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!

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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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2/10/13 – Going down the bayou!

Oh wow, what a day! Started early yet again. Our continental breakfast was even more exciting this time – they had a waffle iron! Jayda helped me to make one. It was very yummy. Had a four and something hour drive with another Walmart stop in between. As soon as we got to Honey Island Swamp Tours we were herded straight onto the boat.

I think everyone felt a certain level of apprehension upon seeing just how tiny our little river boat was. We headed on down the Pearl River and into the swamp itself. It actually really was a fascinating place. The air was so clean and a lot of people clearly live backing up onto the swamp. One place even had a rope swing over the swamp and a ladder leading out of the water! It gave me some great research ideas though for Argo stuff (decided that Ricki’s definitely gonna be a swamp homegirl). Our captain Mel was funny and extremely knowledgeable. Always a plus!

We saw quite a variety of wildlife including the gators, turtles, snakes, various birds and a raccoon! Mel was feeding the gators marshmallows because apparently they resemble eggs that they eat. He also did some creepy-ass gator call, which quite literally brought all gators within earshot crowding round the boat. More than a little unnerving. The website described the tour as a ‘gentle cruise around the swamp’. Gentle cruise, my ass. On the longer stretches of the Pearl we were going at ridiculous high speeds that gave us all ‘swamp do’. Then at another point Mel had an eight-foot gator called Jumper (take a guess why) jumping up the side of our tiny boat. Terrifying experience doesn’t quite cover it.

The monster that nearly gave me a coronary!

We had a quick look in the gift shop afterwards and were amused by the baby gator that was called Sid. We got Sar a Louisiana fridge magnet (because the geek collects them) and I got a hematite gator necklace. We had a swift lunch before getting back on the road to finally reach out hotel in New Orleans. Our hotel room is totally cute and we were impressed by the style of the complex straightaway. We did some wandering around the French quarter before and after getting something to eat.

I decided instantly that New Orleans is the best place we’ve visited so far. Bourbon Street is really something else – everything you see, hear, smell, etc. is just so incredibly cultural! We quickly checked out the steamboat on the Mississippi too. It looked amazing. We ate at a place called the Gumbo shop and I had my first real gumbo, partly on Derek’s recommendation and partly because of Princess and the Frog references. Mine was chicken, Cajun sausage and okra with rice. It was gorgeous! I had a lovely frozen strawberry daiquiri too!

After that we went to a bar called Pat O’Brien’s. They do one of New Orleans’ two signature drinks – the Hurricane. Not entirely sure what was in it… Mostly rum, juices and a shitload of sugar, I’m guessing. Over food I’d gotten to speak to Derek quite a bit more, which was nice. Turns out he’s a writer too! Me and Kel didn’t stay out too long because we both still needed to shower. But before that we had a game of Gladiators on our beds with our big sausage pillow things. We also had the cooler in our room this time so I was able to help myself to alcohol! Night of win.

Kel taking spy shots of us in the courtyard

The set of our Gladiators game