22/9/16 – Doing as the locals do

Got up semi-early to get ready and pack the last few things before leaving our nice Miami apartment. A friend of Lydia’s picked us up and took us to the Alamo to fetch our car and didn’t even want to charge us for the ride! We still tipped him, of course. Our car wasn’t ready yet, but the man behind the desk upgraded us to a bigger one free of charge to save us spending our vacation sitting in the Alamo. I do love Americans. There was also the Latino double of Oliver Hudson working on the desk. I genuinely thought it was really him (and that he’d super downgraded his career somehow) until I heard him speak.

Our car was a big Dodge Journey that I quickly dubbed Harry (Hazza if you’re feeling casual). It’s so good to have a car to just pile everything into, rather than having to lug around various bags and cases, particularly the box that’s filled with alcohol. Both the Alamo guy and our unofficial taxi driver commented on how it was the most important piece of luggage we were carrying. Not untrue. We only drove about an hour out of Miami before we had to stop off at a Burger King. Hunger is real, people, even if Burger King is pretty unsatisfying when you consider the wide variety of eating options here.

Back on the road again. Watched an episode of Psych and then we were distracted by a Walmart. Actually the first one we’ve seen. Finally got my big box of Seagrams, as well as more Red Bull, Sunny D, Milk Duds and a giant bag of popcorn. Then I discovered the clothes section and got very distracted indeed. I ended up picking out a stripy jumper dress of all things, but it was just too nice to pass up and as Mom pointed out, it was very me. Everyone knows black and red is my colour scheme. Even better, I also got various pairs of boxers with Deadpool, Batman and Wonder Woman on them. There were some lovely Harley Quinn ones, but sadly, they only had them in massive sizes.

By the time we were leaving, it was pouring with rain, so we had to wait it out a little before we were brave enough to make a run for it to the car. Thankfully, we didn’t have anymore distraction stops. I’d planned on using the driving time to write, but the drive was so nice that I ended up just watching through the window instead and taking the odd photo. Definitely some lovely views driving into the Keys. We booked into our very cute hotel in Key Largo and had a mill around in the room for a while. Had a little read and then Skyped Kel for a bit. I don’t think she’s enjoying hamster-sitting for Wilson, since he managed to get out of his ball. Yes, I named my hamster after a ball and yes, it’s ironic that he’s tried to make his grand escape from it on a few occasions.

Headed on out after that and had a little wander around the area. We walked down the waterfront first and found some lovely red and blue wrasse, stripy little Angelfish looking Sergeant Majors and some teeny, teeny jellyfish. We then went inwards and onto the street that ran parallel to the water. It was so freaking adorable. It was like being in a proper little fishing village, which I guess technically, we were. All of the houses were built up above the first storey with open patios underneath, besides the garages, clearly prepared for any potential flooding. They all looked really nice and cute though and everyone had their own unique mailboxes, like ones that were being held up by a manatee or alligator statue.

After exploring everything there pretty much was to explore – which really was only a little – we went to a restaurant called Sharkey’s, where we got to sit upstairs out on the balcony, overlooking the waterfront. Now this was just the most perfect night. I had a literal bucketful of a cocktail called Sharkbite Punch, which was mango and passionfruit rum, pineapple and orange juice and grenadine. To go with that, I decided to be adventurous and went with the beer battered fresh shrimp and sea fries. I’m really fussy with seafood and had to ask for them to be served without the tails on, so it was a brave step for me, but god, it was such a good choice. It was so fresh and so tasty and I felt so pleased that I’d chose to be adventurous. As well as the food and drink being delicious, there was a musician playing an acoustic set of great covers of songs I love like Three Doors Down, Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then we even got to sit and watch an electrical storm out over the river where the lightning made the clouds light up pink and blue. Talk about the most incredible atmosphere. Everything was just perfect.

Suitably stuffed and with Mom certainly not wanting any more cocktails after our buckets, we headed back to the room. I had a few of my Mike’s Hard Lemonade and read, then planned to watch the rest of Sahara and then do some writing. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it – Dad discovered Impractical Jokers on the telly, so I had no choice but to watch that after only watching a little more of Sahara. Guess we’ll try again tomorrow.

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Now that’s entertainment.

21/9/16 – To the beach

Up a little less early today. Much slower on getting ready, since Mom was looking up what we were going to do about the Everglades and the Keys. I had a Funyuns breakfast, did some reading and watched bits of Sahara for a while before getting all suncreamed up and ready to go. There was a little more of a breeze than yesterday, but it was still incredibly hot. I tried to tan up my back a bit, but the air was so close that I couldn’t lie on my front for long without feeling really uncomfortable.

Switched back onto my chair and did some reading instead. We saw a couple more manta rays in the sea. One of them was even bigger than the one we saw yesterday! They clearly like this section of the beach. After a while, we went for lunch at a Colombian place called Sabor Playa. God, I really am loving all this South American stuff. I had a chicken quesadilla, which was gorgeous and so, so cheesy. So cheesy that in the end, even I felt like I was having a cheese overload and I freaking love cheese. I asked for a lemon Snapple and because our server didn’t seem to have the best English, I ended up with some kind of apple ice tea. I normally don’t like ice tea, but it was actually really nice and refreshing and thankfully didn’t taste like tea at all.

Grabbed some drinks from Walgreen’s and had a few more hours on the beach after lunch. There was even more of a breeze this time, which was very welcome. Did more reading and then moved back onto my towel, partly to tan my back more and also because I’d already burnt all my front and lying on it meant it’d be protected from getting re-burnt. It also meant it wasn’t entirely comfortable, though I did manage to fall asleep for about an hour, so it clearly wasn’t too uncomfortable.

Came back to the apartment afterwards. Mom had more researching she wanted to do on the Keys, so I did yet more reading and playing my Disney game around showering. I even fit in a Mike’s Hard Lemonade amongst showering and getting ready. We then had another big leak from the washing machine – looks like they didn’t fix it properly after all, though maybe we shouldn’t have tempted fate by doing another wash. It was still crazy when we left the apartment. Normally, it cools at least a little by the evening, but it was still thirty degrees by eight o’clock.

We went to a Brazilian place that Dad had wanted to try called Cypo Café. Sadly, they only had wine and beer in the alcohol department, so I had to have a pineapple juice instead. Well, apparently it was pineapple juice. It was pineapple flavoured, but very synthetic and not at all juicy with lots of gritty sugar at the bottom. Bad Cypo Café. You can’t advertise this as delicious flavour. For my meal, I had grilled chicken breasts sauteed in garlic with mash and red beans over rice on the side. All of the sides were lovely, but the chicken was dry and very garlicky in some spots and then very plain in others. Mixed feelings really.

We went to a bar called Aromi after that, but either the fakey pineapple juice or something I ate didn’t agree with me, because I started to feel quite ill. I bypassed alcohol for the house water instead. You know I’m not myself if I’m drinking water, because I only ever do that if I have a bad head and have literally nothing else to hand or if I’m out and I’m already horrendously drunk but still have the sense to try and re-hydrate. The bar itself was pretty cool though. They had a cushion with Batman and Wonder Woman kissing on it, which I’m obviously gonna approve of.

We popped into Walgreen’s on the way back because I’d seen a super cute notebook I wanted to get – notebooks are absolutely my weakness for impulse buys, but hey, at least I always use them. I also got some more Funyuns for the start of the car travels tomorrow. I felt better after being back at the apartment; at least well enough to have a couple more of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Spent the night watching When Weather Goes Viral. One of the meteorologists on there said that everyone has a little bit of weather geek in them and it’s completely true. Tornadoes in particularly have always fascinated me and it’s perversely interesting to watch storms go very wrong.

Pottered round doing a bit more packing in between watching the wonderful weather programme before bed, ready for the next move. First place in our itinerary that I’ve never been to before. Bring on the Keys!

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Holy guacamole, that’s good!

20/9/16 – I’m meeelting!

Got up after my most uncomfortable sleep so far. The bed itself was fine; it was just the first time I’ve felt really hot in the night. Clearly we need to have the noisy air con on through the night here. Had a pretty slow getting ready as we had to wait for the landlord Lydia, who wanted to come round just to say hi and give us some recommendations on where to go for food and where the beach was. Of course, we’d already found all of that out for ourselves last night. Watched some Suits, got suncreamed up and into my new bikini, then we were ready to go.

The beach doesn’t have any parasols or sunbeds – you have to bring that kinda thing yourself. Thankfully, we’d found some beach chairs in the cupboard that can recline, so we brought those down with us. It was ridiculously hot with no sign of a breeze. I couldn’t seem to get comfy in the chair or lying on a towel on the sand. I did have fun finding the tiniest, perfect little seashells though, as well as watching the adorable piper birds. Totally made me think of the little Pixar short they showed before Finding Dory.

We did have a bit of drama when somebody came down the beach shouting, “Get out of the water!” At first, I thought he was joking – maybe it’s just Brits who’d joke about that kind of thing –  but he kept on going, “I’m serious; get out of the water! It could be a manatee or it could be a shark.” Of course, by that point, everyone in the water had got out and the rest of us had ran down to the water’s edge to get a better look. Sure enough, there was a big black shape moving along the line of the shore and very close to where people had been swimming. Part of it broke the surface a couple of times and it turned out it was a giant manta ray, wow. Never seen one of those in the wild before. It really was huge too.

After the excitement, I pretty much started to die in the sun. It really was harsh without a breeze and I usually love lying in the sun more than pretty much anything. I’d already finished the drink I’d brought with me long ago, so I was very relieved when Mom and Dad suggested going for lunch. I wasn’t even hungry – always a sure sign that I’m flagging in one way or another – I just wanted a drink and some air con. Not much to ask for.

We ended up in Burgers ‘n’ Shakes, which had the poorest air con in the whole of America. Typical. I ordered cheesy fries and should have known that when it came, it’d be cheese sauce, rather than actual cheese. Americans need a few lessons in what real cheesy fries are, methinks. Though to be fair, I really didn’t care much about my food and just ate mechanically. I was much more in the drinks machine that was one of those machines that has hundreds of drink options. I tried and quickly poured away a lime Fanta, which tasted very much like Coke for some reason (hate Coke), before moving to the strawberry and fruit punch flavoured Hi C. I definitely made the most of my $2.50 by pounding two drinks there and then taking another to-go back to the beach.

Thankfully, there was a little more of a breeze when we got there and with thunderstorms looming, but never actually breaking out over us other than the odd clap of thunder, the sun actually went in for a while. I never thought I’d be happy about that, but I was able to read, write and watch some Psych in a lot more comfort. On the morning, I’d been so hot that I hadn’t had a hope of concentrating on anything other than the fact that I was melting. The sun came back out later, but it was cooler by then, which was very welcome.

After another several hours on the beach, we decided to head back, stopping off at Walgreen’s to get snacks and pop for the room. One of my cosplay girls had actually shared a picture of some Harley Quinn makeup brushes on Facebook last night with the original caption saying they were only available at Walgreen’s, of all places. Of course, I knew I was very close to one, so I was ready to go on the hunt. I actually found lots of Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Catwoman based makeup, as well as a really adorable Beauty and the Beast eye shadow set. I ended up getting the Harley brushes as a present for Emi – whenever I see her next – since I don’t use blusher or anything myself, then got my own Harley makeup box that actually had red eye shadow. Red! You never get red eye shadow anywhere! Teamed the buy with some Funyuns and more Powerade.

Had a very slow shower and get ready, because it was still far too hot. Discovered I’ve crazy burnt my legs and stomach. Oops. We then had a mild trauma when Mom decided to put a wash on and twenty minutes in, the washing machine started pouring water out on the floor. Double oops. Lydia had to call someone out to try and service it. Still didn’t quite figure out what was wrong with it, but we at least got to finish washing the clothes that were already in there and get them in the dryer. We seem to be a family that break things on holiday. I’ve broken beds, curtains and hairdryers in the past and the oldies don’t have a much better history.

After that was out of the way, we headed out for food and found ourselves in a big Portuguese diner type place called Manola. Our waiter was sweet; he looked like the love child of Richard Ayoade and Gok Wan. He told us he’d actually been to the UK himself – to London and then Aberdeen, of all places. Even I’ve not been to Aberdeen. Me and Mom shared another lovely, huge pitcher of sangria and I then had twin grilled chicken breasts in a creamy green onion sauce with mash on the side. Damn, it was good. I’m loving all this South American cuisine. I think a tour of South America needs to be next on the travel list. I already want to see Mexico and Colombia in particular.

We popped into Lou’s Beer Garden on the way back, which was actually part of someone’s hotel – you follow the side of it down to the courtyard and bar area. I had an Amalfi Sunset, which was Grey Goose vodka (never say no to Grey Goose), aperol, grapefruit and lemon juice, agave nectars and bitters. Very strong, but sour cocktails always cancel that out nicely. Came back to the room after to cane several Mike’s Hard Lemonade, whilst watching more Psych on my iPod, as well as glancing up every now and then to catch the John Leguizamo parts in some awful Amy Poehler film that the oldies were watching. Back to the beach again tomorrow. A little heavier on the breeze this time, yeah?

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Now that’s a beach!

19/9/16 – Don’t feed after midnight. Actually… do

Up early to get ready and pack the last few things so we’d still have time for breakfast before we got picked up. I ended up with an extra pancake with my last lot, because the guy in front only wanted one and the machine makes them in twos, so he donated the second to me. Always a win. Breakfast is definitely something I’ll miss, since we won’t be getting it included at our private apartment in Miami. Got picked up by our hopper service and had just under an hour wait in the airport, after going through security. Started reading one of my Clive Cussler books before we had to board.

The flight itself was short and sweet. Read some more, drank a Red Bull and watched a few episodes of Psych, then we were landing in Miami. It was chucking it down when we got there – much like the last time I flew into Miami – so they kept us on the runway for a little bit whilst they sorted out the tunnel so we wouldn’t all get wet. Miami is another huge airport and we had a bit of a trek and a tram ride over to baggage claim. Since we had WiFi, I got to hit a lot of their Pokéstops, woo. I did get a bit freaked out though when I turned my internet on and some child abduction amber alert started buzzing through. I don’t like that; I only wanted a bit of WiFi!

Picked up our cases, then got a not so comfortable cab ride over to Miami Beach. Our driver made us all cram together in the back, because he had food rubbish on the front seat. Not exactly professional. It was then very warm, because he had the windows open, rather than the air con. Anyone who’s ever stepped foot in America knows that if you want a breeze, you don’t open the window, because that just lets all the heat in. There was a lot of traffic caused by a road accident and our driver then nearly fully crashed into someone trying to change lanes, just because he didn’t want to let them in front of him. I know tips are expected over here, but why Dad still gave him one, I don’t know. My tip? Learn to drive.

Our ground apartment had some fancy codes system to get through the front gate and then actually into the apartment. It’s very cute and I actually get my own room here, so I don’t have to put up with the awful snoring. Air con is definitely needed here. We had a bit of an unpack and a wind down after the travel and looked up all the various things around us. We’re only a few blocks from the beach, lovely. We decided to go for a wander over to said beach front, then went off in search of food.

We ended up in a Cuban restaurant called Sazon. Never had Cuban food before, but oh my god, I can tell you I definitely love it. Me and Mom shared a pitcher of gorgeous sangria. You can always trust places that make good sangria. To start, I had garbanzo frito, which was fried chickpeas with sausage and ham in a spicy, almost Creole tasting sauce. I have a mad love for chickpea dishes. It was really, really tasty. Then for my main, I had vaca frita – shredded steak shank cooked in garlic and onions and served with mash and yellow rice. All of it was to die for. The steak just fell apart and the rice was like proper tasty, Turkish style rice. Definitely a meal in a million!

Feeling like I had a giant food baby, we meandered between a few stops on the way back to pick up alcohol for the room. I was gutted that I couldn’t find any Seagrams or B&Js anywhere. I ended up getting a rather hefty box of mixed flavours of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and then very slowly broke into a couple of them back in the room, due to the ever-looming presence of the food baby, and watched another episode of Psych before bed. Certainly not a bad wind-down.

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Now that’s what I’m talking about!

18/9/16 – Lost that loving feeling

Up not quite as early as the last few mornings. We still had time for breakfast, so I just got dressed and brushed my hair before going down this time. Cue more pancakes and sausages. I also spent an age trying to catch a really far away Golbat on Pokémon Go. After using more than half of my Pokéballs, I had to just give up. Stupid Golbat. Came back up to the room after to straighten my hair and get ready properly, whilst Mom browsed things that we could do on the internet. I suggested the Audobon Aquarium and the reviews were good, so we headed on down to the riverfront.

I actually really like aquariums. I got a lot of good pictures, thanks to the lovely camera on my nice new phone. There was lots to see. Plenty of general tanks, obviously, walk-through tunnels, sharks, giant turtles, seahorses – I looove seahorses – jellyfish, frogs, alligators, a giant otter called Clara – seriously, I thought it was a seal at first – penguins and of course, manta rays. I love those guys. Spent a while around the touch pool so I could give them some fuss. I just love how friendly they always seem. I even got two different sized manta ray teddies from the gift shop afterwards. Come on, I have a tattoo of manta rays for a reason.

Unsurprisingly, we were hungry when we got out, so we went back to the Market Café for lunch. I decided to try the traditional Creole red beans and rice with andouille sausage. Can’t quite put my finger on what it reminded me of, but it was nice. I also helped Dad out with some of the fried shrimp from his po-boy. I’m really picky with seafood so I’m always loathed to order that kind of thing in case I don’t like it, but they were really good. It was pretty much just like having fresh scampi. Never a bad thing.

We decided to check out Bourbon Street in the daytime, since I had actually been quite horrified by the other night because of how busy it was – more like Broad Street than Bourbon Street. However, I was still incredibly disappointed. Mid afternoon and it was completely dead. Where were all the jazz musicians and the happy spirited people partying in the street? Hoping it would pick up with time, we stopped off at the Bourbon O Bar for drinks. I had a Drew Brees(y) Big Easy, which was rum, grapefruit vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, cranberry juice and syrup. Damn, it was good. It came in a cute cup decorated to look like an American football too. Whilst we were in there, we took great entertainment in watching a guy outside who was wearing nothing but pants and holding a cardboard sign saying “spank me, one dollar”. Worst, or best, thing is he’ll probably make more than any of the other buskers.

We carried on down Bourbon Street afterwards and although the crowds had indeed picked up, it was still not quite what I’d hoped for. At some point over the last three years, it seems to have lost all of its culture and just become a big party holiday spot. Bourbon Street has always been about the partying, but in a high spirited, always rocking street party kind of way; not just the getting rowdy and pissed up outside kind of way. They didn’t have any musicians or even play any jazz at all. They just blasted chart music from the open bars. Really, incredibly sad for me. I classed New Orleans as my most favourite place in the world since my last visit and Bourbon Street was a huge part of the reason behind that. Now I’m not sure I’d even be fussed about seeing the street again. A horrific change to what used to be such a fascinating, cultural and highly unique place. Now it’s just the American Malia.

We headed back to the hotel to start packing, since we have our flight to Miami in the morning. I had my usual Red Bull whilst doing so and fit my shower in around it, as well as finishing off my Anita Blake book. After getting ready, we came back down to the Gumbo Shop for the last time – and it probably really will be the last time, since the touristy changes have me not feeling the need to come back. At least not any time in the near future. Of course, had to have the gumbo again, along with some garlic mash and a cocktail called Blue Bayou, consisting of vodka, blue curacao and pineapple juice. Nice, but so strong yet again. Americans, I love alcohol, but you really need to sort your measurements out. Eight percent alcohol is too much over tea.

We went to Bar Medoras afterwards, since we’d seen that they did sangria. I actually had a Purple Pride Punch first – vodka, raspberry and blackberry liqueurs, pineapple juice and Hurricane mix – before helping Mom out with her blackberry sangria. Yummy all round. We tried another bar afterwards, but they were closed from half nine – what madness is this?! You’re a bar, for crying out loud! – so we went to a place called Creole House instead. I had a Mississippi Madness, which was rum, liqueur, pineapple and orange juices and grenadine. Definitely a nice and refreshing cocktail to go out on.

Came back to the hotel to finish packing up everything before bed, since we have an early start in the morning. My second trip to New Orleans really has been very different to the first. I’ll miss the food here and the lovely cocktails, but I can’t stop stressing how I won’t be missing the changed atmosphere. Not now. Three years ago, I would have. Guess that’s what tourism can do to a place.

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Cuddly seahorses!

17/9/16 – What about second breakfast?

Up fairly early again, at least before eight o’clock. That doesn’t usually happen naturally on holiday and/or on a weekend. Played on my Disney game a little before getting up to get ready for breakfast. I got to have my two rounds of pancakes this time, hoorah. We headed on down to get the trolley over towards the Garden District. We went to Lafayette Cemetery first. Last time I came here, it was incredibly hot and we’d tended to stick to the lines that were in the shade. Not quite that hot today, so I got to explore a bit more fully. Still easily the most interesting cemetery I’ve ever seen. It was rife with lizards too, so I did a lot of lizard spotting.

From there, we went for a wander down Prytania Street to see all the big celebrity houses. I didn’t know/couldn’t remember who any of them belonged to, but I’d certainly be interested to find out who owned the house that had a huge stuffed tiger sat out on the front path, guarding the threshold. Mike Tyson, maybe? We then ran into a Maccies to get drinks and binge off the WiFi for a bit to figure out what other trolley routes we could take. Whilst we were then waiting for the trolley to arrive afterwards, a very nice American guy came over to warn us about what area we ventured into. Apparently, two blocks over from where we were standing was their ‘ghetto’ and three shootings had occurred there just last night. Scary! We took his advice and certainly didn’t look back once we got on the trolley.

We went up and down the St. Charles route, then got off when we saw a little strip mall with plenty of eating options. We ended up in a cute place called O’Henry’s, where we got to sit upstairs out on the little garden balcony. I had a blood orange mimosa, a side of jambalaya and fried bayou wrappers, which were deep fried tortillas stuffed with chicken, andouille sausage, cheese and herbs. All very yummy. Mom erred over having the bayou wrappers too and our nice waiter suggested that maybe I’d be generous to share. I point blank told him no, which he seemed to find very amusing. Then when he brought the food out, he gave me mine and said “this is only for you; nobody else”. He clearly got me.

Following that was a Baskin Robbins. The girl serving us loved my red check dress. This seems to keep happening. A woman along the street last night told me she liked my pineapple dress. Funny how both times it’s been my super cheap Primark bargains. I had scoops of strawberry and coconut with pineapple, then we got back on the trolley and completed the St. Charles line there and back. We then came down to the Mississippi and got on the Riverfront line. That was actually pretty much hell on wheels. It was packed, hot and there was a screaming child who was honest-to-god called Siri. She also looked like Dora the Explorer and was an equally annoying little shit.

When we got off, we slowly meandered back to the hotel. I stopped off in a shop to get my Red Bull fix and a fancy New Orleans keyring for Lisa. Had a slow session of showering, getting ready and reading in between. I really themed it up with my Daryl Dixon inspired wing-backed dress and crossbow and arrows jewellery. Because I’m nerdy like that. For some reason, we let Dad be chief navigator again and wandered round for ages looking for a Mexican place that he reckoned he knew exactly where it was, despite the fact that we hadn’t seen it on our walks and he hadn’t looked at the address online. We shouldn’t have trusted him really. We never found the Mexican place.

We ended up in a little diner/bar type place called Déja Vu. I had the most horrendously strong Hurricane that I probably only drank a sixth of. We all shared gator balls to start with – deep fried and blended with onions, peppers and Cajun spices and served with ranch. They were really nice and quite delicately flavoured. Kinda like a soft tasting meatball. For my main, I had fried chicken fillet with country peppered gravy and super creamy mash. The mash and gravy were good; the chicken, not so much. It was one of those thing but heavily fried pieces that are a little too sickly. At least I finally got to try the alligator meat.

We then had another big wander around looking for a bar, because Dad decided he was going to be super picky about everything. He faffed around one place so much that I didn’t know where to stand to get out of the way of people and ended up stepping in a giant puddle. That wasn’t so fun. Me and Mom got fed up of meandering, so we ended up back in Pat O’Brien’s for more Hurricanes. Now these are the proper Hurricanes. Obviously wasn’t complaining about that.

After a long sit and drink, we came back to the hotel. Cue the oldies wanting to go straight to bed again. I wasn’t too put out by it this time, since I hadn’t slept too well the night before due to my sicky episode, so I happily sat and read quietly for about an hour before retiring myself.

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16/9/16 – Hush up and look at the gumbo

Got up early, but not crazy six o’clock early. Jet lag usually has me awake much earlier, but waiting until ten-ish to go to sleep clearly helped to get us back on track. Slowly got ready for the day and headed down for breakfast. I was delighted to see that there was a self-serve pancake machine. Never knew such a thing existed, but it was super easy to use and they had maple syrup, cream and rainbow sprinkles to put on top. Had my pancakes, as well as an egg patty and some mini sausages. The sausages were so tasty that I went back for more. Was tempted to do the same with the pancakes, but a queue had developed by that time. I’ll have second breakfast tomorrow instead.

We went out for a wander and found our way down onto the riverfront. I spotted the Natchez further down on the dock and actually managed to do some navigating on where to go, based on what I remembered from last time. We managed to get tickets for the morning Natchez cruise, since Mom wanted to go on a real steamboat and I knew that was the only real one here. Hopefully, the boring narrator guy that we had last time will have retired by now. We had a few hours before we were due to board, so we went off in search of drinks in the meantime.

We found Café du Monde, but it was horrendously packed with the queue lining up outside, so we opted to keep going and find somewhere else instead. No beignets today. We went to the Market Café and I had a very nice Mango Madness cocktail. At ten o’clock in the morning. Because why not? They had a jazz band playing, like many places in New Orleans, and it was a nice relaxation spot. From there, we had a wander through their version of the rag market and popped into a couple of shops. I got a jazzy shot glass from Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop.

We then came back to board the Natchez. They had the woman on top again playing the pipe organ from the steam. No Carpenters this time though. Mom thought it was cute, but then quickly got annoyed by it. We got some seats up on the top deck and surprise, surprise, the boring narrator has still retained his job. I chose to ignore him, since I remembered a lot of the history from my last visit. The lasting damage from Hurricane Katrina is still astonishing on the docks. I then started to rain a little too much for us to want to sit in, so we moved down a deck and grabbed a little table near the open side and spent the remainder of the cruise there.

After we disembarked, we were in need of food and I was also super in need of a drink from being sat in the heat. We went to a steak and seafood bar and I had loaded cheese fries. Except they told me they were fries. They were actually potato wedges. I don’t mind potato wedges, but there’s only so much you can eat before they become really sickly, so I didn’t actually finish mine. We then spent forever looking for a Walgreen’s that we’d spotted earlier, to the point where even I was remembering all the same streets as we kept looping round, since Dad’s a horrible navigator. I miss Kel and her in-built satnav. Thankfully, we eventually stumbled upon a CVS instead and I was able to replace my heat protection spray that had emptied during the flight and also bought some Red Bull and Funyuns for the room. Yay, Funyuns. I’ve missed you.

It started to rain by this point, so we decided to head back towards the hotel for a while to shower and things before going back out for tea. The rain was sporadic and switched between being heavy and light. We tried to wait out one of the heavier spells in a bar and had some homemade Hurricanes – which were way too strong – but it didn’t lighten up again, so we had to chance the rest of the way with our umbrellas. Showered as soon as we got back, then Skyped with Kel for a bit, had my Red Bull and did some reading for an hour or so before getting ready to go back out.

I’d already iterated my deep love for the Gumbo Shop from my last trip here, so that was where we were headed. The wait for tables was actually out of the door, which was initially concerning, but their turnaround service is crazy good and we were in there in no time. I had everything I had last time. Chicken andouille gumbo with bread and a frozen strawberry daiquiri. God, it was just as good as I remembered. Mom had the same and loved it too, so I was pleased that I hadn’t just bigged it up. Even more pleased that she wants to go back, because I’m clearly down with that.

From there, we found our way onto the wonderful Bourbon Street and I directed us towards Pat O’Brien’s. We were given a table out in the courtyard. It had stopped raining, the fire fountain was going, they wiped everything down for us and brought Hurricanes over to our table. Best. They were properly mixed Hurricanes too and way better than the ones we’d had earlier. We sat in there for a while and ended up making friends with a lad from Boston called Nick, who I think Mom wanted to adopt. He was super big on traveling too and wanted recommendations for time-lengths and things to do in the UK and other places in Europe too.

After we left Pat O’Brien’s, we carried on down Bourbon Street. I stopped off at one of the Tropical Isle places to get a Hand Grenade to-go. Just as yummy as I remembered. I pretty much downed it all by the time we got back to our hotel, but didn’t feel in the slightest bit merry. Sadly, the downside to going with the oldies is that they were point blank ready for bed. I stayed up and read for a while before conceding to do the same. I then had to get up twenty minutes later and be horrendously sick, despite the fact that I still didn’t feel like the drinks had touched me at all. Guess that’s just a mark of a good night.

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Gumbo, gumbo, in the pot… We need a princess; what you got?