Cher, Mo L'aime Toi: New Orleans, Part Three

We wander through old streets, 
and pause before the age stricken houses; 
and, strange to say, 
the magic past lights them up. 
//Grace King

We woke up Thursday to our last full day in New Orleans! So sad! We were having such a great time, we did not want the trip to end. We decided to make the best of the day and do as much sightseeing and exploring as possible. After waking up at the crack of dawn to feed the parking meter on the side of the street, we had gone back to bed for a bit but got up and at em around 9 to return the car and for the first order of business- breakfast! One of my coworkers has been to Nola and recommended a little place in the quarter called "Fleur-de-Lis", claiming they had the best bloody mary's they had ever tried. Although I am not big on bloody's, we figured we would still give it a try, especially since it was just a short walk from our hotel. I loved strolling though the streets in the early morning, they weren't crowded and they just looked so colorful and pretty. There is something to see pretty much anywhere you look in New Orleans.

After a short walk, we had reached our breakfast spot, Fleur-de-lis. The Fleur-de-lis is known as the "lilly flower", and can be seen EVERYWHERE in Nola. The Fleur-de-lis has been a symbol of New Orleans since it's founding in 1717 and today is most commonly seen as a symbol of pride, support, and unity for the city.
It was a cute little cafe right on Chartes Street in the quarter, and serves three types of bloody mary's: original, shrimp, and crawfish!
Like I said, neither of us are big Bloody mary fans, so I went with the mimosa, which was huge! I think this was about the 25th mimosa I had had on the trip, I can't help it that they make them so darn good down there!

I ordered the french toast, and Nick ordered the two-eggs, bacon and hash combo. Everything was really delicious! My french toast was made with a challah bread and it was so good and had a different texture than regular french toast I have had in the past.
We are VERY critical of restaurant bacon, and hardly ever order it because 99 times out of 100, it doesn't live up to our bacon standards. Cafe Fleur-de-lis, however, did have some pretty good bacon for a restaurant! It was thick and juicy, just how we like it.
After breakfast, our plan was to rent some bicycles in order to cover more ground and see some sights that were a little bit out of our walking distance. We had walked SO much, that by day 4 our feet were actually pretty sore! I can hear you crying a river for us from here.... We found a little shop close by that was $22 for a 4 hour rental. Comapred to other prices we had seen, it was the cheapest yet so we decided to go with it! Despite having the slowest worker/ bike attendant ever, we were able to get in and out and rented two black cruisers with locks.

The first stop on our bike tour was Lafayette Cemetery No 1, located in the Garden District. We were SO happy to be on bikes, you don't realize how much ground you can really cover! With the traffic being pretty heavy in Nola, it was just about as good as having a car. We locked them up on a side street and made our way into the cemetery. The cemeteries in New Orleans are all above ground, crypt-type cemeteries, and cemetery No 1 is the oldest of 7 located in the city and holds more than 7,000 people. It is also non-segreagted and non-denominational, so people from all walks of life have been laid to rest here. New Orleans is obviously known for being below sea-level, so these above-ground tombs are necessary in order to keep those laid to rest safe and contained. I always feel a bit weird walking around cemeteries, but it was pleasantly serene and uniquely beautiful. Many of the tombs looked like miniature churches, and I couldn't believe how large and intricate some of them were.

It was really a beautiful place, and many people were walking around the aisles looking at and reading the tombs one by one. They also had guided tours though the cemetery, which I am sure are very informative and give lots of historical background.  We didn't have time on our side being that it was our last day, so we just did our own walk- through down each of the rows.

How much do these cost!? I can only imagine. I know that our small headstones up North here can range into the thousands, so I can't even begin to guess how much some of these must have cost. A lot of them were also "family" tombs, so entire families are buried together within them, which is nice.

Wouldn't be New Orleans without a mint green tomb!

Many of the tombs also had little holes and stands for trinkets and flowers to be placed. A lot of the ones we saw had colorful flowers placed at them, as well as beads and other mementos.

One thing I now know for sure, my tomb will have a champagne bottle holder!
We had to get a photo of the classic cemetery arch! I am really glad we got to visit and see one of these historic places, it was truly fascinating.

One the left the name is Brennen, which was the only thing close to a name from my family- I come from the Brennan's, with and A... so it was close. On the right is the tomb of Hugh grant!

Nie work Stud!
They also had smaller tombs, known as capsules, along the edges of the cemetery. 
One of the tombs happened to be oped, so we couldn't help the curiosity and had to take a look inside. There wasn't much to see and it really wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be.
I was looking for any tomb that had a name that I knew, I found one that said "Wolf" which is the last name of my Step siblings Mother. But other than that I really didn't see or find any names that I recognized.

I loved all of thee trees in Lafayette that lined and covered the pathways. It was getting more and more crowded as time went on, so we decided it was time to move onwards.
Next up was a long ride back past the French Quarter and the Marigny, all the way to the Bywater District and Upper 9th Ward. The Bywater is the "up and coming" neighborhood of New Orleans with a booming real estate market, and where all the artists and hipsters want to be. We even heard people call it the "Brooklyn of New Orleans". I LOVED all of the bungalows and house in the Bywater, they were so cute and colorful, and it just looked like a really cool neighborhood to live in. Nick and I agreed that although we are not hipster, if we moved to Nola this is where we would live for sure!
Nice bum where ya from!?
It was SO hot, and we were sweating bullets. Our only plan for the time being was to ride around and explore the Bywater and 9th ward, so we decided to look on Yelp for a nearby coffee shop so that we could get some iced joes. A place called "Solo" came up on the map and had good reviews, so we headed there. Without further explanation or small-business-bashing, just don't go to Solo.....Don't. Besides having a good location, cute decor, and a coffee shop dog, the coffee was AWFUL! Super sour iced coffee, just foul. Right in the trash... AND there was a $.75 additional charge for using a credit card on an already overpriced item. Nick and I are baffled that all of the reviews online are glowing...
Heading back through the streets of the Bywater, we randomly came upon a street corner neighborhood bar called BJ's. As I said before, we LOVED these neighborhood-style bars that were all throughout the city, so even though it was only about 1pm in the afternoon, we knew we had to stop in for a drink and to check it out.
So cool!
BJ's was awesome. It was a total dive with a locals-only vibe, kitschy decor, and a CASH only policy.
The bartender happened to be from Cohassett, MA originally! One of my favorite preppy coastal towns, he totally did not fit the Cohassett vibe, so I was not surprised when he expressed his "distaste" for it. He said he left when he was 17 and never looked back. Other interesting topics of conversation that we overheard were: A complete and utter hatred for Jimmy Buffet, how the bartender is going to start doing heroin, -again-, when he is in his 80's because he will "likely have cancer and be on morphine by then anyways", and how AirBNB sucks and is destroying cities like New Orleans and driving up real estate prices like crazy.... among other things! Needless to say it was a great place to people watch and "listen-in" on the locals.
We did not fit in at BJ's at all, but we were well-paying customers, and we loved it!

As we were leaving, one of the patrons (likely a local) turned to us quickly and kinddd of rudely said "How did you find out about this place?!". I was tempted to piss him off and say "Oh, we were just hanging out down the street at our AirBNB listening to Jimmy Buffet, and we searched for 'good local bars to ruin' in the area on Yelp and this came up", but instead I was honest and said "Um, we didn't. We were just riding our bikes by and saw it, so don't worry." Jerk. 

After we left BJ's, we got back to cruising the streets of the 9th Ward. We did not ride our bikes down to the Lower 9th Ward because we had been advised not to do so by several people. It is still really devastated and is not a safe area to be in unless you are in a car or on a guided tour. The Upper 9th, however, still had it's fair share of destruction during the hurricane, so we were able to see many house like this with the infamous "X-Codes". These codes were developed by rescue groups after Katrina to help police and other agencies like FEMA take inventory and survey each of the damaged properties. There are four different sections of the X, and they can be interpreted as follows: In the top section of the X is the time and date that the rescue team left the structure. So for this house below, it was on September 6th (Katrina hit New orleans around August 29th). The left side of the X represents the Rescue Team that searched the home. In this case it says "TX", which signifies Texas National Guard. Other teams could be agencies like New Orleans Police, FEMA, or the DEA. The right side of the X represents any Hazards that may be present, and there is an abundance of different abbreviations of the hazards that they encountered. Here is says NE, which means No Entry, and that they actually did not go into this house. An finally, the bottom of the X is the piece that is the most chilling, and represents the amount of bodies in the house, both live or dead. 0-0 would mean zero alive, zero dead. 0-3 would mean zero alive, and three dead. LB meant live bodies, and DB meant dead bodies. A total of 1,833 people lost their lives in Katrina, many of them being from the Lower 9th Ward. These X's on people homes are a symbol of what they went through, and a reminder of just how deadly and devastating the hurricane was. Even though a lot of homes have been rebuilt or repainted, a lot of them have left the X code untouched.
If Nick and I go back to Nola, we definitely would want to do a guided tour of the Lower 9th Ward. On a lighter note, we had reservations for a river cruise on working steamboat called the Natchez at 2:30pm, so we headed back towards the french Quarter to return our bikes and head down to the Toulouse St Wharf at the riverfront. We were booked for the two hour afternoon jazz cruise down the mighty Mississippi, and I was pretty excited! We got our tickets from the kiosk and got in line to board. It was gorgeous out and really hot so we were excited to be on the water with a little breeze.
The steamboat looked pretty neat, and it is actually the very last authentic Steamboat on the Mississippi river, so it's also historic in that sense.

This was the only time during our trip that I brought along my big Nikon camera. It's pretty heavy, so I had not wanted to bring it with us during the previous days and had stuck to my small point and shoot for most of the trip. I am glad I brought it though because I was able to get some really nice shots of the boat and of our ride.
They do brunch cruises, lunch cruises and afternoon jazz cruises, as well as a full dinner and jazz cruise. We chose the two-hour jazz cruise from 2:30-4:30pm where they would be playing live jazz in the main hall of the boat.

As we set sail down the Mississippi, the captain would come over the loudspeaker occasionally, pointing out landmarks and giving some facts about the boat and the Mississippi river. It is a huge shipping port, and there are tons of huge freight liners and tankers that cruise up and down delivering huge loads of goods and commodities from all over the world.
On a lot of the ships we passed, the crew members are aboard the boats for months without being allowed to get off. So a lot of them will come out to the main decks of their ships to look and wave at people as we passed by. It must be exciting for them and give them something to do, especially being from other countries, like this ship from Hong Kong.

This ship was from Singapore, another example to show you just how long of a voyage some of them have been on! And to think, I almost died on an 8 day cruise to the Caribbean….
We also passed by the Domino Sugar refining factory headquarters, where they produce more than 7 million pounds of sugar a day! I couldn't believe that number! They account for about 19% of our countries cane sugar, and produce 2 billion pounds on an annual basis as the largest producer in the Western hemisphere. I use about 3 packets a day in my iced coffee, so I am definitely contributing to the cause!

We made our way all around the boat, sitting on different decks and sides trying to get in and out of the sun when we got too hot. I had brought exactly ZERO sunscreen on the trip, so I could definitely feel my skin getting more and more red as the day went on…. very bad, I know.

My point and shoot camera actually has a 20x zoom, and when some of the workers on this rigger came out to look at us and wave, I was able to get some pretty close up shots! They were definitely Asian as well, but I forget exactly what country the ship was from. Random thought but it's kind of weird that they will likely never know I took these photos of them.

Looking back on the New Orleans skyline. It's not the "tallest" city, or the largest city, but it is very charming and quaint and there is a lot that goes on within those streets!
Passing by the 15th ward of Algiers, which is directly across the river from New Orleans even though it is technically still part of the city, and can only be accessed by the ferry or by bridge. The bike shop owner had told us that they have some great bike paths and trails over there, but unfortunately we did not have the time to make it over.
Loved these shots of the sun poking through the clouds!

We then passed by a big US Naval ship!

A school in the lower 9th ward that was completely devastated in Katrina and is no longer in use. You can see the Levee along the riverfront below as well, which are what let go/broke during the hurricane. Not this particular one in my photo, but that is what they look like.
We decided to use the jazz cruise as our very own "happy hour", and had brought some nips on board to make drinks with. They had full bars on board, but why pay when you can bring for own! You see this face in the photo below? That is the face of a boy who just did something very FRESH! Although I can't remember what it was, I am sure it was something wise or awful or a prank! He loves to be fresh.

I only made Nick suffer through a few selfies this trip, I did pretty good! We were having a great time sitting out in the sun with the wind blowing, sipping our cocktails on the river.
I soon realized the aftermath of not bringing sunblock….. a total watch-burn fail! Awful!

We passed by a military retreat/training camp along the river.
And back again past the sugar factory on our way back up the river.

We also saw the "Creole Queen", and our captain was quick to get on the microphone and let everyone know that they are NOT a real steamboat like the Natchez, they are just made to look like one and they run on power. Booooo!
We explored the steamboat some more, going down to the lower decks and checking out some of the signage on the walls. We both started laughing when we saw "Muster station" because of our cruise we went on a couple years ago. The Carnival cruise captain had the most awful accent, and would yell so seriously at full volume for us to "PLEASE REPORT TO YOUR MUSTARD STATIONS IMMEDIATELY" during the drills and warnings we had on board. I was expecting a big table full of Hellman's Yellow, but nope… he meant 'Muster". Great story, I know.
We reached the back of the steamboat, which is where the iconic paddlewheel spins from the steam power and propels the boat forwards and backwards. It was huge, and pretty neat to see up close. Just wouldn't want to fall in off the back, you'd quickly be a goner!

Our first time on the Mississippi river! I was amazed at how wide the river was, I don't know what I was expecting.

Up close and personal with the Nikon!

Eventually our drinks caught up to us and we had to use the bathroom, so we made our way inside. They had a big dining and seating area on the main level, which is where the jazz band was set up and playing. They play over a loudspeaker so you can hear it from any part of the boat, but it was nice to see and hear it live as well. It looked like a scene out of an old movie, complete with the dim lights and tin ceilings.

Looking back the opposite way towards the main dining area.
Come to find out, they actually used to race steamboats! They don't do it often anymore, but they still have them occasionally for charity events and whatnot.
Some more steamboat scenes! Gotta know where the life vests are.

PLEASE REPORT TO YOUR MUSTARD STATIONS, IMMEDIATELY. Hahahaha. Oh Carnival…. you kill me… quiet literally.
Just me, Nick, and the old timers! Having a ball on the Natchez.
It was coming up on 4:30, so the sun was starting to get lower in the sky and made for some really pretty shots when we were steaming back up towards the city. We went up to the bow and just watched as we approached the wharf.

I love this one!

Watching a GINORMOUS container ship pass by, holdings thousands of tons of cargo. The boat was called Lesotho and was out of Liberia. Amazing how New Orleans harbor is an access point to the entire world.

Hard to comprehend that each of those little lego looking things is the BACK OF AN 18 WHEELER! I didn't know that for the longest time….
Wonder whats in them?

Huge, just huge!
The steamboat then made a turnaround right by the newly built outdoor shopping center along the river in order to head back over to the dock. The river walk has tons of new shops and outlets… Nick and I stayed far, far away in fear of spending all our my (read: I have a clothes buying problem) money on things we don't need.
Back at port! The mate yelled out some docking terms and soon enough it was time to get off. We had a really nice time on the Natchez and learned and saw some cool things. For the $20pp we paid, it was definitely worth it! It was relaxing and a change of pace/scene from the busy streets of the French Quarter.

Once off the boat, we walked along the river path a bit more. It was so nice out!
Trolley cars passing by! One thing we never got a chance to do! Its only $1.25 to pretty much get anywhere in the city, but we were never in the right place at the right time and if we were, they were too crowded to pick anyone else up. Gotta save something for next time, right!?
A look towards Jackson Square from the riverfront.
Soon we turned in towards the French quarter and decided to go for a walk while I had my big camera with me. I wanted to take a few shots of the city street with the Nikon before putting it back away at the hotel. This photo was right before a car almost ran us over while we were in a crosswalk… jerk!

I don't think I would ever tire of all of these colors and details!

There was such a mix of old and new in New Orleans, so charming.
Some favorite shots from the French Quarter….

"And we'll never be…" Lorde anyone? We loved how all of the street names were also tiled onto the sidewalks. Another nice touch adding to the NOLA charm.
Can I live on your balcony?! Thanks!

One of my favorite streets in the quarter- Royal!
Saints pride everywhere! Can't imagine how crazy it must be when they win the Superbowl.
Another favorite touch in NOLA was all of the old original horse tie-ups that are still all throughout the city. Some have been jazzed up and decorated, while others remain plain and traditional. They also had old water troughs all throughout the city for the horses as well. Some are still used, others just collected garbage unfortunately.
A store that Nick and I found that my brother would surely love….

One of Nicks friends had told him about this place called Cane & Table, so we stopped by but unfortunately no one was in there at the time so we didn't stay. It was small plates, which I love, so we will have to make sure to go at a better time if we ever come back.
Another spot on our list we were never able to check out was Kingfish, it has a small bar and every time we walk by it was totally packed, which probably means it is really good!
Nick can go from NHPD to NOPD!
We stopped in at another one of the oldest bars in town called the "Old Absinthe House", and the entire bar areas walls are covered with thousands of business cards, so that was pretty neat. All the while, the sky was starting to get darker and darker grey off in the disatnce, and we were feeling the occasional rain drop.
Love all of the lights and signs, it's like a mini Vegas, but better!

The infamous!! Bourbon Street!
It was about that point where all of the sudden the skies opened up and it started to absolutely DOWNPOUR. We were trying to get somewhere for happy hour to eat a snack since we were really hungry, but it was raining SO hard we were forced to duck into a store and wait it out for about 15 minutes because I had my Nikon with me that cannot get wet. It was some of the hardest rain we had ever seen, and we couldn't help but laugh. Everyone in the streets was soaked to the bone! Finally it died down and we were so hungry for a snack and were running out of luck getting in to a place before happy hour ended, so we rushed back over to Domenica again near our hotel and got a small table in the bar area just in time. We ordered some drinks an shared this "Panzanella" app with romanesco, buratta, broccoli, pancetta and almonds that was another home run!! SO delicious! This is the only restaurant that we doubled up on and went to twice, it was definitely one of our favorites and a big thanks to our friend Evan for the recommendation. 
After happy hour we went back to the hotel to pack a bit and changed clothes for our final dinner. We decided on another place that came highly recommended to us, call Peche. It ended up being pretty close to our hotel, which was nice! There was a little bit of a wait so we sat at the bar and got an appetizer to share of swordfish ceviche! I was nervous to try it but it was actually really good! Soon we were seated and everything on the menu looked and sounded delicious. I order the Drum entree, which is a white fish, and a side of beans and bacon that came in a really cute mini Le Creuset dish! Both dishes were excellent and I had never tried Drum before, so that was a new item on my list.

Nick got the catfish dinner which was hands down the winner of the night, so good! He literally scraped his plate clean. As a side he got the brussels sprouts, which were excellent as well and had been recommended to us by a friend of mine. It was a great last meal in NOLA and we definitely suggest making it a must-do on your list if you are ever there!

After dinner, we had no real plans and just decided to bar hop around on our last night! We wanted to go to this BBQ spot called "the Joint" to at least get a photo of the sign, because we have an inside joke with my family about the word. It looked and smelled delicious and I wish we had an extra day to be able to go there to eat, but I was happy to get a picture of the sign to Instagram for my brother.

We ended up just walking around the Bywater area and popped into this small street corner bar that looked like a trailer called "Bar Redux". They had a comedy show going on out back and despite having the world's bitchiest bartender, it was a pretty cool little spot. The food looked really good, although we didn't try anything, and it is actually rated 4.5 stars on Yelp... not a bad place to just wander into! They had a raffle going on and I actually won one of the prizes... tickets to a comedy show! But unfortunately I had to turn them down because we wouldn't still be down there for it. The one time I win something!! 
There she is, in all her bitchy glory.... We almost (but not really at all) felt bad for her for living her life in such a state of bitchiness. 

After, we stopped in again at BJ's lunge, the dive bar we had found earlier that day in the Bywater district. There was a totally different crowd than earlier in the day, and our bartender friend was no longer there either. We had a couple drinks and both of us had to use the bathroom. I came out and was all like "Oh my gosh, the girls bathroom had the BEST collage on the wall!!! It was all good looking men and celebrities, it was like porn for women!" And Nick was like, "Oh, well, the boys bathroom had something too..." And then he proceeds to show me the photo on the right. Goes to show the difference between what men like and what women like! Porn for women vs porn for men. Side note: If you are female and you don't follow @pornforwomen on instagram, do so now and thank me later!!
We made our way back to the french Quarter and I had been dying all week to sit out on one of the infamous balcony bars on Bourbon Street, just to say we did it. We found one that looked like there were spots open, and we headed upstairs. We were greeted by a shirtless, oily chested bartender thinking nothing of it and each got a drink before taking a seat at a balcony table outside. I was loving it, and totally in my glory people watching from above and feeling the cool nights breeze blow over me. We looked to the right and the bar happened to be projecting music videos on the wall on the building across the street.... Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, "Safety Dance" by Men Without hats, hmmm.... Interesting. I sense a theme here, but hadn't quite put my finger on it yet.

After a few more minutes of chatting about the characters and people we were seeing, I decided to look up the place on Yelp to see where the heck we were actually at. It came up as "Cafe LaFitte In Exile", 4 stars. And then I read the small print description of the place, "The oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States!" Yessssss!!!! I was so excited! The look on Nick's face was priceless, and suddenly it all made sense! All male crowd, oily bare-chested bartender, rainbow flags, it was awesome and I loved it! Just too funny that we had absolutely no idea.
Views from the balcony!

We should have known!
It was getting late, and we had to be up early the next morning to finish packing and catch our flight back to New England. We were SO sad to be leaving and did not want the trip to end, we had an absolutely amazing time and so much fun.

The party never stops on Bourbon Street! 
Things start to get a little "blurry" for everyone at this hour!

Before calling it a night and marking the end of our trip, we stopped back in at Lafitte Blacksmith Shop, the first bar we had gone to on night one and one of the oldest buildings in the city, and carved our initials into the table. We made such great memories on this trip and we will definitely be back again some day. There are other places we have gone where it's more of a "one and done" type of place, but not New Orleans, we have to come back. Someday!
Thank you for following along on our NOLA trip, and I hope you got some good ideas for what to do if you ever make the trek down there! It was an easy 2 hour 20 minute flight from JFK, and you instantly feel like you are in another world. We love you New Orleans! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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