NOLA 2012


I joined Nikki on a trip already in progress this past weekend. Her entire office went on a professional retreat to New Orleans, and I flew down Saturday to meet her. Unfortunately, my trip down coincided with severe thunderstorms in the southeast, and my flight was delayed several hours.

I ended up getting to New Orleans around dinner time. The ZUMIX crew had a dinner date at someone’s home, so I went out briefly and had some Lebanese food, then I tried to take a nap. When the kids got back, several of us plunged into pool, which was way more effective in waking me up than the nap was. It may be New Orleans, but it was still an outdoor pool in January. Refreshed, we hit a couple of bars, then ended up having a great time on the hotel’s roof deck and balconies.

The next morning, I went for a run down along the misty Mississippi River, then shopped through the French Market. I joined ZUMIX for brunch at Mojito’s, where a delightful combo entertained us and my shrimp and grits still had eyes. I checked out of the Frenchmen Hotel (a great choice for location, but rank with mold and poor service) and started exploring the city while ZUMIX went on a site visit with another nonprofit.

I spent a few hours just walking around the French Quarter taking pictures and drinking coffee, then I hopped on the St Charles streetcar and rode out to Lee Circle. I’ll admit that I had planned to visit the Confederate Hall Museum and didn’t realize that they had new hours that don’t include Sundays. However, the walk back to the French Quarter was lovely anyway.

We had a historical walking tour booked for the evening, so when Nikki’s ZUMIX commitments wrapped up, we grabbed a quick poboy at the French Market, then took a pedi-cab to meet our tour guide. To be a little more honest, we worked out the timing wrong, and ended up having to eat the poboys IN the pedi-cab. The guide was great, showing us all around the Quarter and including tidbits from the French, Spanish, and American periods in New Orleans, with some literary and film-related stops as well. To cap off the night, we moved our luggage to our new (much better) hotel, then popped out for dinner in the Faubourg Marigny.

Monday was a marathon day for us in the city, almost literally. Out of curiosity, I left the GPS tracker on my phone going as we explored the city. By the time all was said and done, we had logged 15.9 miles on the GPS, not counting distance covered by ferry or streetcar.

We started off by finding some breakfast in the French Quarter. The place we chose ended up being my favorite restaurant of the trip, and the only one we ate at twice. The Something Else Cafe served up an excellent plate of shrimp and grits, second only to the Big River Brew Pub in Nashville. From there, we struck out to St Louis Cemetery number 1.

The cemetery dates back to the 1780s, and has individual, family, and benevolent society tombs. We saw veterans of the Civil War, both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam. We saw musicians, the first black mayor, Homer Plessy, and a voodoo queen. We saw every type of tomb, from marble statuary to unadorned brick. And then we moved on.

From the cemetery, we walked over to the St. Charles streetcar and rode that out to the Garden District. We followed our guide book’s walking tour of the district, and saw lots of fancy houses, including those belonging to Jefferson Davis (including a monument describing him, ironically, as a “great American.”), Sandra Bullock, and John Goodman. We even got to meet John Goodman’s dogs, who obviously troll his fenceline all day waiting for tourists to come by and pet them.

After taking the streetcar back into the Quarter, we hopped on the free ferry over to Algiers, not because we were trying to go anywhere, but just to get a perspective on the city from the water. The round trip only takes about 30 minutes, but when we got back the sun was going down. We rounded out the day by grabbing some (overrated) beignets at Cafe du Monde, then grabbing a couple of geaux cups and strolling across the Quarter in the gathering dark. As our hunger became more acute, we had a sampling of local fare at a restaurant called the Gumbo Shop.

Since it was our last day in town, we got an early start on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we’re the only people to have ever gotten an early start in New Orleans, and nothing was open when we set out. Undaunted, we stopped back in the Something Else Cafe. This time, we both ordered the Tuesday special: Ultimate Grits (cheese grits with bacon, ham, sausage, tomato, and onion). Nirvana!

After breakfast, we stopped in the St Louis cathedral before checking out 300 years of local history at the Cabildo museum. From there, we bought our souvenir t-shirts, toured the Urseline convent, and headed off to the airport.