Cajun Encounter!

Trip Start Jan 04, 2010
Trip End Jun 30, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Orleans, what a mighty cool place! There is not one thing that I can name that makes New Orleans unique, it's a combination of a whole diversity of reasons! It's the culture, the vibrancy, the history, the restaurants, the bars, the quirkiness, the people and my god, the FOOD.

We arrived in New Orleans mid afternoon and booked ourselves into Mardi Gras RV Park. We booked and paid for three nights accommodation but after the first three days we continued, hand in pocket, to extend our stay at least on four different occasions. We ended up spending seven nights in New Orleans before we managed to drag ourselves away, with the assistance of a severe hang over.
We dove in head first on our first night in New Orelans, and hit up the most famous street, Bourbon Street. Having no expectations, I was extremely surprised to find such a bustling, flirtatious and downright pumping street.  
Bars, restaurants and novelty stores lined the streets. Music from local musicians and bands flowed out onto the street. Your ears lead you to the bar of your choice and there was so much choice, from rock, pop, blues, country, rnb and soul. People spilled out into the street from bar after bar each one offering discounted or free drinks to entice you in. The strip clubs used their girls to entice the patrons in, in the most unique ways. The first of this we saw was when we passed a strip venue and a girl in lingerie suspended above street level and sitting on a swing, swung out of the clubs window, back and forth smiling at the passers by, as the hustler outside the club said "This isn’t Sesame Street, it’s Bourbon Street!"
I was particularly drawn to the cocktails bars, which had a variety of at least 20 different frozen cocktails, which lined the entire wall of the premises.

After a couple too many drinks we decided on a restaurant to eat dinner. We picked it purely by the amount of people inside, on the safe side we figured, if the restaurant is packed then the food must be good. They served mostly Southern food with a lot of Cajun dishes on the menu. New Orleans was once occupied by the French and Spanish, so there is a heavy amount of influence and variety in the traditional dishes here. The food is amazing. It was the first night I tried the local dish called Jimbalaya. It’s a rice dish with chicken, seafood and/or meat amongst other things. It’s very similar to Paella but in my opinion much tastier! Morgan had Andouille (pork sausage) with rice and black beans, which he really enjoyed. He said it wasn’t as good as French Andouille! :) 
After dinner we headed back to Bourbon Street and began a pub crawl. We saw a couple of live bands playing and met some young guys from Alabama. They initially approached us when they spotted Morgan lugging around a massive beer. It probably held 4-5 pints in this one plastic beer bottle, which we believe was actually a piggy bank that they just filled up with beer instead. It had a Miller’s Light label on it but the bottle cap had a coin slot. We hung out and chatted to these guys who wanted to hear all about Australia and France and we had a great chat with them. The chat ended rather abruptly when their coach turned up and yelled at the top of his voice "You better be in bed in 3 minutes or your off the team". They literally ran, without so much as a goodbye. We found out the next day that they are in fact cheerleaders and were there for the National Cheerleader Competition and were out after curfew. Oopsss!! Funny guys! We don’t recall what time we actually got home that night/morning but the hang over the next day reminded us it must have been a late one!

A couple of days later we did a free walking tour of the French Quarter led by a local Historian. Out of all the tours we have done this one was by far the most interesting and informative and it was free. After the tour we went to the famous Café du Monde and had beignets and hot chocolate. Beignets are square doughnuts covered in icing sugar. My god, they are good!!! It was looking like we would be eating our way around New Orleans at this rate. We took a walk around the Quarter and stopped at lots of quirky little shops along the way. New Orleans has a big voodoo and ghost history and you notice this in every store you enter. For lunch we took the tour guides advice and tried some 'more’ local food in the form of sandwiches. We went to Franks and ordered a muffuletta and a Po’Boy. A muffuletta is Italian bread with salami, ham, cheese, mortadella and an Italian olive salad. It’s a BIG sandwich so I only order a half and it was plenty. It was a damn good sandwich and you all know how much I love my sandwiches. The Po’Boy is made with French bread stuffed with anything your heart desires. Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse so we ended up heading back in the afternoon. We booked a few tours for later on in the week when the weather was meant to be warmer.

We did some great tours in New Orleans. There are so many tours it made it hard to pick one. The ones we decided on in the end was the swamp tour and the Katrina and City tour.
We drove out to St Charles Bayou for our swamp tour, on a 6 seater airboat. Our tour guide was a huge, rough local guy from Alabama dressed from head to toe in army gear. Even his boots were the same camouflage as the rest of his outfit. He had a very strong Southern drawl and at times I struggled to understand him. The tour was great. He took us through the swamps and stopped to show us little Alligators swimming in the water or other wildlife along the way. The gators were only small in length, less the a meter long, and were just starting to come out of hibernation. We only saw a dozen or so alligators but the guide told us “for every one you see there are 75 you don’t”. There are believed to be 35 million alligators in Louisiana. Towards the end of the tour the guide whipped out his pet alligator, Bud, for us to hold. We each held him and took pictures, which I thought was very cool. The gators are very tame to the crocodiles I’m used too. I wouldn’t be too keen to hold a croc anytime soon! :)
The City & Katrina tour took us to the ritzy Garden District, French Quarter and Jackson Square. We also took a stroll through St. Louis Cemetery and saw all of the above ground family graves. The graves are built above ground because of the water level beneath the ground in New Orleans. It was to prevent the bodies from being washed away during the floods. The above ground design also saved a lot of space in the cemetery also, as whole families are all placed in the one tomb. The body of the deceased is placed in a coffin inside the tomb for one year and one day. The one day extra is out of respect for the family. After the year and one day the body, which is now decayed, is tipped inside the bottom of the tomb and the coffin is thrown away. The day of the dead is the biggest public holiday in New Orleans, it’s the day for celebrating those who have passed away. Families usually do the annual clean up of the tomb sites on this day also.

We learnt some funny and interesting facts on the tour. One I remember most is the story of gambling in Louisiana and how they got around the illegal gambling law that exists in the State. The tour guide explained that in order to allow casinos and gambling to exist in Louisiana they had to change the name from gambling to 'gaming’. This way they can gamble as they are not in fact gambling, they are gaming!.

The tour took us to the 9th Ward, which was the area worst hit by Hurricane Katrina. It’s been 5 years since the hurricane but the carnage is still everywhere. A lot of houses have been re-built, roofs patched up and windows replaced but a lot of them just had to be knocked down or fell down themselves. We passed a house barley standing, it had long been abandon by it’s owners and was on such a slope that it looked like only a matter of time until it would come crashing down. A lot of residence up and left New Orleans, a lot going to stay with family members in other states. The others were given trailers to live in temporally until the re-building could begin. There are too this day still thousands living in trailers. The people that didn’t evacuate the City when hurricane Katrina hit, ended up trapped inside it, they were all moved to the superdome for safety. The people were stuck there for a week or so before rescuers came to help them. They had no electricity, water, supplies, communication and no toilet facilities. Unfortunately reporters who were in the French Quarter when the hurricane hit, reported that New Orleans was doing ok and there was no major flooding. They didn’t realize that in the rest of New Orleans, the levee’s had failed and 80% of New Orleans was flooded. Their reports had a disastrous effect as no rescue teams were sent out to the area. The City Hall flooded, all the records were kept in the basement, so all the public records were lost. They had to get in special document recovery specialist to start sorting through the records. Unfortunately this took a long time to process so there we people in jail for up to 8 months, on petty drunk and disorderly charges because they had no record of what each prisoner was in there for. The tour guide said let that be a warning to you all “Don’t get too drunk the night before a hurricane is due in, otherwise you might end up in jail for 8 months instead of one night”.

The most impressive thing we saw during this tour was the special charity projects that have been set up by Harry Connick Jnr and Brad Pitt. Harry Connick Jnr has donated, started and funded the Musician’s Village in the 9th ward to provide housing for local musicians and to encourage them to come back to New Orleans. Brad Pitt started ‘Make it right’ and is rebuilding green storm houses in the 9th Ward. They are all equipped with solar panels and ergonomically and environmental designed. The residents in New Orleans speak very highly of Brad Pitt and really appreciate what he is doing there.

After the tour we went for lunch at Acme Seafood. I had a dish called Gumbo Poopa. It sounds disgusting right? Don’t worry I questioned the waiter to find exactly what was in this dish and I assure you there was nothing foul about it. It was, like all the meals in New Orleans, delicious! We also shared some parmesan coated oysters, which is what Acme is famous for and it sure didn’t disappoint.

After lunch we caught the ferry across the Mississippi river and then found ourselves back on Bourbon Street drinking triple vodka and tonics! It was the start of a very crazy and funny night! We met this lovely couple from Chicago called Tracey and Brian.   Tracey was this little 5ft nothing, cute as a button, absolute best-behaved sweetheart until she had a few drinks. Then she was dragging us into strip clubs and ordering us shots. She was out of control and it was hilarious. I think she reached her finest form when she walked up to her husband saying "I just gave that stripper $10" to which he replied "TRAAA CCC IIEEEE, why did you go and do that for?". She just looked at him with a serious face and said "Cause she's hot". He then asked if the stripper gave her a dance for her money. When she told him that she just handed over the money and walked away, he teased her about it. So she spent the next ten minutes chasing the stripper around asking for her dance! We escaped the dodgy club and found a great bar down the road, with a live band and we danced along to some cool old classic rock songs. At some stage we decided eating would be a great idea so we found a restaurant on Bourbon Street called Desire. I'm not sure if it's because their food was actually amazing or because we were too drunk to tell but Morgan and I LOVED the food there. It was our last night out and I can definitely say Bourbon Street got the better of us! I am not sure if it was the vodka and sodas, pina coladas, red wine or the shots we had but something didn’t agree with me. I was not in a good state the next day but boy it was a great night and we made two new awesome friends.

We left New Orleans a day later with a smile on our faces. What damn cool place!

  New Orleans, petit pavillon de la couronne de France. Et c'est bien plus que la ville elle-même qui est revendu aux américains par Napoléon au XIX³. Parceque Lemoyne d'Ibberville, Jean-Baptiste de son prénom ou Jean bat', Fonde la Nouvelle Orleans en plantant un drapeau là et déclare que tous les territoires deservi par le Mississipi, depuis son Canada natal, sont la propriété de la courronne de France, juchée sur la tête du Duc d'Orléans à ce moment là. Ça fait un jolie bout de terrain...
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