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Day 2

June 1, 2010 20 comments

Location: New Orleans, LA

Miles driven: 102


Woke up around 6:30AM, got a quick stretch in, and shortly thereafter hit the road for New Orleans.  It was a fairly short drive, but there was the occasional downpour of rain and a little traffic closer to the city, but nothing too bad.  Once I pulled into the French Quarter, the sun was coming out and the streets were drying.

Around 10AM, I found a public parking lot and stepped out to explore.  I found New Orleans to be surprisingly easy to get around, at least here in the French Quarter.  There wasn’t much traffic, everything of note was in walking-distance, and there was a hint of excitement in the air amongst all the tourists walking about….people going in and out of little boutiques, voodoo shops, and southern eateries.  I was expecting to see lingering after-effects of Katrina, but either I’m not observant enough or there aren’t any signs of that in this frequently-visited area of the city (outside of some funky smells along Bourbon St.).  Everything was neat and clean that I could see.

I had a hotel reservation for the evening, but couldn’t check in until 4pm, so I figured I had time to wander around until that time.  Managed to do a lot of walking, and take in the sights and sounds.  One of the first places I came across was Jackson Square in front of the famous St. Louis Cathedral.  I had heard about the statue of Andrew Jackson, but it was still pretty impressive seeing it up close.

Andrew Jackson statue in Jackson Square

Andrew Jackson statue and St. Louis Cathedral

I zig-zagged through the different streets and eventually came across a seafood place.  People had been telling me to try the crawfish in New Orleans so I ordered that within a minute of sitting down.  Only problem, I didn’t even know what crawfish looked like.  I’ve had the big shrimp before in Taiwan where you have peel every bit (while the shrimp’s eyes are there looking at you), but never tried crawfish.  For $10 I got a basket of the little guys…there were so many of them.

Crawfish

Tasty crawfish

They were a messy challenge, but I managed to eat some of the crawfish from that big bowl.  Managed also to squirt some crawfish juice in my eye, and needless to say, that was not very pleasant.  Eventually I was working harder for the food than I cared to, so I gave up, paid and bill, and later grabbed a slice of pizza from a nearby place.

Shortly after cleaning  myself up from crawfish-eating, I stumbled across a jazz/blues band, with dancers in tow, on Royal St.  Very entertaining…both the music and the dancing.  Here’s some video:

By the way – does anyone know what that type of dance is called?

I enjoyed staying there listening to the music, but eventually rain came and the band packed up.  The rain soon turned into a downpour and I bided my time under awnings as I made my way back towards my car.  It would soon be time to check into the hotel.

Took the car to the Prince Conti Hotel (booked it 2am the same day), and found myself in an old-fashioned, but very nice hotel.  I’m not planning on staying in many hotels for this trip, but I figured I have a lot of people I can crash with along the East Coast, so I’ll be saving some money in this first stretch of the trip.  Plus, the hotel was only $60 plus tax.

Got to relax for a long while…took a nap, did a workout, and then around 10pm I headed out to see the New Orleans nightlife.  I told myself I’d stop in the first jazz club I come across playing live music.  I found one within a few minutes of walking, just a block away.  It was an amazing band – one guitarist/singer, one keyboardist, one drummer, and three brass.  There was dancing, too.  Soon enough I got involved dancing with some foreigners – three girls from Australia and one from New Zealand.  Spent a good time chatting and learned they were on a roadtrip of their own, taking two months, I think, to work their way in a van from the West to East coast, with the final destination being New York City.  I was amazed at the number of National Parks they had visited.  Sally, the Kiwi, knew more about some parks out west than many Americans.  She mentioned wanting to go to Crater Lake (my favorite park), but in April the roads were closed because of snow.  However, she spoke very highly of the Utah parks (oftentimes overshadowed by the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite), and I was able to get a couple of recommendations for hikes and things to check out.  Sally also said she had hiked the Angels Landing Trail at Zion National Park, which I had done in 2005, and we shared stories from that and other hikes we’ve done/parks we’ve visited.

The fun night ended and here we are on Day 3 of the trip.  I just ordered some beignets which is a type of French donut.  Pretty tasty, and very filling.  At the beignet shop I could only order a set of three, so I’ll be looking for some hotel staff to help me out with the other two.

Beignet

Soon, I’ll check out of the hotel and work my way east towards Florida.  It’s a warm day, and it looks like I might get some clear skies, and hopefully I’ll be able to take out the camera tonight and get some star shots.

New Orleans is an amazing city.  Glad I came this way.

joe