Mike and I are back from vacation, and I'd love to say well rested but, that would be a lie. Usually when I return from a vacation I feel refreshed and ready to take on the world, instead I feel a bit chewed up and spit out - repeatedly...
I guess I will start from the beginning, that's usually the best place to start, right? Mike and I arrived in The Big Easy on Friday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. It was a long but enjoyable trip - if I had to choose anyone to roadtrip with on the regular, it would be Mike. While we don't always agree on the choice of music, we usually don't even need any. Between our conversations and naps we seem to be able to entertain ourselves. That isn't to say we didn't jam out a little bit. We mellowed out to the sounds of the Grateful Dead and then kicked things up a notch grooving to Pearl Jam and entered New Orleans rocking to one of my favorite bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Once in city limits we quickly found the route to the parking deck we decided to let the Jeep stay in for the weekend and grabbed all our stuff. We forgot the minor detail of what floor we parked on, I'm usually really good about this, so I'll blame the lack of taking note on the fact that I was super excited to be in NOLA once again. It was a bit annoying to have to park the Jeep and then walk to the hotel - it was only about a block away which isn't a big deal when you're simply walking but when carrying your luggage [and we all know how most ladies pack, I'm totally a classic case of a lady who over packs, religiously], a purse, a bag holding your make-up and bathroom supplies and trying to keep up with your boyfriend who is toting his smaller luggage, a cooler full of mixer and ice as well as a brown bag full of liquor [we come prepared] it's no small feat or cake walk, let me tell you. A bit breathless, and starting to get a rage of a sweat on we arrived at the lobby of our hotel. The lobby was cute, quaint and welcoming which was just what we needed after our 6 hour drive. We were quickly checked in and informed that our hotel room had already been paid for - we brought extra money to pay when we got there but it turns out that hotel.com actually charges your card at the time of reservation. Normally I'd be a bit angry, but, this just meant more spending money for the trip in hand and that my friends, rocks hardcore! If you're curious we stayed at the Parc St. Charles Hotel. I'll give you a quick run down of my opinion of the place at the end of this.
We quickly [well as quickly as the slow ass elevator would allow] made it up to the 8th floor and to our room. 801, first off the elevator. I was originally worried about this because I used to live in a college apartment complex and my apartment was right off the elevator, it made for many weeknights of blissful sleep interrupted by drunks at 2:00 AM, thankfully I didn't plan on passing out early while in New Orleans so we were good to go. Upon opening the hotel room door we were floored, the room was HUGE! Not only did we have a comfy queen bed, but also a fold out couch - a big closet and a seating area for coffee and if we had a lap top even a desk to use, AWESOME! [The table was actually used to mix cocktails, not really enjoy coffee but you get the point, we had many surfaces, for many uses and we took full advantage of that... wait that sounded dirty...] MOVING ON... The back wall of the room was all windows with a view out the front of the building. Not the best view mind you but we were right on a parade route so we did get a skewed view of what was important. Even the bathroom was spacious - if it had a vent for the A/C it would have been party central, but alas, shutting the door to pee even proved to be a bit too warm for my liking but over all I give the hotel room a solid 4 out of 5. The hotel itself was clean, in some areas could use some repair with wallpaper or slightly stained carpets but honestly if you are trying to find a hotel, at a great price, fairly close to all the action [we were only a few blocks from Canal Street and a short walk to the French Quarter] this is a great place to say. Furthermore if your plan is to party your ass off, this hotel fits the bill perfectly. I did have to deal with the noise from a few drunks in the middle of the first night but all in all it was truly no big deal.
After inspecting the room and cranking the A/C the two of us quickly changed into more comfortable clothing. The weather was a bit warmer than we anticipated, weather.com isn't always right kids. We made ourselves a rum and diet drink each and hit the streets with our travel cups. The beauty of NOLA is that you can carry open containers anywhere, unless it's noted that outside containers are not welcome. I do believe that glass bottles are not permitted on the streets but you can carry a can all day long, possibly in a brown bag but that's just not something I'm used to.
We walked around town, down to the French Quarter and over to the mall. I'm sure you're wondering why we hit up the mall first, well it was closer to our hotel, and our travel cups were FAT TUESDAY cups, which means, discounted refills and yes, in the mall!!! I would love to be able to get liquored up at the mall and shop, although this would be dangerous if it was regular behavior for me. We filled up our drink bottles at Fat Tuesdays, after sampling all the different frozen flavors, and proceeded to tool around a bit. I quickly realized how uncomfortable my weekend was going to be, I didn't bring shorts, or even shoes that were meant for spring weather. I brought practical boots that were comfortable, but not meant for 80+degree weather. The search went on but I was hesitant to spend money right of the bat for new shoes, most of which were pricey and not in my "budget" for the weekend.
After walking, sweating and drinking we made our way back to the hotel again to change for dinner and relax a bit. My mission was to find the old pizza place we enjoyed over and over on our first trip to NOLA last October. A friend of ours told us it had closed and I refused to take that as a final answer. We went back down to Canal and I retraced my steps from the last trip to town and there it was like a beacon of light, the French Quarter Pizzeria! [Seriously, I want to take this pizza out behind the middle school and get it pregnant it's so damn good!] After two great thin crusted slices of pepperoni heaven and 2 cold beers we were ready to rock Bourbon Street.
I wasn't sure what to expect, the night was still a bit young, it was only around 9:30 pm. Mike seemed upset and disappointed that it was so quiet down there - while it was busy it wasn't the crazy Mardi Gras he remembered from 7 years go. I told him to keep the faith it was early and most people probably hadn't settled into their rooms yet. We walked around and grabbed more frozen drinks and enjoyed the scenery. We missed the first parade scheduled for the area where we were staying so we hadn't yet came upon many beads... that all changed when Mike got into full Mardi Gras mode and started hollering to the balconies. I will be the first to admit I didn't go all out for Mardi Gras... my puppies stayed in their cage and I did not share my chest with anyone but Mike on this trip. Prude of me? Yes... but I just wasn't feeling it. Sorry... no pictures fellas.
We retired a bit early on our first night - after getting up super early, walking most of the day after a long drive and being a bit tipsy we both agreed we were OK with calling it a night. I'm actually glad we did. This in turn made it easier to get up on Saturday morning to enjoy the city.
Saturday morning we were up and out of the hotel room before 9:00 AM! HOLY CRAP RIGHT? We decided that since I spotted Café Beignet the night before while tromping through the Quarter that I wanted to go there and try their ever famous breakfast of coffee and beignets. We walked down the wet streets that thankfully had just been hosed down from the night before. I can only imagine what it smelled like at 4 AM down on Bourbon Street, probably a lot like Christina's mouth after her stint at the big house. Thankfully I was spared smelling that - word to the wise if you go to New Orleans be ready to often times get wafts from the sewers and or the trash cans along the street, it's not pretty and even worse when you inhale while trying to suck a frozen dream of a drink up a straw - makes for an awesome gag reflex... but I digress. We seemed to have an over all theme to our weekend of getting to a place at just the right time. When we arrived at Café Beignet there were just a few people in line and at the tables in the courtyard, which made for fast service and little waiting for our breakfast. Mike ordered the Southern Breakfast without eggs. Of course they looked at him like he had a third eye but he assured them that is what he meant. The boy hates eggs. I opted for the French Toast breakfast, mostly because in a place called Café Beignet, I saw no listing of beignets on the menu, anywhere. I was a bit tired and needed my iced coffee ASAP and didn't have what seemed to be the motor skill or verbal skills to ask the simple question if they actually served them... two seconds later while waiting for my coffee at the pick-up station I saw the chalkboard sign that read... 3 Beignets and Small Coffee for $2.79 - SON OF A B!!! I just spent $16 on a cup of iced coffee, a jug o' water [$4!!!] and my French Toast... blerg... note to self, make coffee in the hotel room and then join the living on the street, dumbass! I can't get down on the cafe for my own mistake, in the end they gave Mike extra grits with his meal and my french toast and coffee were both awesome! We left pleasantly full and ready to rock and roll... but not after another pit stop at the room for a wardrobe change.
Seriously, the weather was nothing like expected and I really wish at that point I had a weatherbug app on my phone or something I was not prepared for the heat. We switched into comfy t-shirts, jeans/shorts etc. and walked back out to enjoy the day. Shopping and sight seeing were on our list of things to do and we did those well. After picking up some gifts for family and friends we stopped at a place that we love called Pierre Maspero's not only did we get there again in the "nick of time" we actually got a great small 2 seated table right by the open door that looked out on the side street there to people watch and enjoy the slight, and much needed cool breeze that was billowing through the Quarter. Mike and I had two things on our agenda at that moment, #1 - big, cold beers and #2 - which po'boy sandwich we were going to rip into. Mike went with Catfish [but was given Crawfish], I ordered the Roast Beef Po'Boy I had last time I was there and it was just as awesome as it was the first time. Our server seemed concerned that our meal didn't come out fast enough but honestly we were on vacation and in no rush to move from our comfortable seats. It was a great meal and worth every penny, even if they did mess up Mike's order, he said it was still delicious and enjoyable.
We made a trip out to a few shops we don't have access to back home [Urban Outfitters and past Lush] and then decided to hit up the French Market Place. I didn't find anything I couldn't live without but Mike was finally able to replace his favorite sunglasses he lost this past year with a pair for $4.99 from a booth. Designer? No, they weren't but that isn't really how either of us roll anyway. We were able to sample all the great artists works outside the St. Louis Cathedral that afternoon and watch a few street performers as well. It was really the perfect relaxing afternoon I wanted while we were there.
Mike and I decided what would really hit the spot would be a mid afternoon nap so we returned to the hotel to relax. He passed right out, I tried to but just as I hit the pillow loud, thunderous base filled the air outside... the 2:00 pm parade was starting late, at around 3:30 pm. It was impossible for me to sleep, I'm not sure how Mike did it, but he did. Had our rooms been a bit lower, I might have been able to watch the parade from the window but the angle was all wrong. I contemplated running down to the lobby to catch it but figured relaxing was a better plan, even if it meant feeling like I was in high school again in the back of a friends car with a rigged system bumping extremely loud rap music.
Once napped and ready we decided to get out for a bit before dinner, we went back to the mall to find me some shorts and comfortable shoes for me, the girl who packed everything but the kitchen sink and comfortable spring clothing. Usually retail stores are early with seasonal clothing for this time of year, you see bikinis and shorts before you can even imagine taking off your Uggs or scarves... apparently New Orleans didn't get the memo. We ran in the Gap which was about the only affordable option at this mall and they had nothing in the way of shorts. Didn't they like invent preppy casual?!?! Either way I was pissed... no comfy shorts and no ballet flats that would fit my big ass feet. We went back to the shoe store where I had eyed up some Chuck Taylors. I needed comfortable, closed toe shoes - I wasn't about to wear flip flops or sandals through the nasty streets of the French Quarter at night and risk getting stepped on or walking through puddles of booze, or worse! I've wanted some Chuck's since I was in 5th grade and now at age 34... I finally got me a pair. Comfortable, semi stylish and frankly affordable. I couldn't wait to wear them the next day to tromp around the French Quarter for parades again.
Once finished with shopping we made it back to the hotel just in time to watch my first Parade!!! I was so excited. We were able to take in the entire Knights of Sparta parade that started on St. Charles where our hotel was located and continued on to Canal Street. I can't even tell you how many pounds of beads I caught just watching the parade, it was insane. If you ever get a chance to hit up Mardi Gras I have to say the parade, frozen drinks and food are my three favorite things!
After the parade was over we decided our favorite pizza joint would be the quickest and easiest thing for dinner - while I opted for 2 cheese slices, Mike got an amazing sub!!! I was jealous of his food when it came out but thankfully their pizza is a god sent so I was pleased with my choice. After eating we rushed down to The Cats Meow which is a local karaoke bar. Yes we are fools for karaoke! We love it! We quickly put in our song selection and like always got there at the perfect time. Beers were pricey... $11 for 2 brews but since you can't bring in outside drinks you are at the mercy of their prices if you want to listen or sing your heart out on stage! [Note most days it seems they have a 3 for 1 special on drinks, so that isn't too shabby!] The place was packed and I started to get a bit worried and nervous about belting out my song on stage. I always get butterflies before I sing, sure it's karaoke but I just get worried I'll look like a fool. Mike was up first and he killed AC/DC's "You Shook Me"... I was supposed to be after him but the drunken dude before Mike showed up late for his "name call" and I was actually relieved, I didn't want to follow Mike. The next kid did an alright rendition of Sir Mix A lot's "Baby Got Back" and the crowd loved it... Once he was finished there was no where to run or hide, I was on stage, and ready to rock out a little "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC. I had a blast and the crowd loved it. I felt so good when 3 different people patted me on the shoulder and told me good job on our way out. We were riding high and having a blast!
Once back on Bourbon Street, it was packed and loud. Mike and I stopped at Fat Tuesdays to get a huge frozen 190 Octane to start off our night on the street. As we walked through the crowds yet again on Bourbon Street, Mike caught a few more beads and we walked, slowly through the crowd about two blocks. I figured it was a good time to stop and put on some chapstick because my lips and mouth were so dry from my nerves of waiting to sing at the other bar. As I reached on my hip for my over the shoulder purse and pulled it forward terror struck me... every single zipper pocket on my small purse was wide open... and my biggest fear had come to light, my wallet was gone. Everything else was there, my camera, the beads I took off at the karaoke bar, my chapstick and lip gloss... all there. My wallet was no where to be found. I flipped, grabbed Mike and went down the side street as tears welled up in my eyes. He asked "Are you sure it's gone?" I dug through the purse that really holds little at all and said, "Yes, absolutely, it's gone!" We hadn't walked more than 10 minutes through the crowd from the last bar. Mike suggested we head back to Fat Tuesdays and check to be sure I didn't leave it there. I knew I hadn't but it didn't hurt to be sure. When we left after getting drinks I remember shoving it down in the bottom of the purse and zipping it tight - and wearing the purse over the shoulder and having it rest in front of me on my hip. I guess in walking through the crowd, with one hand on Mike and one on a drink, I didn't realize that my purse may have drifted further back on my hip - a prime target for a pick-pocket! The evening before I was able to have one hand free and on my purse at all times [our drink cups from Fat Tuesdays have neck straps on them].
After no luck at Fat Tuesdays and a lot of freaking out on my part [I tossed a full drink at a trash can and said "F*CK THIS TOWN!" I was so upset, the one moment I relaxed and tried to fully enjoy myself on Bourbon in a crowd that already made me very uncomfortable, I get robbed. I didn't feel a single tug on my purse, or person, not a bump or anything. It's like a ghost robbed me. These assholes are professionals and it sucks. I wish I would have been drunk to have some excuse for being so careless, but I wasn't.
After this our night was ruined the mood went from happy go lucky night out on the town to almost the walk of shame. All the what ifs started flooding in to my brain and making it worse. The tears wouldn't stop. Walking back on the side streets to the hotel Mike and I passed three cops and I made a report. They took my information and assured me they would do all they could. I walked briskly back to the hotel, still crying, realizing that all hope for the rest of our weekend was lost, just like my credit card, ATM card, drivers license, insurance cards, the hotel key and parking stub as well as $250-300 cash! I originally thought it was more like $400, but the more I thought about all the money I spent at the mall and shopping for friends and food, it was probably less than that. Either way I felt violated and helpless and I hate that feeling. The rest of my night was spent packing my bags, calling my bank and credit card companies and crying my eyes out. What a great way to end a night, right?
There was no way we could stay for the final day and night of our vacation. Mike only had a limited amount of money in his wallet and my credit card for emergencies and possible fun purchases was gone. We checked out of the hotel and went to the parking deck to face the music of what we were sure would be a costly fee since I lost the ticket for our parking. After searching for the jeep up and down about 4 floors - remember we didn't take note of our floor. We finally found the darn thing. When we reached the window we told the woman our story and she used her CB Radio to discuss our issue with who we believed may be her boss. She came back in a few minutes and said she was so sorry we had to deal with all this and that we were free to go. We were shocked... did she just wave our 2 night stay fee AND the lost ticket free??? They did, so there IS good in the world! We got to the bottom of the ramp and there was an officer there collecting money from people for parade parking at $20 a pop. He said he heard what happened to me and was truly sorry. He gave me a bit of advice and a pep talk and his sympathy and sent us on our way with "Be safe and have a safe trip!"
Thankfully that was almost $90 that we didn't have to spend to put toward our trip home and food. What a relief. Bottom line, while I thought I was playing it safe, I really could have played it safer. I took time to empty my wallet before we left for our trip, only taking vital items like 1 credit card, 1 ATM card, Cash and ID and insurance cards. SMART! What wasn't smart is that I decided to carry ALL my cash on me at all times - I should have either taken a little at a time, or left most of it in my checking account. My rational wasn't the best but it was mine. I hate keeping track of ATM withdraws and I still do things the old school way using a checking register, for fear I'll withdraw too much and send my account into a tailspin. With no online access there would be no way for me to track this without my little register, or writing it all down - it's a chance I should have taken! I had plenty of spending money that wouldn't have made this happen to me. Hind sight is always 20/20. My fear about leaving most of my cash in the hotel is always the fear of the maid getting to my money and being dishonest. Really stupid, I know, at least there would be a way to figure out that a maid took it, vs. some strange person on the street. The other fairly stupid thing I did was carry a purse. In the end the way I originally carried it the first night was with one hand on it at all times, SMART! Had I put a less full wallet in there, or even carried just my camera and other "needs" in there I might have been OK with a wallet in my front pocket. My issue was I didn't have a small wallet and well, have you seen girls jean pockets in the front now? They are TINY! I always fear something will fall out of that! But I should have tried, or at least worn it around my neck, in my bra or in my shoe!
Bottom line - if you leave stuff out where pickpockets can get to it, they will get to it! So that's my words of wisdom to you, not just for New Orleans but any crowded street in the United States - just when you think you're being smart, or safe enough, try a bit harder. In the end no one has ever been TOO CAREFUL.
Mike and I went home a day early, pissed and disappointed... we arrived home to Angus, our cat who was over the moon to see us. He snuggled and purred all night with me, it was nice to be home after our long and disappointing end to our vacation that was supposed to be perfect and fun. The next morning we went to pick-up June from the kennel, and spent our last day off running all over town trying to get my new license, get money out of my bank account for bills and finally trying to relax.
In the end, nothing was taken out of my bank account by the thief, and no charges were made on my credit card. Other than the cash, I lost only my feeling of security, but that's the hardest thing to get back.
If you travel - please be safe, and learn from my mistake. I know I did. And don't let my story sour you on New Orleans - we went for Halloween and loved it! Mardi Gras was just too much for me, I probably won't be back unless I can sit on the balcony of a building and toss out beads. I will go back to New Orleans smarter, wiser and safer than I ever did in the past and hopefully enjoy more great meals and drinks in the French Quarter. I really wanted to share great thoughts on our final meal while there we had planned to have a nice, semi romantic dinner for our last night but as you know that didn't happen. Oh there there is always next time. I have told Mike that if we have the money, I would love to go for a short weekend in December for our birthdays that way we could celebrate in style and see the French Quarter decorated for Christmas.
I will try to post some pictures this weekend from the trip, if they actually turned out OK. I didn't take many because what I didn't mention in this post is that on the way down I started to suffer from Pink Eye or some type of eye issue - great right? [Thank goodness for CVS!!!] Let's just say I really wasn't too up for images being taken of me but I will share what I did take pictures of soon! Pink Eye and Picked Pocket - Thanks New Orleans! Now you see why I say I felt chewed up and spit out, repeatedly!
Be safe, and keep a hand on your goods at all times people! Rules to live by!