A Travellerspoint blog

4 - Exploring New Orleans and visiting the Cemetery

Wednesday 10th

I had to check out of Aloft Hotel this morning as I'm moving to the hotel to meet my travelling group later this afternoon. Thankfully I could leave my bags at aloft while I went out for the day.

As a replacement trip today I booked myself on a walking tout of St Louis #1 Cemetery which is one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. On the way to the meeting point I called for an egg and cheese sandwich and a coffee - I always forget you have to ask for milk in coffee. The cafe was a 24 hour greasy spoon painted pink - it was alright but was definitely a bit greasy.

The cemetery was just a five minute walk out of the main town centre, it was warm but very cloudy and overcast. Our guide Andrew was very good - the tour was a free walking tour which is free but then you give the guide a tip at the end depending on what you thought of the trip and how much you can afford. It was quickly apparent that Andrew loves cemeteries and stories of the dead. The cemetery wasn't huge but there are lots of people buried there, the tombs are mostly above ground, bodies are put in the coffins for a minimum of a year and a day and after this what ever is left is gathered together and put right at the bottom of the tomb and the top part is left ready for the next dead person to come along. Apparently there were a few famous people here but they I'd never heard of any of me apart from Marie Lavoue, the voodoo priestess, at her tomb people had left little gifts like hair bobbles, nail varnish and shells. The other really fabulous tomb was for a mafia family and was very impressive.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering round the city, I walked through Louis Armstrong park, dipped my feet in the Mississippi and went for a walk round the French market, called in New Orleans mint (which was pretty rubbish) and up Frenchman street which is where looks like it doesn't come to life until late evening,

I was heading to a place I fancied visiting for lunch when I saw a lady looking at a painting on a wall, it looked like Banksy graffiti so I stopped to take a photo of it and got talking to the woman, it turns out if was a Banksy. I got talking to the lady and showed her a picture of another Banksy I had taken in Bristol, she was super impressed - ha ha! She was in New Orleans from LA filming a TV film for an American TV channel. She made a suggestion of so,we here for lunch but I told her I'd already set my heart on a place - Dreamy Weenies - a hot dog shop that sells vegan hotdogs! We said goodbye and I headed off to the hotdog place - it turns out I'd walked right past it earlier, it was right opposite Louis Armstrong park. It was a really nice cafe overlooking the park and the staff were ever so friendly. I had a andallouie (Cajun spicy) vegan hot dog with mustard and ketchup and some waffle fries - very delicious!

I headed back to the hotel via Hard Rock Cafe to pick up the obligatory shot glass and fridge magnet and thought it'd be rude not to stop and have a drink - I had two and a nice chat with the barman who loves camping, was jealous of my trip and showed me some photos from his last camping trip.

As I walked back to the hotel it started raining, by he time I was there and had picked up my stuff the heavens had opened and it was pounding it down. The hotel tried getting me a taxi bit there were none around, the new hotel was only eight minutes walk away so I set off walking, I'm not sure I've seen a downpour like it and I was like a Drowned rat by the time I'd got to my next hotel and grumpy cos the Hard Rock Cafe bag hadn't faired well in the rain, the bottom had got wet, dropped out along with he shot glasses - smash!!

The new hotel, Hotel 504, was alright but not as nice as my last one - I imagine it uses to be back in it's heyday, they were doing some work on it but it was tired and dated. I quickly found my room, unpacked some of the stuff that was wet from my suitcase and headed down to meet my new travelling buddies. It turns out three of us were joining a group that had been travelling from New York.

After our welcome meeting me, Lisanne (from Holland), and Claire (from Inverness) headed out for tea, I wasn't really that hungry but thought it's be nice to get to know them, we went to a seafood restaurant and I had Cajun vegetarian stew with rice and garlic mash and a couple of wines, I'm glad I went with them because I wouldn't have tried this place and probably wouldn't have managed to eat a regional dish, it wasn't my favourite food so far but was very nice.

We were back in the hotel and I was in bed by 9pm, we've got an early start tomorrow - we're meeting in the hotel foyer to leave New Orleans at 6.40am.

Steps: 19,276 / 7.9 miles

Posted by cazbatt 08:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

3 - Visiting the sugar plantations

Tuesday 9 August
I was up bright and breezy this morning before 6 am but had had over 7 1/2 hours sleep, the bed in my hotel is sooooooo comfortable, a bit like sleeping on a giant marshmallow. My exploration today was a trip to visit a couple of sugar plantations. I'd plenty of time to spare so headed out for breakfast, there was a cafe in the main road called the Ruby Slipper so that looked as good as any - apparently it's name had been changed to the Ruby Slipper after it had survived hurricane Katrina. I had florentine omelette (mushrooms, spinach and goats cheese) and some yummy multigrain toast with an endless supply of coffee.

I was sat ready and waiting for my pick up for the plantation trip pick up, the ride there was about an hour and half, some of it over very long bridges over the swamps. The first plantation we went to was Oak Alley, we got to wander around the grounds before we had a guided tour round the house, there was an exhibition about slavery with replica houses built showing what kind of conditions they lived in back in the day - apparently, the slaves who lived here were quite well looked after, there homes were very basic and sparse though and their work lives sounded very hard- up to 16 hours a day out in the sugar cane fields. The plantation is named after an alleyway of oak trees which leads up to he big house, it's lovely and much more impressive than the dark arches from the game of thrones that we saw the other week!! The tour around the "big house" was good and led by a lady in old fashioned dress - complete with petticoated skirts - she must have been roasting. I was melting I a thin jumpsuit thing and drinking an icy mint julep (with rum!). The house was a bit like a mini version of the house in Gone With The Wind and very grand. Most of the stuff in the house wasn't original because for several years after the civil war the house had sat derelict and inhabited by cows until a couple had fallen in live with it and restored it to it's former glory.

The second plantation was called Laura and, even though it was a sugar plantation like the last one, it was very different. This one wasn't quite as grand and painted in lovely bright creole colours so much more homely, the slavery had gone on the same though and there were interesting tales about how some of the family were awful to the slaves and other family members treated the slaves as part of the family,

It had been an interesting day and we headed back to New Orleans city centre. Other than some praline pecan nuts I'd not eaten since breakfast so I went on a mission to find a veggie restaurant that I'd read about, it was in the opposite direction to the main tourist part of town, in kind if the residential area, it was a bit industrial looking inside and I didn't know I what most if the stuff in the menu was. I went for a small broken noodle salad - small?!?! I'd love to have seen a big one, my small one could have probably fed two people easily. For main I had veggie Rico - I had absolutely no idea what it was but it sounded interesting, when it came it was divine. Some kind of soya mince on a plantain patty but cooked in loads of herbs and spices. I might email them when I'm home to see if they'll give me the recipe. I also had a cajulia cocktail which was vodka with cashew fruit juice - lovely and refreshing.

I decided to go for a bit of a wander back into town afterwards and a stroll into some of the shops, there's loads of shops that sell voodoo try stuff and then touristy tat shops. I'm sticking to the rule I had last year in that my souvenirs are going to be fridge magnets from each place I visit. At one point a woman asked me for directions when I answered her friend said "ask her another question, her accent is sooooo cute", when I laughed and said I'd not been told that before she said I sounded very exotic- bet a Barnsley accent hasn't been called that before - ha ha!

As I was walking past a bar a lady asked if I fancied seeing a blues band, I was in New Orleans so thought why not. The bar is famous for it's Hand Grenade cocktails so I had one - it was pretty rancid, I watched a set then headed back to the hotel where I decided to have a neither cocktail in the hotel bat to get rid of the taste of the Hand Grenade, a blueberry vodka concoction worked wonders!

Tomorrow, I had a swamp kayak trip booked but when I'd looked into getting to the place I needed to be it was going to cost the equivalent of £30 each way for a taxi (and if I was to hire a bike it would take two hours each way to peddle!!) so I decided to try and cancel my trip which is a shame cos I was really looking forward to it but can't warrant paying that much to get there and back. Cue strongly worded email to viator (who don't tell you where the trip starts until after you've paid and make no mention of how far it is from the city centre on their website). I also had a look at what else I could do instead before heading to bed.

Steps: 16,227 / 6.5 miles

Posted by cazbatt 08:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

2 - Part 2 of my journey to New Orleans

Monday 9th august (I think)

Checking my bags in was easy and for some reason they gave me a speedy security check pass so I didn't have to queue with everyone else - woop woop!

I'd got a few hours to waste before I flew so I set myself a challenge to walk 10,000 steps which I'd done by 8.30am so I had breakfast - egg and cheese bagel. My plane was delayed by 45 mins but that went pretty quickly. The flight from Philly to Chicago was only an hour and half but I managed to watch the end of Mother's Day and have a little snooze. Chicago airport is nice, I'd not got long to wait tho so went for a wander then parked myself at the gate.

The flight to New Orleans was another an hour and half and was on a pretty tiny plane. I managed another snooze. I'm a bit weary now, not really tired, I'm just a bit travelled out and just want to get to my nice hotel in New Orleans now. My suitcase was waiting for me on the baggage claim (that's always a relief after they went missing for two days right at the beginning or last years trip!), I'd prebooked an airport transfer and I was at my hotel in no time. It's the Aloft hotel in the financial district and it's pretty cool - polished concrete floors and dark grey walls and mood lighting! I had a lay down for an hour but didn't want to nod off because I had a guided walking tour booked later this afternoon - one telling me about vampires, voodoo priestesses and ghouls - what on earth was I thinking of when I booked it? I have nightmares at the slightest thing And here I am signed up to hear about scary stuff in a strange city, stopping in a strange bed in a strange hotel - bonkers!

First i decide to head out and get my bearings and find food first - there was a veggie restaurant near by called the Green Goddess so,I decided to give that a try - as usual, all good plans and that - it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays! On to trip advisor I go to find something else suitable and find an oriental restaurants called 9 Roses Cafe which wasn't too sparkling to,look at but served delicious food, I had tofu spring rolls with a peanut sauce as a starter and tofu yellow curry for main washed down with a tsao tsing beer and it was all very yummy.

Afterwards I headed out into the city to have a look round before my tour, the French quarter where I was was very beautiful in a shabby chic kind if way, the buildings are old colonial style and very fancy. Around the main square were lots of people sat at tables offering palm reading, tarot card reading etc. lots of other people were milling about and looked either drunk or drugged up, it all looked a bit dodgy and intimidating and I wasn't sure I liked it so I carried on walking towards where the trip was meeting. It seemed a bit unorganised at first but the we got set off and our tour guide Trevor was really good, telling us about all those things that scare me but in a way which was really interesting and funny. We got taken to a place where they filmed some scenes from interview with a vampire - the ones where Claudia kills the piano playing family, heard about a lady who's husband leafy her for another woman, she ended up dying of small pox and just before she died she had a beautiful little jewellery box delivered to her ex hubby - it was full of all her small pox scabs - which still has the living disease in them and the smallpox virus was passed to her ex and his new family who all died too - karma!! We called of a supposedly haunted bar where we could (were encouraged to) have a drink, I had one of the famous hurricanes, it was very sweet and not really my thing but it was cooling. The tour lasted a good couple of hours and not really too scary. By the time it was done I was pretty exhausted so headed back to my hotel and was out like a light before too long.

Steps: 21,588 / 8.8 miles

Posted by cazbatt 08:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

1. - The start of my American adventures


It's time for another adventure - hooray!!

This one isn't quite as epic as my last four month round the world adventure last but still pretty exciting and I'm hoping the trip - a road trip / mainly camping trip across the USA - from New Orleans to San Francisco and then finishing off with a few days in Vegas is still going to be pretty special. There's going to be a few cities, some of the great national parks and probably a bit of food quest - I love food and especially like trying new stuff when I'm away, especially if I can try lots of new veggie food, not sure how I'm going to cope on the campsites but that'll be part of the adventure!

Here goes.......

7 August. Sunday morning - 5am

I'm up and out of bed, my packing was all done and dusted by bed time last night, a bit late and unorganised for me seeing as I've had the last two weeks (first two weeks of the school holidays) to do it.

The journey across Woodhead was easy - I think this is the best time of the week to drive over there, hardly any traffic. Parking at APH was great as usual and I was at the airport in no time. I was already checked in and dropped off my bags, then off to security - what a palaver!! They pulled literally every other piece of hand luggage off to check - giving really daft reasons for each one - the woman in front of me had an iPad mini in hers, mine was because there were wires in my bag - my phone charging cable!! Ahh well - better to be safe than sorry I guess and it passed half an hour.

Airport Breakfast was an Egg and cheese sarnie with a glass of wine, ok it was only 9amish but I am in holiday!

The first flight is Manchester to Philadelphia and it was a nice flight, I watched Eddie the eagle which was very good, funny and had me crying at the end, a couple of glasses of wine and I nodded off for a few hours and then watched half of Mothers Day which was another good one but we touched down when it was only half way through. Dinner was Thai vegetables, rice and spinach - very good for plane food and then just before we landed they gave us a snack of Tomato, red onion and olive lattice and a little cake which was really nice too.

At Philly I had a 16 hour lay over (I used last years air miles towards this years flights which saved me about £600 but I was limited to the flights I could take hence the 16 hour layover), I didn't mind though because I had planned to go out and explore Philadelphia. I was already checked in to my next flight but they wouldn't let me drop my hold luggage off. Hmm, I'm not travelling particularly lightly but I didn't want to sit in the airport for 16 hours, so off I trotted out to explore lugging my bags with me. The train into the city was easy - and no one came to give me a ticket so my journey was free - bonus.

I got out of the train station and saw a big impressive building up the road thinking that must be the historic quarter so headed up to it expecting the liberty bell and old town to be there, it turned out it was the city hall and and in the complete opposite direction of where I wanted to be!! It was still nice up there tho and the city hall was pretty impressive, it looked a bit funny and ugly tho with air con units at all the windows, I later found out that was because the walls are up to 22ft thick so that's the only way they can install air con which is needed here - they need it if today's weather is anything to go by - it's hot!! I did stumble across the famous LOVE statue - but it's pretty tiny compared to the replica in NYC. Apparently Philadelphia means city of love in Latin - Phila = love and Delphia = city!

it turned out I was over a mile away from the area where liberty bell was, part of me was all set to scrap the exploring idea and just head back to the airport, I was pretty knackered (it was about 10pm uk time and it been up since 5). and I was cursing myself for not travelling a bit lighter! But the non quitting side of me won and me flip flopping in my flip flops and my luggage decided to go to the bell - I may never get to Philly again so may as well make the most of it and I was going to be in the airport long enough anyway.

The liberty bell is in a building with loads of security, I didn't actually go in building because I'd have knocked people all over with my bags but there was a window where I got a good look at it. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting but still very impressive. The buildings were all very pretty too, old colonial style. I'd discovered that there was a well rated veggie restaurant nearby so tried finding it - it was Sunday so it was shut!! I wanted to explore more but was struggling with my bags and then spotted a Duck tour so thought that'd be perfect - a guided tour of the city on wheels combined with a river ride so it didn't matter that I was lugging my bags with me! I had a 45 mins wait for my tour so scrapped the veggie restaurant finding idea and went for a quick bite to eat near the duck bus stop. The place was a pretty cool outside bar called independence and a veg and mozzarella focaccia and delicious French fries (remembered last minute that here if you order chips you get crisps!!) and a glass of wine(in a plastic glass - yuk!). I wolfed it down and headed back to the duck stop.

The duck tour was pretty good - it's a bus that turns into a boat, the vehicles were made in WWII by women as the men were at war, they were used in battles then decommissioned when the war was over, there wasn't much use for them after so they were sold to the tourist industry! Our tour guide was called "Janet from another planet" and was very good and funny with the most ridiculous but infectious laugh and terrible jokes. We got a good trip round the city looking at all the important buildings and seeing the steps that Rocky ran up on the film, then we went in the water which was good fun but very hot. The trip took about two hours and was worth the £24 as I got to have a whistlestop tour if the city. It was about 7.00 US time (midnight back home) so I decided to head back to the airport and get myself settled. It was pretty easy to get back but I didn't get a free ride this time cos a conductor came and made me buy a ticket.

At the airport I tried checking my bags in but they were still having none of it cos I didn't fly til 6am. All the shops and restaurants were closed so I found a bench and made myself a bed. Not the best sleep I've ever had but I did manage a few hours and did need my alarm to wake me up at 4am.

Jawbone Steps: 12,448 / 5.2 miles

Posted by cazbatt 08:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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