WARNING: LONG POST ABOUT FUN ADVENTURES!!
At times it’s really hard to explain an experience you’ve had without ALL the fun stories that go along with it. A few years ago my friend, Geri, aka “Sister From Another Mother” and I headed out on our first road trip to Arizona. We made our way across Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and finally into Arizona. This year we wanted new adventures. Since Geri’s daughter is attending school in Austin, Texas, we figured we would head to the DEEP south and then west, stopping to see her kiddo on the way. I’d never been to New Orleans, and was dying to see what all the fuss was about, so we created our map. On January 9th, after being plowed in with snow and temperatures hitting a record -15 in Indiana, we hit the road. Finding the perfect traveling companion is difficult…probably because I am such a pain in the buttocks:-) There are two people in this world that I have learned to travel really well with…my husband, and my SFAM (sister from another mother). While making this trip Geri and I came up with a slogan…Miles or Memories?? When traveling across the country are you just trying to get the miles behind you which you will easily forget, or are you trying to make memories within those miles?? We decided, with the exception of the last leg of our trip, if anything looked interesting to either of us along the way and wanted to check it out, we would. You never know what is waiting if you pass it by. We made our first pit stop in Birmingham, AL for the night, but did not stop for the Civil Rights Tour…it may be on a future trip. Before leaving I had asked for FB suggestions of places to try and Natchez, Misssissippi was originally on our map but we stumbled across Laurel, Mississippi and fell in love:-)Laurel, Mississippi is located about 30 minutes north of Hattiesburg, MS and were randomly picked it for lunch because when we searched Google, it was also the crossroad for our drive to Natchez. Two years ago when driving to Arizona we encountered so many amazing people, living their wonderful lives in small towns along the way. We were hoping to meet a new crop of fun people.
As we pulled up to the main drag in Laurel, we found this wall. As I photographed it a man drove up and asked if I wanted to photograph him and his dog:-) He was just being friendly, and welcoming, and a quick friendship formed with “Jerry”. As Jerry headed to the Social Security office, he welcomed us to Laurel and assumed the role of official greeter. He invited us to take in the sites of the town, and suggested lunch at The Loft.The Loft is a wonderful restaurant established in an older brick building on the main drag. We were greeted by a wonderful young lady and offered a table of our choice…it was a tad bit slow with only 3-4 tables occupied:-) From the way each of the patrons were greeting one another, I guessed they were all locals. This was the place to be. I ordered the special that day which was a fish taco and it was AMAZING. I became a decorated member of the “clean plate club”. Our waitress was exceptional, and was very attentive (remember there were only a few tables). She suggested the special and then urged us to try the chef’s favorite dessert…Moon Pie A la mode. It was crazy good and I believe the last time I had a moon pie was in seventh grade! After lunch we decided to wander a bit off of Central Ave and came upon 2-3 wonderful antique shops. As we entered one of the shops we met our friend, Jerry, again. His sister owned the antique store and and we all became fast friends. While chatting with them they each suggested we visit their museum. Museum?? In Laurel, MS??? Both of them claimed that the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art was definitely worth a stop. We didn’t want to miss out on a wonderful art museum, and we were not disappointed. The Lauren Rogers Museum opened in 1923 and is named for the one of the Laurel’s founding fathers grenchild. Lauren Rogers died at the age of 23. The museum endowment honored the legacy of a young many who they believed would have brought wonderful promise and great expectations to Laurel. It is a wonderful showcase of European and American art. As we left our new found friends in Laurel, we headed for the much anticipated New Orleans. We rolled into the city late, deposited ourselves at the hotel and looked forward to new adventures the next day. It’s so hard to explain the city of New Orleans if you haven’t been there. New York City is easy…lots of skyscrapers…small little enclaves of ethnic areas surrounded by more skyscrapers. New Orleans has your basic downtown area with large buildings, however; just to the east of that business district lives another country. The French Quarter of New Orleans is an enigma unto itself. It is so hard to fathom when walking around both day and night that you are in the United States. The European flavor is so evident and intoxicating for those who love all things Europe.Geri was in charge of New Orleans and finding things for us to do besides gawk at those around us! She thought a number of tours would give us a great background on the city and people. We actually did three tours while in New Orleans and I would highly recommend all of them. We started with a tour of the French Quarter. Our guide was very knowledgable and very generous with his answers to our never ending questions. A group of ladies from New Jersey were in celebrating their friend’s 50th birthday. They were having a blast learning about the city, and making great memories with the birthday girl. One of the things so many people mentioned on FB to experience in New Orleans was Cafe Du Monde. Coffee and Beignets. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was until we stopped there after our evening tour had ended. Basically a fried fritter, or a zepolli for my italian friends, or an elephant ear for my midwest state fair attendees. The cafe is open 24/7 and usually the place is PACKED. We waited a few minutes for a table late in the evening. Worth every second of the wait though:-)During our tour of the French Quarter our guide mentioned “first and second lines”. A First Line is the parading brass jazz band that plays after families have laid a member to rest in a cemetery. It symbolizes the wonderful life the deceased had and the families celebrate their time on earth. The Second Line are all those that follow the band parading through the town. A band accompanies a bride and groom when leaving the church after being married. The couple and the entire bridal party and reception guests accompany the bride and groom as the dance through the streets of the French Quarter. Brides and Groom hoist beautiful parasols in the air as they and their guests dance to celebrate their new marriage. I actually tweeted a video we took of one couple as they danced through town tagging it with #neworleanswedding and #nolabride. I got a message from the bride the next day saying she had seen it on Twitter!! Too cool!The party scene on a Saturday night in New Orleans in January was crazy…I can’t even image Mardi Gras in March. So much FUN!!
The following day Geri had us lined up for two tours. We completed a cemetery tour in the morning. Lots of walking to New Orleans Cemetery #1. Along the way we visited the Visitors Informationcenter where this painted streetcar reminds us of the loss of 1,464 lives to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our guide had lots of great stories, facts and fun info about how the people of New Orleans bury their dead and celebrate life. The photo of the guy hugging the woman is our guide. She came up with an answer he liked and decided to give for a hug for her effort! 🙂Coming up in Part Two is our trip to Oak Alley Plantation, Austin, Texas and a stop at the home of Lyndon B. Johnson. Stay Tuned!