We left Galveston on January 2nd and took our second Ferry ride with the MH (Galveston -Port Bolivar), heading to Louisiana. Our final destination was New Orleans. We made one-stop for the night in Lake Charles, LA. we woke up the following day in frigid temps – low 30's (a cold front came in and decided to stay a few days.) We loaded everything up and were off. Originally Mark had planned to take US 90 for most of the trip leg (trying to avoid the construction/traffic on I-10 E) into New Orleans, but the road was so beat up we detoured back up to the I-10 and dealt with the construction zones along the route. We hit New Orleans traffic about 4 pm. Mark does a fantastic job maneuvering the motorhome because if it were me, I'd have cried. Especially when you are unsure of the route the GPS shows and wonder if it's correct (Mark normally has a backup written on a notepad for crosschecking) or which lane to be in; however, we made it safe and sound.
Our RV Park was within walking distance of the FrenchQuarter, hence the name French Quarter RV Resort. We were within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to see. We paid a pretty penny for our stay there. However, it was worth it in the long run. We could walk everywhere, enjoy the nightlife, and indulge in a few adult beverages without worrying about driving home. The security at this RV Park was amazing, we felt very safe and well taken care of. The entire park was secured with a cement wall lined with razor wire.
On our first day in NOLA, we rode the Trolley to the waterfront, where we got on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus and were able to tour the entire city. We usually recommend doing this for any big city. It allows you not only to see everything, but you can hear the history, and they will also point out all the "hot spots" such as shopping and restaurants along with nightlife for you to experience. I will say that the narration for this route was a little underwhelming compared to our last Hop-on-Hop-off in Austin.
Mark and I did hop off on Magazine Street to have lunch, and the City of New Orleans had mandated that you show proof of vaccination to eat in the restaurants. We have been vaccinated but were not aware of the requirement to carry our cards with us for any food/drinking establishment. So, as hungry as we were, we hopped back on the next bus, starving to death, finished the tour, and headed back to the MH for leftovers. It was a great day, but it gave us an idea of precisely what we wanted to see over the next few days.
Day Two: We walked to Bourbon Street, took many pictures, and enjoyed lunch at a cute little restaurant in the heart of it all called Olde N'ALWINS COOKERY. We ordered a beer, crabcakes, and a bowl of Jambalaya. It was terrific, and Bourbon Street was an experience. You can't come to New Orleans and not see the famous street for being the heart of the French Quarter. This street is a never-ending party; things quiet down a bit during the day, but as night sets in, so does the excitement and entertainment.
The houses that line the streets in the French Quarter are so adorable I would have given my right arm to be able to peek inside. They have so much personality, and their bright colors and Caribbean influences just made it so charming.
So what's it like to walk along Bourbon Street during the day? Many bars and restaurants do not open until mid-afternoon as they stay open until 2–3 am. Most bars and restaurants were available when we walked through around 2 pm; some were playing music, greeters were at the doors.
Tarot Card readers set up on the street corners, some sitting next to one another. They have their incense burning and signs hanging off their table, wanting you to pay money to have them tell you a bit about yourself. Then as you walk a bit farther, you can have a gentleman standing on the street corner holding beads (Mardi Gras beads) trying to put them over your head so you will buy them from him so he can make a fast buck. You have performers sitting on the street playing drums on an empty bucket wanting money from the people that pass by. It's just an array of characters who are looking to make a buck. But keep in mind as the day goes on and the skies get darker, things on this street get weirder and just a bit crazy. But along with all the characters that surround you, there will be smells of old garbage from the night before; there is an aroma of weed, yes weed, marijuana, mary jane, whatever name you want to call it, it's very potent on Bourbon Street. So if you have ever been called a prude, or you have a hard time letting your "hair down," Bourbon Street is probably not for you.
Day Three: This was a slow day where we got up and took our time getting ready; later that afternoon, we took in the World War II Museum. This museum was a very well done, fascinating memorial. Just so we are very clear, I am far from a history buff, but as I was walking through reading all the boards and watching all the videos, it took me back to high school and my history class that I only paid enough attention to, to pass the tests. Now I wish I had paid more attention because this stuff was intriguing. It took us about 2 hours from start to finish (for avid history buffs, you could easily spend half a day inside the museum), and when we finished, we had lunch in their restaurant.
We came out of the Memorial, and it had been raining, and the skies were gray; the temperature had dropped significantly: another cold front had passed through. The entire time we were in NOLA, we were blessed with cooler weather, very little humidity, and very little rain. There were days when I wore my heavy scarf and my thermal shirt to help with the breeze. I am so thankful that I did because it kept me so warm.
Day Four: This was Friday, January 7th, we knew we wanted to experience the nightlife here, but we weren't sure how we would go about it. We knew Bourbon Street was where all the excitement was, but we were looking for more music venues with blues/jazz feel than Bourbon street offered. I started reading and found that Frenchman Street is a great place to hang out, listen to music and eat some fantastic food. Also, the article I read talked about how this is where the locals go when they want to hang out in NOLA. So we left the motorhome about 1:30 pm and walked through the French Quarter, then along Bourbon Street down to Jackson Square. We hadn't spent much time here, but I wanted some pictures.
While there, I heard someone talking on a loudspeaker or microphone, so we went to find out who or what was going on. A group of street performers with a large audience gathered around, so we walked up to observe. They told us their goal was to "bring people together," and that they did. They were funny, motivated, and wanted to make money; of course, they did. Isn't that why they are on the street performing? Then they started picking people out of the audience, and Mark was chosen to show off his fancy dancing skills. He was part of the group called the "Rich White Men." The performers instructed them on dancing techniques, how to hold their arms, and even how to wear their hats. It was fun, it was funny, and it was entertaining.
We ended up spending about 1-1/2 hours there before venturing over to Frenchman street.
The first bar we went into was called The Maison. A small group of guys played some Jazz and swing music. We ordered a beer and some snacks. They were lovely to listen to; however, the bar next door was louder and sounded much more exciting, so after finishing up, that's where we headed.
We headed to Bamboulas; it was a casual Caribbean-Creole fare with eclectic live music. It was about 5:30, and things were still pretty chill by this time. I had indulged in my 2nd beer and eat'in very little, so I was pretty happy. I mean, you can't just sit and listen to music without having a beer or two or three….. Time flies pretty quickly when you are having a blast. By 6:30 pm, the band called Les Getrex N. Creole Cooking hit the stage; that is when things livened up even more.
Okay, to set the stage, before entering these places, you have to show proof of vaccination and photo ID to get through the door. The entry door was wide open, and there was good air circulation. They were on high alert for Mardi Gras, and they were making sure they were doing the best they could to keep things safe.
So, by 7:00 pm, the band was blaring, and people would come in and sit down and stay; others would come in order a beer, listen to a song or two and be on their way. The thing that hit me was when the band's lead singer told us they were playing for tips. He went on to say that they had been out of work for 19 months due to Covid and had just started getting back to performing when hurricane Ida hit; that was when they lost everything. That was just so hard to hear. Hurricanes do impact the lives of people in this region. Sometimes it's hard to fathom when you live in areas that have no idea what it's like to live through something this devastating. We made some new friends and enjoyed ourselves so much!
On Sunday, we did a tour of Oak Alley Plantation, located in Vacherie, Louisiana. We took a tour bus down, which was about an hour ride. On the ride, our guide "Gary" talked about hurricane Katrina and how it impacted his life. He told stories of the day it hit and what he remembers. His story was very gut-wrenching as he described being an apprentice for the City of New Orleans Levee System. Once the word came down to evacuate where they were working, he and a co-worker tried to escape the rising waters. He went on to say they made it to downtown when a lady on the street corner stopped them and let them know about two blocks up, a man was walking down the street with an assault rifle, and they might want to turn around. He went on to say that if that lady had not been there to stop and tell them, he didn't know what would have happened.
Listening to all the stories was pretty emotional, even though this was 16 years ago. The impact it has on the people living here is astounding. Listening to the harrowing stories, I can only imagine what it was like living through such a tragedy. The stories I heard while visiting New Orleans have made me realize how these hurricanes can come in and turn your life upside down.
On January 10th, we left New Orleans for Biloxi, Mississippi. Mark and I drove through Biloxi in July 2020, when Covid was gaining traction. I loved the area so much I wanted to come back. We stayed at a campground across the beach, right in Biloxi. Nice little campground, but we were crammed in like sardines.
While visiting Biloxi, we enjoyed the Palace Casino, the only entirely smoke-free casino in Biloxi. Not only is the casino friendly, but they have a fantastic buffet.
We went twice it was so good! We took the time to visit the lighthouse (Biloxi Lighthouse) and took a tour. We took the stairs to the top and were able to take pictures overlooking the water. Also, we saw the Maritime and Seafood Museum, which was very educational; it talked about how the seafood industry impacts this region. Growing up in a small town that prospered from the seafood industry, I found all of it to be very interesting. Again, this industry was hit hard many times by the hurricanes impacting livelihoods tremendously.
For those who remember, Biloxi Casinos were on floating ships tied up to the Piers, and a county/state ordinance did not allow casinos to be built on the land. After Katrina wiped out the whole casino ship row in 2005, the regulation was revised to allow land-based casinos - which is what you have now both in Biloxi & Gulfport down the road.
Biloxi is not that large; the population is 46,500 per the census in 2021. It's an adorable little coastal town that prospers from the seafood industry and tourism( casino traffic). An AFB (Kessler) also helps the area thrive and grow.
On our last day there, we drove around and took in the Historical Town of Gulf Port, enjoyed some BBQ at Butts, Butts, and More ButtsBBQ (that's quite the name, huh?) A name I'll never forget.
On January 17th (Monday), we woke up and left Mississippi for Pensacola, Florida. We took US 90 for most of the trip, jumping on I-10E near Mobile to cross under/over Mobile Bay, then hopping back onto US 90 for a more leisurely-paced drive. The drive was lovely, and the skies were sunny, but 'it's been cold, and for that, I am not complaining.
Just going to leave you with a few thoughts about New Orleans ~
"In New Orleans, culture 'doesn't come down from on high, it bubbles up from the streets." – Ellis Marsalis
"There is no place on Earth even remotely like New Orleans. 'Don't even try to compare it to anywhere else"." Anthony Bourdain.
You need to put it on your bucket list if you have never been. The city of New Orleans is full of rich culture and history. You will not be disappointed.
If you are looking for travel tips for New Orleans ~ Click Here
If you are looking for travel tips for New Orleans ~ Click Here