Oh my goodness, you guys. It’s almost May. Where have the last two months gone?? I feel like every time I look at a calendar it’s almost a new month. Slow down, world!
Anyways, I wanted to tell you about the trip to Louisiana we took last month. While we went to Louisiana under sad circumstances, we had a lovely time there. I was able to reconnect with all of my mom’s side of the family, and Evan got to hear the dizzying array of “This is (insert name of new person), they’re the (insert relation) of (someone Evan does know).” It was great to get to see everyone and share time with so much family.
After the funeral, my mom wanted to take my niece and nephews to a playground near where the service was held. Our whole family went and played on some of the coolest playground equipment I had ever seen. I’ve never really outgrown the whole playing-on-playgrounds thing. Even through high school my friends and I would go to playgrounds at night just to play around all the time. I realize that sounds sketchy, but I promise my friend group was very PG. I would even go swing at the parks near my house by myself when I wanted to think or just get out of the house. Now that sounds emo… I’m painting a very misleading view of my childhood here. I was a happy, normal teen who just loved playgrounds. All of this is to say that I have experienced many a playground feature in my life, but this place… this place in rural Louisiana, free of the ridiculously-over-protective parents pushing legislation to rid the world of the coolest playground equipment one target at a time, had it all. Most importantly, it had that spinning saucer thing. I had never seen one in real life before, much less played on one, and boy was my life incomplete without it. That thing is the best! And caused way fewer injuries than the see-saws (which claimed quite a few victims in our short time there.) Moral of the story, let’s bring these babies back to our suburban scene STAT. (P.S. I completely forgot my nice camera, so all of these pictures are from iPhones…sorry.)
Look at my parents being adorable! I just love them. Watching my parents play together is one of my favorite things. My parents then took me, Evan, and my niece and nephew on a sort of family history tour where we saw where a surprising number of my ancestors’ graves. Apparently most of my mom’s side of the family is buried around Alexandria.
Later that night we went out with my aunt, uncle, and cousin to experience our first bit of Louisiana cooking (from a restaurant, at least.) We kicked off our culinary adventures at the heart of Cajun springtime with three whole pounds of crawfish. That was all for Evan, mind you. I got some fried fish (but still tried the crawfish of course.) My cousin, the seasoned veteran of the crawfish boil, polished off a whopping 5 pounds of crawfish. I also enjoyed playing with the little crustaceans, because apparently if this post has taught you anything it’s that I’m five years old. Aaaaanyways, after stuffing ourselves silly and enjoying some quality time with family, we headed back to the hotel for our last night in Alexandria.
The next day we said goodbye to everyone and broke off on our own. Our trip to Louisiana happened to coincide with some days that I had already asked off of work, so we decided that we should hit up New Orleans while we were already in the state. Because why not! And because beignets. Mostly because beignets. We hit Baton Rouge (home of LSU) right at lunch time and went to The Chimes at the suggestion of my co-worker. I work with a lot of people from Louisiana, and when I told them I was going there they all told me I had to try alligator. I was very skeptical. I thought it would be chewy and gross and probably something you have to fry to be able to swallow. But I figured when in Rome, eat the alligator like you’re told to. So we went to The Chimes and got the blackened alligator appetizer. It. Was. Divine. I mean blackened anything is pretty good, but the alligator itself wasn’t at all the chewy mess I imagined it to be. It was tender and delicious and I couldn’t get enough of it.
We finished off our meal, utterly stuffed yet again, and wandered around LSU campus. Surprise of the trip: Louisiana is beautiful! When I thought of Louisiana I thought of a swamp. Turns out swamp = lush green landscape with beautiful water views. Who knew? Much like the rest of Louisiana, LSU campus was beautiful. LSU was my grandpa’s school, so it was a nice tribute to get to wander around the campus after his funeral.
So, LSU’s mascot is the tiger. Turns out LSU is a little more hard core than other schools in that they have an ACTUAL, REAL TIGER outside of their football stadium. Only in the South. But really! They have a multimillion-dollar tiger habitat! Their tiger was sleeping in a corner when we were there, but here’s a picture of me riding a statue tiger. It’s almost just as good.
From there we continued on to New Orleans. We wanted to stay in the French Quarter, but didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg to do so. Consequently we got a fairly ghetto and run down hotel that had the following sign in the elevator. When we first checked in, we gathered all our things together, headed to the elevator, and pressed our floor number. Then we waited for the doors to close. And kept waiting for several minutes. The woman at the front desk just looked sheepishly at us and said she was sorry and it would just take a minute. Haha, eventually the doors did close and it did take us to our floor. Needless to say, we took the stairs exclusively. Apparently we were pretty lucky in our plight. I heard several of the other guests complaining that they had gotten stuck inside the elevator for 20 minutes! But hey, they gave us a MASSIVE room at a fantastic price. And we don’t mind taking the stairs. Win!
We didn’t really know how New Orleans would treat us seeing as how we’re not really partiers, but it was super fun! We walked all around the quarter and spent most of our time walking down Bourbon St and taking in the party. Almost every bar/club had a live band playing jazzy/bluesy/party jams. It was the best. We were still super full from lunch, but I spied a banner at Cafe Beignet where we were listening to a jazz band that said Alton Brown featured their beignets on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Sold. We of course had plans for beignets for breakfast at Café Du Monde, but I once again thought: when in Rome, eat massive quantities of beignets. And so we did. They were delicious! All in all, the New Orleans night-life was super fun and easy-going, and I loved it.
The next morning we got a late check out and walked over to Café Du Monde for breakfast and had their world famous beignets with hot chocolate. So. Good. They were different from the beignets we had the night before, and they were both delicious for different reasons. I had also made the Cooks Illustrated beignets a while before we went, and now think I can combine what I loved from all experiences and produce my ideal beignet. I will for sure let you know if it works out.
Taking the first delicious bite.
We walked around for a while taking in the GORGEOUS New Orleans architecture and charm (which we could now see better in the daylight,) and decided that we loved this place. The beautiful building below was hundreds of years old! It really is different than any other place I’ve ever been to, and I’m so glad we went.
On our way home I was reaching the point of I-need-to-stretch-my-legs-or-I’m-gonna-die right before seeing a sign on the side of the road that said “Hold Baby Alligators! Exit here!” Well, ok! Exit we did, and we found our way to Gator Chateau. Outside there was a cage with a pool and alligators of varying sizes. I thought it was cool, but was a little underwhelmed. Then we went inside of the building and found a super nice retired school teacher who pulled out a baby alligator from an incubator and started telling us all about them! Seriously, I learned soooo much about alligators. And I got to hold them! Their organization cares for orphaned baby alligators and raises them to go live in a wildlife preserve. The alligators are raised inside in an incubator and fed a soy diet until they’re big enough to go live in the pool outside. That’s why we were able to hold them, they hadn’t developed a taste for meat yet. Gator Chateau is completely free for visitors and is run by volunteer, retired school teachers who simply want to educate people about the animals. If you’re ever in the area, I would DEFINITELY recommend stopping by here for an amazing experience. Here’s Evan with one of the bigger ones. I believe it was about two years old.
After that we got some dinner and headed home. Under different circumstances, I’m not sure we would have ever gone to Louisiana, but I am so glad we did. It really was a great trip.
Wow, this is long. If you made it to the end, congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the ride. I sure enjoyed reliving our adventure!