Sunday, December 18, 2016

Epic Fall Road Trip - Part XV: Lousiana

Tuesday, November 22nd:

We woke up in The Big Easy to a pretty great view of the French Quarter from our hotel room. We ate a quick breakfast before crossing Canal Street and entering the French Quarter.

I had a list of places we wanted to see but I thought that getting a hand held map (instead of using my phone) and signing up for a few tours would be a better way to tackle this city.

We found the Visitor Center, booked a Ghost Tour for that night and a Walking Tour for the next morning, grabbed a map, and headed down Decatur Street. 

The French Quarter is basically a perfect rectangle with six long streets (that extend northeast to southwest) and 13 smaller streets (that extend northwest to southeast). So we decided to zig-zag through the French Quarter so we could see and experience each street. 

[View up St Peters St from Decatur St]

Our first stop was Jackson Square. The park was named for Andrew Jackson who was a war hero during the Battle of New Orleans and a US President. And we learned later, during the Ghost Tour, that this is where public hangings used to take place and the area is haunted! The Square sits in the shadow of the St. Louis Cathedral.

We continued along Decatur Street to Cafe du Monde to get some of their famous French beignets and hot chocolate!

They were super delicious but messy! 100% worth it! We will be back!

We then continued our zig-zaging through the city.

[Street performers are everywhere]

[Louisiana Supreme Court Building]

[Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar - built 1722-1732]

[There are a lot of hot sauce testing places in New Orleans. Josh tried some that were even considered "hot" to him!]

[Napoleon House - Its name derives from the local legend that it was intended as a residence for Napoleon Bonaparte after his exile]

[Napoleon House] 

We wandered into the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum where we learned about voodoo and Marie Laveau. 

After learning a little Voodoo, we decided to stop by Spirits on Bourbon for a drink. I got their famous Resurrection drink and Josh got a root beer float. We also tried some fried alligator poppers! YUM!

After enjoying our drinks we walked to Coop's Place to try some of their highly rated gumbo and jambalaya! I thought their gumbo was delicious but their jambalaya was too hot for me. Turns out it was just perfect for Josh, go figure!



After dinner we walked through the French Market before walking back to the Visitor Center for our Ghost Tour.

Our tour guide took us all over the city. He would stop every so often in front of a building and then would tell us a super creepy story.

One time we stopped in front of this beautiful large house and our tour guide told us that Nicholas Cage once owned the house. But not for very long. Apparently he had purchased the house and soon after moving in he noticed that tour groups kept stopping outside his house. He enquired about this once and he was told to go on the Ghost Tour to learn about the house. So he did. On that tour he learned about Madame LaLaurie. She was an extravagant socialite who liked to show off her wealth by throwing lavish parties. During one of these parties the kitchen caught fire. So everyone was evacuated to the street below. There was a slave in the kitchen who said that she started the fire because she would rather die then go to the attic. When people went up to the attic to investigate they found a 15 people all tied up, tortured, and with their mouths sewn shut! Madame LaLaurie was known before this for treating her slaves poorly. Some had even jumped from the roof and killed themselves instead of staying as her slaves. 

After Nicholas Cage heard these stories he went home, packed his things, and never stayed another night in the home. It is now owned by a wealth Big Oil family from Houston who don't stay there very often. And yes, it is super haunted. People have reported hearing chains rattling in the attic and faces in the windows.

[Nicholas Cage and Madame LaLaurie House]

[A hotel that was once a boys home. Most of the boys were killed in a fire and it is said that they haunt this hotel]

Wednesday, November 23rd:

At 10:00 AM we went back to the Visitor Center for our walking tour of the French Quarter and the "City of the Dead" (St. Louis Cemetery No. 1)

[Mississippi River]

[Ursuline Convent]

[What all the buildings use to look like before most of the city burned down in 1788 and again in 1794.] 

[I love seeing all the street art]

Towards the end of our tour we left the French Quarter and went to the Basin St. Station for a few minutes before walking over to the City of the Dead.

[Josh and a train at the Basin St. Station]

This graveyard is unbelievable! There are tombs everywhere and there are multiple people in each tomb.

There are three tombs where Marie Laveau could be buried. They all have "XXX" written all over them.

[Possible Marie Laveau Tomb]

[Nicholas Cage's Tomb - no, he's not dead yet] 

[Another possible Marie Laveau Tomb]

[Most likely Marie Laveau Tomb] 

[Close up of her tomb]

[Close up of her tomb] 

After learning about the above ground tombs we walked back to the French Quarter where we had lunch at Pat O'Brien's. We got a fried alligator appetizer. YUM!

[More Street Performers - These two were very talented]

We then walked to the Mississippi where we boarded the Steamboat Natchez for our Jazz River Cruise. This steamboat is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi.

[While we were boarding there was a guy on the top of the steamboat playing the calliope. It's like a huge organ that is run on the steam from the boat. The sound is high pitched and terrible!]

Josh and I found seats at the front of the boat and off we went!

[Steam engine room] 

During the ride down the Mississippi a man over the loud speaker told us about the history of the river and he pointed out various interesting sites along the way. On the way back to the dock we listened to a live Jazz band. Over all the cruise was fine but it's not very scenic. There are a lot of ugly large factories that line the river and the cruise isn't very long. I can completely understand going on the night cruise because you get to cruise, enjoy dinner and a band, and not worry about the ugly scenery.

After the cruise we went back to Cafe du Monde for more French beignets and then we walked back to the hotel to get ready.

We then walked back to Spirits on Bourbon to get a drink to go (New Orleans is considered one large, open air bar). From there we walked to Frenchmen St which is known for its live music. Even though it was still early in the night the bars were pretty crowded. So we decided to walk back to Pat O'Brien's to see if we could get in and see their dueling pianos. The line was down the street! I didn't want to wait so we walked back to Spirits to get a refill when we were notified that they would be having dueling pianos that night too! SCORE! They had three guys that rotated between the two pianos. They were all amazing and could play and sing anything we requested! 

[It's always a party on Bourbon Street]

[Josh on Bourbon St]

[Dueling pianos at Spirits on Bourbon]

Thursday, November 24th:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today was a lazy/recovery day for us. We slept in, watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and some football, saw (and heard) the parade down Canal Street from our window, and ate dinner at Fogo de Chao (a Brazilian Steakhouse in the hotel).

[Parade along Canal Street]

Friday, November 25th:

We slept in a bit, checked out of our beautiful hotel, and walked across the street to get some brunch at Jimmy J's. Turns out, we were not the only ones with this idea. Since the line was long we decided to go next door to Daisy Dukes. 

[Josh got a Po' boy] 

After brunch we drove to the Oak Alley Plantation. This plantation was built in 1837 and is known for its beautiful 300 year old oak trees (planted over a hundred years before the plantation was build) and for the the agricultural innovation of grafting pecan trees (which was performed here in 1846 by an enslaved gardener).

[Back Alley with the Big House]

[Slaves Quarters]

We first explored the Slaves Quarters and the Back Alley before lining up to go on the Big House tour.

[Back of the Big House]

[While we were waiting for our tour to start Josh bought us some lemonade and mint juleps] 

After waiting about 30 minutes we were able to get on a tour of the Big House.

After going through the first and second stories of the house we were taken out on the front balcony so we could see the beautiful Alley of Oaks. 



After the tour ended we walked through the Alley of Oaks and took a few more pictures.


After the tour we hopped back in the SUV and headed north out of Louisiana! I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about New Orleans but I had a great time! I loved all the culture, the food, and the music! Thanks Nawlins for the memories!

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