Here is my New Orleans Trip Journal.
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I live to travel. It really is what keeps me going from one point to the next. Over the last five years or so my brother Brad and his wife Angela have been kind enough to let me tag along on some of their trips. In 2008 we went to Northern California, Lake Tahoe, and Reno Nevada. In 2011 we went to Southern California. And last September we took a cruise on the Carnival Magic.
This year they invited me to go with them to New Orleans. Angela’s industry, professional organizing has an association called NAPO. Not the spineless world governing body, you’re thinking of NATO. This year they are holding their conference in New Orleans. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so I decided to come check it out. Hey did you know there was a big hurricane named Katrina that rolled through here last decade?
Oh, here’s a plug for Angela’s business, OrganizationalBliss.com, if you’re so inclined to look her up.
We are staying at Sheraton New Orleans on Canal St. Parking cost $30.00 a day. So when we started planning for this trip. I suggested the Megabus. Brad and Angela were willing to try it, so we bought our tickets back in January. My fair cost $11 round trip; I think Brad and Angela paid $16 apiece. We did have to make our way downtown Wednesday afternoon and park my car down there. Hopefully it will still be there when return.
The trip was not bad. A really tall guy was on the same bus. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but he had a banjo with him. He has a distinct look, handlebar mustache, sideburns, height, and overalls! I assume he is part of a Rockabilly or Blues group, or maybe just a solo act? I should have talked to him and found his story out! How am I ever going to write interesting travel material if I don’t record people’s stories?
There was one rest stop along the way in Lafayette, LA former home of my buddies Chris McKinney, and Chris Sharp. The Megabus pulled into The Big Easy a little before midnight. The Superdome was awash with Mardi gras colors. I did not get a good picture of it.
It’s about a three block walk from the Megabus stop to the Sheraton. We made it to our room a little after midnight.
Megabus stop, Downtown Houston
This morning (Thursday), I left the hotel a little before 8 and walked down Canal St. People have been telling me all about the great food in New Orleans so I stopped in McDonald’s and had a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese biscuit for breakfast. Actually, I searched the trip advisor app for a place to have breakfast at, but the closest place it showed me had an average price tag of $17. I like breakfast, but I also like my $17 for other things besides breakfast.
After breakfast, I wondered down the French Quarter, including a couple of blocks on Bourbon Street, which smells like a landfill. If anyone ever asks me how to find Bourbon Street, I will tell them to follow the foulest smells and their nose should lead them there. I guess that’s part of the ambience.
I wondered around until 9 AM when American Bicycle Rentals opened up. The people there were super friendly, and since I showed up the same time as a wedding party group that was taking a bike tour of the city, everyone thought I was a member of the wedding party, including people in the wedding party. I should have just played along and went with them on their tour. There was a really nice couple from Australia with the group. I could have gotten to know them better and leveraged a free place to stay if I ever just happened to be down under in their neighborhood. Maybe one day I will start thinking on my feet better and come up with these ideas on the spot! Alas, I left for my own bike adventure. After riding a few blocks, I made my way back to the hotel so I could get my helmet, and cameras.
Brad had the misfortune of having to work from the room even though he was supposed to be on vacation. We were both disappointed we couldn’t go adventuring together. Rather than waste a day sitting in the room, I struck out on my own, because I am a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride. I’m just not wanted (by anyone that I know of). I struck out looking for Jackson Square, and boy was I way off. The guy at the bike rental shop drew out “safe boundaries” on a map. When I stopped to look at the map, I realized I was beyond those boundaries! I made my toward the Mississippi river front, figuring that if I followed it, it would lead me back to where I needed to be. I ended up in the French Market, close to Margaritaville. After taking a break and people watching, I went to the Margaritaville store, paid too much for a t-shirt, and decided to have lunch at Margaritaville.
I sat in the bar area and was the only one there. I threw the bartender a curveball by asking for iced tea. The chicken fajitas I had for lunch were really great, as was the Key Lime Pie! After lunch, I sat out to find Jackson Square, and I succeeded!
Then I walked to the Moonwalk, named after a politician. I could bore you with the story of why it is named the Moonwalk, but frankly I don’t care. There was a sax player named T.S. Lark, playing by the water.
I dropped a couple of bucks in his jar. Then he asked me where I was from. I gave the generic “Houston” answer not wanting to bore the man to tears with my life story about being from Oklahoma, but living in Texas. He said he had a song for me, and then proceeded to sing “Do you know what it’s like to miss New Orleans?” I kept waiting for him to work the saxophone into the mix. He did not. After “my song”, he pulls out his cd and starts telling me about how great of a souvenir it would make. Yes, I am weak my friends, I bought it, for $15. However, he did sign it for me!
I went back to the bike and headed down the Moonwalk towards the Algiers Ferry landing. Along the way I heard someone remark “look at that, his tire is almost flat”, nothing to see here folks, fat man on a bike. I may be fat, but I can guarantee you if a Cat 5 hurricane was headed my way; I would not be waiting on the government to give me a ride. Was that too low of a blow? Oh well.
I found the ferry and rode across it across and back. From it there is a great view of the New Orleans skyline, and the St. Louis Cathedral which is at Jackson Square. After the return trip I decided it was time to give my legs a rest. I rode back to the hotel and checked the bike with the valet.
Here is the my shaky cam footage:
After showering and resting for a bit, I went out and took my first ride on the streetcars. It lasted all of about three blocks before the conductor notified everyone we were at the end of the line. I walked a block to the next line, waited for about 20 minutes and decided to make my way back to the hotel as it was nearing time for us all to meet up for dinner.
For dinner we walked a few blocks to a bar/café. Brad and I had catfish. The portion was big, but it tasted very fishy. Imagine that! We had plans to go to a place the guy at the bike shop told me about, but we also had tickets for Million Dollar Quartet at the Mahalia Jackson Theater which did not give us time to go the recommended place. Million Dollar Quartet is the musical about Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins.
The musical itself is very good! They do take great artistic license, and it is factually incorrect in several areas, but I really enjoyed the performance! The actors were very good, and there was a hot redhead in the mix. What can I say? I am a sucker for beautiful women.
After the show, we walked through Louis Armstrong Park and hailed a cab. We came back to the hotel, I went and grabbed my laptop and am now typing up today’s review in the lounge of the Sheraton. In front of me I look out and see Canal Street. The foot traffic is still steady but winding down for the night, which is what I am about to do. Thursday, I bid you good night sir!
We woke up to a nasty morning in New Orleans, cold and rainy. I needed to return the bike I rented before 9 AM. Angela was free for the morning and wanted to look at some shops. Our goal was to leave the hotel a little after 8. I had originally planned to go do some early morning exploring on the bike, then turn it in and make it back to the hotel by 8. With the rain and it being chilly, I decided just to get the bike back and make my way back to the hotel. After retrieving the bike from the valet guys, I started riding in the streetcar path towards the bike store, when I realized I did not have the key to the bike or the lights they had given me. I had left them in my backpack. So I turned around and returned to the hotel and called Brad. He was gracious enough to bring my backpack down so I could get the missing items. I then rode to the American Bicycle Rentals and let myself in using the door code they gave me, then locked the bike to a rack and dropped the key in the lock box. I noticed my friends from Australia had left a comment card on the table. So I left a nice note too.
Then I walked the 7 blocks or so back to the hotel, the rain. Shortly after, Brad, Angela, and I walked down to the streetcar stop for the Riverfront line. After a ten minute wait, we stepped on the streetcar for a ride down to the station closest to Café Du Monde. Everyone kept telling us we needed to try the beignets. The place was busy! After sitting at a table and waiting for ten minutes, a server finally came over and took our order. Angela and I had an order of beignets and hot chocolate, Brad had coffee and beignets. The hot chocolate and the beignets were really good! I wouldn’t wait in line for them, but they were really good! We beat several school groups who kept piling in. The place was packed! As we were leaving an older couple immediately claimed our table, even though it had not been bussed yet. A few shops down were Aunt Sally’s Praline store. We bought a few pralines to try for ourselves and to take back to Dad and Mom. Then we headed down into the French Market and looked around.
I walked a block over to Decatur Street and snapped some pictures. As I was standing on the corner, I was honked at by a sanitation truck. Even though I was off the street, the streets are so narrow, that the truck needed the corner.
We then took the streetcar back down to our starting point, and walked back to the hotel. It was so miserable outside that Angela gave up on doing any shopping on Royal Street which had been the plan.
Brad and I bought tickets for the National World War II museum and as part of a combo a ticket for a two hour cruise on the Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River. We left the hotel and walked a few blocks to the bus station on Magazine Street. The museum is about 9 blocks from the hotel. After 15 minutes or so, the bus showed up and we rode it to the museum.
The first thing we did at the museum was go watch a 4D movie called “Beyond All Boundaries”. While waiting for our show, several Army soldiers came in dressed in their field fatigues. A young couple from another country (from somewhere in Europe I think) approached one of the soldiers and asked for a picture with them. The soldiers happily obliged and the man shook hands with them after the picture. It was pretty cool to witness. Then it was time for our show.
The theater for “Beyond All Boundaries” houses over 200 people and the theater seats were mostly full. The presentation was really cool! It combines video, physical props, and holograms. It gives an overview of WWII and the price it took to win the war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. It’s about 50 minutes long.
After the show, we had lunch at the Soda Pop Café which is part of the museum. Then we toured the museum. It was very crowded, and has lots of interactive exhibits. Since it was so crowded, we went through it quicker than most people. I highly recommend anyone go to the museum if you’re ever in New Orleans. Close to one of the entrances, there was a WWII veteran sitting at a table and there was a sign behind him that said “I was there”. I went over and told him “Thank you for your service” and stool out my hand to shake his. He took my hand and clasped it with both of his. I feel so insignificant compared to the men and women from that generation. It dawned on me right then that I never told either of my grandfathers “thank you for your service” while they were alive. Hearing them tell their stories from WWII was just something I took for granted; now I cherish the memories of them telling their stories. Even though the handshake with the WWII veteran was a very brief moment, it had a profound impact on me.
After spending about four hours total at the museum we started heading back to the hotel. We were going to take the bus, but as we were waiting discovered I lost my three day pass, and I had no cash on me to pay a fare. This we walked back. And with each block I was reminded how fat I am, and how much weight I need to lose. I love traveling, but traveling also usually includes a lot of walking. My legs are pretty sore right now, I need to shed a lot of weight for the obvious health benefits, but also so that when I go on trips, I am not hobbling around like, well a fat man. Along the walk back we stopped by Lafayette Square, which is right across the street from the Fifth Circuit of Appeals courthouse, which made both Brad and I think of a John Grisham novel.
We made it back to the hotel to rest up a bit. Angela was going to dinner with some people from the convention. Around 6pm, Brad and I walked down Canal Street to Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street had not reached its full pitch yet, but it was started to get congested on the sidewalks. We wanted to find a place to eat and listen to some live music, but really didn’t see anything that caught our fancy. What do you do in that situation? You go with what you know, which meant going back to Margaritaville. We had chips, queso, and burgers. And it was delicious!
We then walked back to the hotel partially along the riverfront, until we reached Jackson Square; we looked in a couple of shops while making our way back to the hotel.
Brad took this picture of me in front of Jackson Square/St. Louis Cathedral
I think we walked in the room around 7:30. And we started our wild night of debauchery by watching TV. Yes I know, most people would have been out painting Bourbon Street. It’s just not who I am, that may be boring to most people, but I am who I am. No excuses and no apologies.
And now I am sitting in the hotel lobby typing this, it’s about 11:30pm. I am about to shut it down and call it a night.
Our last day in New Orleans is tomorrow, then we step back on the Megabus at 4:45 PM for the ride back to Houston.
Finally a beautiful day! The sun was out, but it was still chilly in the morning. We walked a few blocks to a place called the Ruby Red Slipper restaurant for breakfast, but they were not open for breakfast at 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning, which meant we ended up at IHOP on Canal Street.
After breakfast Angela headed for her last day of conference, Brad and I hung out in the hotel until 10:30 or so. And right before we left the room, look who showed up at the pool! Where was she for the last two days? Oh yeah, it was overcast on Thursday, and raining/cold on Friday.
We checked our bags with the valet desk and walked to the Steamboat Natchez. We went on a two hour cruise of the Mississippi River, complete with a live narrator and live Jazz Band. We saw lots, and lots, and lots of barges.
Towards the end of the cruise a guy came up to Brad and asked what size shoe he wore, then mumbled something and walked off. We weren’t sure if he were going to try and attack Brad for his shoes afterwards! Fortunately we never saw him again!
After the cruise we walked back towards the hotel and stopped for lunch at the Crescent City Brewhouse. We both had cheeseburgers and fries. I had iced tea, Brad had a diet Pepsi. The burgers were ok, but not $22.00(with tax and tip) ok!
After lunch we walked back to the Sheraton, retrieved our bags and walked back towards the bus stop. I had mentioned wanting to check out Coyote Ugly since it was right across the street from the bus stop, but as we walked past, it didn’t impress me much, so we walked to the riverside park near the bus stop. We hung out there for an hour and a half or so and people watched, and then made our way to the MegaBus stop. Angela met us there about 4:30, and the bus left New Orleans at 4:45. On the ride to New Orleans, the driver did not say much at all, the driver coming back had all kinds of rules. He gave us a long speech about how nasty the bathroom on the bus was, and looked around his area for toilet paper before confirming that if you really had to go, he had some toilet if you needed.
We stopped in Lafayette at a truck stop, I had a delicious cheeseburger. I was afraid I was going to get food poisoning from it, but so far have come out unscathed! Shortly after the bus left Lafayette, a guy come up and sat in the seat behind Brad and Angela, and started asking Brad a bunch of questions about Angela’s iPad, then he started asking where Brad lived, where he worked. Brad was smart and kept everything pretty generic, “I live in Houston, and I am an IT contractor.” The guy stayed there for ten minutes or so, leaning between the seats! Finally he went towards the back of the bus and was talking to people back there, other that than, we didn’t have any problems with the clientele of the Megabus.
We made it back to Houston about 11:15, and even though the itinerary said that’s what time we were supposed to be back, the bus driver somehow thought we were there an hour early, as he mentioned it several times.
I guess Roscoe P Coltane was in hot pursuit of the Duke Boys when he took out this signal light!
My first time to New Orleans was a neat experience, despite my sore legs from the bike riding, and walking, it was somewhat relaxing. The city has a lot of history, which I know I only scratched the surface during the brief stay there. Oh did you know a hurricane came through there a few years back?