The Big Easy, Days 1 and 2

(I am going to write this just as I scribbled it down in the hotel room during our time in New Orleans.)

It’s our second night here in New Orleans, and things have been shadowed by the bombs in Boston. Three or four military helicopters continue to crisscross the river, flying between buildings and under the bridge. Three of them came straight down Bourbon Street while we were making our way back to the hotel, less than 500 feet above us.

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What’s most worrying is that they’re flying with no lights on.

Nevertheless, I need to catch up on my writing, since I haven’t put our trip down on paper yet.

Sunday morning we got up at “I-really-really-hate-mornings” o’clock (read that 4:00am!!), and without much more than getting dressed and having a piece of bread with my vitamins, we were out the door.  Paul had been up the whole night, trying to get a project done for work.  So at least he wasn’t in any kind of disposition to be cheerful at me.  For this I was grateful.

All the way to the airport, on the shuttle from the parking lot, and in the terminal, my one question was, “Are all of you NUTS?  It’s bloody-hell o’clock in the morning (read that 5:00am), and you’re NOT IN BED!!  You’re up and about, and actually able to walk and talk at the same time!”  Whereas I was Zombie Woman, interested only in biting the ankles of whoever decided a 6:15am flight was a good idea.  It wasn’t me, by the way.

I slept a good portion of the first part of the flight, to Denver…that is, when I wasn’t waking up to find my head in some weird position, and my neck muscles screaming obscenities at me.

My first impression of Denver was–flat.  I was not expecting flat.  It’s in the Rockies!  Where were the big mountain ridges?  We’d flown over some not that long ago–where did they go?  Awfully rude of them to just wander off like that.

We touched down a half-hour ahead of schedule, which was great, because it took nearly that long to get off the stupid plane.  For whatever reason, people Just. Didn’t. Move.  Frustrating!  Perhaps they, too, were wary of the hidden mountains that were supposed to be out there.  I really don’t know.

On the way to our next gate, I saw a rather large man whose T-shirt proclaimed, “I Beat Anorexia”.  Didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

There were no vacant seats in our waiting area; we were at a gate at the end of the concourse, one of those places where they stick six or more gates.  Meh, we’d just been sitting for two hours, a few minutes of standing would be a good thing.

We got bulkhead seating this flight–first row!–which was great for Paul’s legs, but the guy in the window seat wouldn’t put the window shade up the whole way.  Then, when we were landing and the shade HAD to be up, he only raised it about 1/3 of the way.  Kind of felt a bit trapped, not being able to see out.

Never fly in the same row as a sunshine-allergic (who knows?) individual.

I finally got some coffee, which was good, because the aroma of the brewing was all over the place.  It wouldn’t have been long before the kitchen area would be in grave peril.  From me.  I am no fun when I am caffeine-deprived.

After landing in NOLA, we boarded the hotel shuttle bus outside.  Yes, it is already getting humid here.  But the sun was out; so nice to see it!  Still not the usual thing back home yet.

We checked in to the hotel–nice room, separate couch/TV room, fridge, etc.  The bed’s a double–don’t know how that happened.  Someone oopsed.  Oh well–after 27 years of marriage, I think we can hack it.

And the view!

Not.

Out our window is the tarpaper roof of another building, and the slightly higher wall of another one after that.  Well, we didn’t get the room for what we could see out the window.  Good thing.

Alrighty–out the door and down the street.  I wanted to find the Hard Rock Café, since I collect the shirts.  Lo and behold, it was a mere two blocks away.  Success!  Had lunch there too.

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We found out that we had gotten to New Orleans at the end of the French Quarter Festival, so there were tons of people everywhere.  It seems there was a band of some sort or other playing in the streets about every 100 feet or so.

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Bourbon Street was a lot narrower than I thought it would be–room enough for the width of a car, with some street left over for parking.  A lot of the streets were closed off to cars for the weekend anyway.

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Our main objective was to find out where our tour meeting area was, which is a short walk (maybe a mile) from the hotel.  That goal having been met, I wanted to go look for the church spires I’d seen on our walk over.  They were peeking up over the other buildings, and I cannot resist an old church.

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Thus we found St. Louis Cathedral, anchoring Jackson Square.

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It was closed to tourists at that time, so we just wandered around some more.

I think our prime directive was to get a bit sloshed, because we certainly took in a lot of drinks.  Our first stop was at one of the bazillion little bars on Bourbon Street, the name of which escapes me, and got a couple of drinks in cutesy plastic cups.  Mine was a Tropical Itch, and Paul got a Hand Grenade.  (He kept his souvenir cups.  I didn’t, opting for the party beads I continuously picked up off the street.)

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Bourbon Street is very much like a tiny Las Vegas, but instead of casinos, you have neon-lit little holes-in-the-wall.  Same crowds though.  Same craziness.

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I’ve picked up a lot of good background for my book; a lot of the story will be happening here.  We saw a place called “Boutique du Vampyre”, with an abandoned-looking building attached to it.  Oh yeah, that will figure in.

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Such an eclectic mix of building styles–French/Creole color and lacy wrought-iron, a lot of Spanish, tons of brick, and even clapboard houses, all cheek-by-jowl with one another.  I was awed by it all.

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Someone on Facebook suggested getting a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s (a restaurant and bar), so after dropping off the stuff I’d bought, we headed back up to Bourbon Street.

Pat’s was crowded, so we went to another place down the street.  Unfortunately, a very loud band was playing loudly, right outside, so the bartender turned up HIS tunes to drown them out.  My poor ears–we drank up and skeedaddled.  But at least I got a shot of Tullamore Dew while we were there.  My favorite Irish whiskey, by far.

Got back to O’Brien’s and found a couple of empty bar stools,  Had our Hurricanes, made our way back to the hotel, and collapsed.  Slept for 12 hours straight, except when I woke up around 2:00am with a monster headache.  When the Advil finally kicked in an hour later, I was able to get back to sleep.

I’m done with drinking for this trip–decided the blackberry julep after the plantation tour was my last. (Note:  It wasn’t, but I toned it down a lot.)

This morning, Paul brought me a cup of coffee to start the day–such a sweetie–and after that we walked down through the Quarter to the tour kiosk.  It’s quiet on Bourbon Street at that time of day–only the beer trucks lining the side of the road and the occasional passing car.

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The streets and sidewalks were cleared off from the litter, beads, and “stuff-that-happens-when-someone-drinks-too-much”.  Soap and water, yes.

We stopped for beignets and coffee–wonderful!  Three beignets in one year are quite enough for me, though.  Just a tad too many calories.

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Since we were early, we wandered around some more and took pictures.  Got to go inside the cathedral; it was gorgeous.  I got in a little prayer time while Paul took pictures–he does the inside ones, since he likes to play with the camera’s settings and such.  I take most of the outdoor ones, because I can generally just point and click.  I like it simple when it comes to tech stuff.

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The bus trip to the plantation was about an hour long, and we were some of the youngest people on the bus.  Meh, off-season.  Lots of folks our age are still dealing with school schedules.

On the way, we saw a video about the various plantations.  I pretty much just watched the scenery go by.  The flora looks a lot like Michigan, except there are no hills or changes in elevation whatsoever.  Flat as a piece of paper.

Oak Alley plantation is gorgeous.

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Those oak trees are HUGE!  Some of them have to have their branches supported by poles and brackets to keep them from breaking.  We took lots of pictures of those trees.

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We got the tour of the house–the more interesting things, to me, were the overhead fan in the dining room (rope-and-pulley, operated by a servant) to keep the guests cool, and the glass flytraps on the tables.  Covered with a napkin, of course, so the guests wouldn’t have to see dead flies floating mere inches from their roast and potatoes, or whatever.

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Someone in the group asked if the house was haunted, and the tour guide laughed.  She said something along the lines of “that might or might not be”.  The visitor then said she’d read that there were ghosts, and the guide admitted to the possibility, but I don’t think she wanted to talk about it.  Probably standard rules in the tour guide biz.  I got the same sort of response at the Winchester Mystery House, and that place is loaded with spectral energy.

We got a couple of drinks before we left.  Paul had a mint julep and I had a blackberry julep.  I tasted Paul’s–not much mint.  I think they dipped a sprig into the bourbon barrel and called it good.  Mine, however, was delicious.

We arrived back early enough to take a dinner cruise on the Mississippi, so we got our tickets and wandered around some more until it was time to get on board.  Already we’ve gotten to know this area in a tourist sort of way; we know how to get around to where we need to go.  There are shops I still want to explore, so I think we’ll spend time tomorrow afternoon doing that.

The food on the Natchez was decent.  Nothing spectacular, but it was, well, food.  We finished eating before the boat even left the dock, so we got to sit outside the whole actual trip.

Our choice of where to observe the passing shore wasn’t the best.  There was a live band on board, and they played loudly.  They did a great job, but, oh my ears!  Fortunately, they took a VERY long break while we sat and watched the city, and then the suburbs, and then the countryside, roll by as we headed south.

Ships, ports, the site of the Battle of New Orleans, the Domino sugar processing plant, and a couple of oil refineries all passed our view.  Guys yelled at the boat from car ferries and docks, and the boat tooted back.  All great fun.

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When we turned around to come back upriver, the band started in again.  Paul suggested we go down one level–that way we could still hear the music without, as Paul said, “a trombone farting in our ear”.

I like him, he’s silly.

The lit-up New Orleans skyline was impressive, as were the lights on the bridge spanning the river.  But then came the helicopters, and as I write this, they are still flying about.

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Heading back to the hotel, we found that we were among the minority:  those who were walking down the middle of Bourbon Street.  It was raining lightly, and people were trying to stay dry, huddling under canopies and dashing from one refuge to another.  Being from the Pacific NorthWET, it doesn’t bother us.  Meh, we do yardwork in this type of rainfall!

Now we are done for the night.  The alarm is set for 7am; we have a swamp-and-bayou tour tomorrow.  Going to check the news, look at my e-mails, set my phone on the recharger, and get to sleep.

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