“Throw me something, Mister!”
I started this blog just a few weeks after my wonderful trip down south to N’awlins (aka New Orleans), and since I did not travel anywhere this past weekend I’m going to take y’all back to my adventure in the bayou.
I’m not even exactly sure how this trip got started, but my dear friend Hillary and I were discussing our love of traveling and how we’d love to go to New Orleans. (I went there when I was around 7 years old with my mom, but I don’t remember too much of the trip). Well Hillary’s aunt and uncle live there, so she asked them if we could visit, and before I know it I’m booking a flight and planning my trip. Since I had President’s Day (Febuary 20th) off work already I took just a couple more days off, and we began planning to go that week. Well unbeknowst to us, that also happened to be the week of Mardi Gras. So not only was I getting to go to New Orleans, I was also getting to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Check that off my bucket list!
Hillary lives in Fort Worth, TX and was going to drive to NOLA instead of flying. So I flew into Houston to drive at least part of the way with her. Plus, I’m a big fan of road trips so I enjoy driving. I arrived in Houston at noon on Saturday, February 18th. Hillary picked me up from the airport and we started our drive. We stopped in Humble, TX for lunch at Spring Creek Barbeque. A favorite of Hillary’s! And now a favorite of mine too! Such good food!!!
Sadly it was a rainy day, but nothing serious. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Houston to New Orleans, and though we made a couple pit stops we made decent time and arrived in Metairie, LA (where Hillary’s Aunt Kate and Uncle Rob live, just outisde of New Orleans) about 8pm. And immediately the Mardi Gras activities began. We barely unloaded the car, before we were whisked away to our first parade. And boy, there is no exaggeration to the amount of beads they throw to the crowds!! It’s insane!! I’m not a huge parade person, but these Mardi Gras parades are fun! Music, dancing, free stuff! Gotta love it!
After the parade, Aunt Kate, Uncle Rob and Cousin Tori (cutest kid EVER!) took us to Morning Call to have beignets. You CAN NOT travel to N’awlins and not eat beignets! And they were so delicious!
Sunday was the perfect weather in New Orleans! Sunny and in the upper 60s! Aunt Kate, drove us to Oak Alley Plantation for the day. It was about an hour away, and we got to see some beautiful countryside of Lousiana. I saw my first cotton field, and many plantations on our drive.
When we arrived at Oak Alley Plantation, we were definitely taken aback by the beauty. A grove of nearly 300 year old oaks greeted us as we approached the classic Greek Revial style antebellum home. The alley of 28 evenly spaced oak trees are believed to be at least 100 years older than the house.
That exisiting alley of oaks is what attracted Jacques T. Roman to the property and inspired him to build his dream plantation home at the end of the grove in 1837. Oak Alley served as the primary family home for the Romans and was a fully functioning sugar cane plantation. Unfortunately, due to poor finance management by Mrs. Roman when Jacques passed away at a young age, the plantation did not remain in the original family for long. The plantation then continued to change hands numerous times until 1925 when Andrew and Josephine Stewart purchased Oak Alley and restored the home to it’s original beuaty. One of the previous owners allowed horses and cattle to roam the first floor, damaging the original marble floor beyond repair. Though some of that elegance was lost, the home is still plenty impressive. The Stewart family had a non-profit organization established for the plantation and that foundation continues to operate it today for the public.
After returning home, Aunt Kate and Uncle Rob cooked us a wonderful dinner before we headed off to another parade. Since Metairie is so close to the heart of New Orleans, there is just as many Mardi Gras parades and activities. We attended parades every night, and Aunt Kate and Uncle Rob live in the best location! Just a couple blocks away from the parade route.
On Monday we did some more sight-seeing outside New Orleans. We headed to Slidell, LA to venture on the Honey Island Swamp Tour. There’s something so fascinating about the deep south and it’s swamps to me, so I was very excited for this excursion! And spending two hours traveling through the often dense swamps was truly fascinating! Unlike any other scenery I’ve seen before. And we learned that “swamp” means a flooded forest.
WARNING: I got a little obsessed with taking pictures of the swamp. But the scenery was so unique and beautiful! Quite serene too.
Unfortunately due to the chillier temperatures we only spotted a couple of small gators, but on the plus side, the bugs were non-existent as opposed to how it would be in the summer with the vegetation in bloom.
It was also fascinating to see how many houses are built right in the swamp, and people live in these homes making their living off the fish and vegetation the swamp offers. There’s no plumbing or electrivity in these homes, and so many of them own generators to have access to power as needed. Truly amazing to witness the culture of swamp living.
After our long drive back to Metairie, Aunt Kate and Uncle Rob cooked us another delicious home-cooked dinner and we ate King’s Cake (another Mardi Gras must!) before heading out for another parade. Hillary and I returned with another large haul of beads!
On Tuesday, Mardi Gras had officially arrived! Hillary and I took the streetcar (the St. Charles Line) as far into the city as we could before the parade route blocked the tracks. From there we walked along the parade route as we made our way into the French Quarter.
Finally, after walking nearly 5 miles we made it to the French Quarter. Our first stops were Jefferson Square and it’s St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1720, St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Very impressive to see, and it felt more like I was in France than southern U.S. Next we attempted to order beignets from the original Cafe Du Monde, but the line was quite long. Mardi Gras is a holiday for the locals and thus a day off work, plus there’s the thousands of visitors to the city, so of course, it was overwhelming crowded. But we still got to see the sites and marvel at the architecture, see the crazies, and buy pralines (pronounes “praw-leens”) and souvenirs.
Fortunately, we hailed a cab to take us back to our car, and we then attended our final Mardi Gras parade.
The next day, Hillary and I left about 8:30am and we grabbed a last meal of Louisiana food by stopping at Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee. We made good timing driving back to Houston, and I then left on my flight back to the other LA. I fully enjoyed my time in Louisiana, and would love to go back to experience more of New Orleans when it’s not overrun by Mardi Gras. Though I’m very glad I’ve had the opportunity to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans and had a fun time, but once in my life is probably good enough for me.