New Orleans, New years & New Begginings!

Trip Start Dec 09, 2009
Trip End Dec 10, 2010

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Where I stayed
French Quater Suits Hotel

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Friday, January 1, 2010

The drive to New Orleans or N'Orlans as they call it around here was a tough one.  It had rained the whole way down which really meant the view from the Van windows was non existant.

We thought or hoped that as we were driving quite a long distance today that we may just pass through it, alas it was not our luck and when we arrived in the French Quarter ther rain was still pouring down.

We arrived at 2:00pm and enjoyed a little downtime until 5:00pm.
We all met back in reception ready to go for our first look around the French Quarter and New Orleans.
Now when it rains here it really rains and we speant most of the time dodging underneath the balconies which run a long the streets.  Still we couldn't avoid getting soaked.

The French Quarter is as little like a small Spanish town in the middle of a big city but with the atmosphere of Ibiza or Magaluf!
We walked up and down the many streets until we finally admitted defeat and went for dinner.
We found a great little eatery called The Gumbo Shop located just off Bourbon St.
Obviously I had Gumbo, Seafood & Okra Gumbo to be precise.  Delicious but definatly better once laced with Louisianna Hot Sauce, a little like Tabasco but meant for Gumbo / Creole dishes.
I followed this up with a Hot Bread pudding with Whiskey sauce - Very tasty.

Next we headed back towards Bourbon St. about two blocks.  Then into the World Famous Pat O'Briens where I had a Hurricane Cocktail ready and waiting for me.
Pat's is made up of one large bar, a Piano bar, Courtyard with outdoor bar and seats and an upstairs seating area.  All of it packed with travelling American football fans in town for a college game called the Sugarbowl
We sat and spoke with two blokes from Cinncinatti about the Football and the Hurricanes before we finally finshed the pint of cocktail and headed off again into the night to explore Bourbon street a little further.

The next morning we got up for breakfast and were back in the van for 9:45.
The weather had come full circle and by 10am was almost 20oC.
This time we were not going far.  We were headed to a nearby swamp by the name of Honey Island swamp.
Louisianna is made up of a great number of these interlinked swamp and marsh lands.
We boarded a boat with a man called Captain Charlie and floated off onto the West Pearl river.
For the next two hours we learnt about wildlife, Creole cooking, the neighbourhood, hurricane Katrina and Louisianna culture.  As Cpt, Charlie put it "Louisianna is the poorest US state but the richest in culture".  We saw all kinds of wildlife - Turtles, woodpecker's, Vultures, herons and I even held an alligator called Albert.
It was a fantastic two hours and I'm now converted to a true southerner.

We were dropped back off after our excursion in the French Quarter to do some more exploring, this time in the sunshine.  We walked the banks of the Mississippi and ate shrimp drowned in Tabasco.

Once back at the hotel we got ready for the evening's celebrations. 
We had organised a party in the hotel room belonging to the other bus.  So with 50 or so bottles of beer, two bottles of champagne and some crisps we headed off at 6pm.
One of the other bus memebers kindly offered to lend me a little black dress and some shoes to make the evening a little more special. Luckily she was almost exactly my size.

A few drinking games, some deep fried Catfish and lot's of beer later we were ready to hit the Quarter again.
Now law's in this part of town mean drinking on the streets is permitted.  So with a crate of lager under one arm we set off for a concert being held in Jackson sqaure.  We did some dancing and singing and generally wandered around heading back to Bourbon street in plenty of time.

Now I have to introduce you to a N'Orlans tradition of which I wasn't aware before this trip.
The many balconies which line the streets of the French Quarter tend to attract people from the bar's who wish to look down on all of the passers by as they drink.
These people carry with them handfulls of plastic beads of all colour and variety.  The passers by on the streets below are supposed to earn these beads and have them thrown down from above.
In order to 'earn' these beads one must reveal a part of ones body and to be honest an ankle or quick flash of the shoulder isn't going to earn you anything.
Needless to say the more beads you are carrying obviously has some what of a status symbol.
So throughout the night we duely earnt our beads and carried on our merry drinking way looking more and more like a camp Mr. T!

By 12:00midnight we had visited many of the bars, danced to losts of live music and we stood in the middle of Bourbon Street with the thousands of American Football fan's and the odd local.
We counted down the seconds and drank frozen cocktails in the warm weather and watched the fireworks crackle over the Mississippi. It was a fabulous night.

I woke up the next morning with the taste of champagne and cigars still lingering in my mouth.
Stepping on thousands of beads on my way to get some breakfast.
Looking around at the floor at the strewn clothes and spilt drinks.
We made it back onto the bus in time though and were really quite spritely concidering.

Today we have driven west along I-10 to a KAO campsite just off the highway.
Tonight is the first night we have been outdoors as opposed to a hotel suite.  So we were thrown out in a WalMart carpark to go and buy our own dinner this afternoon.
As it was our turn to cook up something for 12 people to eat we opted for Spag Bol.

We also bought something for lunch and set up camp in the Supermarket carpark.

I'm now tucked up in my sleeping bag in a wooden cabin on the bank of a lake.
Full of delicious food and some hot chocolate with toasted marshmallows.
I will have to see about the photo's at another time as we are charging the camera.  But keep your eyes peeled and I'll update soon.

Thanks again.
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