Thursday, June 09, 2011

Road Trip 2011: From Florida to New Orleans, LA.

Day 1: Tampa, FL --> New Orleans, LA

"Aimee's Bayou Crash Course."
First of all (for all of my Northern/International readers) if I'm going to talk about New Orleans, I need to clarify something. Hailing from the balmy Attleboro, Massachusetts, I might call this "New Ore-leens" because I've spent some time on the Cape, and I know how they pronounce Orleans there. However, if there's one thing I teach you today, is the proper pronunciation of the city. Norlins. That's right: Norlins. You should also know that NOLA stands for New Orleans LouisiAna. Now that you've graduated my basic bayou course, let's move on.

Other Cajun words you should know:
1. Gumbo: "Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, and a thickener. Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux and is spicier, with either shellfish or fowl. Sausage or ham can be added to a gumbo made with either fowl or shellfish. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then meat is added. The dish boils for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish and some spices added near the end. After the pot is removed from heat, filé powder can be added. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice." (source)
2. Jumbalaya: "Jambalaya is traditionally made in three parts, with meats and vegetables, and is completed by adding stock and rice. It is also a close cousin to the saffron colored paella found in Spanish culture." (source)
3. Boudins & Cracklins: Crawfish and fried pig skins.
4. Bayou: A southern marshy wetland.
5. "Frogging": Catching Bayou green frogs (to cook and eat).

Rachel and I decided to make N'Orleans our first stop over on our way to Austin, Texas to visit my family. The Tampa to New Orleans car driving trip took less time than we had anticipated and we actually arrived at about 4 PM with plenty of daylight to explore. So we left the hotel for a walkng tour before dinner. Just walking along Royale St and Bourbon St provided a glimpse into the "nightlife" and culture of New Orleans: from VooDoo, Mardi Gras and Jazz filled gift shops, to the beads hanging from the cast iron ornate balcony railings over the street.

Rachel was determined to find "a real Voodoo shop" and after looking at some very scary pictures of one in Tampa before the trip during my research, I was very hesitant to oblige her. So when we ended up walking right by "Reverand Zombie's Shop of Voodoo" on a very crowded street, next to a huge "Haunted Tours" tour group and lots of tourists, my fears of the unknown were assauged and we went inside. Besides the candle lit altar, it was mostly filled with herbs and remedies for every ailment, as well as the traditional (and very creepy) voodoo dolls. I stood near the Elvis postcards acclimating myself to the onslaught of insence and had a splendid flashback to the 90's goth era of my middle school mall days. I also enjoyed looking at all of the artwork, carved ornate wood work and other random things hanging from the ceiling as well as the sign about how seriously they yell at people who takes photos inside the store...and very quickly, the novelty wore off, and even Rachel was content with leaving, sans souvenirs.

There are some very intersting characters on Bourbon street. I cannot describe them, because my blog is rated PG, but suffice it to say- it was hard to ignore the distractions and assault of images I've been traumatized with. (This is not the street to take your kids for a stroll down!)

Around the corner, on Iberville and Royale is the famous restaurant the Acme Oyster House, that was worth the twenty minutes in the outside street line. The half dozen raw half shell oysters I had were the size of Pacific oysters (double the New England oyster size) but washed right down with iced Peach tea, over a "Poopa" (breadbowl) of Gumbo. Rachel had the Jambalaya and hushpuppies, which I also tried, and were fabulous. For dessert, we met up with my Mother-in-Law, Robin, who was staying a street over for warm beignets. (Small French-Creole square, sugared donuts).

We ended the night with a dip in the rooftop pool (17th floor) of the Monteleone Hotel in the warm summer breeze and gorgeous starry night overlooking the city.

So in our six hours of our New Orleans experience we missed many of the great landmarks- which only gives us an excuse to come back again to the Big Easy. Next time I'll be sure to take the History tours: the daylight Graveyard tour, the "Haunted Tour" and the Civil War history tour.

In the meantime, whenever I feel the urge to be back in the city, I'll listen to Zydeco music on YouTube :)

Bonne nuit!