The 2nd time I went to New Orleans was July 2005, on my way to Colorado Springs for a martial arts competition with Meghan, Stephanie, and Edwin. We stopped in the morning after a very hot sleep in Bay St. Louis, MS, for breakfast, and I bought my 1st of many pieces from a local artist - a painted tile from the Cathedral at Jackson Square that was collected after a remodel. Approximately 3 weeks later Hurricane Katrina hit. Living in South Florida, we follow hurricanes, and this one hit us before traveling up the Gulf. I contacted the artist to make sure she and her family were safe - she was such a kind older lady - and she was.
Drew Brees was being picked by either the Saints or the Dolphins. The Dolphins took a pass (huge mistake) and I became a Saints fan.
Then I started stopping there whenever possible. Going to PA, stop in NOLA. Going to ND, stop in NOLA - all roads lead through New Orleans. I took Meghan and Alex there, we went down about 2 hours south of New Orleans and did an airboat ride. Great cajun guide who we only partially understood.
In 2011, we took Steve. There was a TKD tournament (it's a thing), Alex, who was 5, stayed with my sister, Kim, and we came as adults, with other families with teens competing. Steve had a heart attack in July, and this was August. Kind of a way for us to decompress, and it's a place I always wanted to share with him. We did a more local airboat tour, discovered Chatre House (great food), did a really cool walking cemetery tour with the group, and stayed at the W. Probably a bit over the top - okay, way over the top, but I was still processing the fact that my husband came very close to death (dr. said if we didn't believe in God, we should - we do), and I wasn't thinking clearly, but WOW, that was a great hotel, definitely a one-off! This was the first time I tried a Hurricane from Pat O's - definitely worth the wait!
Meghan and I began going once a year to New Orleans once she turned 21 - just the 2 of us - to reconnect. The food, the music, the buildings, the history,..the people. Beautiful, delicious, entertaining. There are so many words to describe the vibe and feel of this place. (more on our girl trips later)
We always try a different restaurant when we are there. Jimmy Buffet had a Margaritaville there for a brief time and we ate there once - it was awesome - he really did "sing for gumbo" in his early days! We've been to Antoine's - 5 star start to finish, along with great history. If you are ever there, definitely recommend - this is where Oysters Rockefeller started. I had turtle soup at Brennan's, which was also an extraordinary 5 star restaurant with history! Daisy Dukes has a blue crab omelet that still makes my mouth water - it's kind of a local joint, and awesome! Oh, and watching Food on Fire one day, I found out about a barbecue spot in La Place, so Meghan and I drove over there. Wayne Jacob's Smokehouse was the best barbecue I've tasted. We had the BEST lunch! If you are out that way, stop in, it's worth the drive!
In July of 2017, Alex and I planned a trip to North Dakota, with, of course, a detour in NOLA. Kim and Barry took Alex to Uncle Joe's in Oklahoma before that, I talked them into meeting me for the swap. Steve, Meghan, and my cousin's daughter, Caitlin, decided to drive with me, then fly home. Kim and Barry had the motor home, and stayed outside the city, so we did too. We all got in on Friday night, we got there earlier went out to dinner, then the next day we all hit the French Quarter. We had the best time. It POURED for hours, we were soaked. Wound up on Frenchman's hopping from bar to bar listening to live Jazz (middle of the day, family friendly places - the boys were 10 and 11). I thought there was a funeral coming through (it's on my bucket list) so followed some music. Turns out they were mapping a route for a Mardi Gras parade 2018. They stopped at a restaurant, went upstairs on a balcony, we stopped at the bar/restaurant across Bourbon, and they threw beads for hours. We were eating in an outdoorish spot and wound up having the most fantastic time. We all got beads, the boys the most. At one point, I'm laughing inside and talking with Kim, and Steve asked where Alex was, I said outside getting beads, he said ON BOURBON STREET??? I said, uh, yeah. I could go on and on about that day, sampling wine at NOLA winery in the mall on the river, or cramming all 8 of us in my Accord to drive back to their RV, or Kim and Meghan getting out to go look for an artist because Kim wanted something to take home (at night, tons of people, don't know where they are, Barry nodding off waking up and finding out they are walking somewhere and I'm trying to find them).
New Orleans officially became a family affair. Pictures from this trip are hanging on a wall in my family room - vibrant, wet, silly, and most have pictures of someone laughing. This is my (not so) secret happy place.