New Orleans, New Orleans...so good it should be named twice! We had heard about this city mostly from Jill, born and raised there, who raved about the people, the food, the music and the relaxed way of everything. So when an opportunity came up to spend a long weekend before flying to Mexico we had to do it. Man, I am so glad we did. It was pretty spectacular.
The food first. As a local Jill could take us to the best places that we wouldn't find as tourists. I'd like to say they were cheaper but everything here is budget blowing for us poor travellers, especially after being in Asia for so long! But we don't know if we'll get back here so we had to try it all, more gluttony, more extras kilos and more alcohol than can be good for your liver.
Firstly we munched on Crawfish in a diner on a highway with plastic tablecloths and the weirdest collection of wall art in an eatery I have ever seen (yet). It was the end of the season so Jill needs a last fix and orders 10lbs, yes, 10 whole pounds, of them along with some corn and potatoes that all boiled up in the same pot with all the spicyness. The flavour is good but it's a lot of hassle for a tiny bit of flesh so Jill's expert crawfish shelling wins the day and she gorges so many we have to roll her out of the restaurant. Then there's Snowballs, shaved ice with the sweetest syrups in a choice of about 100 flavours poured over. To top it off we have a healthy slathering of condensed milk on ours too. My teeth actually hurt after eating this massive sugar high.
Which is exactly what we did. Because New Orleans is actually below sea level they don't bury their dead, so there are these fabulous mausoleums and crypts. We wandered round snapping pictures and even saw one for sale. Not sure how that works! This was followed by something a bit livelier, a Cajun Zydeco festival. We weren't really sure what to expect and what we got was way more than we could have imagined. The instruments are an accordion, a washboard, drums and two guitars. We saw Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. Dwayne was a large black guy looking a bit gangster playing the accordion with the energy of an eighteen year old on a Friday night. His side kick was a cowboy hat wearing, washboard ass kicking dude and they gave a great performance.
The crowd was dancing the Cajun two step and a few couples were fantastic to watch. There's something about the music that makes you want to tap your feet and jig your shoulders. It has definitely inspired us to listen to more, it's such a happy style of music. We are really getting into this then we're reminded that the Pride parade is this evening so we need to get our arses over there. Yet another spectacle. The parade starts with remembrance of the 103 killed or injured in the tragedy of the Orlando shooting and is fairly intense but it's followed by a succession of floats, dancing groups, motorbikes, marching bands and even the local Jewish and Christian communities join in. There were men, women and those we weren't sure of that marched, sang, danced, biked, floated and strutted along the streets.
They were wearing, from almost nothing to the most extravagant costumes with feathers, leather and sequins in the seven colours of the Pride flag. In true Mardi Gras style beads and lollipops were thrown at the crowds to catch and wear or eat. Chris was absolutely in his element. He caught and wore necklaces, he cheered and clapped everyone and I think secretly he wishes he could have joined them. Unfortunately we went straight from the festival otherwise he would have dressed up in something from Gabriel's dressing up box! I'm not saying anymore than that.
Next stop, much to Jill's disgust and completely against her will, we said we had to see the famous Bourbon Street. So off we duly went and to be truthful it was a bitter disappointment. It was noisy, but not with the sounds of any jazz, crowded with tourists, neon signs and it smelt horrible (I think it was pee and puke). So we walked down it once, took a few pictures with Chris focusing on the girls in short shorts and headed to the hipper area, Frenchman Street, where the locals hang out. Much more what we expected of New Orleans, more discreet bars with the sounds of various jazz bands and singers, truly music to our ears. Lesson learnt...listen to the local!
Our last day, after all the hectic running around, was lunch at Shaya. Voted one of America's top ten new restaurants. I think by Esquire magazine. Anyway, Jill had thought to book it several weeks in advance and it was Israeli food with a Mexican twist. Absolutely delicious! And after having filled our stomachs yet again, we thought it would be a good idea to check out the swamps. You know, the stuff you see on the film's of Louisiana with moss hanging from the trees and you could easily dump a dead body and get away with it.
So Jill, in her usual accommodating nature, drove us 45minutes to a National Park to see the swamps. Ninety seconds into the walk we saw a snake, which we screamed at and ran from, then thirty seconds after that we were being dive bombed by horse flies amongst other buzzy, flying, biting things which for some reason really loved Jill. We carried on with us all looking like we were having fits, arms and legs flailing around, and randomly swearing with a Tourette's affliction. Bloody funny to watch but not so funny to have happen. Jill broke first and ran screaming, pulling at her hair to the car. But not before she yelled at Chris for the car keys and telling him she f**king hated him. He has ten pockets in his shorts and couldn't find the keys, she was a little stressed at this point. We drove, we saw the swamps, we ran away. Oh, yeah and we did actually see an alligator in the water right next to the car park, how fortunate!
Final word on New Orleans, the architecture. It is absolutely beautiful. The clapboard houses painted in every bright colour imaginable with porches and verandas with swings on. The intricate fretwork, well kept gardens and Mardi Gras beads still hanging from trees. It was a city that made us say Wow as we looked in every direction.
Had a fabulous time in New Orleans, thanks to Jill and the beautiful people, of which we felt like one for a weekend.