New Orleans March 6th – 11th, 2012
This trip was two years in the making. It started the moment I got back from the great city of New Orleans on my first venture there. It was in 2010, and my best friends and I went there to celebrate turning 40. That was my first time in Nola, and I fell in love with her (flaws and all) and knew that I wanted to come back soon and share the experience with my family. Ironically, it was a difficult re-visit to plan. We had surgeries and other family events play a hand at making us reschedule a couple of different times. We eventually were able to set our sights on the spring of 2012 as our planned venture, and even though we still encountered unique circumstances, we were able to get there. Sometimes I wondered if the trip was cursed. Were we not supposed to go to New Orleans? Even if the odds were stacked against us, we made it and this is a journal of our Big Easy Adventure.
Day 1 in New Orleans – March 6th, 2012
At the Airport (never the most fun part of traveling)
Day 1 of any vacation is widely known as travel day, and it bookends with the last day of the trip – return day. It’s become a sort of unstated ritual that we begin every trip to Denver International Airport with a breakfast burrito from Burrito Express in Lakewood. Sidenote: if you haven’t tried their food, you really need to. They are a little subdued family run place, much like a quickie fast food place, but they have the most amazing food. I can recommend the rellenos combo wholeheartedly, and the chimichanga is also a yum-buster. Their breakfast burritos are a real treat too, and per our usual way of doing things we grabbed a couple of these on our way out of town.
United Airlines was having some computer issues since they’d recently combined forces and systems with Continental causing some delays in the check in system. We arrived early and had no issues at all. The plane actually had to be powered down on the run way and started again due to computer issues (I’d be lying if I didn’t think at that moment that maybe our trip wasn’t supposed happen) but when powered back up, everything worked fine and we were off. Finally!
Flight went well, overall. Claire and I had a blast browsing through the Sky Mall magazine and coming up with matches of who in our friend and family circles would benefit from some of the more ridiculous products. They boys had upgraded seats in economy plus with tons of extra leg room and no one in front of them. Bonus – we got to see an episode of “Big Bang Theory” on the way there. We met a group of ladies who were headed out for their annual girls trip. One of the ladies was sitting next to me, and she asked me what we planned on doing in New Orleans with children? She seemed mighty perplexed.
I explained, how our kiddie care plans kind of fell through after we had booked the trip nearly a year in advance. We had purchased cheap non-refundable seats, and changing them to a date that would work for our family to watch the kids ended up costing us only $200 shy of what it would cost to bring them along. So that is how we changed our romantic getaway for two into a family fun trip for four. I noted that while Bourbon Street proper is *not* a place for the young ‘uns, that New Orleans actually does offer a lot for families – museums, history, plantations, WWII history, so many walking tours, the garden district, steamboat trips, food, Audubon Park, the insectarium, the IMAX theater, and so many other thing that we would be hard pressed to even scratch the surface on those available items.
It’s true. The drinking is fun. I enjoy walking my ‘big ass beer’ from one street to the next. But really, New Orleans is so much more. And I think that is why, in my heart, that I truly love the area. There is so much going on beneath the surface of the all night frat party. But don’t get me wrong. The bars are great. The night life is unlike any other. The fun is multifaceted and there are many deviant ways you can spend your free time dabbling in debauchery. We just scaled that back a little this time around
So we touched down on Louisiana soil around 2:00 in the afternoon New Orleans time and made it to our condo near 3:00. Two things I love about the trip from Louis Armstrong Airport to the French Quarter – 1) The view of the above ground cemeteries you get from the highway about half way there and 2) The point when you head off the highway and you make that turn into the Quarter neighborhood, you know that turn, once you make it you see about four to six amazing old french style houses on the left hand side. They are opulent and decorated with flags and wrought iron, and sooooo beautiful. When you see these, it’s your first taste of being in the French Quarter. You know you’ve just arrived.
Back at the condo, Steve greeted us, gave us the nickel tour, and left us to get on with our vacationing. My first trip in ’10, the girls and I stayed at Down on Dauphine, a wonderful little condo a block away from Bourbon on Dauphine St. It’s a marvelous place for a couple or a group of adult friends and I have nothing but great things to say about Brad (the owner) and his adorable place. This time though, we needed a place that catered to kids. Our kids are not small, they are early teens, but still we needed a place not so close to the action at night, but close enough to everything we wanted to see in the daytime. Steve and Dawn’s place on the residential end of Bourbon fit the bill perfectly. They are gracious and kind and their two BR two Bath condo with kitchen and laundry facilities was exactly what we needed. I’d recommend that place to any one with or without kids that needs the extra space, or needs a kid friendly rental. I’m lucky that all my VRBO experiences in New Orleans have been super positive. Goes to show that the people there are just wonderful.
Anyway, back to the trip. It’s now roughly 4:00 and we head out to see what we can see before it gets too dark. We head straight for the Mississippi Riverwalk. We met our first scammer (a dude who shined Chad’s tennis shoes for $5, really?! He said the fee was for the enjoyable banter – ok, he had a couple of good lines, unfortunately all I had was a $10 and the guy didn’t have change). Sigh. Welcome to New Orleans. Remember to not be so nice to fast talking slicksters. Check.
We walked along the riverwalk. We got to see one of the steamboats and the Calliope show it performs daily. Pretty cool! Sorry for the wind intrusion on the audio below. I forgot how windy it was the day we got into town.
Then we walked to where I remember getting these amazing huge walk-up Hurricanes with the girls, but that restaurant was gone. Wow. Things change in only two years. We headed back over to Decatur and stoped at DuMonde’s for beignets. #1 on the kids’ must see “to do” list since I’ve been raving about them for the last two years. Mmmmm, the kids were covered in powdered sugar and smiles after that.
We cut back through Jackson Square and up Pirates Alley to see the Cathedral and the Cabildo as the sun started to wane. We figured it was time to locate some grub and get the kids back to the condo by dark.
Now, one thing I have to tell you is that Steve and Dawn’s condo is perfectly situated right between my favorite bar (Jean Lafittes Blacksmith Shop) and my favorite mini mart (Verti Marte). We headed straight to the Verti Marte and – I kid you not – got some of the most amazing sandwiches there. AMAZING! Recommendations? Get the French Fry Po Boy, the oyster po boy, the muffuletta, or their signature sandwich All that Jazz! Orgasmic. Allways get your sandwich “dressed” – means it comes with lettuce, tomato, and sauce (usually mayo, but the po boy came with Louisiana hot sauce and the All that Jazz came with their special sauce). Go, and go often. We did. You will not regret it. Keep in mind though, the VM is cash only. But they are SO worth every cent (only $9 which is a steal for a meal in the city). And they are HUGE. I can eat a lot, and could only finish half my sandwich. But was able to save the other half when midnight munchies hit or to have for breakfast. Yum!
So we ate god-sandwiches in the courtyard while the sun went down and spent some down time hanging out. The kids settled in for the evening and Chad and I went out to see Bourbon St. at night. We did the standard stuff, had a hurricane at Pat O’Briens, got a Big Ass Beer (for only $6 the best economical drink deal there probably). Passed by all the street performers – the break dance team had the biggest crowd by far, there was a guy ‘climbing a ladder’ which looked hard, but more people found the ‘glowing alien on stilts’ more entertaining. I thought the skeleton faced guy with a bone sticking out of his crotch (get it? Think about it) and the frumpy guy in drag were my faves tho. Pure entertainment ala Bourbon St. lolz
We ended back in our area of Bourbon and stopped at Jean Lafittes. I love this bar, was my favorite place to drink last time probably because it is dark and mostly quiet. They sometimes have a piano man singing. But somewhere between March of 2010 and now they acquired a jukebox. Ugh. Having horrible juke tunes squelch the dark and ominous ambiance kind of sucks, but that night only one or two bad songs played, otherwise it was good and just like I remember it. Candle-lit and homey. We had the bartender point out the writing on the wooden post above the bar. I’d heard about this and wanted to see for myself (check it out, I have a photo in my gallery). Legend has it that Jean Lafitte himself wrote it (it’s in Portuguese, I believe) – it says something to the effect of ”Love passes time, and with time love passes.” It was really cool to see this. I got chills! Even if Lafitte himself didn’t pen it, it still dates back to the late 1700′s or early 1800′s aka – a whole heck of a lot of time ago.
Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
Next, we ended up out on the patio outside for our final drink (mine was a Pimms Cup, Chad had the Abita on tap – both are highly recommended IMO – I’m not a beer fan but I adore Abita in several different flavors, but Lafittes is known for their Hurricanes. I just can’t have more than on sweet drink and the O’Briens Hurricane put me at my sugar limit). Now, according to our Haunted History Tour guide from two years ago, it’s not the fireplace in the building that is haunted as many tourists are led to believe, but it’s the courtyard outside where most unusual sightings and experiences happen. Now keep this in mind, you’ll hear more about the non-haunted fireplace later.
Chad and I had a great quiet time outside, taking pics, getting a nice buzz, and enjoying the beautiful quiet spring night in New Orleans. Did we get some ghosts in our photos in the courtyard, or inside the oldest bar in the U.S.? View my photo gallery and see what you think.
Next up — New Orleans Vacation Diary: Day 2 — we’ll explore swamp land, plantations, ghosts and more of the sultry beauty that New Orleans has to offer.