Stop 2: New Orleans
WOW. An absolute sensory overload thanks to the mix of architecture, food, sounds of jazz/Dixie/swing... We fell in love with the place.
True to form, we couldn't get to New Orleans without yet another small mishap...
Our taxi driver (plus new friend Jonny who had kindly offered to share a cab from the airport with us) dropped us off at what we believed to be our new home for the next few nights. We waved goodbye and dragged our suitcases to the front gate to find it locked and the house in darkness. It was only when we were attempting to kick down the also-locked side gate, and peering through the house's darkened windows that we began to question if we had the right place.... A quick check of the house number confirmed we were dropped off at the wrong house (2220, not 2200), and that at 11pm at night we were at risk of being a) shot, b) arrested, c) deported, d) all of the above. We skedaddled as quickly and quietly as our 4-inch wedges and overly-noisy suitcases would allow, and eventually found the right house.
Day 1 - We decided to stay in a safe neighbourhood while in town (mothers' requests), which meant a daily 7 mile journey on the 'trolley car' - the oldest tram system in the world. Every bit as slow as you'd expect a ramshackle wooden tram to be but we made lots of new friends on our journeys (our alien accents have proven quite the conversation-starter) and saw some beautiful neighbourhoods. Keen to get started on the edible delights New Orleans has to offer, we started our day (at 3pm) with rum and the biggest burger in the world... Slathered in peanut butter and bacon. Not a combination you'd have put together, but honestly the best burger we've ever tasted.
Sated, we explored the French Quarter, people-watched in Jackson Square (a little like Covent Garden with artists and street performers all around) accidentally got our gormless mugs included in background shots for filming of an upcoming NCIS episode, relaxed by the murky Mississippi River, and then strolled down Frenchman Street to the Spotted Cat Jazz Bar to enjoy three middle aged ladies (who looked as though they were dressed for church) belt out some swinging tunes, before heading home enjoying street musicians along the way.
Day 2 - visited the World War 2 museum which gave an interesting (if biased) take on the war, went for an afternoon run along the tram lines (not as dangerous as it sounds seeing as they travel at an average speed of 10mph...) and went to a karaoke noodle bar for dinner. We picked the wrong evening to go - NO KARAOKE. Devastated.
Day 3 - a day of unashamed, glorious eating. Headed to a New Orleans culinary institute, Cafe du Monde, to try beignets - French doughnuts covered in a kilo of icing sugar. Slightly ashamed to find after devouring a plate each, other diners were sharing one plate among three...more fool them.
We then met up with our new friend Jonny who, as a local, had promised to show us the best places to try the local delicacies. Ate our body weight in Cajun grub - crab legs, gumbo (prawns), crawfish (crayfish), oysters, shrimp, jumbalaya, rice and peas, and gumbo stew. After this absolute FEAST, we waddled down to an outdoor bar with live music for a nightcap/feed of more beignets and praline - chocolate covered nutty biscuit - washed down with our old favourite, rum. Day's conclusion - if we stayed more than a few days here, we'd need rolling home. It's a foodie's paradise.
Day 4 - explored the Treme area (African American district) with its pretty, brightly coloured clapboard houses. Strolled through the Louis Armstrong park (the 'father of jazz' was born and bred here) before taking the ferry across the Mississippi to Algiers Point - armed with more beignets of course. Headed to a local Lebanese restaurant for another feast before heading home. We felt sad to be leaving this beautiful city, and desperately trying to figure out how to work a second visit into our round-America route....
Next stop - Charleston, genteel home to Southern belles, more glorious edible delights, and coincidentally a Naval port... Ahoy there sailors!