Voodoo Altar Friday, June 15, 2007 - Biloxi, Mississippi/New Orleans, Louisiana
A plentiful gods and idols in main voodoo altar - Voodoo Spiritual Temple and Cultural Center, New Orleans.
I touched down in Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi regional airport to start my New Orleans weekend getaway at 7:34pm. This was not my first time arriving in the State of Mississippi, but the stereotype of how the ‘poorest’ state in the Union would offer you was inevitably lingering on my mind. Of course the stereotype is not always what you find; Biloxi, Mississippi, for example, is glowing with wealth, as it is the gambling ‘Vegas’ capital in the Southeast United States.
Biloxi is located within forty minutes of driving from City of New Orleans, and shared the same destruction fate during Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. After having a quick glance of the city, we continued on along I-10 West, and it is worth of mentioning that we were driving through a section of the Interstate dedicated to ‘Stephen E. Ambrose Memorial Parkway’, for those who are into World War II history.
There are many nicknames for the City of New Orleans: N’awlins, the Big Easy, Crescent City, Mardi Gras capital; but lately the City had made several new names such as ‘City that Care Forgot’, and ‘the Katrina
Bourbon Street celebration
Nightlife in New Orleans is active and kicking, especially that of the legendary Bourbon Street in French Quarter.
Central’. The most recent tragedy Hurricane Katrina is still fresh on everybody’s mind; all of us had seen many images of flooded neighborhoods after several major Lake Portchartrain and Mississippi River levees broke and flooded the city, killing thousands of its residents.
After arriving in Vieux CarrÃ©
, or Old Square in the French Quarter area of New Orleans, we were checking into our room on the 25th floor of Hilton Riverside by the Mississippi River, and heading out for my first taste of N’awlins. We had New Orleans cooking dinner at La Bayou restaurant on Bourbon Street, with its Cajun signature of worldly known spicy sauce. One of the most famous spicy sauce brands is Tabasco, which is produced in Avery Island, Louisiana. I remember of growing up in Indonesia with Tabasco, which has made its international fame as other American brands such as Nike or Coca Cola.
We decided to take it easy by cruising casually along Bourbon Street, holding plastic cups contained some alcohol. New Orleans is the only place in United States where it is legal to carry around an open container of alcohol in public place. The only requirement of this law is it
Everyday is Mardi Gras in New Orleans
A Mardi Gras joker is entertaining crowds in Bourbon Street, French Quarter.
has to be in a plastic container, and locally known as a ‘go-cup’.
Not too bad for my first night in New Orleans. Saturday, June 16, 2007 - New Orleans, Louisiana
Although we had enjoyed Hilton’s plentiful continental breakfast on the 29th floor Executive Lounge, we could not resist of having (another) slothful brunch over CafÃ© du Monde by devouring ourselves with two humongous servings of signature New Orleans dessert of beignet
(pronounced as beigh-yey: fried doughnut, generously covered with powdered sugar), served with classic cafÃ© au lait. By the time we finished with the chow, we were literally covered with powdered sugar: fingers, arms, lips, nostril, and to our clothing, dining table, chairs, and dining floor. New Orleans’ humid and steamy temperature did not help; it created an extremely sticky condition. In addition to my misery, I was mistakenly thought to be a Vietnamese by our waitress, and as I looked around the cafÃ©, I realized that most of the waiters were Asian decent, and they indeed were Vietnamese. And all these times, I though the City was heavily influenced by the French?
Just across the street from the cafÃ© is New Orleans’
Fleur de Lis
The city's symbol is spotted all around French Quarter in these art forms; this particular one is dedicated to legendary musician Louis Armstrong.
most famous structure, Saint Louis Cathedral
, of which Pope John Paul II had visited in 1987. It is the longest continuous cathedral in the America; some locals referred it as the coffin church, due to its square shape and clean edges. Unfortunately there were three weddings for the day; we were prohibited to lurk around the interior of the cathedral.
Although it is against a vivid traveler’s belief to join a touristy city tour, we reluctantly joined one for the Cemetery/Voodoo Tour. We met up with seven other tourists in the Royal/Conti Streets intersection of the French Quarter for the one o'clock tour. Fortunately it turned out to be an informative experience, as our tour leader David, a native New Orleans with his deep Brooklyn-sound like accent, showed nine of us several niches and information that I would not discover by myself.
Naturally, the highlight of the tour was St. Louis Cemetery Number One
- where Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is laid to rest among hundreds of other New Orleans prominent residents. New Orleans cemeteries are famous for having their crypts built above ground, due to the city’s high water table level, which makes sense due to its approximate location with both the Mississippi
Riverwalk / Fleur de Lis
Another Fleur de Lis sighting nearby our hotel at Riverwalk.
River and Lake Pontchartrain. We also visited a Voodoo Cultural Center, which was a disappointment; there was no a voodoo princess with a blood covered skull dancing by bond fire.
We had the New Orleans signature muffuletta
- humongous Italian sub with pastrami and cheese at Franks’, next door to our original plan of having it at the Central Groceries. It was a relaxing visit, as I tried my best in explaining how to play a chess game to Dustin, who had recently purchased an Indonesian wood carving chess set without knowing how to operate the pieces. So we were sitting in a cozy Italian style dining room, eating our muffuletta while playing chess, watched by the others.
The rest of the evening went enjoyably; we were sitting on the Executive Lounge 29th floor of our Hilton, having some happy hour drinks from bartender James ‘the Navy’ and ordering some stuffed lobster and gumbo to be delivered to our humble corner table overlooking the city.
Jason, a Londoner whom we had met during our Cemetery Tour, came over to our hotel and three of us went out to Pat O’Brien to get together with Eddie and Adam
Mardi Gras beads
As everyday is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, they invented myriad designs of celebration beads.
from Dallas, and subsequently had the signature drink of the Hurricane at the pub. Surprisingly, I was doing pretty fine after going out two nights in a row and partying all night long in Bourbon Street; some highlights were talking to a group of volunteers from Albany, NY that was in town to rebuild New Orleans; and a dirty hobo who was claming to be a local school teacher pre-Katrina, riding around in his bike, but at the end was asking for some change money.
Hurricane Katrina indeed had transormed New Orleans way of life, I concluded, as I glanced over my side bed alarm clock and saw a big 4:00 am. Partying in New Orleans would not be the same post-Katrina, but it will go on, the city will survive. Sunday, June 17, 2007 - Mobile, Alabama/Atlanta, Georgia
Talking about a bad day, I can assure you; everything that could go wrong; did go wrong. To stay optimistic, I believe I will not ever have a worse day than today.
Thankfully, our 7:40am flight from Mobile, Alabama (two hours drive from New Orleans) was cancelled due to lack of passenger; besides, we were
Salsa de Picante
Bayou's cajun cuisine require strong spices, and many of its hot sauce made it to the international debut, including the worldly known Tabasco Sauce.
planning on missing it out anyway after our late night out until 4 am. At 5:30am, after calling Delta to rearrange our newly designated 11:57am flight, we decided to take another nap, which was a big mistake since we slept in and woke up late at 9:30am to pack up our scattered belongings, check out with still somewhat drunk and in a hung over condition, and drive two frantic hour across two states to catch a flight, knowing that there was no way we were going to make it. So long story short, we missed the noon flight as well, and had the option of waiting six hours at the cricket-ty quiet airport, or driving five hours to Atlanta, Georgia in our rental car. We opted to pick the first one.
Thus throughout the day, I’m surprised to find out on how many things I’ve learned and reminded in such a small amount of time:
Lesson number one - never book an early morning flight if you’re not a morning person, no matter how much money you think you can save up by doing that. Simply enough, you’re bound to miss it, especially after going out until late
Mardi Gras joker
Everyday is Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
the previous night and having to drive far away to get to the designated airport.
Lesson number two - never forget to bring a cell phone charger with you when traveling. Back in April, I decided to upgrade my aged flip cellphone with a newer Razor model, which requires only a couple of hours with the charging process that would make the cellphone lasts for a couple of days. So before departing for New Orleans, I had thought that it would be all right to spend the weekend without charging my phone - wrong. It gave up on Saturday evening, right before our meeting time with Eddie and Adam, leaving me with no means of communicating or knowing others contact info.
Lesson number three - never check in your bag with some important items in it; just have it as a carry-on. When we rushed to pack up and check out from the hotel, I mistakenly placed my keys in the duffel bag instead of my messenger bag, with a plan of having all bags as carry-on items. After finding out that I would be waiting for more than six hours at the airport, I immediately checked in
An embedded plaque name marking each French Quarter's streets. A very intricate hardscape detail.
my bag with Delta without thinking - with the keys were tucked neatly at the side pocket.
Lesson number four - after purchasing a new car, make sure that the dealership completes all of their promises to you such as sending you the second set of key spare. When I purchased my jeep, the Lou Sobh - Conyers dealership, as their essential guarantees, was supposed to mail me the second set of keys for my convenience. As you might guess, they never accomplished what they have promised - nor did I twist their arms to send me what belonged to me.
Lesson number five - if you ask for a rain, be prepared to have rained on as its consequences. Atlanta is within twelve inches deficit of rain this week, and I had been praying for weeks for rain, not expecting that tonight is the night when it pours, exact time when I had to be outdoor and be depressed.
You might correctly guess what happened afterwards - after missing my two flights, Delta Airlines lost my bag, which consisted of my only key to the car, and without any person to contact due to my inactivated
Rebuilding New Orleans
The City of New Orleans is definitely struggling in rebuilding their hometown from Hurricane Katrina devastation two years ago, and some damages are still easily spotted throughout the city. This is in Decatur St., a major tourist center in town.
cell phone, the only thing I could do was to use public transportation and ride an expensive taxi home, and to work the next day until they recover my keys.
This uninterrupted ordeal seemed to drive me insane, as I laughed so hard while riding the MARTA home. In the needed Georgian rain.
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