Stop #7 – New Orleans | Cross Country
Driving all night, hubby and I got to New Orleans, LA around 1pm, after 18 hours of driving. Our eyes may have felt droopy, despite my recurring naps in the passenger’s seat, driving into New Orleans was an awakening eye-opener. It felt like we’d driven into a post card or magazine of the city I’d only ever seen in pictures.
When we stepped out of the car, I could feel the liveliness in the pavement beneath my feet and the air I was breathing in. It was warm, sunny, and humid when we first arrived. I’m sure the sounds of distant music and the scent of Louisiana cuisine in the air contributed to this immediate atmospheric shift. I felt transported, and I loved it.
Prepare to Fall In Love
They say you don’t see it coming when you fall in love. Well, I really didn’t expect to be so enamored with New Orleans. Obviously, it was on our to-see list, but my interest was pure novelty, initially. How wrong I was…
With its intricate architecture, music, street art, and endless scents of food you could taste in the air, New Orleans is like no other city in the United States. In the afternoon, during the off-season, it’s still a hoppity place, busy with tourists, horse buggies, art vendors, and live music. It bustles with the activity of a theme park.
The buildings and narrow streets reminded me of cities in Italy and France I’d visited years ago, with a little mix of a San Francisco vibe, giving it that American flare. Centered around Bourbon Street, the festival theme that is the soul of New Orleans remained brilliantly vibrant despite the overcasting dark clouds that slowly formed make a ceiling above our heads.
I wish I’d taken more pictures, but I was too immersed in my surroundings, gawking with an open-mouthed smile as I walked down the street. I didn’t want to blink for fear of missing something – our visit was going to be very short that day.
Drink in and Eat Up New Orleans
Though we didn’t have an itinerary as we ambled along, it didn’t seem like we needed one. We were just enjoying the sights surrounding us, and we only had so many hours to soak it all in.
Stopping for lunch, we ate at the Famous Gumbo Pot, sampling sweet crayfish, spiced etouffee, tender shrimp in red sauce, and full-of-flavor gumbo (of course). Red, brown, grey spiced sauces with extremely tender meats that could be gummed instead of chewed. It all swam together in my sample dish, and I devoured all of it! I washed it down with a very strong mint julep.
(I’m not sure if I just got lucky, or if this is a theme in New Orleans, but when both my hubby and I got mixed drinks at different places, they were pretty strong on the booze… we’ll have to come back to test this theory.)
We continued moving along as drizzles of rain began to tap on our heads, slowing our enthusiasm to the tempo of the sprinkling drops. We stopped at a brewery, called for a beer sampler, and shared a plate of three different stuffed oysters – Rockefeller, crab, and shrimp meat. Six halves that were so deliciously filling, despite the small pieces of shell in some bites (common in some oysters, I hear).
We also stopped for coffee and gelato before the droplets of rain began to speed up around us – convincing us tourists that visiting hours were over.
Hopping into our vehicle, we were pummeled with buckets of rain as we attempted to drive out of the city.
I’ve never seen rain come down so hard or so quickly before. I could barely see the car driving in front of us with the sheet of water pouring between us. I couldn’t even hear my pulse drumming inside my skull over the sound of pelting water hitting the car.
Though I was sad to end our New Orleans trip so soon and leave this city that fascinated me so, I’m glad we left when we did.
The timing of the rain was impeccable. Unfortunately, driving over the bridge and out of New Orleans gave me a scare that still haunts me. Thick water coated the road we drove, and I barely saw the side rails of the bridge we were crossing. I feared we would hit someone or get washed away off the road, though I don’t know what we’d have fallen into since I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of us.
I have great respect for the people of New Orleans. We barely saw a glimpse of the weather they endure in their beautiful bowl of a city. But, like any antique, it deserves to be preserved and enjoyed. New Orleans truly is amazing.
Travelor’s Tip: If you want to avoid some of the crowds and explore New Orleans in a calmer scene, don’t go during Mardi Gras. Check a calendar for other events as well, as the city is a magnet for partying tourists. Unless you are a party animal yourself, then plan your trip sometimes between February and March, but be sure to check for when Ash Wednesday lands that year.