Great American Road Trip – Nothin’ but love for ya, NOLA

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Every day spent in New Orleans leads us closer to hiring a real estate agent – we are loving it here in NOLA that much! Fluctuating feelings of respect vary between immense reverence for the incredible landscape of swamps, bayous, lakes and the wildlife and people who inhabit it, and the deep respect of the entirely original, utterly eccentric culture that exists here among NOLA locals.

New Orleans skeletonsOur third day in town began with a gospel brunch at the House of Blues, which, although geared to tourists, managed to get tables of stiff, slightly uncomfortable white folk clapping and waving after platefuls of classic southern food and free-flowing mimosas, which was served by tattooed hipster types. For a more authentic gospel experience, we would prefer next time to head into the Tremé neighborhood and spend a Sunday morning in St Augustine’s church, minus the brunch and with a whole lot more of that clappin’ and wavin’.

gospel brunch house of blues new orleans singersAs the mercury hit 95 oh-so-humid degrees, we drove north through an hour of nearly uninterrupted swamp land to visit the Laura Plantation in Vacherie, LA. At one hour and twenty minutes, this plantation tour was by far the most-well organized and informative we’ve been on since setting off on this NYC2NOLA road trip three weeks ago. The subject matter stretches from the history of the four generations of the family who ran the plantation to a deep, insightful look into 18-19th century Creole culture of French and Spanish, German and West Africans, concepts like free blacks vs slaves, languages spoken, architectural style and a quote we’ll never forget: Louisiana didn’t join up with America, America came to Louisiana (in 1803 with the Louisiana purchase).

Laura plantation pantryJust down the road, the Oak Alley Plantation is a more traditional plantation, and we managed to jump on the final 5pm tour, which we had all to ourselves.

oak alley plantationBack into the Big Easy for dinner on Magazine Street we drove,  before retiring to our second to last night at the InterContinental…It is hard to believe that our time in the city is almost over.

Time has flown by, and this road trip from New York to New Orleans is coming to an end. We will be writing about our discoveries in much more detail over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned for acute observations on our discoveries in the South.

New Orleans streetFor now – make sure to read tomorrow for an important road trip announcement! If you enjoy the pictures, like us over on Facebook for a photo of the day, everyday, and follow us on Twitter for daily updates on our globetrotting adventures.

Whether you and your partner are heading off on a short vacation or a long-term trip together, we would love to recommend The Art of Couples Travel ebook for terrific insight (two chapters of which written by us!) on what life is really like when a couple heads out onto the road together.

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Great American Road Trip: Alligators and all that Jazz…

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We started our second day in New Orleans by actually leaving the city and driving straight to the swamps! We went on Swamp Tour with Cajun Encounters to witness Louisiana wildlife – alligators, turtles, water birds and snakes! On the way, we passed by some interesting architecture. Houses in the swamp and bayou areas, called Camps,  are built on seven to ten foot high stilts – to be protected during floods.

Louisiana style houses on stiltsArriving at the Honey Island Swamp, we jumped into the boats and went deep into Louisiana’s wetlands.

Swamps Louisiana honey islandNot long after the trip began, the first alligator came into sight…

alligator swamp louisiana… a very curious alligator, as it turned out, who showed a lot of interest in our boat, filled with lots of fresh meat!

alligator by boat swamp tour Back in town, we saw more alligators in the French Market…

french market alligatorsAlligator is a culinary specialty in Louisiana, and hunting season kicks off later this month. In New Orleans, you can try alligator meat in any form – in a burger, on a stick, in a soup… or just pick up a head as a souvenir!

It has not always been easy to find fresh & healthy vegetarian food since we got to the South, but we were pleasantly surprised when we found this delicious apple, pistachio, feta cheese and mixed green salad salad in the French Market – only one of many healthy food options there.

french market saladAfter our lunch break, we headed back to the French Quarter to continue the exploration which had begun on our first day in New Orleans.

New Orleans Jackson Square

new orleans french quarter balcony rocking chairs

new orleans french quarter balcony

As Saturday night in NOLA rocked into full swing, we chose to bypass the French Quarter and headed instead to Frenchman Street for dinner and jazz.

Jazz bar frenchman streetWe bar-hopped through several little jazz venues and not a single one disappointed – we heard some of the best live jazz we’ve ever heard!

Jazz singer frenchman streetWe ended our night at a bar where a band of ever-changing members of all ages and backgrounds flowed from song to song for hours, blaring their five trombones, tuba, sax and trumpet.

Jazz band new orleansHave you been to New Orleans? What are your favorite live music venues in the city?

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Great American Road Trip: Adieu, New Orleans…for now!

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The past three weeks traveling on this NYC2NOLA road trip have been so much fun, and making our ultimate destination New Orleans turned out to be exactly what we needed. As expected when having so much fun, time flew and we found ourselves yesterday with a giant list of places we still wanted to explore so we decided to maximize our last day in the city by renting bikes from The American Bicycle Rental Company.

bike with beads new orleans

Under the clearest blue skies, we sliced through the 90 degree heat and humidity to make our first stop St Louis cemetery, home to the official grave of famous VooDoo queen Marie Laveau which is visited by voodoo fans from all over the world every day who leave offerings such as booze, flowers, but  interestingly most of all lip balm!

voodoo grave marie laveau st louis cemetery new orleans

Then we headed way across town to City Park, and spend time cooling off in the  NOMA’s extensive sculpture park, filled with over 60 sculptures by well-known contemporary artists, before cycling back to town where our next stop was the Woldenberg park which stretches along the shores of the mighty Mississippi River.

cycling along the mississipi in new orleans

No visit to New Orleans is complete without the obligatory beignets, fried dough served covered in powered sugar, which were brought to Louisisana by the Acadians. Cafe du Monde, established in 1862, is one of the oldest cafes in New Orleans, not only famous for its beignets but also for the very unique chicory coffee – the French traditionally added some chicory root to fresh roasted coffee to soften the bitter taste. So of course we had to try both and made our way over to Cafe du Monde. Touristy? Yes. Delicious? Oh yeah!

beignets & cafe au lait new orleans cafe du monde

Newly energized, we went off to explore the colorful Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Groups of friends and couples sipped Abita and Guinness beers outside of small, local pubs and the houses and streets reminded us more of Bocas del Toro, Panama or Big Corn Island in Nicaragua than other parts of the US, or even other parts of New Orleans.

new orleans colorful houses

We ended the cycling day riding through the Tremé – the oldest black neighborhood in the United States. Today, there are great starter houses mixed in with dilapidated heaps of wood for a distinctly urban feel. Despite the popularity of the HBO series Tremé, we were the only tourists in the neighborhood – a major difference to the easy morning spent in the cemetery at the start of our day out, where we were well on the beaten path.

new orleans neighborhood with classic car

New Orleans is a city that needs weeks to uncover, but to make the most of our short time, renting bikes was just about the best way we could think of to explore all of New Orleans.

Our next plans…

We had such a great time road tripping from New York to New Orleans that we decided to extend our time on the road! The next few days will see us drive up north to Chicago via Memphis, so stay tuned for more road trip stories…

road tripping usa

Thanks again to the New Orleans Visitors Bureau for the assistance in planning our trip and the InterContinental for providing such a comfortable place to stay.

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Polaroid of the week: Baby alligator in Louisiana

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polaroid of the week usa Louisiana new orleans baby alligator

It’s easy to get sucked in to the buzz of New Orleans proper, but one of the best things we did was to get out of the city and go on a swamp tour with with Cajun Encounters.  The small tour boat seated 12 of us, plus Captain Mike, who led us along the wide, rushing river where we saw alligators floating lazily or perched passively on the riverbed. Then Captain Mike steered us into the eerily still inlets, where we spotted graceful water birds and searched for smaller animals until Mike brought out Brian, his tiny baby alligator who is tucked away on every trip out on the river!

Brian is six months old and was rescued just after he was born. Tiny Brian is an easy lunch for some of the massive water snakes and other wildlife, so he will be released into the water in a few years after he is big enough to fend for himself. For now, he seems to be perfectly content basking in the adoration of boatloads of swamp tourists, each taking a turn to hold and be photographed with this little guy! Captain Mike just better be careful, as there were plenty of jokes about sneaking this cutie home in a couple of purses…that will probably taper off when Brian isn’t so ‘bite’-sized, though.

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