What makes a trip affordable, you ask? Let's see:
1. skimp on the total nights by creating one heck of an exhaustive itinerary
2. fly in early (as in: the butt-crack of dawn),
3. fly late on your last day,
4. and finally, train yourself not to need so much food
(to put it simply, I only listed four of the most important).
I basically got...mmm...three out of the four listed above. Looking down at my stretchy pants - which I apparently no longer wear for sheer pleasure but for necessity - I'd venture you might guess that I didn't quite accomplish the last point on that list. Honestly, I was going to Louisiana - no way was I going to skimp on all the good food!
To begin, our flight was at 6:05 a.m. from SFO with a layover in Austin before finally landing in New Orleans. Chris and I, probably had had about a little over 3 hours of sleep before waking up at 3:45 am and coercing his Dad with promises of getting him "something good, we promise!", to drive us to the airport.
I'll skip the details on the flight because we mostly did a whole of snoring and drooling, with a little bit of forehead-pressed-against-window as we watched the cities below us. After an exhaustive flight we crossed our fingers and hoped that the hotel would please, please, pretty please let us check in early so we could catch some sleep before haunting - err, I mean - touring the French Quarter. Luckily, they didn't seemed the least bit irritated with our early arrival - and to my delight, I got to hear an authentic Cajun drawl from the receptionist, sweet! - and immediately crashed for a couple hours.
It took me a little while longer to sleep because honestly, the room felt like it was haunted and just a little bit eeky. Lots of heebie-jeebie feelings...With tall windows topped by a semi-circle window above, thick, heavy drapes and an old worldly feeling that gave me goosebumps on my neck, leaving me far from feeling comfortable. But I was in New Orleans! With buildings that were hundreds of years old - voted for being one of the most haunted cities in the U.S.! Wait...why the hell did I want to come here again? All this excitement coming from someone who had nightmares for weeks after watching Paranormal Activity...hmm...
After our much needed nap, Chris and I ventured out to explore the French Quarter, the oldest and most famous neighborhood in New Orleans. You know, where Mardi Gras is often celebrated along the famous street of Bourbon. Don't forget, Decatur, Royal St., and Chartres St. We explored the shops, filled with Voodoo charms and knick-knacks, colorful markets full of masks, boas, and all sorts of dried up alligator body parts souvenirs.
We stopped at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville on Decatur. To which I asked, "Who's Jimmy Buffet?" shrugging and then ordering up a mango hurricane when I found out it was happy hour. Woohoo! You'd be sad to know that we didn't order up anything on the menu that screamed New Orleans! - instead, having french fries (me!), tacos (Chris), jalapeno macaroni and cheese (definitely Chris).
Happy hour concluded and we made our way back to Jackson Square to pick up a buggy - or rather - be picked up for a buggy ride around the neighborhood. Our driver's name was Sergeant (errr - something close to Sergeant) with a middle name of Zulu. Huh...Sergeant Zulu? Or maybe the horse's name was Zulu. Anyway, he was a total hoot; taking us around, telling us some scary stories, giving us suggestions on which restaurants to visit, where not to visit at night, and all sorts of wonderful tidbits only a local can give to you.
Sergeant Zulu concluded our ride with a stop at Cafe du Monde, New Orleans original French Market coffee stand where we hoovered some very nicely fried Beignets (pronounced: Ben-yays - French donuts with an insane amount of powdered sugar) and hot chocolate. Aw man, I could kill for some right now.
Most of the evening was pretty quiet...at least until we got to Bourbon St. Oh boy...
Bourbon Street is full of...well...all kinds of folks. Folks mostly looking for some crazy fun. Music rang loud in every corner, from live bands in the restaurants or out on the street, to club d.j.'s., street peddlers dressed in costumes, neon lights everywhere and loud partiers...kinda like Vegas.
I didn't realize how much like Vegas until we walked through the heart of Bourbon St. Where at one point a man in front me says, "I'm not going to a strip club where the strippers weigh more than me." Huh? Strippers? Where??
That's when I saw them. Beautiful - so as not to be mean - women, wearing...well...not much, standing outside the doors of gentleman's clubs. I had to admit that there were quite a few women nearly naked that probably shouldn't be so scantily dressed, considering - ahem - all the jiggling I saw...and I'm not talking about their chests. The clubs themselves displayed some of the most graphic nude pictures along the outside walls that made me do a whole lotta double takes - gaping as I asked, "Wow, they're umm...allowed to post those outside?"
Beads were everywhere as people wished to party like it was Mardi Gras...even though it wasn't (eye roll). Men and women walked openly with large fluted daiquiris and beer - lots and lots of beer, talking loudly and drunkenly, some dressed just downright weird. From Gothic garbs and black lipstick, trench coat and fish hat wearing desert nomads, to cowboys in hats and boots; you name it, we probably saw it.
Sure was a fun first night in NoLa!