Travel Journal: Entry #4

Present time
It is 8:45 in the morning and this is our second day in Orlando. The kids just woke up and are watching the Half Blood Prince on the TV. We are all recovering from a very long day at Universal studios where, yes, we visited Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. But all in good time, all in good time… The weather is hot and we are fighting dehydration and in my case, withdrawal from good coffee. But these are minor ailments in the face of spectacular adventures. Peaked your curiosity? Well you will just have to keep reading these long winded travel entries…

New Orleans

This post will be dedicated to the day and a half we spent in New Orleans, as in my mind at least, it is the most confounding, interesting city so far. We arrived around 5 pm across a very long bridge that spanned the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Lake Pontchartrain on the other. Palm trees lined the streets and from the highway we could see the ruined roofs of ramshackle houses, streets and streets of them. It was a little disquieting.

Here is the first building we saw as we got off the exit for Canal st.:

We were glad this wasn’t our hotel.

For some reason, Jeremy could not get his bearings in New Orleans, for the whole time we were there he thought North was South, East was West, etc. It was weird- he usually has such an infallible sense of direction. The palms of the streets weren’t helpful either- very counter-intuitive. Still, we found our hotel, The Intercontinental on St. Charles st. We used to find it, and for once we decided to splurge for a 4 star hotel, which wasn’t much more than a 3 star. Our first impression was one of intimidation. The bell hops wouldn’t let us carry our own bags up to the hotel (of course, we had to tip them) and Sylvie and Clea were amazed that there was actually a gift shop (a gift shop!) in the hotel lobby. We got up to our room on the 8th floor and yes, it was fancy, with 6$ Evian bottles and fridges full of over-priced snacks. Although it was kind of cool, we realised rapidly that 2 star hotels, with free internet, complimentary breakfasts, fridges in the room that we could use and some with microwaves, were a way better deal for us. In this hotel, everything extra cost money. Internet was 5 bucks for an hour, breakfast was in the fancy dining room and we couldn’t use the fridge. Oh well, lesson learned.

Here is a picture taken on Canal St. (I think) in the way to our hotel

The view from our hotel

Once we were settled, we went for a walk around the French Quarter. We didn’t do much except for roam the streets, gawking at the houses with their ornate balconies lining the narrow streets. We stopped and got the girls a couple of hot dogs from a street vendor. Then down Bourbon street, where I think our mouths didn’t close as we witnessed the most decadence I had ever seen. People walking around with foot long drinks, girls dancing on tables, every bar featuring live music blaring out of their windows, rivalling for sound space with every other bar. Blues, New Orleans Jazz, rock’n’roll. The place was visually, (some of the strip bars ads were worthy of a modern day Kama Sutra), emotionally, and auditorily (is that a word?) overwhelming. We walked down Bourbon street to Canal and back tou our hotel, where we sat there for awhile, trying to close our mouths. Then a swim in the hotel pool and to bed, for an early morning of sight seeing.

A small square in the French Quarter where Decatur St. and N. Peters st intersect.

Something Jeremy saw on a wall.

The girls and I on a narrow street somewhere in the French quarter

Faulkner! I had no idea that he lived in New Orleans. Then again, the only thing I know about Faulkner was that he wrote good books, was from the South, and liked to drink, so no surprise there…

Look at the freakin’ balcony! Here we are buying the hot dogs for the girls.

The Next Day

I went for a run before everybody woke up. Down Canal St., past the aquarium and along the water until the path ended at St. Phillip then up through the French quarter to Tremé, where I did a little bit of TV tourism. I was pretty sure I went by Steve Zahn’s house in the show, as well as the stripper’s house down the street from where he lived! As soon as I told Jeremy, we determined to take a photo of our car, the exact same make and model as Zahn’s in Tremé, in front of the house. On my run, I kept on seeing people dressed in white with red accessories, as if they were getting ready for a bull run. And indeed they were – I found out later that that Saturday was the day New Orleans paid homage to their spanish heritage by reenacted Pamplona’s running of the bulls. Except, instead of actual bulls, they used rollerderby girls donning horns and swinging plastic bats.

After I got back to the hotel and Clea and I went for our requisite swim, we headed out to find a breakfast place. We tried to go Mother’s, a popular diner right around the corner from our hotel, but the line up looked long and we were hungry. Little did we know that long line-ups are the norm in New Orleans. We settled for this hole in the wall called Hobnobber’s where we had a mediocre, expensive breakfast. At least we had coffee in us and I got to taste grits, which I just looked up ’cause I had no idea what they were – coarsely ground hulled corn boiled, if anybody is wondering. Okay. Caffeined and fed, we went exploring:

Uneeda Biscuit? Ineeda biscuit…

Palm Trees!

Trump towers?

Breakfast at Hobnobber’s

Family Portrait on Canal St.

We headed down to the water and jumped on the ferry to Algiers Point, a little island about five minutes away. The ferry is free and runs from about 6 am to midnight everyday. Although it was only about 9 in the morning, we were all sweating buckets. It was the hottest day yet. The ferry ride didn’t take very long, and once on the other side we wandered around aimlessly through the residential neighbourhoods, looking at the beautiful old, wooden houses. On our way back to to the ferry, we stopped to chat with a man pruning his bushes, an unusual plant that had thin, light green star shaped clusters of leaves. He didn’t know what they were, but he was nice enough to tell us a little about his experience of Katrina, what neighbourhoods were most affected by the hurricane (Algiers point did not get flooded- only suffered some wind damage). He, like many people we met, was very nice and willing to spend a few minutes chatting with strangers. The whole city seemed really glad to have tourists – proud of their city and unabashedly grateful for the income we bring in. It was kind of nice, actually, to not feel like a burden on the locals. Growing up in Victoria, J and I both have an aversion to tourists, which makes being one somewhat problematic. We took the ferry back and headed straight for the fountain commemorating Spain, where we stuck our feet in. There was a mall right beside the fountain where we went to use the bathroom and fill up our water bottles. For a city where all of the bikes have cup holders for their drinks and people spend the day walking around with their beers, there was an acute lack of public washrooms. Oh, and the bikes? We saw so many beautiful cruisers in New Orleans. A whole city of people with good taste in bicycles – who knew?

Somewhere in the French Quarter

After the daily downpour

We walked around for a while in the French Quarter, where we were accosted on Decatur St. by a man selling hats. His schtick was so silken smooth, so rapidly fired off, I couldn’t repeat it if I tried. Let’s just say that we left with two baseball caps for the kids and 20 bucks lighter. Apparently it was for meals on wheels for the homeless, but I will be taking that with a grain of salt. I did get an Indian religious text for my trouble though…

To Jackson square, where we sat in the rain while Jeremy made a watercolour of the museum and I watched a maimed pigeon. Okay. I know I have no love for the rabid, infested flying rodents, but that doesn’t mean I like to see them in pain. This one could hardly walk and looked like it might just die right in front of me. Luckily Jeremy finished his water colour before it did, and we headed over to Johnny’s Po’Boys, this famous sandwich shop where I almost had an anxiety attack waiting in line for my sandwiches. Picture a small little room packed to the gills with rabid tourists, no rhyme or reason to the line. Now picture being stuck between a cupboard on the wall, a table full of people pulling at their deep-fried crawfish and a wall of obese tourist flesh just inches from your face. I am hyperventilating just thinking about it. We finally got our food and they were… just sandwiches. I think we must have ordered wrong, ’cause we forgot to include something deep fried. We ate half and saved the rest for lunch the next day and continued on our merry way. I wanted to go down Dumaine street as I heard there was a house from the French colonial era there that we could peek into for free, but it was shuttered, so we ended up looking at all the altlernative t-shirt shops until we found a magic shop and Clea bought her first thing of the trip: a vial of holy water. I kid you not. It will go beside her Willow figurine and her crystal ball at home. Then on to Tremé:
Just south of Tremé

Present time

Sorry about the lateness of this post but Disney World happened in the middle there, and they had no internet. Or, no, they did, it was just really expensive and I am cheap cheap cheap, like a little birdie. Disney World. Oh, wait for that post. It will be a surreal experience, I promise you. However, I digress. back to New Orleans, and Tremé.

Which is where we walked around next. It wasn’t a long walk, just a few blocks past beautiful, old, shuttered houses, and not many people ( I think they all had sense enough to stay inside or, um, be at work? So here’s a couple of pics of Tremé:

The view from Davis’ house (lookin’ to the strippers!) I think.

Just to give you a feel for the neighbourhood

Okay. Now we are getting tired. Through Tremé, and down to the Cemetery St. Louis #1 where…it was closed. It was 3:30, and the cemetery closed at 3 pm, so after chatting with Walter, who promised Clea he would marry her, that he’d wait, we headed home. But not before we picked up some liquor at the pharmacy (yes, you can even get gallons of vodka from the pharmacy- we chose a nice cabernet and a six pack however):
Back to the hotel, where we went directly to the pool. After a swim, a shower and a marathon postcard writing session on my part, we decided to go out for dinner. “Cause we were in New Orleans dammit, and so far the food wasn’t living up to its reputation. Or we weren’t finding the food that made the reputation. Or something.

So, I did what any self-respecting tourist would do. I consulted the triple A book and found this restaurant called Olivier’s, a family-owned creole joint from three generations back. They had good options for the kids (pasta for Clea and fried shrimp and fries for Sylvie) and taster plates for us. I tried a gumbo sampler (3 different types) that had flavours in them I had never tasted before. From the very gamy to the light, I finally got a taste of that New Orleans cuisine. Jeremy got a taster platter of deep fried fish and shrimp which was also very good. The batter is way lighter than the one used for fish and chips and the fish was succulent. The price was also reasonable and the story behind the restaurant and the service (two of the brothers waited on us) was worth it.
After dinner, we went to Café du Monde for famous beignets. Now, I am not one for donuts usually, but I have to say, one taste of these warm, delicious deep fried pastries and I was time travelling back to when my namesake, my french Canadian grandmother used to come and visit us and make us her “beignes”. They were so tasty right out of the deep fryer, rolled in icing sugar. I LOVED THEM.
We walked home by the water, stopping only to poke the eyes out of statues:

Cléa of New Orleans

Family Portrait


The Next Morning ( New Orleans still)
I’ll be brief, as I am tired and we have another day at Universal studios tomorrow. The next morning, we got up and, yes, I went running, this time to the Garden District where I ran around very big, colonial style mansions. As soon as I got back, we went out to see the St. Louis Cemetery before we checked out of the hotel and made our way to Pensacola.

Offerings for a dead voodoo queen (Marie Laveau)

People mark 3 Xes on her grave in the hopes her spirit will grant them a wish

The cemetery dates back to 1789. It is one of the most peculiar and beautiful cemeteries I have ever been to. Jeremy took a picture inside one of the crumbling holes of a tomb, the tomb of the young women’s association (under the protection of la dame de Lourdes) and when we pulled the camera out we could see the bones. Awesomely creepy. And astounding that they are just there.

And now for the grand finale: the toyota in front of Davis’ house! (I think)

Okay. Now I am going to bed.

2 thoughts on “Travel Journal: Entry #4

  1. I learned about a tv show from you! I had no idea what you were talking about with Steve Zahn and Treme and how is that people who don't have tvs know about tv shows…. oh yeah. dvds. I forget that I live in modern times.


  2. Ha! The Uneeda Biscuit place is the “Biscuit Palace” — a little B&B without the Breakfast. Evan and I used to stay there when a night on Burbon street and 5am at Cafe du Monde was a good (ie “Bad”) idea…

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