Monday, September 13, 2010

Am I Too Old for New Orleans?

No, I'm not too old for New Orleans, but I am too old to drink there.

Paul and I headed south over Labor Day weekend for the food, the fun and the drinks. Mainly in that order, at least for me.

But for the latter, Bourbon Street is the center of action. The sheer number of people and neon lights reminded me of Times Square, only with more alcohol and fewer kids. Truth be told, however, there were a wide range of ages stumbling down the street, drink in hand -- 21-year-olds, 51-year-olds, 51-year-old acting like 21-year-olds. At one point I even got stuck behind an old man with a cane. He, however, did not have a drink in his hand.

Bourbon Street

Drinking on the street is legal in New Orleans, and many bars pedaled their goods not only to patrons inside, but also to thirst passersby on the go. Almost everyone on the sidewalk and pedestrian zones seemed to hold a plastic cup filled with their beverage of choice. I can't tell you how many yardsticks of beer or mixed drinks I saw people carrying around, and fishbowl-filled drinks seemed to be popular, too. In both cases, the container was attached to a strap the drinker wrapped around his or her neck, like a necklace with a very large, drinkable charm. At about $9, what a steal!

But no fishbowl for me. Instead, Paul and I found a bar with a second floor deck overlooking Bourbon Street, and I battered my tongue with ice shards, sipping my frozen sour apple daiquiri too fast.

Of course I wanted to give Bourbon Street a try, but I was mostly looking forward to the food and scenery. Paul eagerly anticipated visiting K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, opened by one of his favorite chefs, Paul Prudhomme. Indeed, my fried shrimp po-boy with sweet potato fries ended up as my favorite meal of the trip.

Fried Shrimp Po-Boy with Sweet Potato Fries

Paul wasn't so lucky. He loved his gumbo, which came with a mini corn muffin and Boston brown bread. A few hours later, however, he was in bed with three Benadryl and the hives.

That was the low point of the weekend.

He's still not sure where the nuts were hiding, but at that point it didn't much matter. After we were both sure he wasn't going to die, Paul basically wanted to be left alone to sleep and wait out the allergic reaction. I went exploring by myself.

By that evening he was fine, so we took a free ferry across the Mississippi River for the views alone.

 Then we stopped at the uber-popular Cafe du Monde for beignets, a kind of French deep-fried doughnut topped with a mound of powdered sugar and served hot.

A Beignet (all of the powdered sugar was heaped at the bottom of the bag!)

The other Louisiana must-try: Alligator on a stick. Nope, it didn't taste like chicken. More like a heavily seasoned sausage.

Alligator on a Stick

Besides eating and drinking, New Orleans doesn't really have much to do. That doesn't mean we were bored. It was fascinating simply walking through the French Quarter, seeing the historic buildings, pretending I was in the market for street art, and peeking into a cemetery or two.

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Lafayette Cemetery

Wednesday: Driving the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Friday: Le Pavillon: The Best Hotel I've Ever Stayed At

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