Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Driving Across America: Leg 4

New Orleans!
We didn't really have anything exciting happen on the way in. We passed a baby gator petting zoo and almost stopped. Unfortunately, I was being lame and wanted to press on to New Orleans. The city calls to me. We didn't have a great map in to the city so we stopped at the visitor's information center on the way in. This was the first of many experiences in the Big Easy.

The Cajun security guard was We were looking for a brochure that might have hotel recommendations. She called the owner of the visitor's center, who also happens to own three hotels in the city. Rather than just giving us the brochure and letting us be on our way. So we had to wait about 10 minutes while he came downstairs to talk to us. Clearly not in his job description. I don't know why he came down at all. But he recommended a place in the heart of the French Quarter off Bourbon St on Conti (pronounced Konn-tie). Needless to say, we didn't go there. We got a little mixed up as I oriented myself with the city again. We had a rudimentary map, but it is tough to navigate a city full of one-way streets.

If you ask Melissa, she'll say I couldn't read the map. If you ask me, I'd say she wouldn't listen. I imagine it was somewhere in between, though once I got my bearings I was fine with the map, and she still wouldn't listen. But this is neither here nor there.

After checking a few different places out, we settled on another Holiday Inn Express. We figure you can't go wrong with a name brand like that. More on that later. As it turns out, you can go wrong with a name brand. It was cheap, though, and we parked in the garage around the corner. This was another experience. We had to go up to the sixth floor. The ramps were about 45 degree angles if not steeper, and almost exactly the width of the car plus maybe 6 inches. Once again, my driving ability saved the day. We made it to the 6th floor in about 10 minutes and parked successfully. We then had to ride the elevator down, go outside, walk around the corner, then go inside and ride the elevator up to our room to get ready for dinner. The room was small, and our towels had something pink and sticky on them. Smelled like tooth paste. We avoided it.

Now for the positives.

We went to Acme Oyster Bar for dinner. This place is a local favorite and a must go restaurant if you're in N'Awlins. We got raw oysters on the half shell, which were amazing. I didn't realize how much I missed good seafood. Melissa, who had never had jambalaya, got that. I got the Peace Maker Po' Boy, which consisted of fried shrimp and oysters with a Tabasco infused mayo, lettuce, and tomato. We shared everything. It was amazing. Melissa tabbed it as one of the best meals she had ever had. I didn't argue.

Our next stop was the famous Pat O's on St. Peters - the home of the Hurricane. Expensive, but another must see place if you're in the city for the first time. You have to either get a Hurricane or a Hand Grenade at some point. It being Melissa's first trip, we went with the Hurricane. It was very sweet. Our server was nice and pushy and typical of the city's hospitality staff. They dupe people into getting souvenir glasses by bringing them and charging for them without you asking for them, forcing you to return them at the bar if you want your money back. It was annoying for everyone, especially because the bar is always busy. But no big deal. I felt like I made money when we left.

Then, we walked up and down Bourbon St. No real goal in minds. I just wanted Melissa to experience it. It wasn't too crazy, since it was a Tuesday night. But there were enough people for her to get a feel for it. We had crazy people throwing beads at us from the balconies. There were religious nuts carrying huge crosses with electronic scrolling marquee messages warning of the coming apocalypse. The usual. We stopped at literal hole in the wall to get cheap beers. Never again. We actually dumped them out because they tasted so bad. Undrinkable. I don't know what was wrong with them.

Then we went to a little club with a live band performing that was actually really good. The white girl singing did a Lauryn Hill song and sounded exactly like her. We tipped her and left. Then we went and listened to some live music at the Bourbon Cowboy while watching drunk idiots try to ride the mechanical bull. Probably a highlite of the night.

Nothing else really happened. We slowly made our way back to the hotel so that we could get up early and head to Atlanta.

The following morning, we awoke to another experience. We were not alone in the bed. I felt something crawling on my arm, but I thought it was Melissa's hair tickling it. It turns out it was a really gross looking spider. It also turns out he took two bites out of my hand at some point during the night, which still itch like crazy. Fortunately, it doesn't appear that he was all that poisonous.

Melissa's Note: If there was ever a way to catch cancer, New Orleans would be it.

So, we got up and Melissa really wanted to go to Cafe du Monde to get her first beignet. This is the New Orleans equivalent to funnel cake. But it was amazing. Another local staple. We walked down the Mississippi River to get there so that Melissa could see something remotely pretty in the city. I also rediscovered the spot where we watched the Blackrobats the first time we came to NOLA (Sugar Bowl, my senior year). Fond memories.

They were fantastic. We got cafe au lait (mine frozen, hers hot). Then we walked back to the car. On the road again.

Next stop: Roswell, GA, 8 hours later.

Author's Note: For some reason, we didn't take many pictures in New Orleans. Which we both regret. There are a few more from the following morning on Melissa's camera, but I don't know if they will ever make it on to here.

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