2017 spring break is in the books. I think this is my fourth spring break blog. I would like to recommend everyone blog after their spring break. I can’t think of a better way to make all the fun things you do on spring break last longer than writing about them. Post those written memories on line, and those suckers are officially forever. If you’re the drunk and naked spring break type, I take it all back.
This year’s spring break got off to a VERY rocky start. Well. Actually, our PRE spring break was rocky. See. We decided to go to New Orleans, NOLA for short (for all you people who need me to show you around the South). The reason we chose NOLA is because Eddie has a good friend and college teammate who lives there, and Ed and his friends were going to NOLA for spring break. I looked at the calendar one winter day, and decided Zeke, Scott and Olivia had the same spring break as Eddie. What a lucky coincidence. I told Eddie that we would go to NOLA too, and he and his friends could crash with us any time. Eddie, being Eddie, thought that was a grand plan. What college kid wouldn’t want to spring break it up with their parents?
The week before spring break, I talked to Eddie on the phone. He said, “Mom, are you sure we have the same spring break?” Right then I knew. I may have told you this before, but if there’s one thing I’m usually wrong about, it’s the time or day we’re supposed to be anywhere. Really. I’ve been wrong SO many times. The most annoying thing about this flaw is how slow my family is to adapt. They just keep believing me; we keep showing up at the wrong time and on the wrong day, and then I look at them like, “Well, this really is on you guys. You should know by now.”
I checked the calendar again after talking to Eddie. Sure enough. I had been wrong. Eddie’s spring break was after ours. I told the rest of the family, and they weren’t really surprised. Olivia was a little upset, because she had some initial objections to following Eddie on his spring break. But, once she warmed to the idea, she started getting excited. When she learned Eddie wouldn’t be there, she thought I may can the whole thing. I didn’t. Reservations were already made. I had no back up plan. We were going to NOLA to enjoy Eddie’s spring break without Eddie.
When I realized that this would be our first spring break without the whole family. I took it harder than you’d expect. The day after Eddie broke the news to me, I found myself not feeling very chatty. I had this strange, bad feeling. I took some extra vitamins, and was wondering what was wrong with me. Then, I realized that odd feeling I was experiencing was sadness. Jeez. Being sad is such a nuisance.
I needed a day or so to adjust to the new circumstances. I adjusted. Olivia, Zeke, Scott made our best effort to tear it up in New Orleans without Eddie. Sometimes a Mom just has to grow up.
Eddie’s friend who is from NOLA told us to call his Dad before we visited his great city. One of our main vacation goals was to try some of the food NOLA is famous for; we wanted to be pointed in the right direction.We forgot that NOLA is not just famous for food. They’re also famous for hospitality. Our phone call to Eddie’s friend’s Dad, Guy, turned into not only a week of delicious dining experiences, but we were also provided with a cheater’s guide to the colorful city that is NOLA.
Here is a recap:
Food and Bourbon Street. Our local friends took us to a GREAT restaurant. We ate fried alligator and crawdads. The first of many crawdads (by the end of the week I was sweating crawdads). We were instructed in the fine art of crawdad peeling. I must say, I never really mastered this, but it was fun trying. There is a lot of effort involved here, and your reward is this tiny, shrimp-like piece of “meat”. It’s tasty though.
The other thing we did on night one was get a tour of the various popular areas of NOLA, including “Bourbon Street”. Coincidentally, while we were on vacation, I was reading a book set in NOLA. The story took place in the 50’s. The woman in the book was walking down Bourbon Street during the day, and she heard a man come out of one of the taverns yelling in French, “Bourbon Street. Disneyland for the alcoholics!”
I’m not saying I agree with that silly line. I’m just sayin’ I get it. Bourbon Street kind of blew our get-up-go-to-work-come-home-go-to-bed minds. Zeke and Olivia looked a little distraught by the end of the tour. You tell your kids to live and let live, and all that. But, I cannot deny that I found the combination of strip clubs, boob necklaces, voodoo dolls, palm readers, and drunks to be a little soul sucking. And then, the nail in the coffin for Olivia and me: the homeless folks. Yes. These folks were sad. Even more troubling were their dogs. Thankfully, most of the dogs looked to be in pretty good shape. But, towards the end of the night there were a couple of the dogs fighting while their owners were fighting over a blanket or something. Just left you feeling a little sad about the world.
Food, Audubon, More Food.
NOLA is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. If you want the night life, go to Bourbon Street. If you like the peace of nature, got to the Audubon Zoo. I loved the Audubon Zoo area. We didn’t actually even make it to the zoo. We just walked the two mile path around the park. We saw birds, and turtles, and grand old Southern homes that framed the park. It was just my thing.
Along the path there were exercise stations. These were just Scott’s thing. And, naturally, Scott made the kids join him in using every one. The locals joked that we might be the first people to use those facilities.
After spending time in the park, we went to this local place that is famous for fried chicken. Let me tell you, the folks at this little joint HIGHLY encourage you to try the fried chicken.
We had this nice waiter who wasn’t in a bit of a hurry. We kept trying to order things like a grilled chicken salad. It was on the menu. The waiter came back and said, “Sorry. No grilled chicken. Just fried chicken strips.” We thought that was fine.
A while later, the waiter came back. He said, “I guess I was wrong. We don’t have fried chicken strips.”
Scott (always agreeable) asked, “Okay, what do you have?”
“Fried Chicken,” the waiter responded.
Scott said, “Okay, how about a salad, and an order of fried chicken.
The waiter complimented Scott on his choice.
When the fried chicken, and plate of lettuce came out, there was no dressing for the lettuce. Scott wondered if he should ask if they have dressing. I said, “Of course they have dressing. It’s called, fried chicken.”
Let me tell you something else, sister. There’s a reason these folks only let you eat fried chicken. It’s because they know you’re just ignorant when you ask for anything else. I didn’t even know I LIKED fried chicken. But, this stuff is wrapped up in a buttery, crispy, spicy mix of heaven. Really. I would use that fried chicken as salad dressing EV-ER-Y DAY!
You’d think after eating all that chicken, we wouldn’t be hungry again. But, in NOLA, you don’t let a little thing like not being hungry stop you from eating. Our precious guides, Guy and Marie, took us to a popular local restaurant that night called “Dragos”.
Guy told us we needed to try their raw and char grilled Oysters. We did, and they were surprisingly good. I mean, a raw oyster is kind of cold and slimy, but I might eat anything with cocktail sauce on it. The char grilled oysters were buttery and delicious. Our local guides knew the owner, so we were also treated to a buffet of unique desserts. I think this could have been the highlight of the trip for my kids, especially Zeke. After cutting weight all winter, in addition to the cruelty of having a mother who won’t bake, or even buy sugar and flour, this was a major jackpot.
I tried everything.
Who invented cheesecake, anyway? Some genius, that’s who. The cheesecake was piled on the plate like a scoop of ice cream. Had there been any left, I would have put it in my purse for later.
Drago’s in NOLA…I’m giving it 5 stars. Now that I’ve blogged about it, maybe their business will pick up. They don’t accept reservations, because they’re so busy. But, still, they’ll thank me for this. I’ll take an order of cheesecake.
Fontainebleau State Park, Bridges and Yatzee
I don’t know who figured how to make this happen in NOLA, but they’ve got bridges over EVERYTHING. Scott drove us over the 24 mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. Scott had to look his fears in the face to get the job done too. Everyone in the family knows I’m afraid of just about everything. I love vacations so much, but I’m not gonna lie. It has come to my realization that I’m pretty much on alert for disaster every waking moment in a new environment. Scott does not scare easily. But, he does have a reoccurring nightmare that involves going up, up, up a bridge. When he finally gets to the top, he realizes the bridge ends, and it’s a free fall from there. This NOLA Causeway is kind of like that, only the bridge actually DOES end on land. There is no free fall. You get to live. Still, it was kinda scary.
We were so glad Scott pushed through his cold sweat and hyperventilation. On the other side of the Causeway was a beautiful State park. We just about had the place to ourselves. We looked for alligators, and I even talked my family into taking the 5 mile hike. Before we left for our hike, I suggested Scott throw on a pair of tennis shoes instead of his Crocs. He said Crocs were kind of required apparel when you’re looking for alligators, plus, he added that he could always whip down the adventure strap on the back of the Croc when things got rough.
He regretted that foolishness.
When we got home from this awesome day at the State Park, we went low key, and played some Yatzee. The kids have just recently agreed to play Yatzee again with their Dad. See, Scott scarred them when they were younger. He would try to micromanage their Yatzee playing. A friendly game with Dad would invariably end with the kids in tears. Scott would be disgusted with his children’s lack of desire. He’d shake his head at them, and tell them he guessed they just didn’t want it badly enough. And, of course, he was right. They didn’t care.
Now the kids are old enough to tell Dad to “shove it”. It’s much more fun.
Ocean and NOLA Hospitality
Olivia was dead set on seeing the ocean while we were in NOLA. I looked at the map, and could see it was just over an hour away. The funny thing was, every time I mentioned visiting the ocean to anyone familiar with NOLA, they gave me that look. That look that says they’re pretty sure we’ll be disappointed, but they don’t want to be the ones to say it.
Well, I guess people from NOLA do not know just how low are expectations were, because we LOVED it! We had water, palm trees, white sand, and long docks to explore. The water was brown instead of blue, and I read that if you had an open cut, there’s a decent chance you’ll get e-coli, and lose a limb…or something like that. But, we we saw a few families romping in the water with their babies, and we thought, if it’s good enough for those people we’ve never met, it’s good enough for us.
Another silly thing I did was drive myself crazy, and wasted a lot of time looking for the address to the public beach. In Wisconsin we have plenty of bodies of water, but it’s not like you can just access that water anywhere, right? Much of the land around Wisconsin’s lakes is privately owned. Well, guess what? No one owns the ocean. There’s an entire coastline to choose from, and any ol’ hobo family from Wisconsin can pull up in their rusty blue minivan, and have their fun.
When we got home from the beach, Guy and Marie asked us to Guy’s parent’s house. This event was for sure at the top of our list of highlights. We saw genuine Southern hospitality. This big, multi generational family showed us up close what the fine people of NOLA are like. Grandma and Grandpa (and Guy) made us Jumbalaya, and shrimp pasta, and, of course, crawdads. We had apple pie and rum cake for dessert. Scott has not had a sip of alcohol in 20-some years. His lips were numb from the rum cake. He said it was amazing. I’ve been dreaming about that cake.
Shopping and a Tourist Trap
Day 5 was the only day it wasn’t sunny and amazing. We did a little shopping, more Yatzee, coffee, and met our new best friends for dinner, Guy and Marie. We had this groupon for a seafood place. When I mentioned the restaurant, I could tell (like the ocean thing) Guy and Marie were thinking it wouldn’t be their first choice. It was in a super cool location, by the Mississippi River. But, I’m afraid we had been spoiled by all the delicious food we had eaten up to that point. This is exactly why it pays to learn from the locals.
We had to say good bye to Guy and Marie this night. We were sad. They were kind, and just so much dang fun. Guy bought the kids some Zapp’s chips for the car ride home. Zapp’s is another NOLA classic he told us about. The kids spotted them in Walmart earlier in the week, and decided they knew why they were a thing.
Our last morning in NOLA. We hadn’t seen the French Quarter in the daylight yet. We decided to make a quick run at it. It was an explosion of people and art. One couple asked Scott to take their picture. While he was taking the picture, the man proposed. That was fun.
The streets were very crowded. I am sure they always are. We drove up next to this guy. His head was practically in my window. We had a nice chat. I asked him if he was happy. He seemed unsure.
After our quick spin around the French Quarter that last morning, we left for home.
I would always choose to vacation with the whole family. We missed Eddie, but you make the best of it, right? I think we did. At one point I heard Zeke suggest to Olivia that they leave their phones at the hotel, because they were kind of a nuisance. I thought that sounded like a parental win to me.
Thank you for your hospitality, NOLA!!! We love you and all your wonderful people.