools used back in the 19th century. I found the mini lecture to be fascinating because certain tools were almost exactly the same as today in how they work but are a little more jazzed up.

The plantation was large and still maintained a lot of the original land. They had slave cabins, kitchen outbuildings, a really heavy marble bathtub, elaborate furniture and even the guides were dressed in period outfits. Loved it all. The huge oak trees littering the yard were also fascinating additions to the plantation. Really made us feel like we were nowhere near home in culture and history. It also gave me a bit of perspective because I knew of southern plantations with slaves etc but for some reason never thought it went as far as Lousiana. I just assumed Louisiana was separated and not a state or something...I really have no idea why I thought it but I did.
"front" view side from street, but it was really the backdoor
kitchen outbuilding
interior of kitchen
slave cabin

After the plantation we headed back into the city, and back again to the French Quarter because let's face it, we were tourists and that's where tourists go. We got beignets at Cafe Beignet and they were tasty as can be. We walked down the streets towards St. Louis' Cathedral and took a look inside. It was sort of strange how it was the only church we went to on our whole trip while I went to dozens in Europe. Just showed me how the appeals of America are quite different than that of Europe. Though I wasn't enthralled with the interior of St. Louis I really liked the exterior, especially when juxtaposed to the surrounding architecture and plant life. Fun fact: though called the French Quarter, the style of architecture that defines its appearance is actually Spanish. Fun Observation: Bourbon St. is dead, and a completely different entity during daylight hours. We overlooked the Mississipi, the largest river in the US which by this point we'd crossed 3 times so far, and watched a saxophonist play in the scorching heat. Which led us to return to our car and make the rest of our N'Orleans tour a driving/air conditioned one.
cafe beignet
bourbon st. during the day

We drove through the Garden District Area which is west of the French Quarter and contains a vast variety of homes. Large or small, gorgeous or ugly, expensive or cheap...the garden district had it all. And it had that old city charm that I love where no neighboring homes looked the same because it wasn't built as a development. Gorgeous. Finally, we drove through the Ninth Ward, still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina which hit 5 years before. There's been some definite rebuilding of the area but you can still see the effects the hurricane had on this city.

For the evening, we got take-out from the hotel restaurant and watched Harry Potter. Molly had wanted to go on a ghost tour but I didn't really want to spend the money on something that wasn't taking us anywhere private. Just public places while telling old folklore. She understood, and thought it was pretty lame so we spent the night in. Our time had been well spent and we were ready for the long trek the Orlando the next day and by watching Harry Potter weekend we were preparing ourselves to spend the next few days with him.

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