Wednesday, October 26, 2016

NOLA

When grandparents offer to watch your children for an extended weekend so you can go away somewhere, you pretty much book your tickets and run. We are in the "sweet spot" as many people refer to it where our kids are in elementary school and still like us. Mostly. So getting away while they are in school is a lot easier than when they are babies. We went round and round on where to go and landed on New Orleans, LA, or NOLA as it is called. I have been twice before but Alex had never been. It is a quick direct flight from LA but it feels like a world away. 

We booked an apartment just outside the French Quarter in the Garden District. We landed late at night and took an Uber to our VRBO. How hip do we sound? Ha! So hip that when we arrived at 11PM we promptly....had a glass of wine and went to bed. No late night Bourbon St for us. 

The next AM bright an early we wandered a few blocks away to the Beignet and Coffee Co.  Beignets are a THING in NOLA and I remember them fondly from my previous visits. The classics are from Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter but we were averse to long lines in the AM so the owners of our apartment recommended this local spot. We had cold brew chicory coffee which is also a New Orleans thing. It was already hot and humid out so cold sounded better than hot. I promise Alex was thrilled to be there and just caught between giant grins.  This is ONE order of beignets! Ha! I like their style. 
Once refreshed and delighted we grabbed an Uber to the French Quarter. We were in a rush to meet up with our local guide for a free walking tour. We met in Jackson square which is quintessential NOLA. I think it's on every post card in town. The building in the back is a massive Catholic Church. It is a popular spot for tourists....because it has air conditioning.
We walked the French Quarter for 2 hours learning all about the history behind the city and architecture. Our guide reminded us so much of our friend Clare in Seattle who's family is from New Orleans originally. 
It was a great intro to the city so we didn't feel like we just aimlessly wandered about without knowing any of the cities rich history.

Everywhere you turn you see beautiful buildings. You really feel like you're in another country.
After our tour we wandered on our own for a few hours and did some window shopping and lunching. We tried some local delicacy's like the muffaletta and po-boy sandwiches.
Eventually we landed on Bourbon St which is probably the most famous street in New Orleans. It is packed with bars, restaurants and night clubs. Some more seedy than others. The street is closed to traffic and people wander up and down with drinks in their hands. You can walk around with alcohol as long as it is not in a glass container. Bourbon street is popular with the Bachelor party type crew. I have some very "interesting" memories from trips here in my 20's.
We went into a few bars early in the evening when it was happy hour. Their happy hour means 3 beers for the price of one. Sweet! After that we decided to sit up on the balcony of a restaurant and watch the street below. There are tons of street musicians playing music.
We had a couple of local cocktails. A mint julep for Alex and a Hurricane for me.
Then we found a little cafe for dinner. It was pretty unimpressive and touristy but the inner courtyard had an impressive bead collection going.
We really enjoyed staying in a classic New Orleans style home just outside the city. It was cheaper than a hotel and was a full apartment. We were within walking distance to a popular shopping street called Magazine St. It was 7 miles of shops, restaurants and bars. 
We spent one day walking up and down Magazine St looking in the shops and taking in the architecture. We were just a few streets from one of NOLA's oldest cemeteries. They are very unique. I would love to take the ghost tour here at night.
We also spent a relaxing while out on our porch enjoying some local brews.





You have to open the large floor to ceiling windows to get out to the porch.
Lot's of the local homes were decorated for Halloween.
One of my favorites with Hillary and Donald skeletons.

Back in the heart of the city the next day we had a light breakfast at a cafe and of course had to try the rose slushy to go afterward. Nothing better than frozen wine on a hot Sunday morning. 
We needed to save room to try out the world famous Cafe du Monde that afternoon. We didn't have to fight any crowds.
There are equal portions powdered sugar to beignet ratio.
Check that off the list. I think the iced chicory coffee might have been more of a hit than the beignet.
We hopped on the street car back to our neighborhood. It was super crowded because the Saints football team had a home game at the superdome. The whole city seemed to be going.

On our last day in town we decided to rent a car and get outside the city to see more of the surrounding area and visit some plantations. 
Many of the plantations went to ruin after the civil war and families did not have the money to keep them running after slavery ended. A few of these homes were purchased many years later by wealthy families from other states and refurbished to how they would have looked in their glory.
The have since opened them up for tours, weddings and events. We took a tour of Oak Alley which is about an hour outside of New Orleans. A historical guide provides a tour inside the home and tells you all the rich history of the family who built it and lived there before the civil war. You hear all about the gossip and scandal. The makings of many novels I am sure.
They have reconstructed the slave quarters as they once stood to give you an idea of what it was like for plantation slaves in those days.

Much of the original furniture and family heirlooms have been returned to the home for future generations to enjoy.
The plantations sit directly across from the Mississippi river. It is not terribly picturesque as it is sludge brown and filled with barges transporting goods.
On our way back to the city to head to the airport we dropped by one more plantation to take a few pictures.
The Destrehan house is framed by giant trees with dried up moss dripping from the branches. So southern and quite spooky.
Then we headed back home to face these two little monsters in the AM.

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