They have lots of alligators:And they even have a 900-year-old Buddha statue with a fascinating back story:
Then we made our way to the TABASCO factory. It was your standard, run-of-the-mill factory tour, but the TABASCO country store was cool.
They gave lots of free samples, including some unique concoctions. A word of warning: Never, ever, under any circumstances, no matter what anyone else tries to say, NEVER taste TABASCO ice cream. NEVER EVER EVER! It's quite possibly the most vile thing I've ever eaten. On the other hand, a few drops of TABASCO in a Coke makes for a surprisingly refreshing beverage.
I would go back to Louisiana just to visit Avery Island.
Then we made our way to New Orleans.Our hotel, the Hotel St. Marie, was in the French Quarter, on Toulouse, a half block off Bourbon Street. It's the off-season now, so the room was only about 60 bucks per night. Hell, you can't get a Motel 6 in Blue Springs for sixty bucks. The kicker, though, was the parking fee of $28 per night. It was worth it, though. Everything in the French Quarter was in walking distance.
Our first impression of the French Quarter was that it's pretty much a smelly, disgusting hole. The garbage smell was overpowering at times. That's not surprising; there's really no such thing as a "week night" on Bourbon Street. I can't imagine what it would be like during Mardi Gras.
Most of the bars along Bourbon Street are targeted at frat-boy, bachelor-party types, and the places were much, much sleazier than I imagined they would be. We learned a lot about human anatomy and subtlety in advertising. One establishment advertised to the masses via people holding signs emblazoned with the words "TITS 'n' WHISKEY."
The two famous drinks in New Orleans are the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade. My impression of these drinks and others in the French Quarter are that they're expensive, overly sweet and fruity, and not nearly as strong as people would like to think. I discovered this through rigorous testing over the course of our stay.
Our best drinking experiences were at the bars off Bourbon Street, the places that aren't quite flashy enough for the other tourists. Once or twice Jamie and I found ourselves as the only customers in some of these great local haunts.
We had some terrific food, including, of course, gumbo, jambalaya, poboys and etouffee. Jamie even found a handful of vegetarian options. And for breakfast one morning we ventured to Cafe Du Monde, known for their chicory coffee and beignets:
My favorite experience from New Orleans was buying a book. I purchased a copy of William Faulkner's "Soldier's Pay" at a little bookshop on Pirate's Alley. The shop used to be a house, and William Faulkner lived in that house when he wrote "Soldier's Pay."
That book will always be a cherished keepsake for me.
-- Matt Kelsey