A few months ago my newly-retired mother decided it was time for her fifth trip to New Orleans. She asked us if we’d like to join. Although we hadn’t planned to travel again until 2020, we agreed to go for just a couple days since we’d never been.
Unfortunately, my grandfather’s health took a turn in the days leading up to the trip and ultimately passed while we were there. Because of this, my parents understandably decided to travel north, to my mother’s hometown, instead of south. With mom’s blessing (and nonrefundable reservations), Sam and I decided to go to New Orleans alone.
After leaving work early on Friday, we took an Uber to LAX. It was the longest Uber ride of our lives since it was rush hour. Unluckily for us, our driver was coughing and sniffling the entire 90 minutes. We crossed our fingers and hoped not to catch anything.
We touched down a little after 11pm and were in our room by midnight. We slept in till 10am then wandered up to Louis Armstrong Park for the gumbo festival.
After trying 2 types of gumbo, crawfish mac and cheese, and crawfish stuffed bell peppers, we walked down to Jackson Square.
We stopped for ice cream at Kilwins and then one of those alcohol slushies at Willie’s. I didn’t taste any alcohol at all and felt stupid to expect anything. We walked up to Canal Street for the bus stop for the St Charles streetcar.
Because of construction (or the collapse of the Hard Rock? It wasn’t clear why), the old streetcar was only running west of the Garden District so we had to take a bus first to the other side of town.
When we got to Lafayette Cemetery, it was already closed. We wandered around the old mansions in the Garden District, overhearing tidbits of information from the many guided tours, for a bit before getting on the streetcar and taking it to the end of the line.
Then we turned right around and rode it back to the bus stop.
Back in the French Quarter, we went to Oceana for dinner just because it was the first place we came to with a lot of seafood on the menu. When we left the restaurant there was a line to get in going back down the block.
We walked around Bourbon Street lazily making our way back to Jackson Square.
We didn’t go to Cafe Du Monde earlier because there was a line going back down the block. We heard that at night there’s no wait – and it was true.
On Sunday we set out in search of breakfast near Jackson Square. Eventually, we landed in Montey’s on the Square and found what sam described as the best biscuits ever, and the grits and chicken fried steak wasn’t bad either.
We had planned to rent a Turo car and drive to Barataria Reserve, but Turo had no cars available till 2pm, and Enterprise seemed too expensive and difficult since we’d have to pay some outrageous sum to park the car until the return lot opened the next day, so we took the bus to the Audobon Center instead.
After walking the “adventure trail” we took an uber to City Park. We walked around City Park for a few hours, but since it was late Sunday afternoon, many parts of the park were closing down, so we just sat under the singing tree for a while, waiting for our preselected dinner destination to open.
We took the bus to eat at Atchafalaya in the Garden District. Sam proclaimed it was the best shrimp and grits she’s ever had. For my part, I tried turtle soup for the first time. It was well made, but I wouldn’t order it twice.
We took the bus to Canal Street to do some souvenir shopping, then bought two bottles of sangria and inebriated ourselves as we walked back to our hotel. On the way, closer to Canal, an African American gentlemen walked up to me not once, but twice whispering “cocaine” into my ear.
Two weeks later, ten people would be shot here. As of this post police still haven’t found the gunman.
On Monday we ate at Brennan’s with the intention of having the famous bananas foster for dessert.
We tried to rent a Turo again, but (again) no cars would be available till 2pm. (So much for the “instant book” feature that propelled me to download and try the app!)
We tried calling Enterprise, but they nearly doubled the quote from yesterday. We decided to lick our wounds and be true tourists, taking an alligator swamp tour instead. The tour was better than a similar tour I took in the Everglades.
Unlike the Everglades, it didn’t take as long to get out there. Unlike the Everglades, the bus driver talked to us about the area the entire way (the Everglades tour played a pre-recorded short schpeel about the history of the Everglades). Unlike the Everglades tour, the boat wasn’t packed to the brim, and it had a top to shade us from the sun (even though Florida’s sun was hotter). Unlike the Everglades, the Bayou actually has trees. To me, that was the largest difference. The Everglades just seemed like a bunch of weeds in shallow water. Sorry, not sorry?
The boat stopped at the point where they featured this swamp in some movie (Princess and the Frog?) and the captain took out a baby alligator.
Back in town, we took a few buses to the northern Tremé to eat at Willie Mae’s for the famous fried chicken.
The fried chicken was good, but Sam proclaimed the fried catfish to be the best she’s ever had. I wanted to try the smothered veal, but they were all out.
We took an Uber back to the French Quarter, determined to see what the big deal was about Preservation Hall. We arrived too early and needed to find a way to spend another hour or so before the next show, so we walked around until we found some interesting cocktails to sip on. Sam ordered her first (and last) bloody mary. By the time showtime rolled around Sam admitted she’d rather just walk around Jackson Square than listen to loud blues (jazz? I dunno).
On our last day in New Orleans, we didn’t have a well-defined plan. We walked down to Cafe Du Monde to try the beignets one more time. This time Sam claimed they were less gooey. The waitress was still super terse and angry though.
Sam worked off her fancy doughnuts and I worked off my….dinner from last night as we walked northwest through Tremé in search of Dookie Chase’s.
We arrived around 11 and decided to partake in the buffet, but with a side order of Gumbo (the buffet only came with split-pea as the side soup). It was the best Gumbo ever.
After going through the line and loading up on jambalaya, sausages, fried chicken, and smothered chicken, Sam had to steel herself before diving in. The friendly atmosphere and soul cooking reminds anyone with a soul of Momma. Even if your Momma is in Ohio or all the way over in Trat, Thailand – this is home cooking. It almost brought her to tears.
Does that sound dramatic to say about a simple-looking small breakfast buffet in the Tremé? Perhaps at first glance. But look closer and you’ll see that this building inspired artists (Ray Charles wrote a song about it), world leaders (Obama and many other presidents and popes have eaten there), and changes to the very rights of American citizens enjoyed today (civil rights leaders met here in the 60s to discuss business). And to prove there’s nothing more American than Dookie’s, the meal finishes off with a slice of peach cobbler (the southern proxy for apple pie!).
You might think we’d just roll around fat and happy over to the airport and wait for our return flight. No, at some point in our journey around the city, Sam discovered that Edgar Degas lived and worked at the Degas ancestral home for a time. Sam loves Degas. Specifically the dancer. This has played into the focus of several trips to art museums already and several souvenirs featuring the famous dancer over the years. So, we walked from Dookie’s to the Degas House and took the tour.
With more time to kill before our flight, we set out north on Esplanade towards City Park, stopping briefly at St. Louis Cemetery #3.
At City Park, we’d intended to check out all the stuff we missed the first time. Instead, we just plopped down by the duck pond and lamented our inevitable return to “real life” in just a few hours.
Oh, and that sick Uber driver we were trapped with for an hour and a half? The cold caught up to both of us a few days after we returned. Just in time to fill our Thanksgiving with congestion.