Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Mardi Gras beads hanging from the trees
Monday morning came and we both woke up feeling refreshed after having gotten a good night's sleep.  We decided to walk to a nearby cafe for breakfast and asked the concierge about the best route to get there.  After first suggesting that we take our car instead of walking, he gave us directions that would take us by Lafayette Cemetery #1.  One of the nice things about the location of our resort is that it sits right on the edge of the Garden District, which is an area of New Orleans in which many wealthy folks live in some beautiful historic mansions.  Residents and homeowners in this community include the author Ann Rice, and former football player Archie Manning.  Along with these beautiful mansions, the Garden District is also the home of one of New Orleans' famous cemeteries where the dead are laid to rest above ground in crypts due to the fact that much of New Orleans is below sea level and when if floods there, bodies would tend to float up if buried below ground.  So our walk to Another Broken Egg Cafe in the Garden District took us by some of these beautiful mansions as well as Lafayette Cemetery #1.  Today, we had decided, was the day that we were going to take a swamp tour and a haunted history walking tour in the French Quarter in the evening, leaving exploration of the cemetery until tomorrow.

We had a wonderful breakfast at the cafe, which included some delicious Mediterranean potatoes, and geared up for our day.  Along with visiting the cemeteries here, the thing that is highest on Megan's list of things to do is to get into the abandoned Six Flags amusement park to take photos.  I have been trying to get in touch with someone, anyone, to see if it is possible to get permission to go into the park so that we don't run the risk of getting arrested for trespassing.  I did make a phone call to someone in the City of New Orleans permit office who directed to me to call someone else in an effort to see if this is at all possible.  I leave a voice mail for the person I have been led to believe can help me best while we were waiting for our food.  I also noticed, while we were sitting there, that the two gentleman sitting a couple of tables away from us are New Orleans police officers, so I decide to see what they can tell me about exploring the Six Flags as well as asking them some questions about exploring the cemetery on our own.  I had read somewhere that it may not be safe to explore the cemeteries on your own, that you should go in with a tour guide, because would often target those that were not part of a group.

The officers were quite helpful.  They said that there shouldn't be any issue exploring Lafayette Cemetery as long as you went in the daytime and were aware of your surroundings.  As far as Six Flags,  they said that yes, security did patrol there, but it would be more likely that trespassers would be asked to leave rather than arrested.  One of the officers said that he would be more afraid of the wildlife in the area than of security.  (Wildlife meaning alligators, wild pigs, and snakes,,,,,oh my!!) They also said that if their was any kind of movie production going on there, we wouldn't stand a chance of getting in.  Well, we'll see what happens!!

The walk back to the resort included a stop at the Starbuck's for some iced chai.  It is already smoking' hot and it isn't even noon!!  Once back at the resort, we get the car and drive down to the French Quarter to find out where we can get our New Orleans City Passes that I had purchased when I bought our airline tickets.  These passes allow one to take advantage of many of the city's attractions at a discounted price and we could use it for both of the activities that we were planning on doing today.  Once we got our passes, I called one of the swamp tour places and booked us for a 2pm tour.  We had about 45 minutes to get there so we went ahead and made our way to the boat dock that our tour would begin from.  Shortly after we arrived the group that had just been out on the tour on the airboat came in and they all had mud all over them, making me VERY glad that we chose to take the covered flat boat rather than the airboat because I really didn't want to end up covered in mud. We bought a couple of bottles of cold water to take with us on the boat because we knew it was going to be hot out there and boarded the boat.
We saw some interesting wildlife on our tour including this egret, a cormorant, a blue heron, and of course, alligators!!   These guys are pretty used to the boats coming
and going and associate them with food, mostly marshmallows (who knew?) and come up to the boats when they hear them if they are hungry.  Our tour guide told us that the gators are really more afraid of us than we are of them, but I have to say that this is kind of hard to believe when you look at those eyes and those teeth.  YIKES!!  Once we were done with our tour we went back to the resort for some rest and a swim at the pool to help us cool off. The woman at the gift shop for the boat tours had suggested an Italian restaurant near downtown and after our rest we decided to give it a try.  After polishing off some delicious spaghetti and meatballs (me) and parmesan chicken and pasta (Megan) we made our way to the French Quarter to take a Haunted History tour.

We were on the tour with about 10 other people and our guide was an elderly gentleman who had grown up in New Orleans and seemed quite knowledgeable about the city.  The tour lasted about two hours and we walked all around the French Quarter and while he told us many stories of people seeing ghosts, we didn't see any ourselves. However, I did get a couple of pictures that I found to be somwhat interesting at what our guide calls "the most haunted house in America"  This is a home that is located in the French Quarter and apparently has a history of death and mystery associated with it.  Nicolas Cage owned the property for a while but never actually spent the night in the house (according to our guide) because he experienced too many strange and disturbing things when in the house during the day.  Things like beds that had just been straightened by maids, looking as if someone has just been sitting on them only moments after the maid left the room and the feeling of a "presence" in many of the rooms.  The interesting thing about the pictures is the presence of multiple orbs in one of them while another one taken just moments before of nearly the identical scene has NO orbs.  Many believers in ghosts state that these orbs in photographs represent the presence of spirits.  I don't really buy into this, but here are the photos so you can take a look and decide for yourself!

The top one is the one WITH orbs and the bottom one is the one without.  And there are A LOT of orbs in that top one.

While the tour was interesting, Megan and I were a bit disappointed because we didn't actually go into any of the reportedly haunted buildings in addition to the fact that it was still about 90 degrees at 10pm when we finished the tour.

Once back in the room, Megan insisted on returning to the cheesecake restaurant for another round of cheesecake since she enjoyed her piece from the night before so much.  I passed on this round, but we did walk down and get her a piece,

Off to bed with plans to visit Lafayette Cemetery and Blaine Kerr's Mardi Gras World tomorrow and to make another attempt to get a beignet from Cafe du Monde.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Girls Trip to New Orleans with Megan, August 2015

Megan has been wanting to go to New Orleans for quite some time.  There is something darkly alluring about the city that is fascinating,   Its Cities of the Dead (as they call their cemeteries in New Orleans), its connection to VooDoo, and of course, its partying spirit.  So, a trip to New Orleans was planned.  Originally this trip was going to include Tom, too, but when I was awarded a trip to Hawaii through my job, Tom had only enough vacation time to choose one.  He chose Hawaii, so New Orleans became a mother/daughter trip.  Since she is going off to Eugene in September to attend the University of Oregon, I know that I will cherish this one on one time that I will get to spend with her in a city that she finds so fascinating.

This is the story of our adventures in this unique and intriguing city.

We're here!!!
We flew out of Portland at midnight on Saturday, August 1, with a layover in Houston.  We arrived in New Orleans around 8:30 am, collected our luggage and headed off to the car rental building.  While we were in the middle of taking care of the business required to rent a car, an alarm went off in the building and a voice announced that we were to evacuate the building because and "incident" had been reported.  Well, that was kind of freaky, because nothing was said about exactly where we were supposed to go once we were outside of the building and the person helping us at the Avis counter just picked up her purse and walked away, without giving us any kind of direction at all.  Megan and I went outside of the building hoping to find some kind of guidance as to where to go but there was none.  In fact, most of the other people that were in the building, stayed in the building as if nothing was happening at all.  Turns out it was a false alarm, but what if it hadn't been?? Weird.

So we got our car, a cute little Chevy Sonic, Google mapped our directions to the World Mark and headed into town.  Check in time at the World Mark wasn't until 4 pm and we arrived at around 10:30am, so we had quite a bit of time to kill before we could get into our room.  We left our bags we the bell hop and had the valet park the car.  We were hoping to receive a call fairly soon telling us that our room was ready early, but in the meantime, we decided to use public transportation and go to the French Quarter.  Unfortunately, many of the trolley cars were not running because of all the construction projects on the streets of the city.  Believe it or not, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still of reconstruction taking place.  Under normal circumstances, the trolley cars have a stop right in front of our resort, but not at this time.  So we hopped on a bus for part of the trip, then transferred to a trolley car, then transferred again to another bus before arriving in the French Quarter.  

Just a couple of notes I want to insert here.  It is now around 11am and we have not slept since we got up Saturday morning, so we have both been up approximately 28 hours.  It is 93 degrees here with about 50% humidity.  It is HOT!!!!  Nevertheless we are going exploring.

Our first thought was to get beignets at Cafe Du Monde, because one HAS to do that at least once while in New Orleans, but the line was monstrous.  Worse than anything I have seen at VooDoo donuts in Portland, so we decided to skip out on that for now and come back and revisit on another day,  Instead we just start wandering around the French Quarter.  We were both pretty hungry by now so we start looking for somewhere else that we can have breakfast since Cafe Du Monde was a bust.  We end up at a place called John's PoBoys, where we each ordered up a breakfast sandwich of egg and cheese on an English muffin along with some chocolate milk.  Our stomachs were full, but neither one of us thought much of the food.  We will definitely NOT be going back there while we are here.  We walked around the Quarter for hours, wandering in and out of various shops, stopping to listen to some street musicians.  By now I have begun to get a bit of a headache, the heat is getting to both of us and we are both pretty tired.  We decide to go ahead and get back to the resort and hang out in the air conditioned lobby until our room is ready.  Once we arrive back at the resort, we are told that our room is still not ready (it is still only about 2pm and official check in isn't until 4pm), so Meg pulls a deck of cards out of her camera bag and we play a couple of games of Speed, but I am having a very difficult time keeping my eyes open at this point and my head is pounding.  We move into the garden room where there are some comfortable couches and a TV and I lay down and am nearly asleep, when one of the staff members comes to tell us that our room is ready. Finally!!   At this point, not only does my head hurt, but I feel sick to my stomach, too.  We get our luggage up to the room and I tell Megan that I have to lay down for a while and try to sleep of this headache.  While I sleep, Megan goes down to the pool for a while.  I wake up around 9pm and Meg comes and tells me that she is starving.  In our welcome packet we were given upon check-in, there was a list of nearby restaurants.  We look it over and decide to give Cheesecake Bistro a try.

 The menu looks good and it's only a block or so away.  We walk down there and have a delicious meal along with getting a couple of pieces of cheesecake for dessert.  Back to the room and tuck into bed for a good night's sleep.  The plan for tomorrow is a swamp boat tour and a "haunted history" tour of the French Quarter.