Florida Bound Day 4: Headed Down to NOLA

We had one goal today: New Orleans.

Okay, so maybe Indy had a different goal: Not get eaten by alligators. (Bill’s not helping.)

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This was our big welcome into Louisiana. Crossing the border from Texas, I had no idea what we were in for when stopping at the state’s welcome center. I did know two things, though, and those were that I was excited to see the South and I really had to pee. I knew we were getting into some different territory just based on stories from others, but I didn’t expect to have to basically swat my way through clouds and clouds of dragonflies to get to the restroom. Or to find myself trying fortheloveofallthatisholy to use the restroom when a pitch black wasp as big as my face kept buzzing down from the ceiling into my stall causing instant pee paralysis. Or to take Indy out to run around only to find that there would be no running for our perfectly lunch-sized dog due to the above “NO SWIMMING” sign complete with terrifying alligator next to the (not pictured) “Beware of Snakes” warning. So we hustled our way through the bug-thickened air and slipped into the car, slamming the doors as quickly as possible to keep out all the creatures and the beasts and the monsters that live in godforsaken Louisiana.

I was no longer excited. And I still had to pee.

As it would turn out, though, Louisiana is quite beautiful from the sanctuary of your car. It was so incredible to drive across the state on bridges over nothing but swampland, and I had never seen anything like the moss-draped trees growing straight out of the murky water. And let me tell you, New Orleans was worth braving the wild, as it had way fewer bugs and gators and nightmarish life-threatening situations and wayyyyy more music and booze and oh-my-goodness FOOD. But first we needed to check into the Olivier House, an adorable boutique hotel one block from Bourbon Street. We had read that every room was decorated differently just like my beloved Madonna Inn from back home in San Luis Obispo, so walking up the stairs with our heavy old key was full of Christmas morning-like anticipation.

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It was better than expected.

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It came complete with living room, loft, and gorgeous metalwork railings to really hit the unique French Quarter vibe home. The bed was perched high above the rest of the room and surrounded by exposed brick and beams, which Indy quite obviously admired.

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Stomachs growling but never a fan of tourist traps, I did some research online to check out the grub scene around us but ultimately asked the woman sitting at the antique wooden desk in the front hallway what she would recommend. I usually try this, as these people LIVE where I am exploring, and if they themselves frequent the place for some real food, then we’re talking. She sent us multiple blocks away from Bourbon Street on the hunt for a small bar called Coop’s at the very edge of the French Quarter, which promised and delivered a local vibe and authentic Louisiana cuisine.

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We wanted to try everything, so we ended up with a Coop’s Taste Plate and the Fried Oyster Dinner Plate. It’s a good thing the lighting wasn’t great, because the first dish out? Seafood gumbo. We had no idea it looked like this until we looked at the picture a while later… But oh my, was it good.

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Bill wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

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That’s only because he’s never seen this food-obsessed tourist in action before. If I can handle haggis in Scotland – enthusiastically and by choice – then gumbo’s got nothing on me. I’ll take your skepticism and raise you a crawdad claw in the teeth.

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Also on the menu: shrimp creole, Cajun fried chicken, red beans & rice with sausage, rabbit & sausage jambalaya, fried oysters, french fries and coleslaw. I found heaven in New Orleans.

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After dinner, we meandered over to the famous French Market, but with only a few evening hours to spare, we settled for a selfie in the deserted hall. Just one more reason to come back and catch the bustle.

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We took in some of the history through statues dotting the city, snapping quick pics of one of the most intriguing women to grace the earth, Joan of Arc.

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And what trip wouldn’t be complete without the fried, sugary goodness that is beignets from Cafe du Monde?!?! My mom had instilled a love of beignets in me from an early age (mostly at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square), but I’d always heard there is nothing like the ones in New Orleans. Point taken.

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And if you need proof, check out the sugar snob himself diving in full face.

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I knew I needed enough willpower to take a poised (and pretending not to be a sticky sweaty mess) picture…

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But let’s be real. This is more like how it happened.

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Not too enthralled with the smell of vomit wafting through the sidewalks of Bourbon, we chose a more romantic evening stroll along Jackson Square instead of the slop-fest of tourists drinking their faces off. Besides, we may have done a little of that ourselves the night before in Houston, and hey, livers need a break too.

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Almost a year and he still steals me heart with those GD baby blue eyes.

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We eventually did watch some shenanigans from the sidelines, although somebody does look like he himself was caught red-handed up to no good.

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But the wildest we got was finding our first gator among the beads and tchotchkes.

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We promised we would be back.

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Goodnight, New Orleans. You must think we’re so innocent.

Next time you may not be so lucky.

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