What’s New Orleans? Or, ‘A duct tape dog’

Yeah, I know, crap blog title, but give me a break eh! It’s been almost non-stop since we ‘de-trained’ (as Amtrak like to call it) and my mind is just a little frazzled. Well, that or we’ve been having a little too good a time on Bourbon Street! So since checking into the Quality Inn & Suites on O’Keefe Ave, an absolutely brilliant stay there too we have to say; booked a single queen but without even asking we were upgraded to a two bedroom suite w/kitchenette at no extra charge. Now that’s sweet! So we settled in at 10pm and hit the hay almost immediately, only to wake up by 6am, things to do, people to see, places to go!

At 8.30am, or sometime thereafter, we were collected from the hotel by the Cajun Encounters tour bus. The driver was obviously not a morning person, clutching valiantly to his caffeinated kick-start he grunted a greeting and ‘requested’ our booking name, once the beast was satisfied he nodded towards the seats and we took that as being a welcome aboard and found a seat. A quick, and by quick we actually mean frantic, trip through some of the streets of New Orleans, picked up a few more passengers before he announced that he was going to take us to meet another bus and transfer us to that bus to speed up the day. It sounded a bit suss to us, but we didn’t really care if it meant the next driver could string a complete sentence together without using guttural groans as punctuation.

A painless transfer later and we’re on our way to the first stop, Laura Plantation. The Creole plantation was rather interesting, in that is was never a home as such, only a seasonal work base, a site office with accommodations for management. It was fascinating to learn about the use of colours, why some plantations were so colourful, and others only white. Why they built their houses, or offices, the way they did. However it was equally disturbing to learn of some of the practices of certain classes and their beliefs at the time. Some of the stories were told made both of us quite uncomfortable and others outright horrified us. The tour was really quite full on, and given the humidity we were relieved we didn’t pass out from the heat. Passing back through the gift shop on the way back to the bus and we were on our way again.

Next stop, Oak Alley Plantation. Once again we were dropped off outside the plantation’s main buildings and directed down the garden path. I know that sounds like it could be leading to a world of mischief or disaster. But really it was nothing like that. We were escorted through the house, shown the various rooms the household used and told a little history of the main families that owned the property. As with the other plantation we were left in a bittersweet situation, we admired the beauty but felt the deep sadness that comes with knowing how these places were created. As before we browsed through the gift shop before hopping back on the bus and heading back to New Orleans and the French Quarter.

Huck Finn’s. That’s all you need to know. We were deposited at this cafe along with others who were booked to continue their adventures into the evening with a swamp tour. Hot Wings and Cheesy Fries. Not the healthiest of choices, but considering it was now after 3pm and breakfast was at 7am we were pretty hungry! After resting for a little while we were back on the buses and headed east towards the swamp and our evening’s activities. Arriving at the site office we were broken into groups and assigned a boat captain. Ours appeared to be incapable of speaking, not just English but speaking at all. However once his feet touched water, his lips loosened up and a funnier guy we’ve never met! For the next 1.5hrs he entertained us with stories about the swamp, about the environment and the variety of wildlife and plants. Travelling along the waterways as the sun began to set was quite magical and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Once back upon dry land we were ferried back to our hotel.

Ahh, but our day doesn’t end there! It’s still early in the evening and we haven’t had dinner! So with a check of our location and destination in mind we took off for Mother’s Restaurant – we’d heard about it via Man vs Food and thought it worth the shot. Talk about a misfire! The service was terrible, the prices, wow, they should have just asked for a firstborn, and the product itself? Well, one went straight to the bin (an oyster Po’Boy), the other (a Ferdi special) we shared because at 10pm what can you do? We don’t know whether or not fame has gone to their heads, but our money won’t go to their pocket ever again!

Day two though was a change for the better. We slept in until mid morning, caught up on some chores and eagerly watched the clock for our next scheduled appointment. A luncheon cruise aboard the Natchez Steamboat. For two hours we sailed upon the Mississippi River, dined upon Jambalaya, rice, red beans, coleslaw and bread pudding. Again we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves aboard the boat, the information given by the captain was interesting and it all ended far too soon and we were back at the pier and heading towards Decatur Street.

A stroll along Decatur and after stopping into some of the more interesting shops we finally reached our destination, Cafe du Monde! Chocolate milk and some of their world famous beignets! We sat in the shade of the cafe, listened to the sounds of New Orleans visitors and natives alike and watched the world go by as we tried not to sneeze from a faceful of icing sugar. Now hyped up on sugar we strolled along those famous streets, Chartres, Royal and Bourbon, around Jackson Square before heading back to the hotel to freshen up. A quick change, dropping off our goodies from the day and back out the door, we were headed back towards the French Quarter and one specific restaurant. The ACME Oyster House. Again, we’d heard a lot, we expected a lot, but after the night before, we were aprehensive to say the least.

We stood in a queue halfway back to Bourbon Street and more than once questioned ourselves whether we were making the right decision. The closer we crept the more nervous we became, until we could see through the windows that is! Then our jaws drop, our stomachs grumbled and our noses inhaled the amazing aroma’s now wafting towards us. Finally we were admitted to the bar, pulled ourselves up onto the stools and gazed in wonder as we saw the bags of oysters being poured into the trough in front of us. 1hr, 1 dozen chargrilled oysters, and one 1/2 and 1/2 platter and we were headed home, having had the best dinner experience yet on this trip! If you’re ever in New Orleans, check these guys out!

Eventually we made our way back to the hotel for our final night in New Orleans, we’re off on the train at 7am tomorrow, bound for Washington D.C. and that it holds. We’ve enjoyed being here, made a few friends on our travels and generally had a really good time. We’re not sure if it’s been worth all the hype, but it’s certainly been unforgetable and we’re glad to have had the experience! D.C. here we come!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the ‘duct tape dog’ remark, well, during dinner we were offered as a side some Hush Puppies, and of course me being me instantly had the mental picture of our Labrador dog back home with a roll of silver duct tape wrapped around his muzzle… and yes, we do know what they really are!


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