Sunday, April 29, 2012

R&R, Part 3: Life in the Big Easy

Back in my college days, back when I barely had two pennies to call my own that I didn't have to account for with my parents, I somehow managed to sneak away not once, but twice to New Orleans. One of those trips involved a stuck bathroom door, a miscommunication on both sides, and a trip to the emergency room that I will never forget. Ah, college.

As for TJ, he had his own pre-Aaron adventures there. He performed with his high school band at the Superdome. He celebrated his 21st birthday there during Mardi Gras following a break-up with his first boyfriend. Good place and time to do it, eh?

In March 2004, for my 24th birthday, TJ and I chose New Orleans for one of our first vacations together. We saw Ryan Cabrera and the Wallflowers at the House of Blues. We ate at, what was for us at the time, a fancy restaurant (which basically meant that they had white tablecloths). We walked along the riverfront. We enjoyed beignets at Café du Monde. And we partied on Bourbon Street.

When deciding upon a travel itinerary for R&R, New Orleans was the first and only true consideration for our post-cruise enjoyment. It's a city we love, and one that we had not visited in over eight years. It was high time for a return visit.

All memories of our 2004 trip are kept in our heads. If there are pictures, they are likely contained on an as-yet undeveloped roll of film that has travelled cross-country and internationally without fulfilling its destiny. But we're all digital now, baby.

We spent April 14th-21st roaming the streets of The Big Easy, and there are plenty of pictures to help tell the tale.

St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square

There were no concerts at the House of Blues this time around (believe me, we checked), but we did find ourselves visiting the city during the French Quarter Festival. Festival workers took over Jackson Square and the area surrounding St. Louis Cathedral and set up booths selling foods from participating restaurants. We sat on the lawn and listened to live music while gorging on a feast of crawfish.

Hmm, now that's a good ol' Southern time.

We returned to that fancy restaurant of yore, where we enjoyed Oysters on the Half Shell. The food was still good, the ambiance nice. But one look at the reasonable menu prices helped us appreciate just how far we've come since our days of working at Target and Universal Studios. That restaurant isDickie Brennan's Bourbon House, by the way, and I'd still recommend it for dinner seating to anyone visiting the city. Acme Oyster House is also a must. Lunch lines can be 10-20 minutes long, but oh so worth it. Don't even try going after sunset, when lines will stretch down the block. Their Fried Peacemaker Po-Boy and Craw Puppies might just be worth the wait, though.

We once again walked along the riverfront. Only this time, we were in town for Navy Fleet Week, commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Ships from various countries were available for public tours, and merchandise, beer, and native foods were available for purchase.

This ship had a line. We visited the Ecuadorians instead.

As always, we visited the famous Café du Monde (now celebrating 150 years of business!), where we breakfasted on chicory coffee and beignets. We brought some of each back, and shared this special treat with our co-workers this past Friday.

And, of course, we did plenty of partying on Bourbon Street. I won't bore you (or embarrass myself) with those details.

Taken on our last night in NOLA.
Seven nights on Bourbon Street, and alive to tell the tale.

Our second trip definitely contained aspects of our first trip together, but we managed to squeeze in a bunch of new experiences, too.

Like our visit to the Audubon Nature Institute, which includes the Aquarium, Zoo, and Insectarium. It was quite an adventure.

I met a nice penguin...

..the experience of which was quite ruined
once I was attacked by these savage birds.

...and then we both got eaten by a ghost shark while posing for a picture!
I'll spare you the details of our escape. But it involved a goat.
...and a wardrobe change.

While driving around in the beautiful and historic Garden District and creepily taking pictures of other people's houses, we happened upon a Reform Synagogue and decided to attend their Friday night Shabbat service. Despite having recently found a Reform congregation here in Guadalajara, we both hungered for a normal, American experience. Kinda like how we had been chowing down on Popeyes chicken, Krystal burgers, and Sonic cherry limeades for the past week. Anyway, the synagogue was beautiful, the members were friendly, and the service was downright peculiar.
The cantor sounded like an opera singer and was accompanied by a choir. The whole thing had a "Glory, Glory Hallelujah" vibe to it that just shouldn't be found in a synagogue. There was a guest speaker that night, and I take it a lot of outsiders were invited to attend, because as we hastened for the exit, a sweet old woman stopped us and asked if we were from the church. She had not seen us before, but noticed that we were singing along to most of the songs. It took immense willpower not to say "No, but I think everyone else is." Let's just spare everyone the embarrassment of name-dropping the place, and instead look at a pretty picture from the aforementioned Garden District.

As our week in New Orleans wound down, we found ourselves very sad. Not because vacation was over. Not because we would be returning to Mexico. Not even because we were leaving New Orleans. Simply because we were leaving the US. On our prior trip, we found ourselves trapped in the Disney and Universal cocoon. Plus, we were with a friend.

My trip to San Diego saw me visiting friends and trapped in a similar bubble. And when I went home for my mom's procedure...well, that was hardly a pleasure trip.

This was the first time we had found ourselves together in the US with nothing to do but relax. And it was nice. It was comforting. It was familiar. The food was great and we spent way too much time shopping at Target.

As much as we love much as we cherish the time we have had much as we will enjoy the time we have much as we adore our friend and will miss them when we leave...well...

...I think we're both somewhat looking forward to nine months of Arabic training.

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