Saturday, October 15, 2011


Sorry this blog has turned into a travelogue, but popular culture can cover so many topics and categories.

In June I had the good fortune to visit New Orleans for the very first time in my 41 years.  Because I wasn’t sure what to expect, I would default to my inappropriate humor and exclaimed, “I don’t want to live in the Super Dome.”

So the plans were set and the reason for the trip was a Librarian conference.  I’m not a librarian, but I live with one and thought I’d tag along.  In addition to having a hotel secured, I also had another trick up my sleeve.  I have a good friend who works in NOLA (that’s what the insiders call it) and I knew I could catch up with her.

I live in Indianapolis and we have a brand new airport that cost a catrillion dollars called the Indianapolis International Airport.  You would THINK we would have direct flights to New Orleans, but no, we don’t.  You must fly to another city before getting to this FAMOUS city.  We flew from Indy to Dallas, then to New Orleans.  It was late when we arrived and all I wanted was a Po Boy…shrimp, as I don’t eat meat.  My travel partner said it’s too late and that we may not be able to find food….we arrived at our hotel, The Renaissance, after 11 p.m.  Room service was not available and the little bar/restaurant across the street was closed but they had delivery menus.  After settling in, we ordered food from a menu and less than thirty minutes later, we were eating our very first shrimp po boys!  Amazing.

At this point, our friend Janna (who lives in New Orleans and works on television and movie projects) knew we were coming and our plan was to meet the next day (which would be a Friday).  We’d decided to meet at Café Du Monde, a very famous coffee shop in the French Quarter.  We took a cab there, but we soon realized that downtown New Orleans is not very big.  It’s completely walkable and the French Quarter is on the edge, by the Mississippi River.  When we stepped out of the cab, we saw huge lines for Café Du Monde (it was 10 a.m.) and looked across the street only to see Janna and Danielle.  As they approached, I could see Janna holding a beer in a coozie and Danielle with a huge styrophome cup with a straw…I quickly learned it was a daiquiri.  After we hugged and acknowledged the alcohol, Janna said, “welcome to New Orleans.”  From there we made a game plan.  Tina, my travel partner likes National Parks and we both have National Parks Passports.  This is interesting as when you travel, when you go to a National Park, you can get a stamp in the book.  I thought it was COMPLETELY dorky until I realized I don’t have a book and I want stamps too. 

So, we followed Janna and Danni (my new nickname for her) around the French Quarter looking at sites like the cathedral, the National Parks center and other attractions.  Long story short, by 5:00 p.m., I was SMASHED.  Because we were there in June, it was super hot.  Because you can walk around the streets of New Orleans with alcohol freely, you can get smashed rather quickly.  We had a great tour, but throughout the day, we would pop in to a bar to cool off, and then head outside to see more.  In New Orleans if you don’t finish a drink, they will give you a “go cup” or you can just take your bottle of beer.  We did stop for lunch at a place with good gumbo called The Napoleon House.  In addition to the gumbo, I also had a fabulous salad…avocado with shrimp rumalade.  We were there for a few days and went back twice.  On one day we popped in for a homemade Peach Cream Soda made by one of the curmudgeon bartenders.

While I was smashed by 5 p.m. and tool a cab back to the hotel and passed out, I would rank that day in the top 10 of best days in my life.  I was introduced to a different world in the French Quarter….I really can’t articulate how bizarre and wonderful the vibe really was.  It looks exactly like you think it should look.  I realize New Orleans has the wrap of being a little dirty and it is, may I say, a little well worn.  I didn’t think it was bad.  Imagine a European village that has been under water numerous times and you have the French Quarter.

The rest of the trip was spent poolside on the top of the hotel and visiting with Janna and Danni, popping in and out of local bars and restaurants.  We ate at Lucy’s a couple of times and one day walked to the ferry which takes you across the Mississippi where we took a little ride across and back again.  It’s a powerful river and I couldn’t help but think what an important role this water has played in our country’s history.

Janna and Danni live about 10 minutes away from the heart of the City in Mid City.  When we would head to their area, Janna would give us quick tours, pointing out what is new and what was destroyed by Katrina.  The park which houses the art museum.

is amazing and lost hundreds of oak trees.  It was at this point when I wished places would have noticeable markers indicating where the water hit during the floods after Katrina.  I’ve since learned some places do have these markings, but I think they need to make more places do this…so we’ll never forget.

The night before leaving, we were taken to two neighborhood bars.  The first was Parkway as our friends said they had the best po boys.  I loved mine and after several beers, even ate some alligator.  We finished in a bar called Pal’s.  All of these places sell coozie’s…I love it.

Would I go back?  Absolutely.  There is much more to see, including tours through the legendary cemeteries.  I think the Jazz Fest would be a great time to visit.  I also think this town went through hell and it’s coming back.  The people are lovely and resilient and deserve some more tourism dollars to help build the economy.  Janna said class and race are still so extreme in this town and I’m not sure how to process this.  The people were lovely and I really noticed their civic pride.  It’s like a different world and I’m so glad I finally could experience this amazing American city.

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