Surviving New Orleans: Day Six

This last post will be a joint effort, but Val will start us off.

Our day technically started in the wee morning hours as we finished up at the Rebirth Brass Band concert.

It was ... wow. Not just the band which was epic but the atmosphere just made you smile. I’m actually not sure a smile left my face the entire time. There were some free spirits dancing (as best they could in a shoulder-to-shoulder packed bar) and some singing along with the band.

One of my favorite parts though was about halfway through the concert. The bar’s heat and humidity level could rival what we felt on the worst day in New Orleans, and a group next to us noticed the fan above wasn’t running.

They convinced the tallest person in the group that he could reach up and pull the very short chain to get the fan running.

I should note that due to the ceiling height in this place, I was doubting him.

After about five or six times of him failing, he finally reached it. The cheering of about half the crowd was what got me. Mind you that the band we all came to see was playing their best stuff at the time and we’re all cheering for a guy in the middle of a huge crowd.

Some things you’ll just never expect to see again, and that kind of silent prayer from a crowd of more than 100 people for a guy to just pull a chain still makes me smile.

There’s a video and more photos on our PhotoStream.

After a few hours of sleep, we finished packing and loading our stuff into the car, but before leaving town, we made a last stop in the French Quarter for some coffee.
French Truck Coffee has a few locations around New Orleans, but making our last stop in that specific area of the city just seemed to fit.The coffee was excellent and I’m pretty sure Matthew will be dreaming about the “cruffin” (croissant/muffin hybrid?) he got for quite awhile.

Now that I’m finished writing about the fun parts of our last day, I’ll let Matthew fill you in on the 11-hour car ride home.

Matthew here, tagging in for Valeri.

Most of the rest of the day was spent behind the windshield, but we did make one interesting stop: Memphis.

If you had to hazard a guess as to what the most interesting part of our Memphis stop was, what would it be?

I'm sure your first thought was music specifically the good ol' blues.
Well, you're wrong.  The correct answer was "scooters."

"Scooters?" I can hear you ask yourself, quizzically.
Yes, reader scooters. Electric Scooters to be precise.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat at Blues City Cafe, we decided to wander around Beale Street, perusing the over-priced offerings of the various gift shops. After getting our fill of that, we took off on a trek across town toward Sun Studios the start of many famed musicians, including the likes of Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. ... It was a couple of miles nothing major, but enough to cause me to notice the number of Bird Rental Scooters.

We couldn't resist, and we are glad we didn't. They were an absolute blast. If you get a chance, hop on one and go for a spin.
If you want to see how  well  it went for us, check out the video in the PhotoStream.

... then it was back to tearing up the asphalt. Nothing much to report on this side of Memphis other than to say we made it safely back home. The Pearons are healthy, happy, and glad to be home.

Vacation is a simple word with one largely accepted meaning: A break from whatever thing it is you normally do. For most, that thing is a job, and that break is nice. As much as I enjoy what I do (and I think I can speak for Valeri here as well), I find that I really look forward to our escapes.
From what I gather, Valeri and I handle vacation a bit differently than most, forgoing the relaxed schedules for something a bit more structured, but that's the cool thing about vacation it's yours to do with what you want.
As long as you take the time to relish in those moments you spend hanging around the house with family, enjoying the nightlife with friends, sitting alone by the poolside, running off to the beach with your significant other ...it doesn't matter what it is just enjoy it.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans?"
"At once, madly. Looking back, sometimes I think it was predestined."

   - Andrei Codrescu


Surviving New Orleans: Day Five

Good afternoon! Matthew here, checking in from Downtown New Orleans.
Today’s blog is a little different, since I’m writing it significantly earlier than normal. I try my hardest to squeeze the very last bit of useful time out of each and every day even if that means sitting down to write the blog nigh midnight.

Well, today I thought ahead.

We will be at a music club later tonight, and that will possibly go until after midnight, and we have an early start tomorrow, so I don’t want to push it. I’ll touch on that concert in a bit. In the meantime, I’ll babble on about what the Pearons were up to today.

We decided to start the morning in true New Orleans style with a trip to the famed Café du Monde on Decatur Street. We partook of the typical tourist favorite: Coffee with Chicory, a Café Au Lait and Beignets. We can tick that off the list.

Next up was a  quick  trip to Algiers Point.
If I could strike through that word multiple times, I absolutely would. The ferry ride there wasn’t bad too short, if anything — but the wall from the terminal to Library was awful in the midday sun.
Algiers Point is a neighborhood separated from New Orleans proper by the mighty/muddy Mississippi River and with that physical separation goes the metropolitan feel.
There are no skyscrapers on Algiers Point, no busy intersections, no peddlers attempted to shift their wares and oh yeah there’s no shade either. The sun beats directly down on you, causing your body to employ its only cooling mechanism: sweat. Yuck.
No matter what you do, you just can’t escape the heat. No high rise buildings to cast shadows, and the large tide-blocking berm around the area prevents even the slightest bit of a breeze from reaching you ... but hey, boat rides are cool, right?

Anyone hungry? We sure were ... and I had Bratwurst on my mind (as did the itinerary). We headed over to Piety Street’s own Bratz Y’all. I cringe every time I have to say or type that abomination of a word.

Y’all. Ugh.

Does that even deserve the title of “word”? I don’t think so. It’s been purged from my vocabulary.

We generally pick up minor gifts for family when we go on vacation. I’m not sure why, really. To them, it’s just a random object be it a coffee mug or some other trinket. It really only holds memories for me and Valeri. To them it’s a “Hey, remember that time I didn’t go to New Orleans?” Either way, we like to bring home goodies to clutter other people’s homes.

Normally, we’re big on walking, but with hands full of bags, a 28-minute walk in the sticky New Orleans air didn’t sound fun, so we resorted to Uber. Usually that is a quick, simple solution and we’ve never had any issues. This time, we watched on the map as our driver took wrong turn after wrong turn, ending up on the complete wrong side of town. We’re not sure what happened, but after 20 minutes of waiting for her to arrive, we were notified the ride had been cancelled and another driver was being dispatched. That driver showed up quickly and expertly delivered us back to our Airbnb. It was time for a quick break to recharge our various devices and relax for a few minutes before hopping in the car and heading off to our next event.

This next event ... it’s a big one guys. It doesn’t have an official name, so I’ll assign my own. I think I’ll call it, “Being Lost in Rush Hour Traffic: A Tale of Frustration.”
Let me tell you ... an absolute blast. If you couldn’t tell, that last comment was positively drenched in sarcasm. I’m having to mop the floor due to how much was dripping from it. We got so turned around trying to find a coffee shop (the trick was actually finding parking) that we end up crossing the same bridge twice. I’ve absolutely no idea how that worked, but it did.

After quite a few miles, much muttering and probably too many insults to Valeri’s skills as a navigator (you have my most sincere apologies, dear), we made it to a coffee shop. Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Valeri and I are kicked back on a sofa in one of their seating areas listening to some sort of Rock/Jazz/New Age hybrid music blasting in one of the other connected rooms. I haven’t decided whether I like it or not.

Speaking of music, our last stop for the night is a concert at The Maple Leaf Bar. The Rebirth Brass Band will be gracing the venue with their sound. It’s sure to be a good time and I’m sure we will grab photos and videos for your viewing pleasure. Keep your eye on the PhotoStream for that.

Alright ... I’m done prattling on. I’ll leave you fine people to go about your lives and I’ll go back to sipping my Cold Brew Coffee and wondering if this music will ever get better.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans?"
"At once, madly. Looking back, sometimes I think it was predestined."

   - Andrei Codrescu


Surviving New Orleans: Day Four

22,965 steps ...
Surprisingly only my feet hurt. During past vacations, Matthew and I have found which parts of our bodies are most likely to give out first (Matthew's hip and my right knee). I guess our bodies are giving us a break this trip.

Okay, on to the day's events.
This is Val and I'll be your guide.
We started with, you guessed it ... coffee. More specifically, coffee and a cinnamon and sugar doughnut at District Donuts Sliders Brew.

Although it was truly the most humid day I've ever experienced, we sat at a shaded table outside to enjoy the atmosphere of Magazine Street. It's a neat area, but we wished more of the stores were open on Mondays.

We did happen upon a little book store where I found some postcards to send back home and to some penpals.
It never fails that we end up standing at the register chatting with the elderly woman behind the counter. It's happened in a few different mom and pop bookstores throughout the last few years, and it's always fun listening to their stories.

After about 20 minutes of exploring the area, we realized how much of a mistake we made with wearing jeans, so headed back to the Airbnb to change into shorts.

Now the forecast today called for a decent morning (with a "dash" of humidity), followed by rain at noon and through the evening. So we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walked to a James Bond filming location.

Live and Let Die, 1973

Surviving New Orleans, 2018

The location was in the French Quarter, so we decided to stay and explore.
This is when the off and on rain began. I'll take the bits of rain here and there over an all day downfall, so no complaints from me.

Between the little moments of rain, we made our way to the waterfront to take in the huge ships and a nice breeze off the water.

We ended up at an eatery called Cochon in the Garden District. My goodness. I had the Smoked Pork Ribs and Watermelon Pickle ... yea, I had no clue what watermelon pickles were, but they were delicious. Matthew got the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo Soup.

The hour following our delicious lunch was interesting.
Something you should know first about the Pearons ... we barely remember where we park our car at the grocery store. Seriously, I've thought on many occasions to "pin" our parking location when we go to the grocery.
So you can imagine the challenge an entire city offers.
Long story short, we forgot we had dropped our car off at the Airbnb after coffee in order to walk the rest of the day. So when we went to look for it on Magazine Street after lunch and found it gone, naturally our first thought was that it had been towed. Panic.
It wasn't until we had searched the same street for 10 minutes and started heading to the impound lot that I remembered we had relocated our car to the Airbnb earlier in the day.

Our evening was filled with music at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street. Dominick Grillo and the Frenchmen Street All Stars gave a rowdy performance while a few patrons danced.

I'm not going to post any videos here, but you can find them on our PhotoStream, along with more photos.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans?"
"At once, madly. Looking back, sometimes I think it was predestined."

   - Andrei Codrescu

Surviving New Orleans: Day Three

Rest easy New Orleans the Pearons have arrived.

Matthew here, reporting from the Big Easy. Today was a mix of several different types of activities: more roadtripping, bridges, beaches, seashells with unexpected animals in them, blues festivals, moments where I wanted to hit people/things with the rental car and/or my fists, and food ... you know, all the usual stuff

Any of those items pique your interest? Yeah, I'm a sucker for bridges too.

After the amazing wedding ceremony and reception last night (want to read about it?), we left Dallas and made it as far as Marshall, Texas — which was the location of our arranged Airbnb. That's where I'll start.

If I were to start this story with the same punctuality as we started our travels this morning, you could take a nap and come back in about 45 minutes.  

Yep, we were late. Stop your silent judging — we all do it sometimes.

After sleeping a bit too long then taking a bit too long to get ready, we hopped in the car and headed east on I-20. It was a pretty uneventful drive (probably a good thing), talking about 5.5 hours of actual drive time plus about an hour between all the stops for food/drinks/restrooms.
We did have a couple of snafus with two of our scheduled stops: our morning coffee shop (due to inaccurate hour postings) and our breakfast venue (because we just messed up). These things happen, and as much as we like to adhere to a plan, the Pearons are pretty flexible. So concessions were made, routes were expertly recalculated (by our best buddy, Siri), and we eventually enjoyed coffee and breakfast in two new locations: First Watch for breakfast and Grind & Tamp for coffee. The latter showed off a bit of the local culture.

First Watch
Tamp & Grind Coffee

Local Color

Fast forward a couple of hours and we're beginning to see marshland and drive across more bridges than we can remember. Fast forward another hour or so and we've just crossed the New Orleans city limit.Our first New Orleans event was to eat. What were you expecting? We're little piggies.
We found a lunch spot called Pirogues on Bayou Road in the Seventh Ward. It was a tiny little bar with one of the most relaxed hosts we've even encountered.  As he approached our table, his first words were "Hey guys. I'm just going to have a sit." He then proceeded to do just that, slumping into the booth seat opposite us to take our order. Alright, I know you've paused to think about part of my last sentence, and before you start that silent judging thing again yes, my wife and I always sit on the same side of the booth; and yes, we know it's weird. Moving on.

Cubano and Smoked Turkey sandwiches

After wolfing down our meal, we left Louisiana. We took another (shorter) road trip Long Beach, Mississippi. The trip took us across Lake Pontchartrain and the longest continuous bridge in the world. Twenty-six miles of concrete over water is quite a feat of engineering. Anyway, the whole point of this side journey was simply to see a beach — and what a beach it was. The photos will say more than I ever could, so I'll let them.

Every time we visit a beach, I am reminded that people actually do live in places like that, and that little green monster (envy) pops up.
When this happens, I try to employ some logic that I remember my parents using on me when I asked why we didn't move to Florida: "Why ruin a perfectly good vacation spot?"

I completely understand that response ... but every time we walk back to the car and drive away from the smooth white sands, the rolling surf and the gulls, a little bit of my heart gets left behind on the shore. Ugh.

Side Story:
Whilst walking along the beach, I spotted a neat little shell, and insisted Valeri take it home as a memento ... then a couple more popped up, so we grabbed those too. It wasn't until the fourth shell moved on its own volition that I realized it wasn't vacant ... and neither were the ones Valeri had been carrying around. She put them all down pretty quickly.

Since we woke up later than expected, we left the beach later than expected (that's how we justified the extra few minutes spent at the beach), and returned to New Orleans in time to catch the last of an absolutely phenomenal performance by Don Bryant, Percy Wiggins and The Bo-Keys at the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival. Don Bryant was surprisingly animated and engaged the crowd very well, which made the energy about the place a lot of fun. We wish we had a bit more time than we did, but our stomachs were rudely announcing their desire for a New Orleans classic: Po' Boys. We headed to Parkway Bakery & Tavern for these beauties:

After satisfying our stomachs (and taste buds), we began the trek to our Airbnb.  Due to the location, this process was frustrating. You know that bit earlier where I mentioned wanting to hit people/things? This was that.
We drove past the driveway three times before finally finding our way (via too many one-way streets) to a gate that we couldn't open.
I hopped out of the car and began the search for a very well hidden lock box.  This normally wouldn't be a big deal, but it was dark and I couldn't be sure there weren't dozen of baddies hiding in the shadows ... oh yeah, and once I found the lock box, it wouldn't open. Cue the hitting things.

Note: If our Airbnb host is reading this, I just vigorously tapped the lock box
I pinky promise.

As I've been tapping away at this blog entry, my leftover dessert (Bread Pudding) from Parkway Bakery & Tavern has been calling to me. I'm going to answer it.

For more photos, check out our PhotoStream.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans?"
"At once, madly. Looking back, sometimes I think it was predestined."

   - Andrei Codrescu


Surviving New Orleans: Day Two

Val here!

First of all, I'd like to point out that on this day six years ago, we were getting married and the rain held off until the photographer snapped our last photo.

Oct. 13, 2012
Oct. 13, 2018 

We had no such luck today ...
We woke up to a very rainy Dallas, but it didn't deter us from going out to experience a new coffee place — one of our favorite things to do in a new city.
Today's coffee venture was Avoca Coffee in Fort Worth. That's right ... we drove 45 minutes for coffee. Matthew was skeptical, but after being able to experience a coffee drink he's never had before (the Charlie Sheen) ... he said it was worth it.
Matthew grew up in a coffee shop ... and from my experience with him and coffee shops, there have been very few times Matthew has seen something on a coffee menu and not been able to explain what it was. So this was a bit more of an experience than normal.
*The Charlie Sheen: A mix of Coca Cola and Espresso
We weren't able to stay for long since we had a lunch date an hour away, but what we did experience was worth the trip.

I had a latte (and muffin) and Matthew had a macchiato and the Charlie Sheen (not pictured). Also pictured is my day-late Inktober sketch of a whale's eye.

As good of a photo we could get of the scene at Avoca Coffee.

After coffee, we headed back to Dallas to meet up with Mom, Dad and Aunt Trish at a little Italian restaurant. It was a yummy little hole in the wall. Props to Aunt Trish for the find.
It was also nice to just sit and chat. I only get to see Aunt Trish a couple times a decade, and the sass her and Mom bring out in each other is always entertaining.
After lunch, Matthew got to meet Aunt Trish's dog, a Shetland named Allie ... so he was on cloud nine.

Our night ended with a celebration of my cousin, Dan, and his now-wife, Allie, getting married ... which meant a chance to dress in our fancy duds.
And my goodness what a party it was.
The wedding was gorgeous and the meal was yummy, but my favorite part was the live band — a Beatles Tribute Band.
Truth be told, Matthew and I aren't reception-type people. (We only dance at home in our kitchen and about 90 percent of that is us being complete goofballs.) However, this band had me itching to do more than just tap my foot. ... Matthew was more for keeping our dance moves to ourselves.

A photo with the bride and groom.

We knew this day was going to be more of a catch up with my aunt and cousins than it would be a day to celebrate our anniversary, but that's what we have the next few days in New Orleans for.

Meet us back here tomorrow for our first day in New Orleans!

For more photos, check out our PhotoStream.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans?"
"At once, madly. Looking back, sometimes I think it was predestined."

   - Andrei Codrescu


Surviving New Orleans: Day One

Good evening, readers! Matthew here.
I would like to start by welcoming you to another adventure with your favorite virtual travel companions, the Pearons. This year, our adventure is leading us to the southern half of the United States, to a place of many names. A few of the names we've run across: The Crescent City, The Birthplace of Jazz, The City that Care Forgot, Paris of the South, NOLA, N'erlins (thanks, Ryan Gosling), The Big Easy among others. Whatever you want to call it, we're headed to New Orleans, Louisiana.
We had breakfast with Beth, Miles and Hazel in Springfield, Missouri.

Our route isn't quite as direct as I generally like to make them because we were invited to attend a wedding in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct.13. Most of our time today was spent between solid and dashed lines painted on asphalt ... I won't bore you with the details, but I'll include a few photos throughout this post. The biggest event today was a pre-wedding celebration that I'll touch on in just a bit but first, a rant.

Our lunch stop was at a little diner in McAlester, Oklahoma.

We obviously eat very healthy while on vacation.

I might offend some people here (please don't hate me), but Texas has just never been on my personal list of dream travel destinations. For whatever reason, I've just never had the desire to spend much time (or any time, honestly) in the Lone Star State. I'm not sure if it is the Southern Drawl, the oversized trucks, the endless Longhorn emblems, the "everything is bigger and better in Texas" attitude or some other nonsensical reason I developed in my brain I just haven't really wanted to see Texas.

You're angry with me, right? I get it. I've just insulted a massive number of extremely decent people for absolutely no reason. Well, dear reader, stick with me for a bit and allow me the opportunity to undo that offense.

Are you ready for it?

I was wrong.

Yes, I actually said it. Texas is just fine.

The people we've encountered here have been as pleasant and welcoming as any person could hope to be. I offer two simple examples to support my statement:
1. The host of our stunning Airbnb has been one of the best we've interfaced with. Very responsive, full of local tips and nice things to say. The apartment is furnished well enough that I'm actually a bit sad to have to move on from it in the morning.
2. As part of the pre-wedding celebration, Valeri and I were welcomed into the beautiful home of people we had never met but were greeted like we had been friends for years. A big smile and a plate of food is probably the quickest way to my heart, and these people attacked on both fronts.

Valeri and her mother, Joy, during the pre-wedding celebrations.

Are you okay with me now? If not, it's okay; maybe I'll grow on you throughout the rest of the blog entries. Worst case, read every other entry, because Valeri and I take turns writing these things.

We have another full day in Texas before moving on to Louisiana. It will consist of some quick exploration of Dallas, a wedding and hopefully lots of good food.  Check back tomorrow for more updates!

For more photos, check out our PhotoStream.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans?"
"At once, madly.  Looking back, sometimes I think it was predestined."

   - Andrei Codrescu