Tuesday, August 9, 2011

NOLA Journal - Finale

We both woke up abruptly at 2:00am on the dot. The room was silent but there was a thick feeling to the air around us. After 15 minutes of tension Virginia rolled over and called in a stage whisper, “Kristina… Kristina!” Kristina responded by opening one eye and in a raspy voice, “I know.”
That shut Virginia up for a moment. “I’m heading down to the lobby. I can’t sleep.”
“You’re not leaving me alone up here!”
So with that decided, and our hearts racing from some imaginary threat, we turned on the TV to an almost scarier scenario. Sex in the City was about the only thing on at 2am besides paid programming so we flicked up the volume, turned on all the lights and settled down for the rest of the night. Sleeping with Carrie Bradshaw yapping in the background is a bit of a feat.
When the sun rose behind our blackout curtains our eyes felt filled with sand and our heads with cotton. We were thrilled though to have survived the night.
Lethargic and a bit like fuzzyheaded-zombies, we dressed, nibbled on some breakfast, and headed back to the garden district with our cameras in hand. We had walking tour maps from the Commander’s Palace where we lunched the day before, and after seeing the few homes on the street near the restaurant we were eager to see what the rest of the district had to offer.
We caught the streetcar on St. Charles and took the Washington exit, retracing our steps from the day before. We passed our creepy cemetery, no longer as charming after our night, as the day before. We pulled our maps from our pockets, planned our route and headed off in search of pretty houses.


Love all the Iron fences (believed to keep the spirits out)

You don't wanna climb up there, but the beads add a nice touch :)

We were not disappointed. The houses of the garden district were beyond our imaginations. The weather was warm with a comfortable breeze that hinted at moisture in the air. I think we must have taken pictures of almost every house in the district. As we made our way turning back and forth through the streets we ended up at our final destination, Magazine Street. Here there were supposed to be antique shops, boutique and quirky dining. We were just turning to walk down Magazine when we were confronted by a construction worker who stepped out from his group to chat with us.
He called out, “Did you ladies just come from down the street?”
We looked at each other oddly and shook our heads. He continued, “Oh, I’m asking cause I think there was an accident and someone might have hit some of our equipment.”
Again, we looked at each other dumbly. He saw where we came from. Then it occurred to us that he was stringing us a line.
He proceeded to talk to us, just general chit chat at this point. We learned he was native to Wisconsin and he asked us about life in California. After a few minutes and some cat calling to him from his friends, he attempted to get our phone numbers. With only our camera bags at our backs it was easy to evade his request. With no pen in sight, we told him we planned on spending our last night in town on Bourbon St. He seemed a bit unsatisfied with our answer claiming the street was so big he’d never find us. We knew from experience you never knew who you’d find on Bourbon St but knew we’d never see him again.  We had made it only about a few blocks when the skies opened up above us, and immediately began to pour down rain. With no cover in sight except a quaint antique shop across the street, we sought our target, looked for traffic, and darted across the street into the shop to wait the storm out. The rain was so intense we could hear it pounding on the metal roof overhead. We were trapped for maybe 15 minutes before the rain began to slow. Before we left the shop we chatted with the owners at the front about some boston terrier post cards on display. Turns out they were Boston owners, something Virginia shared in common. We chatted a few more moments, bought two ponchos (in case the rain started again) and headed back out into the now sunny and bright afternoon.
Our stomachs reminded us it was lunchtime so we sought out food. Our search landed us at the Flying Burrito restaurant where the food was filling. From there we walked a bit back in the direction of our hotel. We were still quite distance away so we turned back up to St Charles and caught the next street car back.

We decided to relax by the pool to read and ended up eavesdropping on a group of men that were there for a bachelor party. We took a quick swim, and then headed to the spa where a few of the men joined us. Turned out they were from New York, one of them happened to be traveling to SF for business in the summer, and quizzed us for things to see and do.  After more chitchat, we decided it was time to start getting ready for our Ghost, Voodoo, and Vampire tour.

We met the Bloody Mary Tour at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest bar in America. It was illuminated by candlelight only, which set the ambiance of the night’s adventure well. After a brief introduction and a little voodoo chant to invite the spirits with us on our adventure, we strolled along the darkened cobbled streets of the French Quarter.

Virginia and Kristina at Lafitte's 

Sculpture in the courtyard of Lafitte's.
We learned about the history of the city as well as hoodoo and voodoo magic, and religion. The city’s past was actually pretty morbid, and thus where the city got it’s laid back, care-free attitude. One never knew if they were going live to see the next day. Bloody Mary told us about the vampires, other scary creatures of the night, as well as and the diseases that plagued the city back then. Yellow fever and other such illnesses killed off more than 60 percent of the city’s population, which is where many of the paranormal stories were born. New Orleans was something beyond fiction back then.

After the tour, we thanked Bloody Mary, talked to her for a bit, and then headed out to check out Bourbon St. It was Friday night and we had high expectations. It was wilder than the previous nights, but not as bad as we were expecting. I think we had images of Mardi Gras in our head, naked boobies, crowds so thick you could surf them… The truth was, we only saw one pair of naked boobies the whole time. Which was ok, cause we got our own to look at if we really wanted to. We gravitated back where Big Al and his band played, sipping our beers, and laughing at Al’s raunchy songs once again. When the band stopped to take a break we headed back out into the Bacchian atmosphere of the Quarter. We needed a fresh perspective. Every bar had begun to meld into a cliché memory of the one before the longer we dallied. It had become numbingly predictable in the similarities, rowdy club music, drunken tourists intermixed with the one-off local; no one without a charismatic souvenir glass in hand. So, with the entire street at our fingertips it seemed fitting that we move our party back to the Blacksmith’s Shop where we had started our night. We hadn’t really gotten a chance to settle and appreciate the place when we had been there only a few hours (seemed like days) before at the start of our tour.
During our walk over we ran into our hotel manager from the first hotel who had called Virginia the “hot red head.” He flagged us down and asked us about our trip and where we were headed next. We told him we were heading over to the Blacksmith’s shop (one of his recommendations from our first night on the Street) and he said he was thinking about heading over after his shift. Our conversation ended with us restraining our giggles and we continued on our merry way.

Virginia on Bourbon Street, Friday night.

The blacksmiths shop turned out to be a let down. Virginia still had her plastic cup-o-beer for street roaming, but decided we would move on before buying a refill for Kristina. This place was not cool.
As we were walking back towards the action, Kristina spotted an almost naked men dancing on a bar and cried out, “Ooohh!”
 “What?” Virginia asked, looking in “That?” She shrugged, “You sounded as if they were naked or something.”
Kristina replied, “They were. I saw a butt!”
Virginia looked back into the club, and sure enough, the butt was out again. We needed no more persuasion than that. With cover-charge in hand, we headed in.
This place was perfect for us. We could dance and mingle without fear of getting hit on since 99% of the men there were gay. There were three men dancing on the bar in their little undies, occasionally showing off their asses and other junk if you paid for it. Two were twins, and the other one was tall, dark, handsome…and straight (so he claimed though we are still unconvinced.) While there, we met Katie, a newly divorcee, who came out with her gay hairdresser friend for a night out to celebrate. She told us that she really wanted to ‘do very nasty things’ to the cute tall stripper on the bar. However, when she asked him, he said he had a girlfriend. So we danced, drank, and had a good time.
Virginia cut a rug on the dance floor where she met a couple of guys. Kristina was dancing along when we met Jesse. Jesse was a very nice, tall, blonde, great haired, and super sweet young man who became an integral member of our little group that night.
We had fun with our new friends, but by the time early morning came, even though the bars don’t close till everyone goes home in New Orleans, we were tired from out lack of sleep the night before. We said our reluctant goodbyes and hailed a cab back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel, we showered away the sweat and grime from the club, and quickly fell into bed.

Another day passed and another rough night. We slept much better than the previous night; however that’s not saying a lot. We stumbled out of bed, washed the sleep from our eyes, and headed out in search of breakfast. Our bellman caught us as we were leaving and suggested Lil Dizzy Café at the Whitney Wyndham Hotel just a block down the street. “Best breakfast in town,” he proclaimed. We found the café with ease, and were seated at a private table in the back of the restaurant. The entire back wall behind our table was painted with a hilarious mural of a bank robbery, and if you looked long enough (Virginia did) one could find the three stooges intermixed into the scene. When our order was taken we both ordered New Orleans style french toast, which is different than regular French toast. It is crunchy and soft and sweet and salty all at the same time. It was delicious.
After breakfast we made our way back to our hotel to gather our things and pack our bags. This was a bit of a project since we were heading home with more than we came with (souvenir glasses, art, clothing….) With our luggage satisfactorily packed, we went up to the rooftop to veg and kill time before checkout.
On the roof inside our very own private cabana, we absorbed our last wafts of New Orleans air while we worked and relaxed away our last vacation hours. Time slipped by and before too long we had to head back to our room to gather our things for check out.
On our way out of our room, we took a moment to make our goodbyes to any spirits in the hotel; our attempt to “shut the door,” as Bloody Mary put it, in a respectful way. Hey, after the late nights on Bourbon St. and alcohol-induced revelry, you’d be saying goodbye to the spirits too!

Our uber polite and very top-hatted bellman hailed a cab in front of our hotel and wished us a fond farewell. As we hopped into the cab that took us back to airport, we were thrown some unexpected emotion. We were pretty happy to be getting home and back to regular sleeping patterns but we knew we would miss New Orleans as soon as we left; the ride was more than a little bittersweet. When we finally arrived at the airport we fell into the usual ritual of leaving a new place. We checked our bags, and once beyond the security checkpoint shopped for last minute souvenirs. Before we knew it, we were boarded onto our commuter plane and listening to the “your seat can be used as a flotation device” speech. We were on our way home.


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