Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Orleans Fun

Are you sick of hearing about me celebrating my 40th birthday yet?  Yeah, me neither! 

Ah, where to begin . . . four days on my girls' weekend was just right to refresh and recharge . . . not that you can call New Orleans fresh!  My friends not only kept the destination a surprise, they decided to keep me on a need to know basis for the whole trip and had fun surprises for me everyday . . . as they liked to say, "We've got magic to do!"  They are suckas because they know I'm a control freak . . . but quite frankly, there aren't many surprises in life so I actually loved all the suspense . . . and attention!   

My ladies know I love a road trip so we left bright and early on Friday and headed to NOLA!  It really wasn't that far . . . maybe 7ish hours?  When you're talking, laughing and eating snack mix (standard girls' weekend munchies), time flies!  And speaking of attention, they had beads and a cute little fascinator waiting for me . . . I literally wore it for four solid days unless I was sleeping.  It felt so normal in NOLA . . . not so much when I got back home!

We made a little stop in Birmingham to visit Cindy's fabulous mama . . . we love us some Carol!  She has the best southern accent and equally loves us back . . . two great qualities!

The start of an amazing and memorable trip . . .
After a little Panera and chatting, we were off again.  We hit the border into Louisiana . . . so exciting; crossed Lake Pontchartrain . . . excitement building; and then, rolled up into New Orleans . . . let the games begin!  We immediately started looking for those drive thru daiquiri places once we crossed into Louisiana . . . why aren't they on the actual border?  I digress . . .
Now dudes won't sleep in the same bed and barely will share a hotel room, but us ladies figure the more the merrier and will all pile in without question!  As a result, we like to treats ourselves to swanky hotels and pretend we are living the high life.  For this trip, my ladies surprised me with the beautiful Windsor Court Hotel in the French Quarter.  Behold . . .
Fancy . . . just like us ladies!  Ha!
We dropped our bags, took a moment to relish in the opulence and then headed out in search of food . . . and a cocktail!  The French Quarter was hopping, and we were starving, so we picked a location without a huge line . . . Bourbon House Seafood
It should be noted I hate bourbon and seafood . . . winner!
My friends kept telling me I needed to "build a base" for our next activity.  You don't have to tell me twice to eat like it's my job . . .  I snarfed down a muffaletta sandwich. 
We still had time before the evening "magic" so we took a stroll down Bourbon Street.  I grew up coming to New Orleans to visit family so I knew what to expect . . . this was the first time for my friends, and I think they were a little surprised at the crazy.  The best line of the evening was a rather rotund lady working the door of her establishment . . . she was trying to entice these seemingly innocent fellows to come into her place of business . . . she says, "Don't be skeerd, I ain't gonna rape you."  OMG . . . cracked up us. 
Seriously, you have to drink booze . . . on the street . . . out of a fishbowl when in NOLA! 
The Friday night surprise was a walking, historical cocktail tour of the French Quarter led by the fabulous Elizabeth Pearce of Drink and Learn!  We flat out thought she was the best and wanted to add her as a fifth to our group!
Elizabeth of Drink and Learn . . . loved her!
She was an amazing orator, knew so much history about the French Quarter and loves her booze . . . my kind of girl!  The tour provided the cocktails . . . she would walk us to a location, give us some local history and the reason the drink of choice is important to New Orleans culture.  Two of my least favorite things in life are whiskey and black licorice . . . the drink of New Orleans is the Sazerac, a mixture of whiskey, absinthe (licorice liquor) and sugar.  I took a sip, spit it back in the cup and then emptied it in a potted plant . . . I'm sure it's seen much worse!  Nonetheless, this was definitely a highlight of our trip, and we would highly recommend it!
My friends bought me Elizabeth's book, The French Quarter Drinking Companion.  She signed it with a lovely note . . . "To the Boozy Rascal - On her 40th birthday in New Orleans - a city you never forgot, but full of nights you don't quite remember."  It made me so happy!
Sadly, our tour was over so we moseyed our way back to Bourbon Street and Tropical Isle . . . frozen drinks were had by all, or worn by, in the case of poor Andrea.  We no sooner had our "grenades" when some drunk dude elbows a full drink into Andrea's lap . . . ah, cold! 
These drinks didn't spill . . . but they were gone!
At this point snacks were necessary so we went to Felix's to tame the liquid diet . . . let's just say that "to Felix" now has a new meaning in our social circle.  Eeeewwww.
I had their red beans and rice . . . tasty!
My brilliant friends plan a surprise for me that involves leaving the hotel . . . at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday!  I wasn't so sure that was a great idea when I was trying to wash off the New Orleans shame with a shower at 4 a.m.  I woke up and smelled like a smoky bar and could not take it . . . I needed to pull it together.  I went back to sleep for a couple of hours and rallied like the true champ . . . and tourist . . . that I am!
My surprise was a Honey Island Swamp Tour in Slidell, and it was awesome!!  We loved our tour guide, Brian, and appreciated his skill of gator calling.  Now we just want to know, "What does the fox say?"  Ok, I seriously crack myself up.
Would totally recommend and can't wait to take the kids someday!

The tour was two hours long, and I could have stayed out there all day!  Who knew the swamp could be so gorgeous?  The tour boats are allowed to feed the gators marshmallows and hot dogs per the game warden . . . those foods will not harm their natural hunting cycle.  Apparently their nutritional value is low . . . uh, duh.  The gators recognize the tour boats and shimmy right up for their treats.  Loved it.  Some of my new friends and their beautiful home . . . 

Uhm, yeah . . . raccoons are freaking adorable when they are eating marshmallows. 
They wash their hands after. 

We hightailed it out after the tour, made a quick change at the hotel, hopped in a cab and headed for our next surprise destination . . . lunch at Commander's Palace Restaurant
This was a colorful beacon in a random neighborhood of NOLA!

My friends did their research and wanted to make sure we visited the most famous restaurants in New Orleans . . . they know I love a landmark and a place with some history!

Let the fun begin!

It really was a fabulous place to visit.  We were seated in the garden room, and it felt like we were among the trees.  Each table was set with balloons . . . it felt very upscale with a whimsical twist.  The wait staff was so friendly and went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of . . . I was even serenaded TWICE for my birthday!  My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. 
Sure, it's my birthday . . . again . . . in October.  Let's just go with it!
After such an early morning, we decided to add a nap into our busy schedule . . . we needed to make sure we were ready to enjoy a full evening of fun!  Some of us are more fabulous than others while napping . . . this girl is freaking hysterical and makes me laugh until I cry . . . love her!
You don't nap like this?
We woke up refreshed and ready to roll . . . I should probably mention that I went easy on the cocktails with only one Bloody Mary at lunch.  I think I was still over my quota from the previous night.  Winky face.
We strolled over to the Roosevelt Hotel and relaxed in the comfy seating area of the Sazerac Bar.  We chatted here for awhile and then went in search of some dinner.  We ended up at Desire, a restaurant at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, right on Bourbon Street.  Since I don't eat seafood, I enjoyed red beans and rice at most places, including here . . . it's one of my all time favorite dishes.  So good.  Then we called it a night . . .
Guess what?  I had the red beans and rice!
Sunday we woke up to another day of adventure.  We started at the ever famous Café du Monde.  When we arrived there was a huge line.  We went in search of a shorter take out line and ended up with fabulous seats right inside . . . it pays to be impatient.  As it turns out, it's a seat yourself restaurant and most folks politely wait in line while the locals take the seats.  Damn, we're smart.
Beignets . . . tasty delights.  So very good with the café au lait!
We then took a carriage ride around the French Quarter.  Our guide was Adam and our mule was Queenie from Royal Carriages . . . we loved them both!  I swear I have the gift of getting amazing tour guides.
We loved Queenie the mule . . . she loved us too!
Cindy and I sat up front with Adam so we could hear all the juicy facts . . . we strolled around the French Quarter for an hour listening to Adam impart stories from a time gone by . . . look how beautiful this city is when you make your way off Bourbon Street.

The beautiful streets of the French Quarter . . . and Queenie's rear end!

The one stop on the carriage tour is to the main cemetery in the French Quarter . . . it's one city block square and houses over 100,000 people.  An interesting fact of the city . . . the brick tombs, combined with the heat of the city, dissolve the dead to ashes, and the remains are removed after one year and one day and are placed in an urn in the family crypt.  You can rent a crypt from the Archdiocese . . . this cemetery is so old that the rental ones used to be three rows high but the bottom row sunk so only two rows are available.  There were two really famous crypts of note . . . an old one of the voodoo queen Marie Leveau and the modern day pyramid awaiting Nicholas Cage.  

Is it weird that we are posing in a cemetery?  Nah.
Our tour began and ended in the famous Jackson Square . . . a beautiful spot in the city.
Look kids, we went to Disney!  I mean Jackson Square!
Our next adventure was brunch at the famous Court of Two Sisters . . . the largest outdoor courtyard seating in New Orleans.  It was buffet style with some lovely fare.  It was a beautiful day to sit outside and enjoy each other's company.     
The buffet was just ok, but the courtyard was beautiful.  And the grits were amazing.
After we were stuffed . . . again . . . we meandered around the city making sure to hit the remaining highlights.  Of course we had to have a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's . . .
When in NOLA, you gotta do it!  So we did!
I would have been so disappointed if we didn't visit the oldest bar in America, Lafitte's . . . that's right, it was founded in 1772, four years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.  So cool . . . even if it was a dump with over priced drinks.  
Oldest bar in America . . .
We had dinner at a great little spot called Mr. B's Bistro and walked around the French Quarter one last time.  I discovered my new favorite cocktail . . . or reconnected, shall we say, with the Gin and Tonic. 
Does the trip have to end?  Yes, or we'd be huge and needing detox.
Our final bar was the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.  It was really a sight to see . . . the bar and bar stools were on a rotating drum and had carousel scenes on them . . . thankfully it didn't move fast enough to bring on motion sickness! 
Isn't it cool?  Too bad the bartender was an ass hat.
We had some fun taking pictures but promptly left when we encountered the rudest bartender ever.  And I mean ever.  We are friendly girls so he must have been having a bad day, but seriously? 
Too bad for him . . . we are fun and tip well!
We all wake up sad to leave the next morning . . . not because we didn't want to see our family, but because it's nice to just relax, laugh and not have to make anyone dinner.  We hit one last New Orleans must have food spot . . . Mother's Restaurant.  I partook of the red beans and rice omelet because well, why not!  Oh, and I had the ham . . . I hear it's the world's best!  Honestly, it was pretty tasty. 
Of course I had the red beans and rice omelet.
We loaded up and waved good bye to the city that never sleeps.  On the way home, we happened upon a must see historical adventure . . . so we detoured and enjoyed Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, in Biloxi, Mississippi. 
Beauvoir . . . you have to say that with a serious southern accent.
It was wonderful . . . our fabulous tour guide, Rosie, had so much knowledge and so many stories about Beauvoir.  She told us some very sad tales of the damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina . . . they have worked hard to rebuild as they lost just about everything except the actual house and thankfully, most of it contents.  The porches were gone, the out buildings were gone and the front door blew open, but the old house made it!  What a blessing.

Loved this tour . . . I think because our tour guide was so wonderful!
I did treat myself to one fun little delight from the Beauvoir gift shop . . . .  I had chickens growing up and have a fondness for them.  I also love The Bloggess . . . if you don't read her blog, then you're really missing out on some crazy.  Check out her post here or here to see why I've made a connection . . . and meet Beyoncé Beauvoir!  I love him.
Knock, Knock MoFo . . . you gotta read The Bloggess!
We tried to find something interesting by way of eats on the way home . . . because it's way more fun than fast food.  We happened upon Bates Turkey Farm and Restaurant and stopped . . . they serve Thanksgiving dinner year round.  It was honestly pretty crappy and right by the Interstate, but it makes for a good laugh.
Just go to McDonald's . . .

We rolled back into Atlanta around 10 p.m., maximizing our time away!  My friends did an amazing job of planning an adventure they knew I would love . . . I was so impressed with their research on what to do and where to eat . . . they are like professional trip planners!  I am so blessed to have them in my life.  Thank you ladies for a fabulous surprise 40th birthday vacation . . . even if I hate whiskey, licorice, seafood and brassy jazz!  Winky face.
And some random funnies that are just not worth blogging, but will trigger my old lady memories in years to come . . .
*The one arm bandit in Pachuta!
*My mad DJ skillz . . . Cindy, you take Justin's part, and I got Jay-Z!  Uh. Uh.
*The gift left on the table at Tropical Isle . . . it kept on giving!
*The new and improved version of the song "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music!
*Cindy . . . did the magic happen yet?  No?  Too bad.
*Who doesn't love gator sausage on a stick and some turtle soup?  Uh, me.
*Andrea, SSSHHHH.
*Roll Tide or War Eagle - who won?
*Remember ladies, grandma is always around. 4:44

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  1. Beyoncé Beauvoir? Love it! Hilarious!

  2. Oh my goodness what an awesome trip!! You're friends are amazing!!!! Lucky girl you!

  3. Well that sounds like an action packed weekend!! Love NOLA!

  4. Love Beyonce Beauvoir! I'm a bit jealous of her to tell you the truth. Well, to be honest I'm jealous of the whole damn trip!! Sounds like so much fun!