Wednesday, September 08, 2004

New Orleans trip - second day
We didn't sleep very well on our marble slab at Motel 6, and Mike had to wash his hair with hotel soap. Needless to say we were glad to get going. After packing everything back into the car, we headed out and decided to swing by graceland just to say we'd seen the outside. Graceland is what you'd expect, a big fancy house with tall gates and green lawns, pretty, but surrounded by the seediest looking neighborhood. Everything around it is either named Elvis this or Graceland that, no matter how seedy the building. We had trouble finding the highway after that, because the people who planned the city of Memphis don't want anyone to be able to leave.
It was sunny when we left, but it wasn't long until some truly evil looking clouds descended - ones that made us worried about tornadoes. Then, came the downpour. It rained so hard that all the encrusted bug carcasses were blasted right off the car. The rain was bad, but it did stop for a while. We were now in Mississippi, land of more trees and pavement, with the occasional dead armadillo with its feet in the air. our project arrival was actually early - we figured we'd get in to NOLA a half hour before our check-in time.
The rain however, made sure that we weren't rushing as we had to deal with it on and off. We stopped at a rest stop during a bad downpour, and Mike read an installment of Harry Potter while we waited for it to stop. We had lunch in Jacksonville at a Cracker Barrel, which I must say has very good meatloaf sandwiches and excellent cold cider.
By the time we finally reached Louisiana, the rain was threatening again. Most of the road to New Orleans is a big long bridge over the swamp, which we had only seen at nightime before. So instead of trees and pavement, it was creepy trees and swamp, with the occasional fishing shack in the middle of nowhere.
We didn't get to see the landscape for too long before we got pounded by rain again, so much so that everyone in front of us was pulling off to the side. I entertained thoughts of water coming over the edge of the bridge. Mike kept driving because he was able to at least see in front of him - because if we stopped, who knows when the rain would end. The rain had stopped by the time we were on solid ground again, and we were finally in our city of choice. Mike had some problems exiting the highway to get to the right spot, but having driven before it didn't take too long to right ourselves.
I was already excited at seeing the palm trees everywhere, the seedy streets, the downtown area, and canal with its red street cars. We pulled in sometime before 5, which meant we could valet park the car and check in without having to fill time. we stayed at the Alexa, which is a very nice hotel with access from canal, royal, and bourbon. It's right on the edge of the french quater madness, which means you can easily stumble to the bar of your choice, and still have peace and quiet enough when you get back to your room.
We looked like we were moving in for the rest of our lives - the luggage rack looked like a christmas tree. We got a nice quiet corner room at the end of an arctically cold hallway. it had a round window with a big ledge that we discovered was great for sitting on to check out our 6th floor view of the quarter. We could also look down on a portion of bourbon street to see how the partying was going. The bed was lightyears better than at Motel 666, so we plopped down for a bit before unpacking.
Mike was sad that they changed the hotel soaps from last time, but I thought they were perfectly nice and knew we were going to go home with more soap than we could ever possibly use. We flipped through the tv channels, and found our favorite station the weather channel to check out the current local atmosphere. The station predicted rain for most of our time there, but really I didn't believe it. and even if it did rain, it wasn't going to spoil my good time.
We decided to do our first prowling off the quarter and find ourselves some dinner. It was early on a sunday evening, and very very dead as most tourists must have just gone home. It was humid and the streets were all wet with that familiar New Orleans perfume of restaurants and bodily fluids. (yeah well, I still love it.) The weather was very comfortable and we acclimated quickly to it. We walked around, looking at the familiar spanish architecture until we found Silky O Sullivan's, which drew us in with the smell of their ribs. The place was an Irish pub complete with chandeliers and sports banners. We were two of maybe five people in the place, counting the waitress.
We split a rack of ribs (which by the way were dry ribs, meaning rubbed with spices and without sauce) and had some drinks. The ribs were good but Mike and I found that were are better fans of wet ribs. BB King's were still better. So, now I was slightly woozy and full, we left and walked for a bit to take in more scenery. Royal was the street we found ourselves wandering down most often, as Bourbon gets too hectic. Royal houses most of the more expensive antique stores and galleries, so it's always fun to window shop. We spotted an artist's exhibition which we had caught the year previous, and figured we'd stop back in to see the new stuff later on.
We planned to hit the gym in the the hotel the next day, as I was fervently exercising and wanted to keep with my routine. The alexa has a nice gym with all kinds of machines and a shower, as well as a rooftop pool which we had visited before after hot midday walks.
The first night was basically wandering around and relaxing after the long drive. We didn't want to stuff ourselves too much, as there would be more than enough time to be doing that. We relaxed in the hotel room and watched tv until we were tired enough to crash. The next day would be our first real adventure.

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