Hey, it’s Analise. We’re halfway through our second week in New Orleans and already planning where to stay for the rest of December. Though we’ve both been fighting off colds this week, New Orleans has offered plenty of food, warm weather, and great sightseeing to keep our spirits up. Also gators. Lots of gators.
Tasty foodstuffs took an early lead in things we’re enjoying most in the Big Easy. For being on the road, our Thanksgiving was pretty traditional for us. In the morning, we watched the Macy’s parade in the followed by the National Dog Show. The only difference was we didn’t help prep a meal – we had a turkey dinner with a Creole twist at SoBou in the French Quarter.
Other yummy highlights so far have included the Showboat Platter at Deanie’s (a mountain of fried seafood at a local institution) and breakfast at the Ruby Slipper Cafe (a solid tie between my shrimp and grits and Mark’s Chicken St. Charles Eggs Benedict). Fun fact: we ate at the Ruby Slipper on Burgundy Street which used to be a bank that was once robbed by Bonnie and Clyde.
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Hit the highlights
Some cities have so much going on that it’s impossible to see all the must-sees in just a weekend. We got around those logistical limitations by taking a hop-on/hop-off bus tour. As it happened, our guide was so entertaining we stayed on the bus for the whole two-hour route. We learned about the city’s history, its ongoing recovery after Hurricane Katrina, and the hard distinction between places locals go (Garden District, Frenchman Street) and places tourists go (French Quarter, Bourbon Street). The streets are lined with Mardi Gras trees (live oaks covered in beads from past parades), and graves in cemeteries are built above ground (we saw the pyramid that Nicolas Cage has already booked as his final resting place).
We did get beignets in the French Quarter for breakfast one morning. We got there early enough to see Bourbon Street get power-hosed for the day, before the crowds filled in the narrow streets. We enjoyed the architecture – lots of detailed scroll-work balconies and brightly colored facades. But the crowds really are insane, and we high-tailed it before lunch. We found a fun gift shop and a sci-fi/fantasy bookstore a little ways from the Quarter. After a conversation with the bookstore’s owner, we learned that New Orleans does indeed have a nerd scene but it’s subtle and you have to know where to look.
My one must-do in New Orleans was an airboat ride in a real bayou. We shipped out with Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours for a morning outing across 1,100+ acres of wetlands. The interconnected waterways run from the gulf coast all the way through the city. We saw part of this on our first day in town, when we drove across a causeway entirely supported by concrete pillars in the water.
Captain John knew all the best spots to find gators, which we learned can be touchy and territorial. We saw a tons of native species (alligators, ibis, buzzards, red-eared turtles, cypress, Spanish moss) as well as oodles of invasive species (nutria rats, apple snails, water hyacinth).
The best views came at the end, though, when our skipper found an 11+ foot alligator sunning itself up out of the cold winter water. And then he found another one! The second one had less patience with the boat and disappeared into the water. If you thought an alligator on land was intimidating, try a largely hidden underwater one.
After the swamp tour, we had lunch just down the road from the boat launch at Restaurant des Familles. We enjoyed catfish and crawfish etouffee overlooking the bayou complete with 3-foot alligator.
A pair of springs that help retract one of the back jacks busted. Both of the back jacks have been tetchy on travel days for a while, so we’ve got replacements for both pairs of springs heading our way.
Cat tax: the price you pay for wanting to play a game instead of lavishing your pet with affection.
We’ll finish out the week in New Orleans before heading to the Florida panhandle.
If you have any suggestions for things to see and do or questions about our travels and RV life, let us know in the comments.