There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a chance with a place to camp, and having a quiet, undisturbed night of sleep.
Even though we hadn’t paid for the extra night, we didn’t believe the staff would be that bothered by our little van being there one more night. And it was lovely to be proved correct!
We made the most of the shower facilities one last time, had a pot of tea and some breakfast and then set off towards New Orleans. I had messaged a guy named Brian, who we had met over the weekend and had invited us to park outside of his apartment in a gated car park. Apparently he’d had Marc and Eliana (Birding by Bus), stop with him last year on there travels.
We made it to Brian’s in good time, but struggled initially to find his apartment as the apartment block numbering made no sense!
As Brian was at work, we walked down the road to a local sandwich shop to grab a bite to eat and to use their WiFi. My phone data had been hit pretty hard over the last week, and so I was perilously close to exceeding my data limit, and neither of us knew what perils awaited us if that was to happen!
We decided that a bike ride down the Mississippi River to the French Quarter could be quite fun, but as it turned out that Brian had managed to get out of work early, and he came out to greet us on our arrival back at the van.
With Brian there, it seemed rude not to use his knowledge of the local area, and so we set off in Ruby to see some of the local sites.
Our first stop was a bar that Brian recommended us to visit. As you will see from the picture, the bar had a wooden interior, littered with strange décor, and they had an interesting selection of bar stools to match!
After sampling some of the local beers, Brian took us to a park located next to the Mississippi, so we could get some nice pictures of Ruby next to the river. We managed to arrive at a time when there was also a a Jaguar and a Range Rover, but I didn’t think the owners of the vehicles would share my enthusiasm enough to line them up for a picture.
From the park, our next destination was another bar recommendation. Cooter Browns, which had a fantastic selection of international beers from Europe.
Feeling nostalgic, I ordered a bottle of Newky brown ale, followed by a Young’s chocolate stout.
We were joined at Cooter’s by Justin and his partner Candice. Justin was responsible for organising the Vansgiving event that we were fortunate enough to have just attended.
I was bitterly disappointed that I didn’t get to sample any alligator meat during our time in Florida, and fortunately so me, Brian was determined that we made the most of our time in New Orleans, and so ordered us a portion of alligator sausages from the bar menu.
I have heard a lot of people compare alligator meat to chicken, and although I am not really a meat eater anymore, I was eager to sample something new.
I felt the sausages were of a similar taste and texture to pork. However, I am not sure if I was just drawing comparisons because they were served as sausages.
After letting Aimee out to stretch her legs, we left the bar and drove in a small convoy to the French Quarter. On the way, Brian told us about the fascinating history behind the large houses that we drove by along the way.
Once we arrived in the French Quarter, Brian directed us down Bourbon Street, which was New Orleans big bar strip.
Slowly, we crept behind crowds of revellers, clearly enjoying the most of their Monday night so much, that me loudly reving Ruby’s engine was behind them was not enough of a hint for them to move out of the way. The street was full of life and music seeping out of the bars as we past.
We drove past crowds of enthusiastic tourists, doormen and even groups of young children sat in the streets playing plastic buckets as drums like their lives depended on it.
After we had run out of strip to explore, Brian directed us just out of it to meet up with more VW enthusiasts.
Pulling into a car park, we parked up alongside a red convertible beetle, blasting out some very loud music. Here we met Glen and his son Jake, who would be joining us on our whistle stop evening tour.
Our convoy growing, we set off for a bar where we could listen to some of he notorious jazz music which New Orleans is famous for, whilst picking at some more food at the same time.
Brian suggested that we hit a local wine and cheese bar, which I don’t think was initially met with enthusiasm from the whole group, but being massive wine and cheese fanatics, we were sold.
The place was clearly busy, as the streets around it was lined with cars! Driving a stock height VW however, meant that e could just park up on a grass embankment right next to the entrance.
Upon arriving at the bar, you have the option to choose a selection of cheeses which they will arrange in a platter for you to eat with your chosen wine.
The cheese board that we receivedwas delicious, if not a little bit stingy. But there wasn’t a crumb left behind by the time we had tackled it.
Not really being a place that was generous to our wallets, we set off to find a cheaper option to spend the rest of our evening.
Glen had kindly suggested that we headed back to his house to have some drinks in his garden around a fire, but apparently his wife was unsurprisingly not as keen on the idea of entertaining a large crowd of people at short notice as he was and so we settled on a local dive bar.
Justin and Candice said goodbye, as Justin had just been to the dentist and the anaesthetic was staring to wear off.
At the dive bar, we drank beer, whilst I was set loose on the juke box, apparently appeasing our small party with my song choices.
There was a pool match between England and America, with me reigning victorious, mainly as a result of our differing sobriety at that point!
We probably could have stayed there until the early hours of the morning, but eventually we had to leave to let the poor barmaid who was waiting on us go home.
That night, it’s safe to say we didn’t have the best night’s sleep!
It could have been anything from: the illuminated car park, the heavy rain that fell during the night, the busy delivery yard that started operations incredibly early, or all of the many people, that unlike us had to be up early for their daily jobs… and as usual, Aimee was ‘full of beans’!
As Brian had to be in work that day, we attempted the bike ride down the Mississippi which we had planned yesterday. Riding down the levy and then heading into the French Quarter to find some French doughnuts which had been recommended to us by Shannon at the VW meet.
The weather was still a bit stormy, and we had to battle our way down the levy, trying to force ourselves through the gale winds that were blowing in the wrong direction against us. It was that bad, that at the same time that we were struggling to keep the bikes moving, a guy who must have been in his late 80’s, flew past us heading in the opposite direction. A grey wrinkly blur propelled by gale force winds.
We did eventually make it to the French Quarter though and located Café Du Monde, to try the supposedly renowned beignets with a creamy cup of coffee. The beignets came with their own Munro’s worth of icing sugar! I’d hate to think how much icing sugar gets wasted on a daily basis. Or do they just recycle it off the empty plates? There may one day be a hidden camera investigation tv show giving them a visit.
From the café, we rode towards the Hard Rock Cafe hotel which had recently collapsed during construction. Seeing the fallen crane, you couldn’t help think that it was lucky that there was only a few fatalities. It could have potentially been a lot worse. And they still have the problem of deciding what to do with a potentially still dangerous building.
Seeing enough of the disaster, we locked the bikes up and did the rest of our tour on foot, so we would have more time to absorb all of the beautiful Classic French architecture.
Walking along some of the streets, I could help wonder what it would have been like to have seen the streets in their early ‘hey day’, rather than seeing the tired buildings now inhabited with cheap tourist shops and takeaways.
We ventured back towards Bourbon Street, interested to see what it had to offer. The street was packed with performers and people who acted like they were performers, but the way they eyed up our possessions made me feel like there was more chance of them mugging us then entertaining us.We did risk a photo with a parrot owned by a very suspicious looking man. Willow loves birds so much, that she may have even given the man her possessions in exchange for holding the bird.
We made our way from Bourbon Street, snaking our way through the small streets towards the river front.
Near here we watched a show similar to one we had seen in New York. A group of men had selected a group of people from the surrounding crowd; lined them up and then jumped over them. Even though we had seen something similar before, we couldn’t help but stop and watch as the guy on the microphone wound up the group by walking them round whilst singing ‘You’re all going to die soon!’
We left the act and made our way to an Irish bar named Kerry’s Irish pub. I don’t know what it is that attracts people abroad to potentially similar surroundings to those they have left? Curiosity? Comparison? Familiarity? Whatever drove us there, it was unfortunate, experience was rather disappointing. Maybe we had caught it on a bad day!
From the Kerry Pub, we headed back to Bourbon Street, to try out some of the bars there. Starting with another daiquiri in Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop. Reputed to be one of the oldest buildings used as a bar in the United States.
From Lafitte’s, we visited another bar which had a karaoke night on. We stayed for a few drinks listening to some enthusiastic Spanish ladies sing Shakira.
In the meantime, we had messaged Brian, who came to Bourbon Street to collect us in his bus to take us for something to eat.We ended up in a small Vietnamese restaurant named Rolls’n’bowls. It was obvious that Brian was a regular, as the manager brought over a selection of starters for us to try, and boy were they delicious!
After the food, we headed back to Brian’s, stopping off for a drive thru daiquiri along the way.
We’d had a pretty late night the night before, and so opted for a quieter night chilling beside the apartment’s pool
We spent the rest of the night talking, watching the clouds dash above us in the prevailing winds, before calling it a night.
In the morning, Aimee once again decided that we weren’t allowed a lie in, and so I took her back to the pool, so at least Willow would be able to get some form of a lie in.
Brian had managed to book the Wednesday off work, and so we made plans to spend the rest of the day with him, before setting off to Jeff and Shannon’s house, who had kindly invited us to stay with them also at Vansgiving.
Our first priority for the day was to change our front left side tyre, which had worn dramatically in the short time from leaving Colin in Pensacola, to arriving in New Orleans.
Driving through New Orleans on the way to the tyre shop, it was heart breaking to see the levels of homelessness within the city. There was almost a whole civilization of homeless people living in tents under the interstate.
Luckily, Justin had been able to source a replacement at his local garage, and so the swap was pretty straight forward.
With the tyre sorted, we fancied one last meal in New Orleans, and so Brian and Justin took us for brunch at Charlie’s Restaurant. Which offered a selection of deep fried treats.
I settled with a deep fried catfish in a pecan crust, whilst Willow ordered a pasta and stuffed aubergine with a tomato sauce.We also ordered a round of ‘Bloody Marys’. Apparently, these are quite popular on the New Orleans breakfast menu!
Both were delicious, if not a little gigantic on the portion side. It’s still a novelty for us to ask for a takeaway box here. In England, you eat as much as you can until you feel sick and then mourn the rest of your food which gets taken away and thrown in a bin.
From Charlie’s, we dropped Justin back at his house and thanked him for all of his help, and then set off for one final trip before moving on.
We decided on a trip to Jean Lafitte National Park, to see the boardwalk above the swamps, stopping off briefly along the way to see Brian’s bay project, as well as a load of other banging car projects.
Due to the ferry being shut, we had to drive around the long route, meaning we arrived at the swamp quite late.The boardwalk closed at 5:30pm, giving us an hour and a half to get back to the car park.
We really wanted to give Aimee a walk, but were told that pets were forbidden due to risk of alligators,
so sadly we had to take her back to the van.
We walked for roughly forty five minutes through the marshy swamp lamp, eagerly on the lookout for curious wildlife, before turning around, for a brisk walk back to the van. Spotting one small alligator on the way.
We discussed how strange it must have been to have lived in the area hundreds of years ago, wading through the swampy waters, unsure of what perils lurked around you.
Just as we were nearing the end of the walk, we got one final glimpse of the sun as it set behind a gorgeous backdrop of trees.
Our time in New Orleans had come to an end. The boardwalk was a fitting end to our time there, and would probably be the last we would see of the swampy surroundings that have been our home since hitting Florida a few weeks back.
We dropped Brian back at his apartment, thanking him for his kind hospitality and inviting him to meet up with us on the west coast, if he could find time to get away.
Tomorrow would be Thanksgiving, and we were excited to be spending it with our new friends Jeff and Shannon.
We had never celebrated Thanksgiving, as it is an American tradition, but after all we had been through in our short time in the States, we both felt as though we had much to be thankful for!