The Big Easy

Wow.  What a trip! It was my first time experiencing the high energy of New Orleans and we left the city with a Ravens victory to boot. Our trips were staggered.  Michael had already arrived in the city when Whitney and I landed on Friday and Mom landed on Sunday, directly from an event in Chicago.  We flew on a JetBlue flight, specifically added to take Ravens fans to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, so our flight was filled with people wearing purple and full of excitement. When we left Baltimore that morning, it was snowing, with concern that we would be delayed, but we were welcomed to New Orleans with 65 degree weather and not a cloud in sight. Whitney and I checked in and immediately set out on foot to explore the city.  First up: Cafe du Monde, the French cafe known for its chicory and beignets.

We walked out of our hotel and down Canal Street, past shops selling Super Bowl merchandise and open air cafes.  Turning down Decatur Street, we saw Mardi Gras beads and restaurants, but there were few things that could derail our travels to deliciousness.  The one thing that did stop us in our tracks was a store with an entire wall dedicated to hot sauce.  With names not suitable for posting, we picked up a few souvenirs including feather masks and chicory.  Onward!

hot sauce

The streets of New Orleans were overflowing with visitors. The bars and cafes alike held the same number of people, even early in the morning. The town has a party vibe, which I can only imagine increases during Mardi Gras and the Jazz festivals for which the city is best known.

ESPN and CBS booths lined the bank of the Mississippi, with fans waving and holding signs while the shows streamed live to television viewers all over the country.  Open air markets and vendors selling art lined a square across Decatur from the television booths. Horse drawn carriages (although most were donkey's) waited to take passengers to the local sights (FYI- all over New Orleans, the dead are buried in mausoleums.  The city sits below sea level and if buried in the ground with a grave stone, the caskets would float away during heavy rain storms and flooding. Our driver shared with us the fact that during heavy rains, before a burial, the casket will sit atop the mausoleum post-funeral until the round dries out enough to bury the dead.)

red shoes

NOLA street NOLA house

The homes are beautiful and tall, with Spanish moss trees covering the front lawns.  Most of our time was spent in the French Quarter and the surrounding areas, but were told that when we come back, we need to venture out and explore the bed & breakfast spots around Louisiana.  For the weekend, most of us abandoned our calorie counting and enjoyed the authentic local foods, including gumbo, beignets and sweet potato pie.  Whitney and I found a table at Cafe du Monde and throughly enjoyed the beignets.  After they delivered them to our table, we were happy that we agreed to share -- there was no less than one-pound of powdered sugar on top of the fried dough (Beignets are best described as a cross between a doughnut and a funnel cake). When we went back on Sunday, to pick some up for Mom who was on a plane headed for NOLA, we were happy we went on Friday, as the line stretched out the door and down the block.  Sorry Mom!

whit and hil

beignets cafe du monde

The city is incredible and the family bonding was fun. The Super Bowl itself? More on that and the Ravens victory tomorrow.  What an experience!