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Louisiana and New Orleans

This is rapidly feeling like ancient history, but here's another travel post! Expect a flurry of these over the next two weeks as I try to catch up.  How has everybody been? Well, I hope?

So after Seoul, I made my way to the USA. I actually landed in Dallas Fort Worth and had a layover there, but wound up so jetlagged I didn't do anything, and also public transport in the United States outside of of the biggest urban centres is a horrible, horrible culture shock after asia's train system where you just turn up and there's a train magically there leading to walking distance of anywhere you might want to go. I did want to hit up the stockyards in Fort Worth but when the train timetable was 'oh hey it only comes once every two hours and even then you're gonna have to catch a cab' I promptly threw that idea in the bin and went back to sleep.

As a result, no Texas for me! It was onwards to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Lake Charles is actually a pretty nice town, lots of lakes and bayous in the region, but mostly I have a lot of extended family scattered in the area which was why it was my first stop.

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We had a shindig out at Moss Lake once I had sufficiently recovered from jet lag. Check out the boathouses! All washed away in Hurricane Katrina apparently, but since rebuilt. Moss Lake was very pretty, quite relaxing. We ate shrimp and king crab and chilled on the shore with drinks.

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Hunting culture is really big in the area. Lots of fur and taxidermy in all the relative's houses. Not sure if that can really be taken as a fair sample of the culture though because my relatives are like a cast of television stereotypes, it's kind of hilarious when I only see them once every ten years but would probably drive me mad if I'd grown up in the area. Like the aunt who is in a constant tizz and stresses about everything, or the uncle who just sits in front of the television all day eating cake, or the cousin who turned into the most stereotypical pot head of all time, or the uncle who is a hypochondriac. It's like 'Hi uncle, it's been a long time! What's new?' and his answer is 'Shortness of breath.' I am not even paraphrasing.

I got a bit of a break of it heading up to Eunice though, where my cousin was more the stereotypical IT nerd. One of my people! Yay! He took me and another cousin out to eat at his favourite sushi restaurant in Lafayette.

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Louisiana doesn't exactly have a burgeoning asian population so I was doubtful of the quality, but it does have a big seafood culture and good food in general, so it was actually pretty good! We ordered way too much though. And that is indeed dessert sushi, strawberries and cream. It surprisingly worked okay!

Eunice itself is about as small-town America as it gets, so I didn't get up to much there, mostly took the chance to catch up on the internet a little and do some job-hunting. It's hard to get anywhere in Louisiana without a car. One interesting experience though - my aunt had a weather warning unit in her house, and one afternoon when both she and my cousin were out, the incredibly loud alarm started wailing on it and this garbled robot started informing me 'WARNING, WARNING. A TORNADO WATCH HAS BEEN DECLARED.'

I started freaking the hell out since I had absolutely no clue what to do in the event of a tornado. It's not something that regularly comes up in Australia! So after about a minute of running around like a ninny I turned to the ever benevolent internet and start googling 'what to do in the event of a tornado watch'. And so then it turns out that a watch isn't something to be that worried about and the procedure isn't all that different than it is for a cyclone, except the house didn't have a basement or any particularly secure rooms so there I was scurrying around trying to figure out where the best place to shelter in the event of a tornado might be in case that watch became a warning.

Nothing came of it in the end aside from a reasonably epic rainstorm but it was super stressful! Way worse than earthquakes in Japan really.

I'll spare the post the rest of the details of the family catch-ups beyond that.

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This is trout stuffed with crawfish, crab, and scallops. As amazing as it sounds.

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One cool thing, it was the lead up to Mardi Gras in Louisiana, I had no idea until we went to WalMart. In the rest of the world it has become a gay pride thing, but for big parts of Louisiana it is still very much Fat Tuesday, and basically a second Christmas. Mardi Gras colours everywhere, decorations, big meal, and masquerade parties in venetian masks, and of course parades all over the place in the month leading up to the big one in New Orleans.

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It was also the start of crawfish season! You can do the season by seafood in Louisiana.

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Home-made crawfish Jambalaya and Etouffee. We had a big family get together one night when most of the relatives in the immediate area came around and feasted. The food in that part of the states is just to die for, seriously. Gumbo and boudin too, it's easy to see why so many people get fat! Plus Mexican. The Mexican food we have in Australia is so terrible in comparison.

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As part of the celebrations we had a king cake. Normally they have icing in Mardi Gras colours but this one made do with sprinkles. A king cake is basically a giant donut, and hidden somewhere inside is a plastic baby. Whoever gets the piece with the baby has to bring next year's king cake!

I had originally planned on heading to New Orleans on my own, but it turned out a cousin was doing work experience in the city, so I was lucky enough to hitch both a ride and accommodation there. We had a bit of a road trip and made our way through La Rose to stop in on another uncle, who is a bit gun crazy which freaks me out but he has had a downright interesting life and makes the best damn scones I've ever had - or 'biscuits' as they call them.

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Spotted a nutria in the wild. Some kind of oversized water rat? A major pest in the gulf apparently, it's open season on them all year around.

Then we hit the Big Easy!

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I've been to New Orleans before when I was younger, and I still love it to pieces. Even though it has a bit of a rough reputation these days. Although that doesn't really extend to the French Quarter, luckily, since the French Quarter is where the awesome is at.

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The streets are filled with the coolest and most unique buskers you'll ever find.

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I had to keep some dollars tucked into my pocket just so I could honour them all.

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Jackson Square. You know the place is a tourist trap when you see horse-drawn carriages.

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Cafe Du Monde, the best cafe ever.

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We hit up the French Market on the first day after alligator po-boys (alligator is basically a chewier, fishier-tasting version of chicken). It's not that different to any other craft market, really, but with a distinctly local flavour, with some voodoo and mexican paraphernalia thrown in. I left with a cool day-of-the-dead style sugar skull and some costume jewellery which I haggled way down using the haggling skills practised in Hong Kong, woo! We also walked around for a while after that and checked out some of the voodoo stores, complete with spells for sale. Voodoo stores aren't unique to New Orleans but for some reason the ones there have so much more style.

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A common sight. Is Haunted a good thing or a bad thing? I honestly couldn't tell by the end of it.

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Mardi Gras decorations were out. Tinsel and beads and masks everywhere.

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As the day wore on we hit up Pat O'Briens for Hurricanes! Or really, one Hurricane each, because it turns out a standard Hurricane is like at least six standard drinks in one shot. The beer garden was awesome though so we sat there and ate free popcorn until it wore off a little.

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Wandered into another bar after that, where my cousins made immediate friends with the bar's owner (fellow pothead) which wound up with us up on one of the private balconies lining Bourbon Street. Kind of a neat experience but I'm really not into drugs at all so once I got bored of the view somehow managed to cajole my cousins outta there. Kind of annoying really, I was eldest there but didn't really expect the trip to turn into a chaperoning experience.

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The next morning was quite foggy and overcast, which actually looked kind of cool on the river.

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It looked like the boats were floating on clouds.

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Then we hit up Cafe Du Monde for 'breakfast'. Beignets! I dream of them still.

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Up close in Jackson Square.

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We found Preservation Hall, too.

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Stalls upon stalls of Venetian masks on display. It was only the limitation of luggage that stopped me from making rash purchases.

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Four blue dogs by famous local artist.

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In the warehouse district. Hurricane Katrina memorial.

We wandered around some more, hitting up the praline shops for free samples (and then eventually caving and buying like a kilogram of the stuff).

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And just generally exploring the French Quarter.

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Wound up having lunch at the House of Blues.

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The food was excellent, but the interior was somewhere between awesome and creepy. Like the souls of famous blues musicians were trapped in the ceiling.

After some back and forth, we managed to get into the Insectarium for free! Since my cousin's work experience was with the Audobon Zoo, of which the Insectarium was affiliated.

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This is probably what my Animal Crossing house looks like right now. I abandoned it back sometime around Christmas in favour of Phoenix Wright. The worst thing about that game is the knowledge that you will eventually stop playing.

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The Insectarium overall was pretty cool, although I'd already been to the one in Singapore which was overall a lot better. Still, given that it was for free, totally worth it.

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At night, the statue on the other side of the church on Jackson Square casts a shadow of demon horns. Nobody is too interested in fixing that.

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We were in search of some live music to fritter away the evening, so after a bit of a washout at Fritzl's bar which resulted in mostly watching nature documentaries on tv, we headed back to Pat O'Briens to enjoy their duelling pianos. They would take requests written on napkins with tips and if they knew the song would play it.

At this point, I ditched my cousins for a while, since I wanted to hit up Preservation Hall for some jazz and they wanted to hang out and drink more.

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It took about half an hour of lining up to secure unreserved seats into Preservation Hall. Shannon Powell was playing the drums that night, but the whole ensemble was top class. It's a very small room, like a small school room, old and dilapidated, but some of the finest jazz in the world gets played there.

The performance was only half an hour long (far too short), then it was back onto the streets. I was pretty tired by this point so headed back to the hotel.

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Passed this balcony on my way where everyone was getting into the Mardi Gras spirit a couple of days early and pegging tossing strings of beads at passers-by.  Ahaha it's not really a widely admitted fact but the whole beads things is basically the New Orleans version of 'show us your boobs!'.

I got back to the hotel not too late, but cousins were still missing, until they wandered back in 1am, drunk off their faces. That was when I realised that America's 22 is more like Australia's 19, and my tiny idiot cousin who is like five feet flat had drunk three Hurricanes and a mojito in my absence, which is like 20 standard drinks, and could barely walk, and had a giant string of beads around her neck (*cough cough she flashed her boobs cough*). Then they wanted to go outside and smoke more pot. Despite the fact that we had to be up in something like five hours in order for my cousin to get to her training.

Maybe I've become boring, but I am too old to be dealing with that kind of stuff anymore. I let them do what they wanted and gave them no sympathy when we had to get up early the next morning.

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Since my cousin was doing work experience, my other cousin and I got free entry to Audobon zoo! So even though it was somewhat cold and miserably wet and way way too early, we rolled around the zoo, and had it mostly to ourselves.

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I didn't have very high expectations for the zoo, especially after all the ones I visited in Singapore, but Audobon actually ranks up there as quite decent. Lots of conservation efforts, well laid out, and about as much care to making the animals comfortable in their habitats as could be reasonably expected.

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Love all the spanish moss on the trees in the south.

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Probably the coolest thing at the whole of Audobon are the rare leucistic alligators.

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And also this bird which looks like it has been shot.

We rolled around the zoo until we got starving enough to go in search of lunch, then drove around Uptown New Orleans in search of a particular deli my cousins knew about. Uptown New Orleans is probably the other recommendation I have for the place outside of the French Quarter, it seems to be where all the rich people live and the houses are all amazing. I tried to take photos but it's difficult in a car. Just a beautiful area.

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But the real highlight was the Jewish deli we eventually arrived at, at which I had the best sandwich of my entire life. I have never eaten a more perfect sandwich. All past and future sandwiches pale before it.

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The deli itself was pretty neat too. They didn't care at all about service, which is all the confirmation you really need that their food was amazing. Considering the ten days was filled with amazing food, it was a fitting conclusion to my time in Louisiana. After lunch my relatives dropped me off at the airport.

Next up: Chicago!

P.S. Has anyone else finished Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy yet because I seriously need to discuss it and flail and sort out my complex feelings about it,

P.P.S. I haven't forgotten about giftfics, I will be posting another set of those sometime soon-ish. After Easter maybe?

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
caterfree10
Apr. 10th, 2014 01:36 am (UTC)
It's so weird seeing you post at this time of day, omfg. xD

lol yeah, public transportation in the US is a joke outside of major cities. Even then, there are some cities where it's still laughable. *coughLouisvilleandIndyI'mlookingatyoucough* Honestly, I just look at countries in Europe or at Japan and other places with great public transportation and die a little on the inside. Then again, our government can't even agree on giving everyone decent health care so there's also that. :T

Hehe, I live in tornado alley and like, 90% of the time, even when it's a warning nothing happens. Or it happens but it's in the more rural areas in the news broadcast area. I might have become complacent over the years oops. |D; When I was little tho, we went the whole nine yards and even brought the dog down to the basement.

Ah New Orleans! I haven't been there in years, before Katrina even! I'd love to go back when I'm not on a mission trip. uvu And I had no idea Mardi Gras was more akin to a gay pride in other countries! Being in the US, the number one version we get is New Orleans, so it never really occured to me it would be different. Then again I suppose I should know better bc of my knowledge on how many different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world so. ^^;;;

Certainly looks like you had a lot of fun in New Orleans tho! Zoo looks way awesome too. And so much delicious looking food! Dangit I'm getting hungry. orz Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next travel post already, hehe. x3
sinnatious
Apr. 10th, 2014 05:02 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, considering how weird my sleeping hours can get I'm surprised it throws you off so much!

Yeah, it really was a surprise, not so much in the smaller places I went but I figured Dallas Fort Worth was surely of size enough to have public transport options. Nope! I didn't expect it to be as good as anywhere in asia but it was still surprisingly bad.

LOL the tornado thing was very stressful! But as you say familiarity breeds complacency, it probably helps when you already know the signs and what to do and where to go. It didn't help that I was in an utterly unfamiliar house by myself, thank god for the internet! Have you ever actually been through a tornado touchdown?

I can't speak for other countries but Mardi Gras in Australia is pretty much exclusively gay pride these days. It's a very different beast! My only regret from New Orleans that my timing was off enough to juuuust miss all the lead-up parades, would have been neat to see. Sounds like the main one gets a bit crazy though, the bar owner we were talking to said the average private balcony on Bourbon Street goes for something like ten grand just for that day, and one of the workmen prepping the place (getting read for Mardi Gras) said he rented out the toilet in his house to people, five bucks a pop, and made total bank. Craaaazy.
caterfree10
Apr. 10th, 2014 06:10 am (UTC)
You're always posting either A, when it's super late my time (I tend to not go to bed til 3 or 4am oops) or B, when it's super early my time (7am shifts are evil) so seeing you posting at 9pm was like "wait what- oh right." xD

I will never understand the US's problem with getting decent public transportation and living here does not ease that confusion one bit. You'd think with greater distances between major cities, there'd be a greater demand, but apparently not enough to do anything about it. Or politics aren't letting it, it's really hard to say. :Ta

I haven't been in one myself. The closest was when a local town got devastated by tornadoes a couple years ago, but p much the entire area had people going up there to help rebuild. I've also seen many a video people have sent to local news stations or whatever their weathermen have recorded. But yeah, consistent exposure does tend to make one know exactly when you need to worry about anything. :Bb

Definitely sounds like it! Ngl tho, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a bucket list item of mine. And I can certainly believe Mardi Gras getting ridiculous on prices. Thunder Over Louisville has expensive prices for renting tables at waterfront restaurants or hotel rooms and Thunder's nothing compared to even the Derby itself in terms of popularity (we once had the queen of England visit to see the Derby one year!). And lol wow that is a smart man in how he made money like that. Funny thing is, I know several people who would do the same thing. |D;
fezastwin
Apr. 10th, 2014 02:09 pm (UTC)
Just caught up on some of your posts, awesome that you're traveling. One of my brothers lived down near New Orleans when he was married. I visited once, very unique area & great food! Thanks for sharing the pics, brought back some memories.

The "haunted" or "not haunted" signs - some people like the whole "haunted" vibe of the old houses, others really don't want to mess with it. Nice they let you know before you stay for the night I guess. :)

As for the tornado watch, they can be pretty common. All it means is keep an eye out in case a warning is called - then you worry! Actually nine out of ten times even the warning ends up just a ton of rain, & even if the tornado touches down, it hits out in the boonies somewhere.

I never been in an actual tornado, though I've seen a waterspout (tornado over the water) off in the distance. Friends who actually have gone through one told me it literally sounds like the house is being hit by a very loud train. Their house was spared, but definitely scared the hell out of them.

My brother lived right near Lake Pontchartrain, and many of the houses in the area were raised high up on stilts or big thick pilings to protect them from the floods & hurricanes. Most of the folks were rather blase about storms.

I remember he had to beg his wife (who was born & raised there) to evacuate further inland during one storm, which never hit them anyway. She kinda thought he was over re-acting. Then a few years later, Katrina was coming. He actually called her and begged her to evacuate even though they were separated by then, and she did (thank God).

Anyway, thanks again for the pics and hope you enjoy the rest of your trip!
sinnatious
Apr. 11th, 2014 11:24 pm (UTC)
Ahaha I wish I'd known that about tornado watches beforehand! But oh well, that's how you learn. Definitely areas that have a lot of storms and floods have architecture designed with that in mind so it's less of a big deal to them. Same things happens in Queensland though, with complacency - lots of people in the Bundaberg floods didn't evacuate in time since they'd been okay in the previous big flood, then had to be airlifted out.

Thanks! More pics will definitely be coming.

rafira
Apr. 11th, 2014 03:24 pm (UTC)
oh wow as always great photos, experiences and stories <3 i'm glad you got to spend some time with relatives! really is nice being cared after by relatives and being with people you know every now and then.

where next?

also wow still not jobs??/ the market really is awful D;
sinnatious
Apr. 11th, 2014 11:27 pm (UTC)
Next post is Chicago! I'm actually way behind in posting on LJ though, I'll probably be back in Australia and still catching up.

Yeah, no jobs, but I knew that might happen. It's a tough market. On the plus side, I got to have an awesomely long trip. Not a bad consolation prize.
rafira
Apr. 14th, 2014 10:24 am (UTC)
do you have a clear end time in sight? how is your money going? :)
sinnatious
Apr. 14th, 2014 12:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've booked my flights back to Australia, I'm heading back in a couple of days. I still have some money left but sort of reached a point of 'getting tired of living out of a suitcase'.
rafira
Apr. 21st, 2014 03:21 pm (UTC)
oh yes i see that you are back now! how many locations (countries/ airports/ other way to count) did you end up visitng??
sinnatious
Apr. 21st, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC)
Six countries, eighteen airports, twenty or so cities, four lost hats. :)
rafira
May. 1st, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
RIP all those hats D:!
qem_chibati
Apr. 12th, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
Yeah strawberry sushi is one of the odd things I've found in the US that's actually pretty nice, and wouldn't mind having over here. XD

The hurricane cocktail sounds potent. :)
sinnatious
Apr. 12th, 2014 09:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's an actual trend? I thought maybe it was just this one restaurant. If it gets around enough I'm sure it will spread! Kind of makes it a bit like rice pudding, really.
qem_chibati
Apr. 12th, 2014 09:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah! I wouldn't say it's common at all, and it's only been on the the pricier side of Sushi/teppanyaki restaurants that I've found it (like around $30+ per head) but I've found variations (such as strawberry-avacado rolls *_____________*) in a few different US states -> Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin and California.
ratzels
Apr. 12th, 2014 01:27 pm (UTC)
Yet another voice chiming in that tornado watches mean almost nothing (essentially, the weather conditions mean that a tornado could form, and honestly, pre-tornado weather is my absolute favorite, when the sky goes green and the air is electric), and that public transportation ranges from laughable to non-existent.

Having had this discussion with many people in the past (and because it's a peeve of mine), I just want to clarify that biscuits are not scones in the way that bread is not cake. Same family, almost the same ingredients, different result. Also, if you haven't had biscuits and gravy, you missed a wonderful opportunity. XD

Sounds like an awesome trip!
sinnatious
Apr. 12th, 2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
Where were all you guys when I was freaking out, huh? XD

You're quite right that American biscuits are not exactly scones, but it's the closest word I have for them. Especially as in Australian (and I'm assuming also British) vernacular, when someone offers me a biscuit I'm actually expecting a cookie. It was amusing the first time the misunderstanding happened because I'm all like 'why do they keep offering me biscuits for breakfast, no thanks.'
lenine2
Apr. 14th, 2014 12:10 am (UTC)
Yay, another travel post! I love them. I've never been to Louisiana, so it was as entertaining as your other posts. I'm really looking forward to your Chicago post - maybe I'll be in the background!
sinnatious
Apr. 14th, 2014 11:44 am (UTC)
That Colbert icon is the most epic icon ever! XD

Thanks! I do recommend checking out Louisiana sometime. For the food if nothing else.

Heh, I must thank you for your tips on Chicago - I didn't get to see heaps, but everything I did see was pretty awesome. Chicago post is up now by the way.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )