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Published: April 15th 2014
Farewell Texas and hello Louisiana.
We crossed the border in the last leg of our road trip a few hours after our Houston BBQ adventure and overnighted in Lake Charles. Once in Louisiana we immediately noticed the difference in terrain as we drove for miles along raised causeways over swampy wetlands and crossed frighteningly high arched bridges stretching over vast rivers and lakes. The cuisine was also different - no more barbecue and now we had grits as as a side dish. We sampled them in a Waffle House, where my attendance at the live Oprah show in Sydney got me instant cred from our waitresses. Grits, as we now know, is a kind of savoury porridge served with butter made from hominy grits - dried and ground hominy (large white corn) kernels. It is quite nice but not sure we could eat a lot of them!
We had to drop our hire car at New Orleans airport and we then caught a local bus into town. For a long time we were the only white people on the bus which was quite a new experience for us! we walked across town to our apartment in the Treme (tre-may)
neighbourhood. We loved the weatherboard house and wooden floors of our new home. Treme is a short ten minute walk north of the divine French Quarter and we headed out straight away to explore.
The Quarter is a tight 1.7km2 area of streets and is the oldest part of the city. The streets are lined with weatherboard houses and buildings all gaily painted in lovely pastel and bright colours. The heart of the Quarter is restaurants, bars and jazz clubs with residential and hotels on the edge. The most notorious street is Bourbon Street which from late afternoon onwards resembles a localised red light district come mini mardi gras.
By some wonderful chance, completely unplanned, we were in town during the French Quarter Festival - a four day music and food festival where local and international jazz musicians perform on outdoor stages across the Quarter for free. Our musical adventure included heaps of performers with our highlights being the Audacity brass band, Aurora nealand & the royal roses, Sasha masakowsi, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers and the zydeco rhythms of Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band. I can promise you that all three of us were
dancing in the streets decked out in strands of brightly coloured beads that we acquired in the true Nawlins fashion - caught after being tossed from the back of a parade float! Katy particularly loved the brass band stage and spent a good hour dancing with a new friend and being the belle of the ball!
In addition to the music, over fifty local restaurants offer small taste plates of specially created Louisiana dishes. Evan went a bit crazy and some of his dishes he sampled included:
Stuffed pork chop lollipop
Hot boiled crawfish (a small freshwater crayfish like a yabbie) and fixins
BBQ shrimp & grits
Beef brisket with house made horse radish sauce
Alligator sausage & shrimp cheesecake with creole sauce
Fried shrimp po boy
Alligator corn dog
Pulled pork po boy
Smoked green onion po boy
A "po boy" is a louisiana classic dish sometimes called a poor boy. It is a sub served on a special kind of baguette that is soft and fluffy. Fillings include meats or crisp fried seafood with Mayo, lettuce and pickles. We found a fine purveyor on Bourbon Street that
also did a grilled veggie version. So delicious!!!
The other local specialty we had to try was beignets - a semi donut made from fried squares of yeast dough served absolutely drenched in powdered (icing) sugar. Oh.My.Goodness. So wrong and so good. I am officially addicted!
The final delicacy we sampled was bread pudding (a version of bread and butter pudding) which we tried in bananas foster flavour (banana and caramel), white chocolate and traditional with whiskey sauce.
As you can tell, New Orleans is a city of music and food and both are delivered with skill, passion and imagination. On the drinks front the local specialty is a rum punch called a hurricane which we drank in our bar of choice - Lafittes Blacksmith Shop - the oldest pub in the USA.
New Orleans has a long and proud history of jazz with greats such as Louis Armstrong having their roots here. There is an historical park dedicated to the jazz greats and both the park and the airport bear armstrong's name.
Our Nawlins adventures also included the essential experience of a paddle steamer cruise down the Mississippi River which Katy adored (despite freaking
out at the loud steam whistle!). We also visited the National World War II museum. In case you are wondering the same as us what the connection to WWII is, well New Orleans is where the famous Higgins boat was built which was critical to the success of the D-Day landings.
As we finally headed home on our last evening, weary from walking and dancing we paused at number 632 St Peters Street to remember Tennessee Williams who had written A Steetcar Named Desire right there, inspired by the rattle of street cars travelling up and down nearby Canal Street. We reflected on his quote that America has only three cities - San Francisco, New York and New Orleans and that everywhere else is Cleveland! Having visited here we now understand this and also understand why locals persist in living in this hurricane prone city, irrationally positioned below sea level. It is a very special place and as we belted out the chorus of a newly learned song "hurricane's comin, but I ain't leavin"! we are very glad we came here.
Anyway that is enough from us for now. Up at 5.00am for a flight to Washington DC
next and all that we find there. Best wishes to you all.
States we have visited so far: 7 (Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Texas & Louisiana)
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