Posted by: Kristen Hicks | August 7, 2010

Weekend in New Orleans, pt. 3

Day 2:

After the great evening that was had on our first night in New Orleans, I earned myself a difficult morning…and afternoon.  I attempted a brunch at Surrey’s, which came recommended, and looked quite good, but had some difficulty keeping much down.  Thus, we decided it was time to head to the hotel we’d chosen to stay in that evening.

The Maison Dupuy hotel was relatively nice, but we weren’t just overly impressed.  The courtyard was lovely and the room was comfortable in a way that made it surprisingly difficult to leave.  We found that anytime we left the hotel room for a bit we found reserves of energy and a willingness to be out and doing things that immediately dissipated as soon as we were back in the hotel room–thus, much of the day was devoted to lounging around, talking about whether we should be out experiencing New Orleans rather than lying around a hotel room talking about how we should be out experiencing New Orleans–but ultimately, we were able to call on the memorable quote from the bookstore the day before:

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

and decide to enjoy our access to an abnormally comfortable bed and nature documentaries on the Discovery channel guilt free.

We did manage to venture out long enough for a delicious dinner at the Angeli on Decatur–I can’t recommend spicy roasted red pepper dip enough.  We had hoped to catch a concert by John Boutte that evening, but by the time we’d finished eating we realized we weren’t going to make it–so we’ll have to make it up on our next visit.

We finished off the evening with a bottle of champagne enjoyed in the hotel hot tub–what better way to celebrate the ending of a lazy evening?

Day 3:

We began our third, and last full day in New Orleans at the Envie Coffee Shop for breakfast, I found the food good, but a bit heavy for so early in the day.

We made a quick stop for a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Bar (we had believed it to be called Lafitte’s Tavern), which is famously believed to be the oldest bar in the United States.

From there we began to make our way towards the zoo. While waiting for the streetcar, we began a conversation with a wonderful woman named Cass and another woman (whose name I  didn’t catch) who both worked at a small restaurant called Dixie Gyro (soon to be called the Streetcar Cafe, we were told).

We ended up missing two or three streetcars as we exchanged stories with this woman who was willing to share so much of her life with us—both the good and the heartbreakingly bad.

It was the kind of conversation that reminds me of my favorite part of traveling—getting to know people whose lives look distinctly different from my own and connect with them in a way that helps broaden my own perspective and understanding of the world around me.

At the Audubon Park

the first view of the Audubon Park

Once we did get onto the streetcar, we made our way to the zoo by way of the Audubon Park, in itself a beautiful destination. There were gorgeous egrets, wood ducks, herons and cranes (I think–though I’m not expert on birds) on  a spot popularly referred to as Bird Island.  The walk through the park was beautiful and peaceful and put us in a good mood to begin meeting the animals of the acclaimed Audubon Zoo.

In addition to all the animals one expects to come across at a zoo (elephants, giraffes, a variety of monkeys, birds and big cats, etc.), this zoo

White Tiger

The leopard cub hiding from its mom

has quite a few pleasant and rare surprises. Seeing the white tigers would have been worth the cost of admission in itself, but this view was followed by our getting to watch a leopard mother play with her cub for a while.  These leopards are Amur Leopards, which are extremely rare (less than 50 remain in the wild), which is depressing enough to hear in any context, but while you’re watching an adorable cub sneak around and hide behind rocks and logs while waiting for its mother to find it and pounce so they can lovingly wrestle, it becomes downright heartbreaking.

In one area of the zoo we came across several kids that were a part of some kind of program offered by the Audubon Society to learn about the animals of the zoo.  I was extremely impressed by the professionalism of these

Baby orangutan swinging while momma watches

kids, they seemed able to easily answer all of the questions posed to them about the animals and frankly could have passed for trained adults in their behavior, were it not for their small stature.

One of the greatest highlights of the day, on par with the playing leopard cub, was the orangutan family.  For probably a good 15-20 minutes, we sat and watched the interactions of a mom, dad and baby orangutan.  We watched the father and mother alternating between who would watch over the baby and helping teach it some of the basics of life there in the zoo, like swinging along the rope offered, which was a skill the baby seemed to have down pretty well.

Leopard cub and mom playing

The zoo managed to wear us out pretty well (note to those intending to visit it: plan to give it several hours, I think we were there for three hours before it started to close down and we hadn’t quite seen the whole thing), so we made a stop at Lebanon’s, a favorite of John’s and his friends during college, for some delicious iced tea and a snack of some wonderful grilled haloumi cheese and vegetables and an eggplant dip.

After that, we went back by More Fun Comics to stop in on their anniversary party and spent some time at the coffee shop next door, Zotz, which had good coffee, good service and a fun atmosphere.

We had hoped to make it to Bacchanal for their Sunday evening live music and chef’s menu, but bad timing and planning worked against us and we were forced to miss out on it for this trip.  It will definitely be the #1 priority on our next visit.

On the whole, it was a wonderful weekend and I’m glad to finally feel like I’ve had the New Orleans experience I’ve been waiting for.

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