Tuesday, April 8, 2014

new orleans :: part 1

Ok so I lied... and It actually did take me about a month to finally get around to posting these. But for once it wasn't just that I hadn't had time to work on the pictures, there were just so many other things going on in my life to post about, so these got pushed back. Anyway, with Pat just returning last night from another business trip in New Orleans, I felt that now is as good a time as any to get these bad boys posted. So, without further adieu, here are all of our adventures in The Big Easy (split in to three parts). 

New Orleans is one of those cities I have just always wanted to go to without knowing all that much about it aside from history. When I found out that Pat was going to be sent there for NBA All Star in February, I decided that now was our chance, and convinced him to stay a few extra days so that we could explore the city together. 

friday (2/17) :: night 1
I spent pretty much the entire day traveling from RDM>PDX>DEN>MSY where I finally landed around 10:30pm, called a cab, and was on my way to the hotel. Lets just say that my flying experiences, particularly my super short layover in Denver, were not all that enjoyable. Whoever thought that it would be a good idea to board 5 or more flights at once from the same tiny terminal really needs to get their head looked at. Anyway, once I landed Pat had already been out with some coworkers celebrating the end of the NBA All Star event (which is why he had been in NOLA for a over a week), so it was up to me to get to him. I was greeted at the hotel by a very excited (and intoxicated) Pat, and several of his work friends that I know. I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so checked in, ran my things up to our hotel room, changed and freshened up quickly, and we were on our way to Bourbon Street where the rest of the shenanigans had been going on that evening.

[[ leaving rdm! ]]

Bourbon street... now that is an interesting place... It is kind of like a small, dirtier (yes, dirtier) Vegas. Think lots of neon, alcoholic smoothie stands, drunken idiots around every corner, bars luring you to come in and spend your money on overpriced vodka water, strip clubs, and noticeable prostitutes, (which was interesting). There is even a decent sized casino up the street. I say dirtier because a lot of money has gone in to the spectacle that is Las Vegas, Bourbon street, not so much.

Anyway, we found the rest of Pat's friends, I promptly grabbed my first overpriced vodka water, and began playing catch up because after-all why not, I was in NOLA? We danced, we drank, we were silly, at once point this singer even dragged me on stage to try to get me to "twerk" to some Miley Cyrus song. What happens in NOLA? Eventually we said goodnight and me and Pat headed back to our hotel, which was only a few blocks outside of The Quarter in the business district.

[[ our first night out on bourbon street. the crazy fog that rolled in every night! art galley by our hotel with interesting quotes. our cute little hotel room. ]]

saturday (2/18) :: day 1
We woke up pretty late the next morning after staying out super late the night before, and were really slow to get going. I looked out the window at the city and was excited to go exploring and have my first meal. Pat, who had already been on his feet for a week was a little less enthused, though he was glad to have me there and be done working for a few days.

Excited for sunshine I donned some shorts for the first time in several months and we headed out in to the humid air for the first restaurant on my list, Cochon (which incidentally is attached to Butcher, where I had intended to go instead, but we made it there later). On the walk I was instantly charmed by the older buildings in the area and cobble stone streets. At the time I did not realize how mixed in everything is and thought it was crazy how much the old and new were married together throughout our short walk.

[[ sweet old brick buildings mixed in to the more modern ones. buildings on the street looked nice and got crummier the further back they went. combat boots were an excellent choice. cast iron balconies. ]]

We ordered several things off the menu that sounded unique and braced ourselves. The oysters were amazing! I am not normally an oyster lover at all, but there is definitely something about the Louisiana oysters that is different than what we have going on up here. They are usually on the smaller side, like Kumomotos, but less than half the price. Whatever they had seasoned theirs with at Cochon was amazing, absolutely my favorite part of the meal. Aside from oysters, we ordered some short ribs, macaroni, and these little fried balls that I honestly can't remember what were made out of. Everything was really spicy! For me anyway, Pat seemed to be fine, but I was barely able to eat any of it unfortunately. I eventually got my fill of macaroni though in between large gulps of water.

[[ lunch at cochon: macaroni and cheese. short ribs. the best oysters ever. ]]

Once we had full bellies, we walked back towards our hotel to the French Quarter, which I was extremely excited to see in person. I loved looking at all of the old exposed bricks, cast iron railings, and shuttered windows. Even the more modern businesses were taking advantage of the old architecture as pretty much every single building in the city is historic. We didn't get too far in our exploration before I found a line of antique stores whose windows were littered with old French treasures, nothing like our antique stores here. We went in to one selling primarily chandeliers, and then I found M.S. Raus, which I had written down ahead of time as a must see.

It turned out that this particular antique store was worth the hype. It was essentially like stepping in to The Met, but being able to actually interact with things. A very nice and knowledgable historian working there even introduced us to some truly unique items and allowed us to touch them/make them work/play with them, which I was not expecting. There was one item in particular, a simple looking desk that turned out to be an amazing piece of design. We turned a key to the left which opened a drawer like most modern desks, but when turning the key more forcefully to the right it opened up a series of secret compartments. I wish I had gotten pictures of it all opened up, but I just wasn't thinking. Take a look at some of the crazy things they had in there!

[[ chandeliers for days. beautiful music boxes. trophies. tiffany silverware sets. stationary. intricate barware sets. early iron age bronze spearhead circa 1000 bc. winston churchhill's cuban cigar circa 1880. astronomy globe. german beer steins. game set.  fossilized dinosaur egg. clock garniture set circa 1880. rembrandt etching, "joseph telling his dreams". chinese ivory chess set circa 1920. oversized ornate pool table. japanese ivory tusk fully carved in amazing detail. music machine designed by the us government as one of the "eight great inventions" of the decade for the world's fair. french letters ordering an arrest. bear skeleton. cast iron stove/oven. french renaissance sideboard circa 1580. trick desk i described earlier. robertson crusoe sideboard depicting the story in amazing detail. the vatican mosaic which is a full sized replica of what was once on one of the vatican walls. ]]

After close to two hours we finally left the antique store and went on to explore The Quarter further. By now I was in the mood for a snack and we were right by St. Jackson's Square so we made our way across the street to Cafe Du Monde which is famous for its coffee with chicory and beignets. It took me almost the entire trip to realize that the chicory is what gives coffee in Louisiana its chocolatey flavor. I did a little research (because I wanted to know what the heck it was) and found out that it is some sort of a root that Native Americans used, and soldiers in the Civil War started putting it in their coffee to make it taste more bearable and increase the portion sizes of their rations. Anyway, its delicious. The "Cafe" was absolutely packed, but luckily there is a little window where you can order to go, so I got a coffee and a bag with six beignets in it, and we walked across the street to St. Jackson's Square Park, grabbed a bench, and enjoyed our snack. Damn those things are good! I could have eaten all six right there, but I restrained myself and only had one, and a bite or two of Pat's second. They are sort of like a cake doughnut, and sort of like a Belgian pancake absolutely covered in powdered sugar.

In terms of Jackson's Square itself... It was pretty cool to be standing in front of the large cathedral which, as far as I can tell, has been standing there since before the Spanish took over the French Rule of New Orleans. So, a really really long time ago, like late 1700's ago.

[[ st. jackson's square. the cathedral. delicious beignets from cafe du monde! ]]

After our snack we continued to explore various shops and bars around The Quarter until we (especially Pat) needed to get off of our feet. One thing I read before going to NOLA, which is probably some of the best advice I have ever gotten, was DO NOT under any circumstance wear open toed shoes in the French Quarter. Because of that remark in one of the blogs I read before coming, I made sure to pack a pair of comfy combat boots, which thankfully, I was wearing at the time. New Orleans, particularly The French Quarter area is one of the dirties places I have ever experienced in my life. I am talking stagnant puddles of who knows what everywhere and horrible smells coming up, probably from the puddles, at random. Assuming everything wet was not water, I did my best to avoid all traces of liquid in the street, which is tough when you are walking on uneven cobblestones from time to time. 

One of the more interesting places we stopped by was Layette's Black Smith Shop, which is supposed to be the oldest standing bar in the entire country, originally utilized as a pirate hangout, I think when New Orleans was under Spanish rule. It is really just a dive bar now, but the original structure still stands, fireplace and all, making it a unique place to check out. Also, for some reason, there was a man with a shetland pony outside on a leash as if it was a dog. So that was neat.

To rest our feet we went in to Hotel Monteleone because I wanted to check out their Carousel Bar that had a revolving carousel in it, go figure. It was admittedly a little less grand than expected, for example you are really just sitting on chairs revolving in a slow circle every 15 minutes, but it was still a fun experience with delicious (though expectantly pricy) cocktails. We stayed for two drinks and a few rotations and then left for St. Lawrence which is a little cafe type of restaurant that had a large beer list and looked pretty cool. Basically I took Pat to the one hipster hangout in the area, surprise surprise.

[[ layette's black smith shop. lanterns use real flames. pony?! hotel monteleone. old horse tie ups. carousel bar. drinks before dinner at st. lawrence. ]]

saturday (2/18) :: night 2
By this time we were getting pretty damn hungry, and Pat said that he wanted seafood, so I checked my map and suggested that we go to Peche in the business district, which I had read about from a traveling photographer. I thought the atmosphere was really nice and the food was delicious!! I tried catfish for the first time, which was served with rice and a really hearty red sauce of some kind. I ate the entire thing. Like, a lot of food. We also got corn bread and brussel sprouts to go with our meals. Pat ordered a shrimp po boy, which he didn't like because he admittedly does not like po boys... Why he ordered one is beyond me, but I shared some of my dinner with him, and for the record, as far as fried seafood covered in mayo on white bread goes, I thought his sandwich was pretty good, though I don't really get their initial appeal either. We left the restaurant extremely full, a bit tipsy, and ready for bed. 

[[ peche: decor. shrimp po boy. my catfish. ]]

[[ back at the hotel after surviving day 1. ]]