Kat: Louisiana is best known as the vampire capital of the world. You’d think we’d get bitten with Lestat, Louis, Bill and Sookie all in the same state. But it is where the melange of American culture meets with African American, Creole and French. We’ve spent the last week in New Orleans, celebrating Halloween and learning more about blues, bayous and BBQs.
In preparation for our camping in New Orleans we visited Wal-Mart. While we were being indecisive about broccoli rice or stir fry in a can, one of the assistants saw we were looking a bit lost. So the conversation goes:
Staff 1: So you’re going camping?
Staff 2: Oh you’ll need some beanie weenies.
Staff 1: Oh yeah beanie weenies.
Us: What are beenie weenies?
Staff 2: YOU DON’T KNOW BEENIE WEENIES!!?? (shock horror!)
Staff 1: Gotta get you some beenie weenies.
So staff member 1 started a covert ops mission to find beenie weenies. If you didn’t know, Wal-Mart employees have FBI ear pieces to communicate across aisles. So Staff 1 was on his earpiece to Staff 2 even though they could hear each other across the aisles.
Staff 1: Pssht where are the beanie weenies?
Staff 2: I think they’re with the other canned beans.
Staff 1: I’ve got the beenie weenies.
When we finally got the beenie weenies, they turned out to be beans and sausages together in a can.
Halloween was a wild night of fun and fancy dress. We spent the day getting costumes from a thrift store. Justin went as a 40s detective and I went as a femme fatale. Together we were LA Confidential. The campground owners warned us to get out of there by midnight; New Orleans is still a dangerous city. Thankfully we did, someone got murdered on Bourbon St that night! Don’t worry mum 😉 But the early evening we enjoyed seeing everyone in their costumes.
I ate my first New Orleansean food: a po-boy, short for poor-boy. A po-boy is a sort of french bread sub with fried Cajun crawfish or shrimp, pickles and mayo. Good stuff. We wandered Bourbon Street, going in and out of jazz and blues clubs, listening to the squealing highs of alto sax, the blazing lows of the trumpet. When the streets started getting too crowded, we moved back into Royal Street and headed to the Mississippi, where Cafe du Monde beckoned with late night beignets, a type of French doughnut unique to New Orleans. We caught a cab back to the campsite with a pirate and a cowboy. How fitting!
Justin: One of my favourite Roy Orbison’s songs is Blue Bayou, it evokes lush, sweet Hawaiian-type of melody and takes me to the tropics. The bayous in New Orleans are not of this variety. In fact they are green, swampy and marshy. We’re in Alligator country. I prefer Alligator to bear country, bears roam and kill randomly without rhyme or reason and get lured to you via smell of food and human blood… as I found out, if you keep to the boardwalks you are likely just to see the snout of an Alligator poking out of the bayous which come off the Mississippi river, they really pose no threat unless you get up close and personal and boy I’m not going to do that.
I loved the swampland, turned out the bayous were used by Andrew Jackson when he fought the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. He employed privateers, militias, US Army and basically any willing and able American hands he could get to to severely punish the British attempts to capture Louisiana. This is a really significant part of America, it’s where America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean Americas collide violently and beautifully the result is some dark section of a James Bond adventure. Voodoos, slaves, furtive eyes in black night, french cafe culture, Roman Catholic traditions, convents and Spanish villas all coexist rather magnificently actually and after seriously getting a little tired of repetitive fast food outlets and anonymous hotels this was a really needed and welcome change of scenery.
So back to the bayous – Kat and I were amazed and really disappointed at sometimes how reckless and stupid Americans can be, some people thought it funny to throw marshmallows at the Alligator so surrounding the snout were soggy marshmallows. Tourists ambling up and down the boardwalks decided to smoke at the end of the boardwalk. Not cool and not respectful either – in America you really do mix with some of the smartest and stupidest on earth, it’s a crazy place for sure.
We also visited a plantation with a classic creole house owned for eons by a French then a German family, lovely house which looked straight out of the Caribbean. Funny story: some nonagenarian got smacked by a cannonball to the gullet when she heckled a union gunboat travelling down the Mississippi river during the civil war on the deck of this house, not a smart idea grandma. Also discovered a new musical genre to me which I really love and admire: Zydeco – like New Orleans in general this is amazing ethic blend, unforgettable, rhythmic and super cool.
Kat: Just to finish it off, and because I always talk about food, after visiting the Laura plantation, we went to B&C seafood, a cajun crawfish place full of fresh food. We had a bowl of Gumbo and a Cajun sampler plate which was very rewarding; it was full of boudin breads, crawfish pieces, and yes, alligator! We were then serenaded by Waylon, a fiddle musician, who promptly invited us up to play with him when he heard we played music! So in front of the cafe we sang to the tourists!