The Big Easy

We set out early last Friday morning for a fifth anniversary trip to New Orleans. Annie came to watch Baby Gray, and we were off! 

At our first fuel stop, Mr. Gray came back to the car and announced he had presents! YAY! I love presents. He bought us these super-cool, matching rubber watches for $3.50. Apparently, these were knock-offs because he had seen some “real ones” for around $16.00 in a magazine. I proceeded to try to set them with pen points, paper clips, and other office supplies we had handy in the car. 

I was pretty excited when we got east of Houston; I’ve never driven east of downtown that I can recall. I love getting to see new things. Thankfully, Mr. Gray pulled over so I could snap this shot; he didn’t really want to at first, but he obliged since we were on an anniversary trip! 

Part of the drive is a long, low bridge over swamplands. I am not a fan of bridges most of the time, but I was so busy looking for alligators that I didn’t really notice. I loved the big bridge into Baton Rouge. You can see LSU’s football stadium across the water; it was really neat! 

We got into New Orleans about 5:00, and traffic down by our hotel was ridiculous. The valet parking system was absolutely obscene; people were double parked, parked in the road, stopped in the driving lanes, every scenario you can think of was happening. It took us almost an hour to get the car situated. We looked for garages around the area, but didn’t have much luck figuring out a contingency plan.

We headed out to walk around, check things out, and figure out what to eat for dinner. Mr. Gray and I don’t plan for our trips much at all, unless there is something we feel we absolutely must do. We don’t make dinner reservations or scope out local attractions. We like to get there and play it by ear, which is totally opposite of how I usually travel. Our hotel was on the corner of Canal and Bourbon, so we got to see a lot of the crazies right off the bat. It was like 6th Street on crack! I had never seen such a thing–I cannot imagine Mardi Gras or any other busy time down there. I wouldn’t make it. 

We wandered a while, checked out some art galleries and shops, and then settled on a place to eat. As we were leaving the restaurant, Mr. Gray asked the hostess what kinds of things she would recommend for us to check out Saturday. She gave us some suggestions and also gave us some restaurant recommendations for the next evening. 

 We made a quick stop at CVS before heading back to our hotel and calling it a night. Our hotel had a gorgeous facade. I loved the looks of the place! If you look closely, you can see where the first balcony/roof level is. The pool was on that level, and our room was immediately above the pool.

We decided to start our day at the aquarium on Saturday. I had way too many photos to even begin to choose which to use; the aquarium is a great place to try different manual settings on your DSLR while you try to learn to use it. All types of light, movement, depth, and other variables are abundantly present. 

Before we got there, though, we passed Harrah’s. Neither of us are gamblers, but I had never been in a casino (I played the penny slots in the Vegas airport one time, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count). We went in to check it out, and lost $15.00 in the meantime. Yes, that’s a cashout voucher, but I didn’t cash it in; it was for a whopping thirty cents! I had another one for seventy-two cents, we just forfeited it to the house. 

We are aquarium people; that is one thing we pretty much always do if it’s available. This one was neat because it had all sorts of habitats. My favorite things were the penguins, which were warm-mild climate penguins, and the otters. The otters were hilarious! I couldn’t get good photos of either due to the glass they were behind.

We left the aquarium and walked down by the water back towards Jackson Square. The hostess from the previous night told us you could take carriage tours of the French Quarter, and I love me a good carriage ride, so that’s where we were headed. We stopped to eat lunch at a place right off the Square, and then went to find a carriage. 

The city of New Orleans has an ordinance that the carriages have to be pulled by mules; they are more heat tolerant than horses, apparently. Also, if it gets above 95 degrees, the mules have to go back to their stables. Our mule’s name was Shine. We got a private carriage, and our driver gave us a couple of options for where we could tour. He told us a lot about the fires in the city, the architecture, and answered any questions we had about what to do and where to go for the rest of the day. 

One of the driver’s suggestions was to check out the 1850 House Museum, near the Cathedral on the Square (proper because these are the names people refer to them by). Basically, the building as a whole was like an apartment complex, and the homes were next to each other within the building. This particular home was three stories with a courtyard in the center of the ground level; porches overlooked the courtyard from each level. They had it restored with period furniture, but our favorite thing about the home was the tall doorways (Mr. Gray is 6’2″ by comparison). 

We took a cab over to Magazine Street to shop in the less touristy area of town for part of the afternoon; along the way, we would pop in a bar, cafe, or dessert place to check on the baseball game. The shops were really neat. We went in several home decor stores that offered restored or reclaimed pieces. 

The carriage driver also suggested we take the street car each way down St. Charles; we decided to take a cab up to catch the end of the game somewhere and ride the street car back.

I loved the street car! I wish we would have had time to take several of them. It was a dollar a piece, and we got to see some great homes and views we otherwise wouldn’t have. In the event that we go back to New Orleans, I will ride more street cars! 

Maybe the coolest thing of the whole trip was getting to see a wedding parade headed down to Bourbon Street. We had heard stories of some of our friends who have participated in these, but it was so cool to see. Police had traffic stopped, a band was playing, all the wedding members were dancing; it looked like an absolute blast! This was the fourth part of a wedding we got to see. We saw one on Jackson Square that morning; one in the Garden District on our way to take the street car; another on the way back in the street car; and this one. The carriage driver told us they used to do weddings on Jackson Square with no reservations or anything, but that it had become such a popular spot now it had to be reserved. How cool that all these new marriages were being celebrated so publicly! 

We ate a really cool dinner Saturday night. Stella! was all about the details. I love places like that. Mr. Gray ordered a caviar vodka that had been frozen in liquid nitrogen; they poured room temperature vodka into the frozen vodka to produce a super chilled drinkable vodka–it was cold! To finish, they brought us a tasting plate of delicious chocolates and candies. YUM! We declined and further desserts and went to Cafe Du Monde to get an order of beignets. They smelled like a funnel cake, but were much more dense. 

After being bussed, yes bussed, to our valet-parked car Sunday morning, we headed back home, but not before stopping in Lake Jackson to get some boiled crawfish and shrimp! The photo of this sign was much easier to manage, Mr. Gray was prepared for me to ask about it as we crossed the Sabine.

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