We kept driving and crossed the border into Louisiana where I had one of those "we're not in Kansas anymore" moments when I popped into a Subway for lunch
. The guy behind the counter was putting my sandwich together and asked what I wanted on it. I asked for tomato and avocado (which is a standard option in most Subway stores around America). He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "What was that last thing? I've never heard of that." I said, "Avocado. You know, like Guacamole." He still kept looking at me like I was speaking a foreign language, when the other employee leaned and said to him, "I think that's that Taco Bell stuff." So, yeah, no avocado in western Louisiana. I might as well have worn a T-shirt that said, "I'm a Yankee."
After driving through the swamps of Louisiana (literally--we were surrounded by muddy swamps and the road was a bridge for about 30 miles), we drove into New Orleans and relaxed at one of the most beautiful b&bs you can imagine. It was a beautiful 1860s home, and our room was huge with a fully accessible bathroom that's getting a 5 star rating from us on tripmonkey.org. We wandered out that night for dinner on Bourbon Street--good dinner, but we decided not to stay later because we weren't in the mood for the seediness of Bourbon Street at night!
The next day we spent exploring the French Quarter, and honestly, at times we felt like we were in another country. The buildings are all so beautiful and historic--many of them reminded us of Nicaragua, which makes sense because much of the French Quarter was built by the Spanish in the 1790s after a fire burned down most of the French buildings
. We even took a tour in a horse-drawn carriage, partially to get out of the rain, and got a great tour from a nice man who had lost his home in Katrina but didn't lose a single family member so he said he felt blessed. We realized that it's such a shame that Katrina is all we think about nowadays when we think of New Orleans, because actually so much of the area is completely back to normal (not a sign of it in the French Quarter, which didn't flood). Still, it's hard not to think about it when you drive around neighborhoods and still see the spraypainted marks left over on some abandoned houses from when they did their house to house searches. But then again, as our innkeeper Patrick told Mike, people need to start coming back to New Orleans for the food and the music, and stop obsessing about the hurricane.
So that's what we did. Last night, for Mike's 28th birthday, we went to an amazing restaurant called Cuvee where we spoiled ourselves with decadent food and a nice bottle of sparkling wine. Perfect way to end our New Orleans experience. Well, at least until this morning, when Patrick cooked us french toast with a Louisiana sweet potato filling, topped with pecans drenched in honey butter. Yum.
In case you haven't been following the American news, last week a major hurricane hit Houston and southeast Texas. As we were leaving San Antonio, road signs still said "avoid Houston" and "limited fuel in and around Houston" but we did our research and figured we could make it through Houston and on to New Orleans. Once we got into eastern Texas, we could see the signs of the Hurricane everywhere, wrecked billboards and roofs that had been peeled back. But overall (since we were north of the hardest hit areas) we didn't see anything too serious until we reached a sign that said "caution: house on road". Then we looked over on the side road, which parallels the freeway, and saw just that--an entire house that the storm flooding had picked up and dropped on the middle of the road!