As my father and I finished our driving circuit on the Creole Nature Trail in southwest Louisiana, I was not thinking about the multitudes of waterfowl we observed or the delicately beautiful shells we gathered on Rutherford Beach. I wasn’t even thinking about the thirty-three (that’s right, 33) alligators we had just seen on the Pintail Wildlife Drive & Boardwalk.
No, as we drove through bayous and across waterways, I was thinking about my character in the Paragons of Palegain role-playing game (RPG) I’m currently a part of, and how much she would hate Louisiana. You know, because she’s terrified of bridges. And Louisiana is heavy on bridges. She wouldn’t be able to move!
I’m such a geek.
All things gamer aside, I had a great time in Louisiana with my dad last month. New Orleans was on my really-want-to-see-before-I-die list, and my dad and I both had the vacation time. We planned the trip in a hurry, leaving a lot of time open for figure-it-out-as-we-go scheduling.
Bourbon Street and the French Quarter on Saturday night were an experience. People on balconies threw beads at us. We bought beer on the street and ran into a surprise (for us) St. Joseph’s Day parade several times as we meandered through the Quarter. There’s really nothing like a parade in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Imagining it ten times crazier for Mardi Gras is difficult!
Yes, we had beignets (fried dough with powdered sugar) and café au lait (coffee with hot milk) from Café du Monde. No, we didn’t stand in the ridiculously long line at the French Quarter location. We simply found a location just minutes from our hotel in Metairie (just outside New Orleans proper) and skipped the lines. It was just as tasty!
The French Quarter location of the Acme Oyster house was packed on Saturday night, so we went to a location near our hotel another night-no wait! The seafood etouffee with crawfish tails was delicious, and the Manning jersey (no, not Peyton or Eli) on the wall made us smile.
A delicious treat we discovered (on my mother’s recommendation, although she didn’t come with us) was the pecan praline. We had to re-learn our pronunciation: it doesn’t rhyme with “saline,” it rhymes with “spa-clean.” This decadent candy is similar to a brittle, but much softer and easier to eat. Unfortunately for our waistlines (but fortunately for our taste buds), pralines are available at just about every grocery, gas station, convenience store and tourist shop in Louisiana. My dentist will be happy I didn’t bring back a car-load.
One of our trips outside New Orleans proper was a visit to Nottoway Plantation. It was everything you’d expect from a Southern plantation-white columns, long porches, and gorgeous everything inside and out. One unusual fact-the owner is Australian. He keeps it up, runs it as a hotel and tourist attraction, and visits a few times a year from his home in Australia. Hey, whatever keeps the history in that place alive is good for me!
We were walking in the Garden District the Thursday before St. Patrick’s Day Sunday when we ran into a St. Patty’s Day block party. That was where we really experienced New Orleans, with the locals and loads of green beer. There was even a topless woman with body paint covering her chest (no, I didn’t take pictures). One gentleman became fast friends with my father, insisting that we come back to Louisiana so that he could show us the real deal-air boat in the swamps, a crawfish boil, and everything that makes Louisiana great. I get the feeling we won’t be taking him up on that offer. The weirdest thing about hanging out at the block party? Sitting on the sidewalk, drinking a beer, and watching the cops walk by. So not legal in Indiana (unless, of course, it’s the Superbowl)!
We did and saw many things, but rounded out our stay with one last visit to the French Quarter. Wouldn’t want to miss that museum on Jackson Square (The Cabildo-they have Napoleon’s death mask)! We headed out after lunch, but not before I hit Bourbon Street one last time. I had to try a drink that was all over the Quarter-the hand grenade. Tall, frozen, and deceptively sweet, it gave me brain freeze as I slurped it down. Considering the amount of alcohol it contains, it’s no surprise-and I think it’s actually quite fitting-that I left New Orleans just a bit tipsy.
As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” or, “Let the good times roll!”