March 20, 2011

Touristy Stuff in NOLA

Mike and I stayed right in the heart of the French Quarter when we were in New Orleans. Our hotel wasn't too far from two of the city's biggest attractions - St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Park. Both were worth photo-worthy and luckily in very close proximity of one another.

St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest continuously operating church in the United States. The first church on the site was built in 1718; the third, built in 1789, was raised to cathedral rank in 1793. The cathedral was expanded and largely rebuilt in 1850, with little of the 1789 structure remaining. Also, it is beautiful, day and night.

St. Louis Cathedral sits right next to Jackson Square, also called the Plaza de Armas, so the view of the church from the park is a great one, although the square itself also is pretty beautiful.

Not too far from the Cathedral and the square is Cafe du Monde, a New Orleans institution, famous for is Cafe au Lait and bignets. Holy mother of God it is a good thing I don't live anywhere near this place. I would eat bignets every single day of my life. If I could I would eat a whole plate of them right now. As you'll see below I have a bit of a bignet problem.

I don't want to necessarily say the next thing we did was touristy, but several people did ask me when I got home if we went to the lower ninth ward. And we did. I hadn't been before so it's not like I had much to compare it to. The devastation was very apparent and certainly lingering, but it wasn't everywhere. We would see a home that was boarded up and caving in right next to a well kept home with a manicured lawn.

But it was easy to forget about the parts of the city that looks like that, when we were surrounded by the parts of the city that look like this.
I've still got a little bit more to share from my NOLA trip. And yes, I am saving the best for last.

Also, I know I haven't blogged about it for a while, but I assure you I am still doing my 365 project. You can find my entire set here.

March 6, 2011

Living Easy in the Big Easy

Mike and I arrived in New Orleans at 9 p.m. on Thursday. By the time we checked into our hotel on the corner of Bourbon and Orleans Streets we were exhausted but hungry. Mike lived in New Orleans for a summer during his late teens and thought he remembered this really good burger joint just around the corner. His nose remembered because we walked right into Yo Mama's at 10:30 with the intention of getting a burger and a beer.

We stayed until 2 a.m.

New Orleans at night has a way of doing. It sucks you in, allures you with its loud music, blatant debauchery and easy access to booze. So it was that we spent our first night in New Orleans drinking late into the night and walking Bourbon Steet with people of various levels of sobriety. It was good people watching. And Yo Mama's was good conversation with the locals, so we couldn't not stay out. It was as if the city was beckoning us to walk its streets, listen to its music and eat its food. So we did. And we didn't stop for three days.

This is the interior of Yo Mama's. If there ever were a bar that was made for my Mike, it was Yo Mama's - home of the famous peanut butter burger. Yes, peanut butter on a burger. I highly recommend it to round out a night of drinking.

As we found out though, New Orleans looks slightly different by the light of day - quieter, with an old world beauty.

Of course, it's still New Orleans so even in the light of day there are still signs of the 24 hour shenanigans taking place in the city.

This picture after all, was taken on Bourbon Street at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. I don't think any part of Chicago is this active at 4 p.m. on a Sunday.

While food and booze is the cornerstone of any NOLA vacation, what really made the trip for me were all of the street performers. Any time of day in almost every corner of the French Quarter, there are performers of all types - full bands complete with drummers and dancers, tarot card readers in Jackson park, duos of fiddlers with dogs and solo guitarists with their cases open and filled with hard-earned, and well-deserved money.

On Saturday night, Mike and headed out without a destination in mind. We wandered the city and started out at a German Jazz bar on Bourbon Street. We ended the night in the back room of a bar that housed a mid-sized concert hall, and one of the best Cajun bands I have ever heard. We danced until they finished playing.

By Sunday, we were heavier and more rested than we were when we arrived. It also was 65 degrees and sunny which was a most welcomed temperature. Remember, Mike and I had braved the Chicago Blizzard of 2011 just a few weeks prior. We wandered the city and at one point laid down in Jackson park for 20 minutes. We baked in the sun because we could.

On our way to get brunch that morning, we passed this man gently strumming "What A Wonderful World" on his guitar. As we walked by, Mike dropped some money in his case and I smiled because I couldn't help but think, it certainly is in New Orleans.

More to come. This is only a small taste of our wonderful trip.