Saturday, July 10, 2010

Onward to New Orleans

Still not having beaten the jet lag I woke up about 1 AM and then had a weird half sleep until the morning. So I got up firmly on the wrong side of the bed. Gemma had a little practice with the car with the idea of driving us to New Orleans but that was abandoned quite quickly when Andy got out of the car ashen faced.

We filled up with fuel before leaving Mobile which in itself was an exercise in confusion just trying to get the pump going. But we were soon pushing on down I-10 and into the rain. It only took us a couple of hours to get to New Orleans and we easily found the hotel that we pre-booked via the iPod before leaving. Gemma, Andy and Jo had spent some time the previous evening looking for suitable hotels and had settled on the idea of staying right in the French Quarter. The Hotel St. Pierre looked a good bet being one of the lower priced options and a couple of blocks from Bourbon Street. The listing also boasted limited free parking which seems to be as rare as rocking horse poo in the centre.

We arrived too early for check-in so dropped off the car and had a wander and a beer and some food. After we checked in Andy got in a huff about their room because the bed was small and the toilet attached to the wall badly. Instead of going and asking about it at reception he flew into what was by now becoming a characteristic rage and stormed off. To be honest if he had just calmly said he had a problem then I would have swapped our room with him - ours being a really nice king room.

My first impressions of New Orleans weren't amazing. To be fair that is first impressions, and I am more than willing to have my mind changed. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter look like the overpriced tourist trap that I normally try and stay as far away from as possible. This is something that was reinforced when, obviously looking like easy marks the hustlers homed in on us. Daz, sensibly or not, just refused to pay after getting hit up by some scam or other but Andy handed over 20 bucks.

The mood, which was already at some kind of record low, had soured even more so I decided to get away from it and headed back to the hotel out of the way. Daz and Jen came back to freshen up so I went back out with them. Trying to find the other three was a fairly difficult because of crappy phones and a certain level of confusion. We did eventually find them in a bar watching jazz somewhat the worse for wear. After a couple of beers we left to have a stroll down Bourbon street, Gemma, Jo and Andy heading back to bars on the edge of the French Quarter. Bourbon street is pretty awful at night, music blaring out of every bar and people hawking for strip shows at every turn.

When we got up in the morning I decided that I was going to do our own thing, wanting to get away from the stresses of the previous day. We went up to St. Louis cemetery number 1 as it was not too far from our hotel. This is a fairly small block filled with above-ground tombs in various states of repair. I especially found the tombs with small offerings interesting, things like small toys, strings of beads and make-up adorning some of them. Daz and Jen were already up there so we carried on with them, getting a street car over to the Garden District. This area is how I'd always pictured New Orleans, informed by descriptions of it in things like Ann Rice's books. Some of the houses in this area are simply stunning.

After a brief shopping stop on Magazine street for the girls and coffee for me we took a street car back into town. We left Daz and Jen on Canal street, had a pretty rubbish lunch in the food court of the mall by the aquarium and a stroll down to the French Market. I can't imagine why anyone would want a dried alligator head but there were plenty for sale.

Back at the hotel we availed ourselves of the pool before lazily readying ourselves to go out for the evening. We'd ummed and ahhhhed about where to go for dinner that evening but settled on the Gumbo Shop on St. Peters street. We got a lovely seat in the patio area and both my crawfish étouffée and Gemma's jambalaya were good. Gemma found hers a bit spicy so picked out most of the meat and shrimp leaving me to demolish the rice.

We were in a a pirate bar(!?) later when Jo and Andy caught up with us and the four of us grabbed a beer and took a leisurely stroll down Bourbon street and back to the hotel.

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