My 1st trip to New Orleans was in the summer of 2003. I drove 11 kids ages 16 to 10, picked up Master Tania's son at UF who had just turned 21, and stayed in 1 hotel room on the outskirts of New Orleans for 2 nights. There was a taekwondo tournament (over the years I did many crazy things for the love of TKD, it was a national tournament and big names in the TKD community were competing there. We drove there to watch.
On the way we had to drive through Alabama and Mississippi. This trip was taken on Dale's 15th birthday, and his mom sent turkey legs and other foods for us., which we ate at a rest stop in Mississippi. I made really good time, and was delaying getting to the hotel until it was dark. To say this was one of my crazier ideas is an understatement. They watched movies in the van while I drove and listened, and they watched movies in the hotel room when it was late (this was the best way to keep all these athletes quiet(ish). None of us had a lot of money, and I'm really frugal and good at finding inexpensive adventures. The kids made me crazy, but I'd do it all over again. I am so proud of these men and women and am in touch with most of them still today. Everywhere we travel I insist on doing something local so we did my first of many ghost tours, Meghan being the youngest fell asleep on Dale's shoulders. Luchmy (who just became a dad and served our country) ran from a rat, which caused other, bigger guys to take off running - in the dark, away from me. Hilarious doesn't even touch that memory - Meghan and I still laugh about it! Imagine walking the streets of New Orleans, in the day and the night, with 12 (the 21 year old was more like one of the kids) kids of all different nationalities. Haitian, Jamaican, Venezuelan, Colombian, Cuban, and American and me... We all travelled to many places over the years, sometimes just the grocery store, and people didn't know whether to stare and be afraid (because they usually had TKD jackets on and looked like a weird gang), or laugh at me, but they were always trying to figure us out. I love keeping people guessing!
I have always felt safe in this city. Yes, with a bunch of black belts there is a sense of security, but I've been with my children, I've been alone, and I have NEVER felt threatened. I'm not on the streets at 3am, and I don't wander into places where I don't belong. I have found so many restaurants that I love, and am still upset that Poppy's on the River closed - they had awesome Muffulettas! On this trip, I did not go to Pat O'Brien's, I did not drink (when I travel I like to make sure I have all my senses - most of the time), I did walk down Bourbon St. with the kids in the middle of the day. We had a great time, stayed together (not an easy task), and I did think about leaving Bridget in a restaurant, and wanted to strangle Stephanie for not sitting down when I was driving on I-95 in the rain, but they were 13, so it's understandable. Right?
Anyway, I digress. I called Steve, while walking down Decatur St. in the French Market, and told him that this city is beautiful, the architecture magnificent, the history incredible, and we must come back - ooh, and the food!!!! That was the beginning of my love affair with New Orleans. We spent 2 days at the Convention Center and walking around, I took hundreds of pictures, and as much as I loved New Orleans, I never dreamed it would find its way into my soul the way it has.
About an hour away from the Hollywood PAL where we took TKD, I called Steve and told him to meet us there with all the other parents (it was about 9pm). He said "why, aren't you coming home, too, can't you bring Meghan?". My response was "I don't know, but I don't want to be in the same car with her for another minute." To say I was exhausted (16 hour drive), exasperated (HELLO! 11 kids!), and desperate for 5 minutes alone, would be an understatement!
Laissez le bon temps rouler!
Beignets and cafe au lait!