Last week I shared some of the experiences we were enjoying as we settled into our new life in Houston including 1985 – Poolside chats, Spaghetti Bolognese and Irish Jokes
This week a slightly longer letter to my parents, telling them about our trip to New Orleans for Easter 1985. I took photographs at the time that I did not send home, but shared with my parents when they came to visit in November of that year.
9th April 1985
Dear M & D,
A belated happy Easter and thank you for the two letters that were waiting for us when we got home last night.
I have lots to tell you about New Orleans and we had a wonderful time. I probably won’t be able to capture all of it, including the amazing atmosphere on paper but I will give it a go.
We left at 7.45 on Friday morning and the journey took about 7 hours with a couple of stops. The border between Texas and Louisiana is very definite as you suddenly hit the famous swamps and the greenery is very lush. The road is on stilts, driven deep into the ground and it was really a beautiful drive.
New Orleans is very different to Houston with its massive skyscrapers, it is a great deal older for one thing, and a mixture of Spanish and French architecture. The streets are one way and very narrow but we eventually found our hotel, The Lafayette, right in the middle of the Vielle Carre (Old French Quarter). It has recently been refurbished in the traditional style and we had a very pretty pink room, overlooking the courtyard and the pool. It even had a four poster bed!
The famous Bourbon Street, the home of Jazz, formed part of the frontage and it is the Red Light district of New Orleans. Every building is either a bar, gift shop or strip joint (male and female so something for everyone). On Friday and Saturday we spent most of the time exploring the little side streets and stopping off at the most famous of the hostelries (no strippers). You would be walking along a crowded street and suddenly find yourself in a little square with a statue sitting by a fountain or a centuries old tradesman in bronze.
There are three Irish bars, the most famous being Pat O’Brien’s. They have a large courtyard (as do most buildings) with fountains. The New Orleans drink is called a Hurricane (aptly named) which consists of rum, strawberries and some ingredients best not investigated. We brought home two of the souvenir glasses which are 10″ high, so gives you some idea of the quantity! After the hurricanes, we moved on from bar to bar sampling New Orleans Gin Slings, Pina Coladas and Planters Punch. (This was over several hours!)
All the bars have live music so with every drink we were treated to Jazz, Rock, Soul, Country and Cajun Country. By the end of the second evening we were feeling no pain and discovered a super Cajun Country Club down an alley that had an amazing group playing. We tended to gravitate back there for the rest of the stay.
Don’t let me give you the impression that we spent most of the time sozzled (we reserved our drinking for the evenings). During the day we explored the old markets and shops. We went into Saks (David would only let me stay for five minutes). What a shop, you would need to be Rockefeller to afford their prices.
We had lunch overlooking the Mississippi and generally my diet went out the window. I am going to look like a prawn soon. They call them shrimps but they are six inches long and delicious.
We certainly slept well (filled with hurricanes and seafood) and it was almost an effort to drag ourselves up on the Sunday morning early to catch the old-fashioned paddle steamer for a trip down river.
The sun shone for the three hours and we sat on the deck watching Ole Man River rolling by and drinking Strawberry Daiquiris. We were that colour by the end of the cruise. The boat stopped at a restored plantation House on the site of one of the last battles between the Americans and the British. I am not sure if the average British soldier was fighting for King and Country or to retain the delights of Bourbon Street. Seriously though, when you look at the graceful gardens and peaceful setting, it is hard to imagine all the young lives that were lost on both sides.
On Sunday evening we gave dinner a miss as we were definitely overfed by then. We had a final drink in our favourite places and ended up until 1 a.m. in the Cajun club, stomping our feet and singing along. At that time of night we saw some of the sleazier aspects of the town, but the place is well policed, and being a major tourist attraction we never felt unsafe. The atmosphere is of a year round Mardi Gras, exhausting but great fun.
We set off about 9.am on Monday morning to come home and took the scenic route. This meant crossing the Pontchartrain lake across a 24 mile man built causeway built on pylons, and it was definitely worth the detour. We took lots of pictures over the four days, some of which I will send you when they are developed.
I wouldn’t want to live in New Orleans, but we are very glad that we visited. It was expensive with drinks double the price anywhere else we have been, but that is because of the entertainment that is provided and understandable. It was also jammed solid with people, not only at Easter and other holidays but most of the time. We certainly got home feeling that we had let our hair down for the first time since we arrived, and the memory of the visit will stay with us forever I am sure.
Well that is our Easter. Poor David had to get up at 6.30 this morning to fly to Chicago and took the car and parked at the airport as he is back tomorrow. I am going to retire to the pool and recover! Take care of yourselves and love to everyone of course.
All our love Sally and David.
Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventure in Texas and trips we made around America during our time there. Your memories of New Orleans would be great to hear about. Thanks Sally