In an effort to find something to focus on that is not the hellish circus that is tomorrow's election, I'm going to write up a review of our time in New Orleans.
We actually started the trip in Springfield, MO for parents weekend at Missouri State. It's a 3 hour drive from Kansas City to Springfield, so when Budget Rent-A-Car asked me if I wanted to upgrade to a Mustang at no extra cost I of course said yes. They gave me a 6-cylinder Mustang. Bastards.
Springfield was fun. The stress in our lives has been off the charts for the last 2 months, so getting away from it all for a few days was definitely needed. We had a great time hanging out with our daughter, seeing the Bears win the football game on a last second field goal, and enjoyed a couple of great meals while we were there, one of which resulted in about 5 days of leftovers for Delaney. It was 80 and sunny both days too, which was perfect.
Then on Sunday we flew down to New Orleans for a few days of adult fun. We stayed at The Blake, which is actually a Comfort Inn on Lafayette Square. It's a 10 minute walk from the French Quarter, 10 minute walk from the WWII museum, directly across the street from the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District, and 10 minutes from Harrah's if you want to gamble. It's a great location and cheaper than staying right in the Quarter.
We had a late lunch at Red Fish Grill that we intended to be light, but it didn't work out that way and we ended up skipping proper dinner because neither of us was hungry around 6 PM, and we had a Drunk History tour of The French Quarter that went from 7-9. The tour was a blast, as I've already written about. After the tour we checked "Drink a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's" off the bucker list. We learned that Pat O'Brien's hurricanes actually suck. After that we were getting hungry so we popped into a pizza joint for a couple of cheap, greasy slices of pizzas, and then wandered around Bourbon Street some more and ended up at Ticklers, one of many joints there with dueling pianos. This place had a fun vibe with an extremely talented set of musicians playing pretty much anything requested, with a bunch of happy drunk people dancing and singing along. And since we were in New Orleans we decide to embrace the weird and do shit we don't normally do, like order the pre-made frozen Voodoo Purple Daiquiris from the slushy machines.
Pro-tip for New Orleans. Don't drink Voodoo Purple Daiquiris on Bourbon Street. They have Everclear in them. Nothing good ever comes from Everclear.
So that takes us to Halloween. We started with breakfast in the cafe next to the hotel. Then we had a two hour walking tour of the Garden District booked. It started in Lafayette Cemetery #1, where I learned way more about burial traditions that I could have imagined, and it was all fascinating. I had no idea that 20 or more people are buried in those above ground tombs, or that when they go to reuse them they often stir up bone fragments. As our guide was explaining about piling more bodies on top of existing below ground graves, he was casually pulling bone fragments from the disturbed dirt of a recently reused grave site. Just the thing for Halloween! After the cemetery tour he took us around the upscale neighborhood teaching us about the history behind some of the multi-million dollar mansions we were gawking at. Along the way we saw Sandra Bullock's home, John Goodman's home that was previously owned by Trent Reznor, the house Anne Rice bought after she hit it big in publishing, and the house where Peyton and Eli Manning grew up. After a coffee break we wandered up and down Market Street, which is filled with shops and bars, before heading back to the hotel for a little downtime before dinner. Dinner was back in the Garden District at The Rum House, which served up tasty seafood and you guessed it, lots of rum based drinks. After dinner we took the streetcar back to foot of Bourbon Street and ventured in for the Halloween craziness.
Halloween on Bourbon Street was an absolute blast. Crowded, but not Mardi Gras crowded, and people go all out on costumes. Actually I'd love to go back next year and do it right with costumes, as we didn't bother this year. We ended up back at Tickler's and it was again a blast. The piano players were great and the crowd was too. We didn't run into any rude people all week. The other tourists were fun, and the staff at the bars and restaurants were all great. I learned my lesson and stuck to beer, and Michelle discovered that Ticklers makes a much better hurricane than Pat O'Brien's. Unfortunately, I had an important work client pitch to attend remotely at 8:30 AM the next morning, so we had to call it a night early and head back to the hotel by 11 PM.
I did get up and adult Wednesday morning,and by the time the call was completed it was close to lunch time. So we headed over to the WWII museum and spent several hours there. It is a really great museum. The audio / visual stuff is very well done, and they do a good job humanizing WWII by having you follow a individual soldier through the war. From a history perspective it's done at a WWII 101 level. And if you are wondering, as I was, why the WWII museum is in New Orleans, it's because the Higgins Landing Craft was invented and manufactured in New Orleans. Back at the hotel we saw a movie production in process across the street and we watched for a few minutes, until they yelled as us that we were in the way. So next year keep an eye out for us in the new Benji movie! Earlier in the week I had seen on Facebook that an old friend was also going to be visiting New Orleans when we were there, so we met up with them at the Acme Oyster House, where the grilled oysters live up to their reputation. After dinner we got in line for a jazz performance at Restoration Hall. Imagine inviting 150 friends into your living room for a world class jazz performance. Also imagine that you live in a dilapidated shack without air conditioning, or plumbing. That is the Restoration Hall experience, and it's totally worth the effort. After the jazz we had a couple of drinks while wandering down Bourbon Street.
Wednesday was our last full day in New Orleans, and we started it in classic New Orleans fashion with breakfast at Cafe Du Monde. After breakfast we wandered around the Jackson Square area a bit, and bought Drew Brees jerseys, because Purdue! Then we grabbed lunch at Hard Rock Cafe before heading over to Mardi Gras World for the factory tour. The tour was interesting, and the amount of cash it takes to get a float in a Mardi Gras parade is staggering ($100K to start). After cavorting with giant Styrofoam heads for a while we headed back to the French Quarter as I wanted to have the official drink of Louisiana, Sazerac, at the Carousal Bar in the Hotel Montelone. The drink was sublime, and Michelle's hand shaken Pina Colada was probably the best Pina Colada I have ever tasted. They were $12 each, so I'm glad they were really good. The Carousal Bar is a more interesting sounding gimmick than delivers in real life, but the drinks are really good. November 2nd was, of course, game 7 of the World Series so we went out in search of a good place to watch the game. We ended up at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, which claims to be America's oldest bar, with the building dating back to 1720 when the Pirate Jean Lafitte used it as a front for his smuggling operation. The front bar area was totally focused on the game, and what a game it was. It was a great way to wrap up vacation as we had a late morning flight the next day.
I've been to New Orleans twice this year. I love the place, although I'm pretty sure living there would kill me.