With temperatures in Wisconsin making a habit of remaining below zero, it seemed like a good time to take a little vacation to the south. New Orleans, or as the locals call it, Nawlin’s was our city of choice. We arrived Wednesday evening in time to take a stroll down Bourbon Street. Crude, crass, yet entertaining is how I would describe the Street. I noticed that the local beggars roamed the streets with beer in a brown paper bag. Wanting to fit in, I did the same. $2.99 will get you a 24 oz. PBR and a brown paper bag. $11 will get you a Crown and Coke in a plastic cup. Yeah ... I'm a cheap date. We didn't stay out late and retired to Dauphine Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter where we called home for 4 nights.
Day One found us wandering the streets of the French Quarter. We took in some of the tourist attractions but learned more about the people and culture by getting off the beaten path. Finding a local bartender was always a plethora of information. We meet a young artist that has only been living there for 3 months. He moved there from California and is interning with a local artist and living out his dream. We were entertained by musician friends playing for tips. As 1 of the friends switched from playing the wash tub to having a PBR, he stated, "I love my friends." I have no doubt that he does. The more we absorbed the local culture the more I appreciated the diversity and an individuals definition of a "quality lifestyle". We had plenty of locals beg for money or offer to give us directions for a price. We learned quickly to ignore them and focused on the artists that had something to offer for a few dollars in donations. I was more anxious to try the local cuisine than Bruce was so we started out slowly with Po-Boys at Johnny's and baguettes and coffee at Café Du Monde. A stroll through Jackson Square was rich in history and entertainment. Flanked by St. Louis Cathedral, antebellum buildings and the Mississippi River it is the hub of the city. Artist, musicians and fortune-tellers crowd the plaza. An occasional beer stop had me abiding in Abita Amber, the local beer and doing a little research with my travel guide book and the bartender.
As the sun began to set, it was time to head back to Bourbon Street. I indulged in Garlic BBQ Shrimp at Embers Bourbon House before our evening stroll. We never set foot in a bar along the street but would get a drink from a convenience store bar front window and cruise up and down doing people watching. Tonight's entertainment included a Flame Swallower and a Dead Dog. Now don't get all upset, it was just a dog playing dead. Anything for a buck.
Day Two found the Polar Vortex reaching all the way to us. A little cold weather didn't slow us down. I was thankful for packing my gloves at the last minute. Today we checked out the Riverwalk along the Mississippi and rode the trolley system to the Garden District. The trolley proved to be a great way to see the city ... especially since we didn't understand transferring to a different trolley to reach our destination. Along the way we explored Lafayette Cemetery. The cemetery was built in the early 1800's to accommodate the immigration of Italians, Germans, Irish and Americans from the North. Many who had played a role in the Civil War have plots here. There is also 2000 yellow fever victims buried here from an epidemic in 1852. By midafternoon we reached our destination of the NOLA Brewery. (New Orleans Lager and Ale) The Brewery features a tour and free beer from 2:00 - 4:00. What a great way to make new friends. While Bruce enjoyed the tour, I enjoyed the taproom. As the 4:00 hour was approaching we realized it had started to rain and it was a 1 1/2 mile walk back to the trolley. No Problem ... we have all these new (beer drinking) friends. A retired couple from Detroit came to our rescue and took us back to the French Quarter with tips on the best places to eat and hear Cajun music. They winter near New Orleans and partake in the Mardi Gras festivities. They sent us on our way with the official Mardi Gras magazine, beads and parade knowledge. Their suggestion of supper at Mulate's was spot on. I completely enjoyed my Crawfish Etouffee and Mulate's Jambalaya accompanied with an Abita Amber. Bruce was adventurous and had gravy with his burger instead of catsup. :) A brisk rainy walk back to our hotel had us ducking through Harrah's Casino for a shortcut. I put some coin to a slot machine and cashed in with a profit of $10.50. That came in handy for a cab when we became a wee bit lost on the way back to the hotel.
Day Three ... after breakfast at the hotel we headed to the corner convenience store for a cappuccino. Along the way we got to witness what Bourbon Street looks like the "morning after." Because the street is barricaded when the sun goes down for foot traffic only, the area becomes one big sidewalk. A better description would be a gutter. Lets say if you drank to much and feel the need to "blow chow", go ahead and just do it in the street. Therefore, it takes a mighty pressure washer to rid the remains of the "night before." At noon we got picked up by an adventure bus and headed out of town for a airboat ride in the bayous. We headed to the bayous off of Lake Salvador. Along the way we saw rebuilt homes and new levees all resulted because of Hurricane Katrina. (Our cab driver that returned us to the airport was a survivor of Katrina and he shared some of his story. His family went to Houston but he was stuck in his car for 3 days with 2 bottles of water. He told us details that we never heard on news reports.) Fortunately, Saturdays weather was warm(er) and the sun was shining. Our airboat driver was Captain TickTock and was born and raised in the bayous. Think "Swamp People." We took a 2 hour tour and covered a lot of ground. Unfortunately alligators are hibernating this time of year so we didn't see any in the wild. We did see a large variety of birds and got to hold a small 'gator they surprised us with. It's amazing how different a body of water can be compared to what we are use to. Back at the French Quarter we spent our last evening wandering past bars and restaurants catching notes from a large variety of music wafting to the sidewalks. With a beer in hand I absorbed as much visual and sound culture I could. We found a treasure in Pat O'Briens Bar. They have an open air bar with a cool fountain and atmosphere. It was a great place to relax and reflect on our wonderful trip.
Here are a few sights around town.