New Orleans: Architecture.

I’ve been completely charmed by the beautiful and quirky houses that are all around the French Quarter, which we’ve walked through every day that we’ve been here.

So elegant – like doll’s houses.

New Orleans is famous for its ‘elegant decay’. The humidity, wooden building materials and rising and falling fortunes of the residents mean that there’s always a lot of buildings that are being reclaimed by nature or falling into disrepair. This leads to photo opportunities on nearly every block as the bright colours favoured by residents start to peel and fade.

Aged beauty.

Some people here go to astonishing efforts to decorate their houses seasonally. We’ve noticed some houses with a Fall theme and bowers of leaves and fruit and ribbons above the windows and doors.

Some of the houses remind me of Burano in Italy.

Mmmmm, blue.

Of course, they can’t all be winners. Apricot, white and navy? I don’t think so.


New Orlean: Swamp Tour!

I’ve made a couple of bad decisions today. One was having a 4 hour nap in the middle of the afternoon. So now it’s late at night and I can’t sleep. It’s amazing how many times I can do something, realise it is a mistake and then continue to do it over and over. Buying family sized blocks of chocolate and fully believing I can ration them over a week being another prime example. So now Luke is going to his well-earned rest and I’m wide awake, watching mouse-sized cockroaches scuttle across the kitchen floor. Hooray.

My other major error today, which I feel much worse about, is ordering the half-sized (full is for two people) seafood platter (platter is a flag word in terms of portion size… NTS!) at a restaurant that was described to us as having big portions by our bus driver this morning. He was half the size of a house so WHY DID I NOT LISTEN? Anyway, here’s a photo.

A seafood platter should not be entirely comprised of deep fried food >.< I felt a bit sick as soon as this landed in front of me. Note the size of Luke’s meal behind mine. Lucky bastard.

I ended up taking more than half away in a takeaway container because I felt so monumentally guilty about the wasted food but then it’s deep fried seafood so I threw it in the bin and now I have a wasted styrofoam box to add to my guilt. And it didn’t even taste that good. Hooray. To alleviate my guilt I’m not going to eat any meat for a week if I can avoid it, to atone for wasting all those fishy lives but especially for the soft shell crab. I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt especially sorry for crabs and the like.. the way they don’t just get caught and killed, they usually live all trussed up for a while before being boiled alive. No more crab for me, I think. No more unethical meat, actually – especially when I get home and can buy it for myself.

Anyhoo, what did we do today? We went on a swamp tour! On one of those boats with the giant fans on the back. Airboats, I believe they’re called. I have a thing about boats. I really love them. And the rockier and faster and more dangerous they appear the more I like them. Which makes no sense because I hate rollercoasters and anything else that involves speed and the possibility of any kind of injury, let alone drowning. But a top-heavy boat with no rudder in alligator infested waters? Where do I sign up?!

Awww yeeeeah. Sadly I did not get to drive it.

So we were picked up this morning by our very friendly driver, Chris, and taken to the place where the boats set off. It was $90 each for pick up and the 90 minute ride. We were lucky enough to be in a six person, rather than 16 person, boat. Our pilot/driver/swamp man was Mike. I couldn’t understand some of what he said but we’re getting kind of used to that down here.

That’s Mike… or, as we preferred to think of him ‘Bubba’, in the background.

After admiring the two albino alligators (which I kept calling crocodiles) in their indoor enclosure, we set off. There were about 10 boats but we all sent down different waterways and set about looking for alligators and turtles. We saw lots of each but I didn’t get any decent shots because I only have a wide angle lens. Luke got some good footage though, and the fun we had tearing around corners at high speed in the boat was much better on video than trying to capture it on camera.

We had two other girls from Melbourne on the boat and, unwisely for them, they made it clear that they were afraid of the alligators, even the tiny ones. So when Mike said he was getting a drink from the cooler but instead brought out a baby gator and put it on their shoulders they screamed mightily and much hilarity was had. I wasn’t fussed either way but I’ve learned, through teaching, how to deal with people like Mike. Look super keen and show no fear! So I held the baby and it was actually really nice to touch and not squirmy or slimy at all.

Almost caught some turtles but they tended to scuttle off when we approached.


Mike went to put it away but then put it on one of the girl’s heads.. I felt sorry for them but also thought it was funny. Life’s a game of chicken sometimes – if you show fear people can’t help pushing you for reactions.

We saw lots of turtles out sunning themselves but no photos (sorry Nikki!) and lots of birds. I found the moss-draped trees fascinating and we were told of giant rats – about the size of the ROUS’s  who live in the fire swamp in The Princess Bride. They’re an introduced species, designed to eat the water hyacinths but now the damage levees by digging holes under them and so hunters are paid by the tail to kill them. Sound familiar, Australia?

Quite a few homes back onto the swamp so there must be a lot of people who find gators in their yards and rattlesnakes are common too. I don’t know why Americans are so ‘OMG, life in Australia is so dangerous!’ when they have just as many deadly creatures here.

Our guide tried to catch a few live gators by hand but to no avail. The girls weren’t sorry though.

All in all, a fun trip. The most fun was holding the baby and then the bits where we went zooming down the waterways, cornering at an angle and spraying water everywhere. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re in the area, just try to time any visit to New Orleans for Spring/Autumn. Everyone agrees that the heat and bugs down here in Summer are atrocious.

I took hardly any photos but Luke got lots of video.


New Orleans: Food.

Much like everywhere else in the world, people here think they have a monopoly on excellent food. Honestly, with the exception of East Africa and Iceland, everywhere we’ve been has had a long, long list of must-try foods. Here it’s creole, a cuisine I know pretty much nothing about. I know there’s Caribbean and French influences and that many of the dishes grew out of poverty and necessity and there’s a lot of seafood to be had. But I couldn’t tell a jambalaya from gumbo a few days ago.

I’ve got a few friends who’ve been before and have given us recommendations. So far we’ve had:

1. Po’boys. We looked up where was good and headed to Johnny’s Po’boys in the French Quarter. I’ve been interested in trying these since I saw them on ‘Man versus Food’ and the Anthony Bourdain New Orleans special. A Po’boy is simply a white bread roll stuffed with a variety of fillings but they’re usually very messy. I got the roast beef ‘dressed’ – ie salad and mayo. Luke got the chicken parma. Both were enormous and reminded me that it is almost always better to order one serve and share than two and end up feeling over full. Deep fried battered shrimp is probably the most traditional filling. I wish I’d taken a photo… my roll was dripping with gravy and the meat was super tender. Some places grade their po’boys by how many napkins you need to use while eating them. Some threaten to need a napkin per bite!

2. Jambalaya and red beans and rice. On our second evening we stopped at a few jazz clubs and one served cheap, small plates of these two traditional favourites. I had the jambalaya, which is like a risotto with a tomato base and spicy sausage. Just at the right level of spiciness for my mild palate. Luke liked the red beans and rice which was pretty similar in appearance and also a bit spicy. Very easy to eat and perfect food to go with drinking.

3. Beignets. This afternoon on our walk home we stopped in at the famous Cafe Du Monde for these pastry treats. Deep fried squares of pastry covered with a mountain of icing sugar. I almost pretended to sneeze on Luke when he took his last bite… that would teach him for wearing lots of black.

Aaa…aaaa… CHOO!

The beignets were delicious but the cafe itself was nothing special. Lots of tiny tables crammed in together – but a good spot for people watching. Just don’t accidentally sit down on an icing-sugared chair.

4. Burritos! Mexican food has always appealed to me but I know that in Australia we don’t get the real deal. We ate a place called Juan’s Flying Burrito on Magazine St for brunch today and it was fantastic. Not completely Mexican, it had creole influences and I had pulled pork with a pineapple salsa. It was amazing. Highly recommend it for anyone reading this and planning on visiting NO.

An excerpt from their menu. I had the Al Pastor.

That’s it for our eating adventures so far. Apologies for the lack/quality of photos. We’ve been leaving every meal so late that by the time we’re ready to eat we’re too hungry to wait. More soon!

New Orleans

Our last day in New York had seen temperatures below zero, so we weren’t all that sorry to be flying south. We’d booked cheap flights with American Airways and were detouring via Washington, which still only meant we spent three hours in the air, which wasn’t too bad.

A few notes on our flying experience. This time we did have to take off our shoes and go through those body scanning machines – our first time. It seems a trifle strange that we have to do this for internal flights and not coming into the country. It sort of suggests that they think the terrorists are already here. Our transfer between flights was the shortest I’ve ever had – we literally walked off one plane and our next flight was already boarding at the gate next door. There was time to go to the toilet and that was it. Cutting it a bit close! Apart from that it wasn’t a bad experience. I always read about people having terrible times in domestic US flights but we had no problems. I was just glad I didn’t wear my 14 hole boots. They take about 15 minutes to get off and put on.

Our taxi driver from the airport was the most talkative yet – an older guy from Vietnam. We could hardly understand anything he said but he was very keen to say it. Telling us the area we were staying in was good and all about his family who live in Springvale in Melbourne. Almost everyone we’ve met around the world knows someone from Melbourne, or so it seems.

Our deluxe accommodation. It looks just as grand on the inside, don’t worry.

We’re staying in an Airbnb house that is supposed to be shared but the guy who lives here is away and there’s no one else staying here so we have to it ourselves. Which is just as well because the room we’re in is adjacent to the kitchen and we’d have people walking through it. The house is pretty old, with peeling paint and looks like nothing has been fixed, ever. It’s got a claw-footed bath, which is nice, but the water doesn’t drain properly and by the end of a shower it’s a quarter full. In the fact the whole place sort of feels like it was recently abandoned by a hoard of first year students. And the front rooms smell very strongly of dogs. Oh well. It’s cheap and we can spread our stuff out and the kitchen’s clean.

After a girl who looked about 15 and was carrying a baby let us in and explained everything we walked a few blocks to a bar called ‘Port of Call’. The vibe was laid back, the music wasn’t too loud and the menu was simple – enormous cocktails with a tropical theme and burgers with baked potatoes. When you order burgers here you often get asked how you want them cooked – like streak. It’s a nice touch but I can’t bring myself to eat pink burger mince. Not yet, anyhow.

The guy behind the bar had an accent like Sam from ‘True Blood’ and was really friendly. He even ended up showing us photos of his dog and an amazing ‘epic meal time’ style construction he’d made of a football pitch and stadium that was made of dip and sausages and meat sticks… it’s a bit hard to explain but we were very impressed. At the end of the night they almost under charged us by about $60 but we pointed it out and the manager gave us a cocktail for free, which was nice. We staggered home and I felt rather sorry for myself the next morning. Lesson learned – you can’t turn your back on New Orleans.

The next day we walked down Frenchman Street and through the French Quarter. All I know about New Orleans I learned from Anne Rice books so I know there’s areas with big mansions, the cemeteries are above ground and voodoo and swamps and all that stuff. So not much, really. Our area looks like an outback Australian town – lots of weatherboard and broken down cars. But then it also kind of looks like Priscilla had swept through and so lots of houses are painted really brightly and there’s mardi gras beads hanging from doorknobs and railings. It’s quite charming.

Beads everywhere!

Although we’ve been warned about the streets being dangerous we’ve not seen anything untoward as yet and I’ve only heard one siren, which is a nice change from New York. People say ‘Hi’…or rather ‘How y’all doin?’ when we walk past and the lady at the supermarket somehow managed to use the word ‘darlin’ 50 times in the space of two minutes.

Speaking of shopping, we went into a pharmacy and were taken aback by the fact that the first thing we saw upon entering was an enormous row of alcohol and bottles much bigger than you get at home. There were two litre bottles of Smirnoff for $20! But… in a pharmacy. Not something I’ve seen anywhere else around the world. Only in America?

A super stylish old car in our street.