We were successful. We have each consumed our weight in bbqed pork, washed down with our share of local southern brews- Abita Amber from New Orleans and Yazoo Pale Ale from Nashville were the front runners for Rich-I, however, apparently am a Texan at heart and stuck with the tasty Shiner Bock. I wore the same dress for four days straight without batting an eye and I resigned myself to the fact that “y’all” and “darlin” have slowly crept into my northern vocabulary- and the Beignet’s in New Orleans have crept sneakily into my love handles. I welcomed them. I tell ya, I would do it again just for some of that powered sugar-fried doughy goodness. Don’t judge.
Though we stayed and hung out with beautiful people in Nashville-( Thank you Kelsie, Michael and Emmy!) and had a rockin’ night on Beale St. in Memphis (a foot note, I will warn you now, NEVER stay at the Fartisan, uh, I mean, Artisan Hotel in Memphis-it smelled like hot dogs and looked like someone had just previously bathed their dog in the sink) New Orleans was our all time favorite road trip experience.
We were(well, the pessimist that I am, was) reluctant at first about getting too excited to stay in the French Quarter since neither of us had been there since Katrina. And, truthfully, there is still some significant damage left to undo. Parts of the levy are still being held by sand bags, some shops and pubs remain boarded up with newspaper with sad, hopeful signs- “We Will Return”, no promise of a date. The biggest remnant is the increase in poverty- some poor soul tried to shine Rich’s shoes-though, as everyone knows, Rich only wears flip-flops from March to November. After making this discovery himself, undeterred, he attempted to shine his toes instead. A task worthy of more than a dollar after walking around all morning, I assure you.
With that said, the revitalization that has taken place over the last three years is more than phenomenal. The French Quarter is just as beautiful, if not more so now with a sense of purpose, than it was when I was last there at 16. We stayed at the hotel, Maison Dupuy which we would highly recommend to anyone who is planning a visit-and you really should. The staff were most helpful and friendly, we were not even two blocks away from the famed Bourbon Street, the pool was amazing and the rates in the summer time (considering it’s the off-season sweatiness) were enough to make us consider extending our vacation-permanently.
We ate enough Gumbo, Jambalaya and Crawfish Etouffe’ at the famous Gumbo Shop to claim Creole roots (if ever you are to go, know that there will be a wait to eat-they don’t take names, you just get in line-so, get a beer and chat with all the international tourists on line with you, it’s totally worth it) and wandered the Parisian looking streets for hours at night, hovering in and out of jazz clubs and bars-beers in hand, since it’s more than legal to walk around with drinks. Guess who kept reminding me of that? Not being a night-owl, I have to say that New Orleans comes alive at night and it is an over-stimulus of color, movement and most of all, music. Where else can you watch a terrible Bon-Jovi cover band directly next to the most engaging jazz clarinet player I’ve ever heard? Fascinating. Side note for the more conservative- Bourbon St does have it’s pitfalls, so if traveling with children I would suggest you steer clear of the side of the street advertising, “Boys Prettier Than Girls!” It will only make you uncomfortable having to explain what they mean, and angrier still if you do pass by and discover that they are right. They are, in fact, prettier than you. Sigh.
Our second day consisted of sweating through two changes of clothing, walking up and down the bank of the Mississippi, deciding that not even our travels were worth the thought of the buttons melting on my shirt and ending up at the pool with take-out po’boys for the rest of the day. At night, again, more meandering wide-eyed and open-mouthed with Hurricanes as we wandered into the cutest little jazz bar called Fritzels where we met a lovely couple, Seth and Amy, with whom we shared a table (and some Absinthe for Seth and Rich, crazy kids) for the rest of the night.
New Orleans felt like a European vacation without having to leave the country. We were certainly sad to have to leave, but satisfied in a strange way that this iconic location has reclaimed some ground. It was bustling with people. Most shops were up and running. The food was fabulous. The hotel was heavenly. Good for you, New Orleans. We will be back.
We then, after some deliberation decided to head to Atlanta- wanting really to spend some time in Savannah, but discovering it would be after 10 pm once we got there, we settled for Atlanta. No one informed us that Atlanta is the convention capital of the world and it is a crazy thought that you will be able to 1. find a room anywhere in the city on a Saturday night and 2. if you do find a room, it will be nary under 170.00 bones. HElllo. So, we had already driven 5-6 hours, what was one more? We headed to a little town outside of the city, got a perfectly decent room for 70.00, went swimming and crashed, visions of Voo-doo shops and Beignets still dancing around in our tired brains.
We drove home the next day. Yes, you heard me correctly. We drove HOME to New Jersey from Atlanta, GA all in one day. We couldn’t officially call ourselves road-trippers without driving more than a 10 hour stretch, could we? As you can tell, it wasn’t the brightest idea considering, we got home on Monday and I haven’t really been coherent enough to write a concluding update until this very morning.
The purpose of this trip as stated in previous posts was basically to breathe. To get a fresh perspective on things. To be open and listening to what God may or may not be calling us to do, whether that means relocating or not. It was to spend some time with friends who really live up to their Jesus-follower titles-and that was more than encouraging. It was to see how God is moving in other parts of the country, to remember what it is like to simply enjoy being in one another’s company with nothing but a Styrofoam cup of bad coffee and the open road.
I’m not going to be as cliche as to say it was life-changing experience, so instead, I will just tell you what has changed:
1. Rich and I were able to breathe, to laugh, to eat, to pray and to believe that God has great plans for us
2. God IS moving in different parts of the country, not unlike he is moving right here
3. We are with ALL CERTAINTY not called to wave our confederate flags in surrender of a relocation to the south
With all of our urgency to get the heck out of New Jersey, the biggest thing we learned was how grateful we were for cool summer nights. For 2 minute drives to the supermarket. For the train to the city and the parkway for the shore in our backyard. Most of all, for the people we love that are situated right here.
That seems to make being a Yankee worth it, y’all.
Now that we’re officially staying, I’m going to have work on that.
P.S. anyone interested can find all of the pictures from our trip on flicker: