NOLA & Disney Cruise: Day 2 - New Orleans
Wednesday, February 12th
What a wonderful day of deliciousness this was. Oh, yes, there was sightseeing, but let’s be real, when in New Orleans it’s all about the food.
After our late arrival last night, I fully expected the kids to sleep in this morning. Not so much. They were up just before 7am. Our hotel doesn’t offer a continental breakfast and Matt and I don’t waste our appetites on breakfast so I had breakfast items for the kids sent in our Amazon Pantry order that we had picked up last night and had sent Matt for milk. So I started the kids on cereal and cartoons like a proper ‘80s mom would, because we need more of that kind of parenting these days and I’m all about that.
Matt continued to sleep, as usual, which I can never understand. Thanks to these wonderful creatures we were so blessed with, I wake up like clockwork at 6am every morning and there is no going back to sleep for me no matter how hard I try. Matt on the other hand, will sleep through just about anything and could easily wake up, give the kids breakfast and then go right back to sleep. I love my husband, but seeing him lying there all peacefully sleeping through our little hurricane Vivian’s latest wreckage it makes me want to head for my parent’s attic to find my brother’s childhood trumpet and give the man a proper wake up.
Once sleeping beauty finally arose from his coma, we headed for Jackson Square where we were meeting a French Quarter tour made for kids and families. We were pretty early since we’re staying right in the French Quarter so we walked around a bit and then headed for the only sensible place to kill time in NOLA, Cafe du Monde- the first coffee stand in the US. Neither Matt or I drink coffee but we weren’t really in it for that anyway. You say 24 hour beignet stand and we’ll be there! We got a great table right next to the sidewalk where there was a live band playing. Talk about the quintessential morning in New Orleans.
The beignets come in orders of 3 and there’s 4 of so so logically, we ordered 6. Here I thought, Matt and I would have all the beignets to ourselves since the kids just ate a big breakfast, but both kids crushed an entire beignet each. Benjamin had his sights on another, but he tapped out before he even started the second one. Everyone knows each kid has their own personality and I find that taking them for beignets is the perfect way to discover who they are deep down inside. This morning, as if we didn’t already know, we saw that Benjamin is totally me, with his OCD eating of the beignets where nearly none of all that powder sugar touched any of him. Whereas lovely Vivian, well, Vivian takes after Daddy in the eating department. She had powdered sugar covering her entire front and even all down her back somehow. I was developing a twitch watching her eat since I was raised to put your napkin on your lap, eat your sandwiches from the corners so you don’t mess your face and to NEVER sing at the table or even put your elbows on the table so a small part of me was dying on the inside watching her. I did good though and just chalked it up to a true NOLA experience and a great memory and moved on… still slightly cringing and twitching though.
After our beignets, it was time to go meet our tour guide in Jackson Square and what better of a plan can you have than to sugar up your kids with cereal and beignets and then take them on a walking tour? I found this tour on Tripadvisor and it came highly recommended. It was a two hour French Quarter tour with snacks, crafts, and storytelling along the way all lead by a certified teacher. Perfect! We arrive to the meeting point and there’s our tour guide all by herself, so we check in a bit early and figure we’ll have to wait a bit for the others to show up. One problem. There were no others. We were the only ones on the tour today. Now, I know most any other normal person would be thrilled with the idea of paying the cheaper price for a group tour but ending up with a private tour, but this is me we’re talking about and I’m far from normal. I don’t want to be “on” for an entire two hour tour- that’s WAY too much social interaction for me. That’s like my limit for the week. And half the fun of the tour is to people watch the other people on your tour and totally over-analyze their behaviors as Matt makes lifelong friends with every other person on the tour because he’s Mr. Social Butterfly and lives for small talk. God, help me. I don’t think there’s anything worse than small talk. I would rather inhale the powdered sugar wrong at Cafe du Monde’s repeatedly than to have to carry on small talk for two hours, but there I was paying for this exact experience.
After my immediate panic, I calmed myself by remembering that this is a kid’s tour, surely she’ll be engaged with the kids the entire time. Not so much. My kids wanted nothing to do with the tour since we started the tour in the park where they had the option to run free or stand still in one spot listening to a stranger talk about an old guy made into a statue.
The tour guide was great, but the tour is really meant for ages 5+ so I figured Benjamin would be into it, especially with older kids there to encourage him, and Vivian, well, Vivian is like her Daddy so she can be so into something but then… squirrel! Her and Matt’s attention span is, well, not the best. So being that there were no other kids for Benji to look up to, they were uninterested pretty much immediately, so they were off and running leaving just Matt and I with our tour guide for most of it.
The tour guide did have snacks which helped her cause, but it couldn’t keep them engaged. I was so proud of the kids though. They tried all of the unusual snacks. Okra, alligator jerky, shrimp chips, garlic peanuts, and the most difficult foods of the day, moon pies, pralines, and Italian cookies.
Our tour guide did have some other moments where she was able to reign them in. She had two crafts for us to do and by “us” I mean, Matt & I since they were both a bit too advanced for the kids. Can you picture that, Matt and I sitting in Jackson Square hand making rag dolls? The kids were happily directing us how they wanted their dolls made though, so they were engaged… bossing us around. We also learned how to make fun things out of Mardi Gras beads, another NOLA pastime. Again, that was on Matt & I’s shoulders since it was above the kids heads. And finally, she did get the kids’ attention when she put on some Louis Armstrong on her portable speaker and had all of us do a “second line” (kinda like our own mini parade) around a fountain in the middle of a busy shopping area. My introverted, reserved self just loved having to parade myself around to music waving a handkerchief in the the air. *eye roll*
At that point, I was pretty much ready to derail this never-ending torture session and unfortunately so were the kids. You know, the kids who are 3 and 5 and have no filter or concept of appropriateness? Yeah, so they pretty much started whining, “I want this to be over!” and “Are we done yet?” and “Can’t we go back to the hotel?” all while our poor tour-guide is standing there rambling on trying her best to give us parents the best tour we could have. Too bad for our tour guide, Matt even hit his limit and his ADD started to kick in and well, I stopped listening, well, I was never really listening to begin with since I was busy in my own head trying to talk myself off the cliff because the stress of remembering our tour guide’s name, let alone acting engaged, was stressing me out big time.
Finally, the tour ended in the French Market. We said our goodbyes to our tour guide and set off for lunch since it had only been 15 minutes since our last snack so clearly we were running behind on our eating escapades. We headed for a popular hot dog stand, Dat Dog, which was only about a 10 minute walk from where we were.
Grateful for a table and chair that came with a promise of silence and delicious food, I was power walking, basically dragging Vivian behind me. Matt is normally the Speed Racer of the family and walks so fast I can never keep up, but today it was me. I swear, in our lifetime we will never live to see the day of he and I taking a romantic stroll on the beach. Impossible. Instead, it’ll be a romantic jog on the beach with me about a mile behind him, snapping at him to “slow down!”, with him only stopping to look back and and roll his eyes and throw his arms up in the air in frustration to which I will match his frustration with my own temper tantrum leaving him sleeping on the couch and me lying in bed all night rehashing our irritating “romantic stroll” on the beach. Fun times. In case I didn’t paint the picture clear enough, the dude cannot simply stroll, but today I was all about his “Jersey bop” that I liken to the WWF’s Bushwhackers’ entrance walk and we were off like the true tag team champions that we are.
Once at Dat Dog, we ordered quite a few hot dogs and waited there in magical silence at our table. Now, when I say silence, I’m not talking normal silence. I mean, my kids were present, and Matt was there, and don’t forget the blaring ‘90s hip hop music that I was totally reminiscing about, though I wish they’d turn that music down a bit. Yes, I know I’m old. So obviously, I was not sitting in true silence. I was sitting in my new silence normal for the past 5.5 years, “mom silence”. You know, when you don’t care about literally anything else because you’re so overstimulated that you’re gonna lose it so you kinda zone out and ignore everything and just focus on the most random thought until your daughter yells “Mom” for the 30th time to bring you back to reality. THAT’S what I was racing for to get and those 30 seconds of zoned out peace were excellent. I would savor those precious 30 seconds and let them carry me though the rest of my day exploring this wonderful city with my loud and chaotic family. Haven’t I painted the parenting picture wonderfully? It’s not all bad though. There are perks. Like when you don’t want to order the amount of food you really intend to eat out of sheer embarrassment so you order it “for the kids” knowing that they’ll only take one bite, leaving you to HAVE to finish for them since you “don’t want to waste food”. This was one of those moments at Dat Dog.
Matt and I ordered three hot dogs to share, an order of chili cheese fries and the kids each a hot dog and fries. Let me tell you, these hot dogs were legendary. Most notable that we ordered was a Crawfish Étouffée Dog which was a crawfish sausage topped with crawfish étouffée, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, & creole mustard. That was my favorite. Next was the Son of a Saint Dog which was a duck sausage topped with grilled onions, jalapeños, celery, creole mustard, blackberry sauce, and bacon. Very good, but a little spicy. And finally, the Guinness Special which was an Irish Guinness sausage topped with andouille sauce, onions, cheddar cheese, bacon and yellow mustard. That one was Matt’s favorite but I wasn’t a big fan.
After our massive pig out, we headed for a little shopping and then to get on the the double decker hop-on-hop-off bus to see the rest of the city. Since it was early afternoon, we figured this would be a great time to be on the bus and just ride it the entire loop so the kids could rest their feet and maybe even doze off. By kids, I mean Matt, because Matt is the only one who got some rest on that bus. He knocked out almost immediately leaving me with our wonderful little children that are never ever annoying. *wink* Yeah, remember how I said Matt can sleep through everything, here again is my perfect example of that. It is an unreal ability and I’m completely jealous.
Riding the complete circuit took about two hours. We did get off at the last stop where Mardi Gras World is. We timed it perfectly and were able to take the 3pm tour. Mardi Gras World is where they make all the floats for the over 70 parades they’ll have for Mardi Gras. They also make all the Chick-fil-a cows you see on the countrywide billboards here. It was a fun little stop and I’m glad it worked out so perfectly. Best part was, they gave you a slice of king cake to enjoy while you were touring which was good because we had been without food for about 3 hours so we were in dangerous territory and I was getting concerned about starvation.
After Mardi Gras World we headed back for the hop-on-hop-off bus to ride the rest of the route getting us back to the French Quarter. We headed straight for our hotel for a little rest and to let the kids play. When traveling with kids, you gotta plan time for them to just be kids and have unstructured play otherwise you’re asking for a disastrous trip, so the kids played in the room while I rested my feet and wrote the day before’s blog post while Matt headed to the gym to make room for dinner which was in about an hour.
Dinner tonight was at a highly recommended restaurant right near our hotel, Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar and Fish House. There was so much we wanted to try so we ordered it all. Seriously. We ordered so much food. We started with deep fried alligator, then Matt got a cup of Andouille and Chicken Gumbo while I got a cup of Corn and Crab bisque. For entrees, Matt got the Jambalaya pasta while I got the “taste of New Orleans” which came with Jambalaya, Crawfish Étouffée, Red Beans & Rice and a smoked sausage. We, of course, passed our plates around so we both got to try everything. It was all so good and we were so disgustingly full. We had all our leftovers wrapped just in case in the night we find ourselves with any leftover room in our bellies. Eight hours is a long time to go without eating, even if we are asleep.
Once back to our room, after a little stroll on the streets of the French Quarter, we put the kids to bed and then laid in our own bed moaning, feeling like death because we ate way too much. Finally, we felt okay enough to do something other than lay in bed and dwell on the regret of taking “just one more bite” about 4 more times each, so Matt put on Netflix and I got back to my blog. Literally, after maybe an hour, there was Matt rummaging through our leftovers looking for that leftover andouille sausage while I cracked open a personal size king cake. Well, the package says it serves 4 but I look at that more as a challenge than guidelines. Challenge accepted!