Thursday, May 07, 2015

A Trip to the Big Easy

A few weekends ago I met New Orleans. College roommate Angelle was getting married, and I wouldn't have missed it.

Throwback Thursday - here's what we looked like during our study abroad time in dos mil dos.

Dr Pepper was so hard to find in Spain and Angelle knew I loved it. In this photo we'd found it in Eastern Europe, but she'd taken a trip to London one weekend and carried a bottle back to me in her hand. She even held it in a nightclub or something so she didn't lose it. That was a precious bottle of Dr Pepper. My host family thought it tasted like medicine.

I can't believe this was my first trip to Louisiana. Many other college friends had made the trek to New Orleans/Houma, but I was a newbie. Flight times and prices to New Orleans from SLC were expensive and terrible, so I booked the nonstop leaving SLC around 8pm and landed after midnight. We were delayed, of course. Rental car took forever. Hotel near the airport smelled. But whatever, I got there and got some sleep.

I slept in a bit, but made my first stop for beignets at Cafe du Monde! So much powdered sugar.

I drove into the city and had a full day ahead to explore on my own. I parked somewhere near downtown and started to walk. I parked near Charity Hospital, which made national news during Katrina. It's empty.

Walking down Canal to Bourbon.

The Bourbon Street. Ick.

I'd read about Killer Poboys at the back of a bar off Bourbon Street, so I ventured into some Irish pub, walked through all the way to the back, and found the sign for poboys.

No way could I have stayed in that place to eat, so I got food to go and ventured over to Jackson Square. I'd see lots of lovely photos of this place, but wasn't quite prepared for so many people. The French Quarter Festival was starting and people were everywhere.

I found a bench near the water and dug into my grub. Pretty good stuff.

Then it was time to meander.

Not pronounced like the color or Ron in Anchorman.

I arrived at Freewheelin' Bike Tours, which I would highly recommend.

I got all situated with my bike and hoped I remembered how to ride one. Our small group took off with tour guide Mike, who was great. 

Notice the chimes hanging from the tree? This was in City Park.

More beignets at the cafe in City Park, where we stopped for a little break.

These trees are something else. 

After a few hours on the bike, it was time to move on. Back to the car and other parts of the city.

I arrived in the parking lot and saw boots on a couple car tires. I thought my car had one, then realized I was looking at the wrong car. But then I got to mine, and I had a boot! What?!! I had definitely paid for my parking that day. Nowhere on this sign below does it say I have to put the ticket back in the dash - I checked for that multiple times. The ticket required my license plate, so there was definitely a way to track who had paid. I was furious.

I called the number and someone came to remove the boot within a few minutes, but I had to pay a fine first. Ugh. I talked them down to $80 instead of $125. I'm still mad about it.

I left downtown and drove towards Bywater, a neighborhood that's now the hipster area of New Orleans. It also didn't have much flooding during Katrina.

Great park and trails to bike/walk here, if you can get over the big staircase!

Then I drove over through the Lower 9th Ward. This place is still hurting and no where near what it used to be. It's really sad.

I was afraid my car wouldn't make it over the bumps and potholes in the roads.

As the sun set, I headed over to the Garden District to explore the houses and shops there. It's very pretty and a stark contrast to where I'd just been. 

Cemeteries are so cool here. This one was closed for the day, but I looked through the gates.

I hopped on the famous St Charles Streetcar to get over to the Carrollton neighborhood for some diner. We passed some beautiful homes. Forgive the blurry photo.

The streetcar is cool, but kinda slow, so by the time I reached Carrollton and my destination of Jacques Imo's, I didn't have time to eat. I had to get back to the car and drive to the airport to pick up Julie. So that's what I did.

I picked her up around 10pm and we made the hour drive down to Houma, with a crazy rain storm hindering us a pick. The rain was so hard I couldn't see. We went about 30mph and I almost pulled over, but thankfully it stopped after 10 minutes or so.

Arrive in Houma! And presented with gift baskets full of Louisiana goodies, like pralines and hot sauce.

Not bad, Courtyard, not bad.

The next day was wedding day, but we had some plans for fun first. About 50 wedding guests went out for a swamp tour. Ole Cajun Man!

I even bought the wedding tshirt for this cruise - ha!

We saw several bald eagles - so cool!

Of course - gators everywhere! There's a group that does studies on the alligators here, with people collecting eggs once they're hatched and bringing them into labs. They have to be careful to keep the eggs the same side up and not move them. Once they're in the lab, they have incubators with different temperatures. Our guide said if you put the eggs in the cooler incubator, you'll get a female gator, and the hotter one produces a male gator. Is that true? I dunno.

Then they tag the gators and release them back into the swamp. If they're caught later during an alligator hunt, the researchers can tell where the gator migrated, how big it got, etc.

Oil stuff. It was all over.

Ole man played us some bayou music.

Back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for the wedding. Several mishaps that morning - Jody missed her connecting flight and had to fly into Lafayette instead, which messed up her meeting Julie's husband and sharing a rental car. Then Nicole and Matt left Matt's suit at home and had to go buy a new one for  him once they landed. He's a large Aussie rugby guy - not easy off the rack. And someone had gotten into a car accident on the way to the swamp tour. They were okay, but they got rear-ended and their car flipped. So scary.

Finally - time for the big event. Party bus picked us all up the hotel and drove us to the church. Baskets of flip flops and handkerchiefs awaited us after, for the second line!

The Georgetown crew.

Here comes the bride! With some major bling.

They're off and married!
A video posted by Lauren W (@laurenhoya) on

We second line'd all the way to the reception at Angelle's parents home - The Oaks. 

Of course the food was excellent. So much fried stuff.

Harbin 3 for life. I was so glad to see Ms Jacinda.

Harbin 324!

Mr Ronnie's hot donuts were delivered around 11pm. I'd already had a couple pieces of amazing wedding cake (almond flavored - so good!), but I downed a donut or two. 

Sparkler line for the send off!

And there you have it - the Smith/Baugh wedding. Bridesmaids (the younger ones) jumped in the pool at the end of the night. Eeeek!

The next morning we all slept in, then made our way back to New Orleans. But more donuts first.

We stayed at the Drury Inn for a night.

Down to the music festival.

Jody getting directions or something.

Jody, me, Julie, Caitlin.

It was a grey day and we were all pretty tired, so we headed back to the hotel in the afternoon for a nap and managed to escape the rain.  The whole Georgetown crew met up for dinner in the French Quarter. How did I manage to order dessert after cajun mac and cheese and gumbo? I dunno.

Then over to Pat O'Briens to see the bride and groom one more time.

This bar is nuts.

It wasn't even midnight, but we'd had enough and had early flights. One more stop at Cafe du Monde for beignets, then it was adios New Orleans.

I don't know if I'll be seeing that place again anytime soon, but we'll see. The food is certainly a draw!

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