Tuesday, March 5, 2019

NOLA Road Trip Pt. 1

One thing to note about our trip to New Orleans is that we didn't actually go ON Mardi Gras. We went a couple of weeks beforehand during Carnival season. As a result, we got to see one of the most popular Mardi Gras parades and still enjoy in all of the festivities at a much lower price. Travel expenses go up considerably in the days surrounding Mardi Gras. Going beforehand saved us A LOT of money. The city was still bustling, much more than usual we're told, so we still got a great pre-Mardi Gras experience.

Now, onto our adventures. We only had two full days in New Orleans, so we fit in as much as we could. Over a month ago, I booked tickets for a swamp/bayou tour with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours. It was an easy half hour outside of the city. It was a peaceful drive for our early morning wake up call. I was slightly disappointed to see gray skies, but don't let it fool you. It was 100% humidity and high 70's. 

Random chickens and roosters in the neighborhoods. The roosters woke us up every morning (and halfway through the night).

We got in a quick history lesson before boarding our boat.

Our swamp tour was interesting to say the least. Firstly, it was everything I hoped from a bayou tour. We learned about swamp life, wildlife in the swamp, the history, and so much more. However, both Hubs and myself were very bothered by how they baited the wildlife. Keep in mind, all of our swamp or wildlife tours up to this point have been within a National Park or wildlife refuge. This area was not in either of those categories. This was just swamp land. As soon as the raccoons (and even some of the gators) and birds heard the boat coming they gathered along the banks. Sure enough, our guide threw the animals marshmallows, a feed mix specifically for the raccoons, squirrels, and birds.

After learning a lot about the dangers of feeding wildlife and their dependency on humans, this really got under our skin. However, it went along with learning about swamp life. As our guide was feeding the animals, he spoke about what licensing he had to keep with the state, how they trapped crawfish, and his way of life in general. Overall it was very informative.

I wasn't counting on seeing as much wildlife as we did. After our swamp tour through Everglades National Park last March (read about that here) I have seen plenty of alligators. We saw numerous alligators (only small ones compared to the 8+ ft. in Florida), raccoons, birds, turtles, snakes, and more. We were unsuccessful in spotting the wild boar that apparently roams the swamp.

My two favorite parts of the swamp tour: hearing the ins and outs of the swamp ghost tours (and exactly how they make them scary) and the old, historic shack that sits on the swamp. Between the gray day and the stillness of the swamp, it was how I pictured the bayou.

So I held an alligator. Nothing eventful while I held it. I could feel it breathing and it's skin felt odd. The next person that held it was a different story. The alligator went crazy, bucking itself around until it finally peed all over the woman holding it. I was sooooo thankful that wasn't me because I would have not handled it with grace!

Our next stop was a half hour further still to Oak Alley Plantation. There were numerous plantations we could have visited along River Road (or as I called it, Plantation Row). This one caught my eye because of the gorgeous oak trees on the plantation. We loved touring the main house, but our ultimate favorite was the restaurant on the plantation. We had failed to eat breakfast (quite honestly, we were still full from our late night beignet binge at Cafe Du Monde) so we were quite excited to end our morning of tours with a big lunch in a gorgeous setting.

This flower pot was once used to boil the sugar cane.

Slave quarters

The oddest thing to us about this is how it appeared there were other houses on the plantation property. No, no, those were private residences that were right by the main house. I can only imagine how many people wander onto their properties accidentally. 

This huge meal so we could try it all: smoked sausage po-boy, red beans and rice, chicken and andoulle gumbo, and crawfish etouffee.

We rested for a bit at our apartment (for the weekend) before Ubering back to the French Quarter. We did some shopping in the cute shops on Royal, snagged our souvenirs for the minis (including a NOPD shirt for the middle mini), and got our place for our first Mardi Gras parade.

We had (that being the big word here) the ultimate spot for parade viewing, however, we severely underestimated what time the parade would get to us (apparently it was a long parade). We waited for an hour and then hunger got the best of us (and my need for a drink). We ended up on nearby Bourbon street for patio drinks and dinner. We finished up just in time to see the parade, even though we were totally in the back this time. Dinner was worth it!

Krewe du Vieux Carre was hilarious and completely our type of parade!

Things got interesting after the parade. We hit up Old Absinthe House (where I had my first and probably last, taste of absinthe) and a few other bars. Bourbon Street reminded me of my college party days: a crowd of people mostly drunk, randomly dancing in the street, and being everyone's best friend. It. Was. So. Much. Fun. 


The night Bourbon Street got the best of me....I couldn't figure out how to drink AND eat my pizza. I had several other people pass by me and share in my predicament.

Ending the night with patio beers. This patio at our Airbnb was my favorite thing! We absolutely loved our hosts and getting to know them. One of my favorite things about staying at Airbnb is communicating with our hosts and taking their suggestions. Nothing beats all of the local places. I look at it as exclusive insider info for the best of the places we visit.