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Road Trip 2015

by Eric, Nicoline, Frank, Mark, Jenny

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May 5: Exploring the city

Even though we arrived late, we still get up at nine and head into the city on foot. The place where we are staying is literally one block from North Rampart Street, which is the northern boundary of the French Quarter. The famous Bourbon Street is four blocks away.

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We get our first view of the touristic French Quarter, with it horse-head hitching posts and wrought iron balconies, as we walk completely across the old town towards the Mississippi. And we saw our first horse-drawn carriages filled with tourists.

Our first day’s breakfast is at Café du Monde, the famous restaurant that started out as a coffee stand over 150 years ago. This restaurant is known for its café au lait (coffee with milk) and in particular the beignets, which are the only food item on the menu. The beignets are similar to donuts but square and without a hole in the middle. They are typically served hot with powdered sugar.

I love beignets, and I love the powdered sugar on them. That, combined with the fact that I was sitting downwind from everyone else, had the unsurprising result of my shirt, pants and camera being all sugar-covered.—Eric

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Frank, Mark and Jenny have been looking forward to getting their first drink before noon, which was easily achieved because there was a drink stand almost right behind Café du Monde. We continue through the French Market and pay a visit to the Pepper Place ( which sells what looks like a million different types of hot sauce, before continuing to Jackson Park.

One of the most surprising yet most welcome laws in New Orleans is in regards to open containers of alcohol. In most places, one cannot consume alcohol in public in almost any way, shape, or form. In New Orleans, the only rule is the container can’t be glass!—Mark

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Jackson Square, known as Plaza de Armas during Spanish times, is designed after the Place des Vosges in Paris, France. With a statue of Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans, in the center, it is surrounded by three pedestrian areas where you find musicians, street performers and other artists.

We go into the St. Louis Cathedral on the North side of the square, one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. The current building is the third church at this location. The first was a crude wooden structure. The second was destroyed in the great New Orleans fire of 1788, after which the current cathedral was built. Not much of the 1790s building is left, though, as the cathedral has been renovated and expanded in the mid-nineteenth century.

There was a gravestone with a Spanish inscription in the French cathedral. Jenny translated the Old Spanish a vue for us. It may be worthwhile to visit Louisiana again to explore its Spanish heritage sometime, for instance with the El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail.

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From Jackson Square we continue to the Mississippi river, where we try to recreate a photo we took when we first visited New Orleans in 2007. The 2007 photo is on the right. Not much has changed in the past five years, except that Frank and Mark have gotten a lot older.

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Time for lunch at a “Lucky Dog” hot dog stand before we head back to our condo. Frank, Mark and Jenny decide to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by taking tequila shots on Bourbon Street. Later in the afternoon, Eric explores Louis Armstrong Park while Frank, Mark and Jenny go sunbathing there.

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Before dinner we visit the Voodoo Museum. Contrary to popular belief (which is mostly based on the Hollywood caricature), Voodoo is not about black magic at all. At its core, it is a belief that after one’s death, the spirit lives on, can be communicated with, and can be implored to provide favors. Usually, those favors are positives ones: healing a sickness, helping to find love or fortune. The use of “black magic” (asking spirits to bring misfortune, hurt, or even kill someone) is frowned upon.

It was an odd experience to be asked to pray the Lord’s Prayer at the end of the explanation of the Voodoo queen. But we all got to make a wish :-)—Nicoline

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Dinner is at Check Point Charlie, a bar and music club named after the border crossing between West and East Berlin. The fare is typical American fare, though. After dinner, Frank, Mark and Jenny go explore New Orlean’ night life while Eric and Nicoline turn in.

I'm still not quite sure why this New Orleans place was called Checkpoint Charlie, but we had a nice dinner there, and since we’re not taking you guys to Berlin any time soon, it’s the next best thing.—Nicoline

So the younger ones, all of us being 21+, decided to get started partying. That worked quite well!—Frank

Walking up and down Bourbon Street was quite an experience! There were a variety of establishments, from dark hole-in-the-wall bars to multistory bars, cheap drunk food to fine dining. We specifically had a fantastic time enjoying $2 drinks at a Drag Queen Cabaret.—Mark

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Continue to the next day.