A scent you wish you could forget

October 6, 2011
Saturday morning we left Las Vegas and arrived in New Orleans late afternoon. The flight out was pretty uneventful, most notable thing was I was sandwiched in the middle the seat and I sported so much cleavage while reading my book I felt like I got an instant boob job. Downside was a killer back ache.

We were afraid of the weather - hot, humid, rain or hurricanes were likely - but it was beautiful! Every. Single. Day. It never rained, humidity was low and the temperatures were just right. We really lucked out.

My friend, Andie, was a sweetheart and picked us up, we weren't sure we were in the right spot, but we found her quickly. She began our tour, first stop was the spillway, we passed oil refineries and we had our first swamp sighting on the way. The spillway is similar to our flood channels only on a much grander scale.

We were starved so we made a pit stop at the Seafood Pot. Drive-thru daiquiris kill me, but they're apparently the norm in NOLA. We resisted the temptation, and stuck with a couple of po-boys. We tried the catfish and crab cake, both "dressed" with mayo, tomato and lettuce. We also shared an order of sweet potato fries. Andie was good and stuck with boiled shrimp salad.

It was our first time having catfish, it was tastier than I'd expect. My crab cakes were heavy on the mayo, but otherwise good. We were big fans of the bread. It was sturdy, yet light and airy.

Bellies full, Andie took us to her house. Scott was home with Andrew. At 6 weeks old, Andrew was totally into football, never too young to start! Lovely home and even more lovely family. We pressed on, I didn't want to check into our hotel too late for fear of getting whatever happened to be left, rather than the king we reserved. We saw two plantations: Ormond and Destrehan. Since Andie was a tour guide years ago she filled us in on details usually provided on the paid tour.

Ormond's architecture is the French West Indies style. It first produced indigo, then became a sugar plantation. Today, it's a bed & breakfast and the setting for many weddings.

Oh! And the oak trees? They are beautiful! Even with all the Spanish moss.

Destrehan Plantation is an antebellum Greek Revival house built by a free man of color, beginning in 1787. It was originally intended as an indigo plantation, but it later became the leader in sugar production. Old refineries and an old legend that Jean Lafitte had hidden treasure in the house led to the manor's demise. American Oil later donated the property to the Historical Society. They have restored it and operate tours today.

After the plantations Andie took us into the city, specifically Uptown. We went by the zoo, Loyola and Tulane. Then we cut over to Magazine Street, which was having an some sort of Art Open House. The homes were lovely and I admired all the iron work as we drove by. And the porches, wow. Restaurants and bars had open patios which was unexpected, I thought the weather would keep people indoors, but I was wrong. Outdoor patio dining was abundant all over the city. We crossed the Central Business District and I found a peculiar building I took a liking to that resembles (IMO) and air-traffic control tower - I later snapped a photo, and learned the building has been closed for some time.

I've since researched it and it is the Plaza Tower. It's the third largest tower in NOLA. It was built as residences and office space, but the building's been sealed off and unused since 2002. The culprit? Toxic mold and asbestos. Leave it to me to find the "gem" of the bunch. Eh, at least it's not just Las Vegas with useless real estate just waiting to be unloaded.

Andie finished our tour by dropping us off at our hotel, Prince Conti. It's about a 1/2 block from Bourbon St and it is very affordable. Accommodations were comfortable given the price, all except the pillows, that is. They're in desperate need of replacement. We unpacked and relaxed a bit before heading out.

I'm glad we did. Bourbon Street was a madhouse. This was just Saturday night, I cannot imagine what Mardi Gras must be like. We walked toward Canal St and we quickly learned that the sidewalks are a death-trap, or at the very least a good way to break an ankle or lower limb. I spent the rest of the trip watching my feet to be sure each step was a safe one. Coming back down Bourbon St we caught the first good whiff of the nasty stank that permeates the air. It's an unwelcomed blend of vomit, hard alcohol and bleach. We'd soon learn the bleach stench was stronger during the day and the vomit rank dominated the night.

Between the crowds and the smell we wanted off Bourbon Street. We wandered for a convenience store to buy water. It proved to be far more difficult than I imagined. Finally, we found one on Dauphine/Toulouse. $2.50 bottle of Smart Water seemed anything but at that moment, but I was parched and didn't much care.

With hydration out of the way, it was time for sustenance. We went to Coops Place on Decatur. The walk over was filled with colorful characters. One wanted to arm wrestle Frank for a dollar. No one asked us about our shoes, to our dismay. We walked into the restaurant, but we were promptly snapped at and told to wait in line outside. "Okay, sorry." Since there wasn't one, we started it. Crowds draw crowds and soon we were very thankful that we had good timing. We snagged a table squished along the back wall. Coops is known for Jambalaya and it was the single most dish I looked forward to. I've only known what I make at home with Zatarain's and I yearned for the real thing. I ordered the taste plate which comes with a cup of Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp Creole, Cajun Fried Chicken, Red Beans & Rice with Sausage, and Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya. Frank had the Cajun Fried Chicken, their other famous, possibly more famous, menu item. We washed it all down with Abita Amber, which became a quick favorite.

It was dark so the only food photo that resembled food was the seafood gumbo. Which was tasty with okra, shrimp, crabclaw, and oyster.

It was a great surprise that I hated the Jambalaya. It wasn't the rabbit or sausage I disliked it was the rice itself, it was mush. Suddenly, my world was turned upside-down, because I liked the red beans and rice. A dish I was sure I would not like. It is only been with minestrone soup that I'll tolerate beans. Any other preparation, type or whatever, no bueno! Red beans and rice are good! The rice and sausage hide the texure I don't like and the seasonings are powerful enough to give it flavor. Chicken is my least favorite protein, I'm not particularly fond of meat on the bone, but I can enjoy it if the meat it tasty enough to make it worthwhile - BBQ ribs, bone-in pork or steak, lamb chops. Chicken tenders and boneless buffalo wings are my pick for fried cluckers. I have no wide experience with fried chicken, but Coops was very good. The breading was flavorful and it seasoned the juicy chicken meat down to the bone, not just the skin. Shrimp Creole was new to me and I liked it best, it's simple enough with shrimp in a spicy sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, green peppers, and seasonings. Served over rice.

After dinner, we walked the Quarter a bit before settling on an empty-ish bar on Bourbon Street. No gimmicks, just a bar with beer on tap. Our kind of place. Frank went with LA-31 Bière Pâle and I had Abita's Golden. Good stuff. We thought we'd bar hop a bit, but we never came upon another one that grabbed us. We were over the crowds (we get enough of those at home) and my ankle was crying out for ice, so we went back to the hotel and called it a night.


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