Visit from Robin and Leaving NOLA

Visit from Robin and Leaving NOLA

March 14th through 23rd, 2024

We were only going to stay for three weeks in New Orleans, Louisiana ("NOLA") but we liked it so much we extended our stay another two weeks. Our friend Robin was joining us for a long weekend to hang out and see the sights. We had a lot planned.

The craziest thing about our site was you could look down our street and see a levee about four blocks away at the end of the road. We walked up to the top of it to see the Mississippi River on the other side. It was a new and very interesting experience! New Orleans is often below sea level, and levees are one way to keep the water out. They are also constantly pumping water out and back into the rivers and Lake Pontchartrain.

Our first trip was to see some plantations -- some of the most well-known locations are just outside of New Orleans. We read about all of them first, and it seemed they ranged from tours of beautiful houses with little to no mention of the slavery that supported them, all the way to others that don't gloss that over. After this careful consideration and our desire to be respectful and actually learn something, we decided to go to the Laura Plantation.

The drive there was beautiful as we rolled along a road right next to the Mississippi heading west. Huge oak trees covered in Spanish Moss are everywhere, including at our campground, but these were especially old and lovely. We joined a tour of the plantation, and we first went to the big house.

It was definitely cool to see how so much of the old house was still doing well. It was very interesting to see how they lived. And it was nice to get out of the heat and high humidity for a minute.

A highlight was the gardens filled with flowers and greenery. The land around the buildings was beautiful. But it was very sobering to see the slaves' cabins. You could see many layers of paint, and we were able to sit on benches inside one of the cabins to reflect on a painful time in our country's history. Margot and I try to put ourselves in others' shoes as much as we can, to learn about how different people have had different experiences. The South has a lot of this history, and we have a lot to learn.

After the plantation we decided we'd find an early dinner. We found a restaurant that was at a different plantation, the Houmas House. We made reservations online at The Carriage House Restaurant and expected to just park and walk in. But it turned out the restaurant was on the other side of the plantation grounds. It may have been a mile away. And everything in between was absolutely beautiful. We really lucked out! We got to see the gorgeous surroundings around the restaurant, and then have dinner in a very fancy place without having to get dressed up. Too fun!

The next day, we wanted to really see New Orleans. We did that by riding the Hop-On Hop-Off double-decker bus through the city. We spent a lot of the day on the open, top deck just riding around. But first, we took the Saint Charles Streetcar through a gorgeous part of town -- though the whole town is pretty gorgeous. The ride was awesome, even though it rained like crazy toward the end of the day. Luckily, the HOHO provided ponchos.

We love these "HOHO" rides because you can get on and off whenever you want, or just ride around and see the sights from your seat. This would be the start of a new tradition for us.

Robin could have visited us any time, but she chose that weekend specifically to go to the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Parade. New Orleans is famous for many things, but its parades are up at the top of the list. We had been buying green things to wear for weeks, and we put it all on to go experience it. We had a nice lunch at a Thai place first, and then walked over to the parade route.

We realized after getting there that we should have loaded our wagon up with snacks, drinks, chairs and something to shade us. That's what the experienced parade goers did. But we were able to find a high curb in the shade and that's where we hung out. You're standing most of the time, anyway.

There were Jeeps at the start, and lots of guys walking in the parade. The guys were all dressed up, and many were in kilts. They would give you a paper flower for an air kiss next to your ear. It was a weird thing, but we got into it and collected many flowers.

There were many floats, of course, all blaring fun music and turning it into a party. They all had different "throws" and Margot was coveting a few of them. Yes, you could get all the beads you could possibly want -- and we did. We were wearing so many beads it was getting heavy. Some beads were fancier than others, and we tried to get those. There were also stuffed animals, toys, bubbles, snacks, and other things you could get -- along with cabbage and potatoes. We saw locals out there with bags just collecting food. It was crazy at times, and so fun.

It wasn't a parade like we were expecting, with big floats made with flowers. It was mostly trucks with two stories of people throwing things to you. After the parade, we walked to get some lunch at a cool little pub.

The next day, we had tickets to go out to an island in the Gulf. We couldn't wait! But the weather promised to be bad again, so they cancelled it. We still wanted to see that area, so we headed east into Mississippi. We stopped in Gulfport to get lunch, and it had amazing views of the Gulf. We enjoyed just looking out and daydreaming.

The food was also very good at Shaggy's. We had been eating vegan for a while, but we wanted to try Gulf shrimp at the actual Gulf. We ordered a plate of peel-and-eat royal red shrimp, and they were the best we'd ever tasted. They didn't even taste like regular shrimp. We miss those shrimp!

We also went to see the Gulf Islands National Seashore while we were nearby. We were supposed to see Ship Island before they cancelled the tour, and we still wanted a glimpse. It was awesome just walking around.

Robin couldn't stay forever so we took her to the airport, and she headed back home. It was a great visit! We still had a couple weeks left to explore New Orleans, though. First on our list was the U.S. Causeway, a crazy bridge that cuts right through the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, the big lake just north of New Orleans. It's the longest bridge in the world over water, a long, straight 24 miles to the other side.

This time, it was about the journey and not the destination -- the other side is a suburban town where we grabbed some food in a strip mall. But what a crazy journey! How did they do it? And why didn't we see any boats in that huge lake? Well, the lake is about ten feet deep. What a weird lake.

We'd seen a lot of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve already (see our previous post about NOLA), but we had one more visitor center to visit. This one was the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, and we made sure to visit when they were performing live Cajun music. We got to see two very talented and nationally recognized musicians play, and it was very special.

Before we left, we went down to the French Quarter again to visit the New Orleans Jazz National Park. There wasn't much to it, and it was in the same building as another location for Jean Lafitte, the French Quarter Visitor Center. It was still nice to be down there and walking around. We went to the Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and just got our steps in. When we got home, we took Lacey to a lovely dog park and enjoyed the sunset.

There is just so much to see and do in southern Louisiana. This stay was a memorable one, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Though we were exhausted! And we'd do it all over again.

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