NOLA in a nutshell (part two)

Now that you’ve digested (ba dum dum) part one of my NOLA recap, let’s move on to part two!

As I mentioned in my last post, I came to New Orleans for the photo opportunities. I mean, I wanted to have a good time and experience the city too, but food and photos were my top priority. This post is probably going to be photo heavier than the last one. You’ve been warned.

WHAT WE DID/SAW

Swamp tour – Taking a swamp tour was on my cousin’s list of definites. They offer a speedboat or a normal, not scary boat. We chose the normal boat over the speed boat (sorry, Dez!) and off to the swamp we went. We were told that we had come at a great time because all of the wildlife would be around. Score. This city girl was ready for some gators. Within the first 10 minutes we spotted our first gator.

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crikey.

The tour guide fed our new friend, Herman (the tour guides name them when they get older/bigger. this guy was too small for a name so i gave him one.) and made sure that both sides of the boat got a good view of him. They love hotdogs, marshmallows and hands with cameras. I took the guide’s word for it.

When Herman had enough of us, we moved on to see if we could find some pigs. Unfortunately, the tour that went out before us were kids on a school trip. That means the pigs had already had their fill of marshmallows and pig treats and wanted nothing to do with us. However, the trip to the pig section was straight out of The Little Mermaid and it took a lot for me to not sing Kiss the Girl. Ok, maybe I sang it a little. Just some sha la la la la my oh mys.

On the way back, we caught sight of another gator, Jerry (again, my name, not theirs). Jerry looks like a real jokester, but according to the tour guide, this is what alligators do to cool off and are known to sit this way for hours on end. Jerry wound up moving as we passed; dispelling any “that’s not real” myths. We also saw some turtles on the way back.

To get to the swamp, it was a 45-ish minute ride from the Quarter. We drove through neighborhoods that were obliterated by Hurricane Katrina. There were empty lots where houses and stores used to be. Whole apartment complexes and hospitals were standing there, gutted and untouched in a decade. Things are starting to come back but very slowly and it almost seems impossible to get back to 100%. Because I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t understand the true magnitude of Katrina, I didn’t realize how horrible it was. Hearing the bus driver say that the area used to be all built up and how many people from the area had died, it gave me a lump in my throat. Not that you have to be familiar with an area to feel bad for a terrible tragedy. It’s almost like being a New Yorker during 9/11, I guess.

The French Market – I have a love/hate relationship with flea markets. I love a good bargain but sometimes they can get schlocky. The French Market was a bit of both. It offered a little of everything –  artwork, photography, jewelry, masks, cellphone accessories, food. There weren’t many photography booths which is what I usually gravitate towards so I just wandered through. As I’m writing this now, I realize that I never went back for a mask like I intended. figures.

My cousin Desiree reported live on Snapchat (dla22 tell her I sent you! Or don’t. Just don’t be a creep.) the whole trip. I wish snaps lasted longer than 24 hours because you guys would have loved these.

Walking tour of the French Quarter and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 – Like I said in my last NOLA post, I came for the photo opportunities. I decided that the best way to do this was to hit the pavement. I strapped on my too tight sneakers, threw my camera around my neck and got to walking. The tour was filled with history. Well, New Orleans is filled with history but, I digress. New Orleans was owned at different times by the French, the Spanish and then, of course the United States. There are tons of French, Spanish and Caribbean influences in their architecture (and their food). The tour was two hours long, but to tell you the truth, if my feet didn’t suck and if it were offered, I could have hung out with the tour guide and walked around all day.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Quarter (I think. I’m really a horrible re-capper). The graves/crypts date back to the 17 and 1800’s. Each crypt is usually made of of people from the same family. God bless the crypt keepers because the process is a little much for me. Basically, the crypt is a small building with w ledge in it. The ledge has a hole in the back of it and underneath is all open space. When a person dies, they are waked(?) in a regular coffin. At the time of burial, the crypt keeper transfers the body into a simple pine box. It is then placed on the ledge and the crypt is closed for exactly one year. After that year, the crypt keeper opens the tomb and takes out the remains of the pine box. They then push the remains of the person to the back of the crypt where they fall through the hole and into the bottom of the crypt. It’s a little gross, a little intriguing, a little creepy. Enough crypt talk.

I was adamant about going to this particular cemetery because it is home to New Orleans voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau. I’m all about spells and potions so I wanted to see this for myself. It’s said that if you make a wish and leave an offering at Marie’s grave and it comes true, you must come back to her grave and draw 3 red Xs on the grave. The picture directly above this paragraph is Marie’s grave. The one above that is someone else in the voodoo world( i think. again, horrible re-capper.)  The cemetery constantly cleans Marie’s grave because it is always being vandalized. Personally, I think she’s floating around the Quarter somewhere.

Cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking – Taking a cooking class was never on my radar of things to do, especially on vacation but this was so much fun! We were in a group with 5 other people and a chef who taught us about the origins of Creole/Cajun cooking, what a roux is and what each different color means flavor wise, that cinnamon vaguely looks like sparkles when thrown into a flame. We broke into teams and got to cooking. I, of course, teamed up with my mom. For two reasons – one: she’s good at what she does and two: we work well together. until we don’t. The menu consisted of shrimp remoulade, chicken breast or pork chop stuffed with seafood cornbread stuffing and blueberry compote, glazed sweet potatoes, crepes with berries. According to the chef, Louisiana cooking is saltier that normal. That being said, my meal was a bit saltier that I would have liked since we followed the recipe. We got to keep a copy of the recipes that we made so I would definitely have my mom try her hand at the meal again. I mean, I would try too, but why waste time?

 

A tarot card reading in the French Quarter – After food and photos, my main goal was getting a reading. I didn’t care if it were tarot, palm, tea leaves, a medium – I just wanted to get read. Jackson Square in the day time is full of artists and their wares. Jackson Square at night is filled with readers. After dinner one night we were walking through Jackson Square back to our hotel and we noticed that the psychics were lined up, one card table after another. As much as I wanted to see Otis on Chartres Street at Bottom of the Cup tea room (he was on The Little Couple!), I have an affinity for mass psychics. They’re all over the Brooklyn street fairs in the summer and when I was younger I used to go for zeppolis and a reading. ahh youth.  Not wanting to be the guinea pig, I let my cousin’s friend Stephanie go first. I was next and, I’ll admit, I wasn’t satisfied with my shuffle, but I went with it anyway. When I was done, I went back to compare notes with Stephanie and it turns out the first part of our readings were almost identical. *side eye emoji* The psychic told me that I had to work with the Laws of Attraction to get what I want. She shamelessly plugged the Netflix doc, The Secret (i guess i just did too), and then explained to me how it works. Basically, the universe hears what you tell it so the LoA is you putting out to the universe what you want/need and it will come to you. Except it’s not as magical as it sounds. It’s not going to open the fridge and get me a Diet Coke on the rocks with a twist of lemon; I’m not Matilda, but if I learn how to really hone in to it and use it, it might get me a boyfriend or a well paying job. Right now, I’m aiming big and putting my order in to be a trophy wife. So Universe, let’s talk.

St. Louis Cathedral – As we all know, I’m pretty partial to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, but in reality, I love all cathedrals. Just like a North Jersey mansion, they’re big, filled with marble and ornate almost usually to the point of being gaudy. Saint Louis didn’t disappoint.

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I know I said I’d include the things I wish I would have done on this trip in this post, but I think I’ll do one more. I love a good trilogy. So, be on the lookout for the final installment of NOLA in a Nutshell.

*for reference, all of the photos in this post were taken on my new Nikon 1 J5 mirrorless camera and edited in PicMonkey. except the ones from the cooking class, those are phone photos.

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