Beignets, Bourbon Street and the Beauty of New Orleans

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I’ve been itching to get out of Pensacola and do something different before the kids’ Spring Break was over, so today we took an impromptu road trip to New Orleans. Translation: Get everyone up at the crack of dawn to drive three hours for breakfast with their visiting grandparents. They were super excited. <insert sarcasm>

Since we moved to this area almost three years ago, this made our fourth trip over there. There is just something about the city that always makes me excited to return and I’m not sure what it is. It is full of rich history, unbelievable food, music on every street corner, tons of tiny shops tucked away in ancient buildings, charming beauty, joyfulness, sadness and the entire city looks like it needs a good pressure wash while bringing out the total germaphobe in me that normally isn’t there. Anyone who has visited before, will agree that there is a distinct….aroma. It’s similar to the streets of New York. Not very pleasant, but definitely distinct. It’s hard to explain, but seems to be a mixture of the delicious food from all of the local restaurants, flowers from the balconies above, garbage in the alleys, urine from the drunk tourists on Bourbon Street and the soap/bleach mixture that is used to clean it all up in the mornings.

photo 2 (6)Mardi Gras was in full force about two weeks ago and everywhere we looked today, there were remnants of the crazy parties that went on. Most of my adult life, I have wanted to be there on Fat Tuesday to experience it in person. Now that I’ve been there on a normal weekend and have seen the insanity that goes on, I’m good with just seeing the aftermath. I’m not sure if that makes me just sound old or smart, but whatever. My kids didn’t find it quite as interesting as I did to look up in all of the trees and see them covered in beads, feather boas hanging from the phone lines or see more strands of beads laying on the roof of a VooDoo store. I thought it was cool. Those who know me know that I’m easily amused though.

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The highlight of every New Orleans trip, for me, has always been the food. Each time, I try something new. Today, I tried Bananas Foster French Toast with Praline Pecans. There really are no adjectives to describe it, however-if there is a Heaven and breakfast is  served, I’m willing to bet this is on the menu. WOW. Unfortunately, the restaurant we ate at had horrible service, was terribly overpriced and everyone was upset because their food all came out stone cold. I quietly enjoyed every bite of the deliciousness on my plate.

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My daughter is a very picky eater. If it’s not chicken, macaroni, mashed potatoes or 98% sugar, chances are, she won’t eat it. She’d had her heart set on the famous beignets from Cafe DuMonde, so after I’d made a nice long, yet calm complaint to the manager and scored a free lunch, we made our way over towards Jackson Square. For those who don’t know what a beignet is, it’s basically a piece of fried dough, covered in a mountain of powdered sugar. I really haven’t understood the obsession with them. They taste like a fluffy doughnut, and I personally prefer a warm Krispy Kreme over them, but it’s a tradition to eat one when in NOLA, so we do. Today, the line was ridiculous, and none of us were feeling overly patient, so we decided to go against our usual plan and try the competitor down the block. The New Orleans Beignets and Coffee. I know there will be hundreds of locals ready to stone me, but I actually liked their beignets better than Cafe DuMonde. (The horror!) These were more thin, croissant-like pastries, covered in sugar. This will be my new must have.

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The rest of our day was spent walking around the French Quarter, listening to jazz bands playing for the crowds, looking at memorabilia in the new Hard Rock Cafe (FYI-Frank Sinatra had surprisingly tiny feet) walking down Bourbon Street and wandering into either a bed and breakfast or possibly someone’s house to use the restroom. We weren’t really sure after being there about five minutes so we hurried to leave before we got busted.  I also found it funny that the Voodoo shoppes all had signs outside saying, “Warning! Absolutely NO pictures allowed!” Really? What were they going to do if I took one? Curse me?

I tried convincing the kids to walk with me and look at the historical cemetery, but they weren’t having it. They thought it was too sad and morbid, and maybe it is to some people, but I just think it’s cool that these beautiful mausoleums carved with nothing but hammers and chisels hundreds of years ago have lasted this long, even through Katrina. I think that’s one of the things I find so interesting about the city. The buildings are so old, they look dirty and worn but still beautiful. The architecture is amazing. They’ve been through so much and they’re all still standing strong. Some have visible water lines from the storm, some even have trees and grass growing out of the rooftops, but they’re still there. Even with the funky smell, New Orleans is fascinating to me and I’m already wanting to go back, even if nothing happened at every building in 1897.

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