Saturday, January 22, 2011

The First Day of 2011

(warning: image-heavy post)

The morning of the 1st we met up with two of Keith's former colleagues for a late breakfast, since Keith and Kristina needed to be at a family event for a few hours. We wandered a little bit, trying to find a cool place. I had a vision of one place in my head, and Jonathan knew what I was talking about, but we couldn't remember what it was called or where it was. I also remembered a nice little breakfast place I had found when I went to New Orleans solo in 2009, and we went there (Cafe Fleur de Lis). It was very busy, but they had a very complex system to make sure nobody got their food before they had a table (you waited in line, ordered, then stood around waiting for a table to open, grabbed it, and your food showed up eventually). We did wait almost 45 minutes for our food after we ordered, but luckily Jonathan had his coffee and I had a delicious hot chocolate to tide us over. All four of us liked our meals, and next time we're in town Jonathan and I vowed to get the pancakes... every single stack just looked soooo good!

We split up again, and Jonathan and I went back to our room to get some work done and watch some more football (and part of the Tournament of Roses parade). We were also trying to conserve some energy, since we were planning to do an evening History tour. We met up with everyone and rode together to Celebration in the Oaks, which is a New Orleans holiday tradition. It was our first time, though Keith and Kristina had been before. It was $7 to get in, which was a little steep, but it ended up being pretty cool. There were a lot of neat things, but there were also some poorly done ideas. Here are some photos.
The next set of photos is from a reading of The Cajun Night Before Christmas, which is a real hoot. You have to have an appreciation for both Louisiana culture and the original story to enjoy it. There's a small carnival aspect to the event, and we all paid $3 to go on a train ride. I was expecting this to be really boring, but it was quite exciting, actually. The ride was long, more than 10 minutes, I'd say. We went several miles, and had a police escort most of the time, since we were near roads and intersections and such. We had dinner at Juan's Flying Burrito, which had a very interesting menu. The table started with chips and salsa, but I thought that the salsa was very bland so I only had a couple of chips. There were all sorts of items ordered around the table, and everyone seemed to truly enjoy their selections. I know that mine was fantastic: The Luau - a quesadilla made with grilled shrimp, smoked bacon, pineapple salsa, and cheese. I was a little nervous about choosing something so unique at a place named after its burrito... but it ended up being a superb selection. I really enjoyed every bite and would order it again. Jonathan got the Flying Enchiladas, which was shrimp, steak, and chicken grilled together and stuffed inside cheese enchiladas, topped with sour cream and guacamole. He thought they were good (especially the steak bites) and he'd get them again. Toward the end of the meal I was saddened by the fact that we weren't going to be able to do a History tour... turns out that the last one of the day left at like 8pm or something. But, we're absolutely determined to do this next time!

While nearly everyone else was heading over to see a battle of brass bands, Jonathan and I chose to do something on our own for a few hours, and planned to meet-up with the group again around 1am. We've done the brass band thing before, and while it is a great deal of fun, it's usually smoky, hot, and loud. We enjoyed another dip in the jacuzzi before heading into the Quarter. We had a good time walking around, looking at places we've been before (it's surprising how many locations change), and I pointed out a place that I had gone when I was in New Orleans for a conference in 2007. We got a couple of "hand grenades" (my favorite drink in New Orleans) and we walked some more. We listened to music in the streets and people-watched and laughed at people trying to get beads from those on the balconies above. We eventually wandered up to Cafe du Monde again, to enjoy one more round of beignets. We were debating going back into the Quarter or heading back downtown when we got a text that the rest of the group had decided to go back to their hotel, as one of our friends wasn't feeling well. We were a little saddened by this, but leisurely made our way back to our own hotel, stopping in various shops to look at merchandise and sales along the way.

We got up and packed the next morning, and met with Kristina to have a goodbye breakfast at her hotel. The drive back would be a long one, since we needed to do it in one shot, and 12 hours is a long time to be in the car. We made it tho, and had one day left of vacation before getting up before dawn to head to the airport...

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