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Photo TR: New Orleans


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Continuing my travels to "Places I Want to See Before I Die" (which may not be that far away, what with the world ending in 2012 and all, according to DBru), I spent a good chunk of last week in New Orleans. I can definitely see why Walt Disney loved this place so much!

 

No, I didn't go to any of the hurricane-devastated places--I don't go on vacation to be depressed. And I didn't take any swamp or airboat tours--I also don't go on vacation to get eaten by alligators! My only regret is that I didn't sign up for a cemetery tour, as the ones we passed on the highway looked amazing (very Haunted Mansion), and I was advised not to venture out to them on my own, as most of them weren't in the best of neighborhoods.

 

Regardless, I had a great time, and now I want to share (most of) it with you in this big TR of the Big Easy.

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Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!

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I'm sure these two were off on the road to somewhere.

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...and Charlie Chaplin! They had Groucho Marx, too, but his cigar had broken off, and he just looked... uncomfortable.

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It's the legends of comedy, featuring Laurel and Hardy...

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Only in New Orleans would you find Santa Claus posing with Andy Capp, some totem poles and a random giant red high-top sneaker.

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Howdy, Pilgrim.

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Oh wait... that's better!

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Look! Up on that shelf! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... Clark Kent?

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"Is it true that Leviathan ate Lumiere?"

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And Buddy Pine?

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Hey, isn't that Bob Parr?

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Proof that King Kong actually faked his death in the Universal Studios fire!

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That would be me posing with a section of Leviathan, the first Mardi Gras float to include fiber optics. He's owned by Harry Connick Jr. (Really!)

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Leviathan! Do not eat Lumiere!

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Hey, that's not the real Elvis! His hips aren't moving!

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He had high hopes his son would grow up to succeed him on the throne. Alas, Burger King's call was stronger.

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The studio employs Oompa Loompas when schnozberries are out of season.

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This Reggie Bush figure will be part of the "Madden NFL" float during the Mardi Gras parade (can't remember which one) themed after video games in 2009.

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This was officially the best figure in the entire warehouse!

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George is all like, "Been there, done that, bought the Sunoco T-shirt."

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Benjamin Franklin was on his way out of the warehouse, en route to Philadelphia's Southwest Airlines July 4th Parade, held in connection with the Sunoco Welcome America! Festival 2008. Not that they want it to be too commercial or anything.

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And yet, not a single Olive Oyl in the whole museum.

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"I yam what I yam! And what I yam is covered in spiderwebs."

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Mmmm... cows!

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"Ma'am? You forgot your purse."

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Yes. Yes, it is.

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"...day!"

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"Here I come to save the..."

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Donde est Donald?

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If this figure could talk, it would sound JUST like Thurl Ravenscroft.

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Watch out for the killer Blow Pops!

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"Zim Zim Zalabim!"

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Harold? When did you escape from the Matterhorn?

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Then they cover it with papier mache before painting it. If it's a piece that needs to last longer than a parade, like an outdoor statue, they add a clay coat and fiberglass the final product.

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Building a float takes lots of hard work. First they sculpt a figure out of Styrofoam.

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As is the Cyclops.

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Marilyn's here!

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And dual-colored boobs!

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As well as a cobra.

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This museum has a little Captain in it....

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This was the only Hurricane Katrina damage I saw during the whole trip and the only piece of Kern Studios' collection that was damaged in the hurricane. It used to be Mick Jagger's head. Now it's half of Mick Jagger's head.

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Alf gives Mardi Gras World his seal of approval!

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Moving on to the Sphinx, a buffalo and some rich dude.

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Third order of business: take a three-hour tour of the float museum and workshop, starting with the New Orleans Saints' mascot!

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Second order of business: eat a piece of ceremonial Mardi Gras World king cake!

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First order of business: get dressed in the ceremonial Mardi Gras World costume!

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Finally made it!

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As does the Mardi Gras World shuttle.

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A statue of Satchmo greets guests on the other side.

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Finally aboard the ferry Louis B. Porterie, I'm on my way to Algiers and Mardi Gras World.

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The riverboat Nachez is a fixture along the Riverwalk, featuring concerts by the famous Dukes of Dixieland during its evening cruises. I tried to make reservations for one. Sadly, there were no evening cruises during my stay.

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The fountain at the Spanish Plaza reminded me of the one in Chicago featured prominently in the opening of "Married with Children."

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From there I headed back down to the Riverwalk to catch the Algiers Ferry. This little fellow greeted me along the way.

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Across the street diagonally from St. Louis Cathedral, ironically enough, is the Jackson Brewery, now home to several high-fashion shops. That's progress.

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Another nice view from the Louisiana State Museum.

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Holy water goes in here.

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And the reverse view.

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Closeup of the area over the altar.

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And this would be what's below the ceiling.

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This would be the ceiling.

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This is what you see immediately on the inside. The whole place is as ornate and gorgeous as can be.

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St. Louis Cathedral is one of the square's most popular draws.

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The square also includes the Cabildo, now a part of the Louisiana State Museum, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed.

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This is a popular place for horse and buggy rides.

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The square includes a giant statue of its namesake, General (and later President) Andrew Jackson. You might know him from the Battle of New Orleans. And the $20 bill.

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From there, it was a quick hop across the street to view the sights of Jackson Square.

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Ah, but these babies were the real draw! Three beignets and a bottle of water all for just $4. They were so good that I repeated the process the next morning.

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Once again, my table had a spectacular view.

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This place is like something straight out of the '50s.

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I started the next day the way all good New Orleans tourists should, with a late breakfast at Cafe du Monde.

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This would be my hotel at night. My first evening in New Orleans, and after a looooong two days before, I was in bed shortly after 11 p.m. This surely would not happen again.

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These gentlemen told me in order to save my soul, I needed to get away from all the alcohol and strip clubs on Bourbon Street... so I went back to my hotel instead.

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Best. Walgreens. Ever.

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These kids with the Next Generation Brass Band were great! Some of the best music I heard in New Orleans. Apparently they play nightly at the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets, next to Foot Locker.

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I loved this guy! His eyes moved, and if you got too close, he'd speak to you.

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This would be the beginnings of that party!

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At a certain time of night, the police completely block off Bourbon Street, and it becomes one big party.

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The house band was great, but the terms were a little hard to swallow (literally). The club had a one-drink-per-set minimum--and the drinks were $12! The sets were a little less than a half hour each. I don't usually drink, but I ordered a hot-buttered rum and enjoyed one set. Then I quickly got out of there! For those who've never had one (I hadn't), a hot-buttered rum tastes kind of like a warm Captain Morgan's with a Werther's Original crunched up in it.

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Maison Bourbon, however, did not disappoint. Unfortunately, Bourbon Street (and most of the French Quarter, for that matter), tends to do more disco than Dixieland nowadays. I must have heard "I Will Survive" coming out of about a dozen different clubs.

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I asked the waitress if she could recommend some good places to listen to live jazz. She suggested two: the Famous Door and Maison Bourbon. When I walked into the Famous Door, there was some chick in torn jeans belting out Janis Joplin. Not exactly what I was looking for....

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...and then had a soft crab poboy. It was amazingly good and extremely massive! For the first time in my life, I left French fries on my plate. Only one complaint: I found most of the fried seafood in New Orleans to be pretty tame, spice-wise. I guess I'm just used to Old Bay.

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By now having been awake for 43 of the past 48 hours, I needed an extra boost at dinner to keep my energy going for the New Orleans nightlife. I started with the crawfish bisque...

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I ended up at Desire for dinner, with a window table offering a nice view of Bourbon Street. The restaurant and oyster bar is named after the famous streetcar.

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...and Pete Fountain. Bonus points to any readers of this TR under 30 actually know who the latter two are.

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...Al Hirt...

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And then there were the real statues. Approximately 90 percent of all bronze in New Orleans must go toward recreating likenesses of Louis Armstrong. Local Legends Park (really nothing more than a "wienie" for the Cafe Beignet) used part of the other 10 percent to depict Fats Domino...

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Lots of living statues and other street performers in the French Quarter. This cowboy was one of the better ones.

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Once the rain lifted, I set out on a more thorough self-guided tour of Bourbon Street on my way to dinner. Voodoo, anyone?

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On the way back to my photo to wait out the rain, I ducked into a candy store to escape the worst of the downpour. They demonstrated how to make pralines and gave out free samples, which tasted Heavenly! I wanted to go back and get some later, but I couldn't find the store again, nor did I remember the its name. I ended up buying my pralines from Aunt Sally's on Decatur Street, equally Heavenly, but pre-packaged.

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This fellow stands in front of the Algiers Ferry terminal. I had planned to pay an afternoon visit to Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World on the other side, but since it was raining, finding Red Fish Grill took longer than I anticipated, and I wasn't sure how long it would take to tour the museum, I pushed it back to the next day. Given the amount of time I eventually spent in the museum, it was a good decision!

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Next it was on to Riverwalk, where I thought I would take a short self-guided tour. It turned out to be a lot shorter than I thought, as it started to rain just as I took this photo.

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First stop on the riverfront: Harrah's Casino, where I won $33! More than half of it was on a "Hee Haw" slot machine.

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Having toured only Bourbon Street so far, I wasn't too sure how to get around the rest of the French Quarter yet, so I took the trolley to the Mississippi Riverfront area. After I figured out how close it actually was, I ditched the trolley for future excursions here and just walked.

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Across the street was a Krystal. Having dined at Little Tavern, White Tower and the ubiquitous White Castle, I made a note to add this to my collection of little burger dining experiences later.

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The double chocolate bread pudding, on the other hand, was awesome! Not $9 awesome and not really bread pudding--it was more of a souffle--but good, nonetheless.

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First thing I needed to do was get some food, seeing that the airlines have cut back so much, I didn't even get a bag of peanuts/pretzels/cookies on the planes. All I was entitled to was half a can of ginger ale. Each way. Oh, and a cocktail napkin telling me how wonderful the airline's website was.

 

I ended up at Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street, which was recommended by a friend. I got the jambalaya pasta, seen here. Looked great. Cost $18. Had about as much taste as Styrofoam.

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I stayed less than half a block away from Bourbon Street!

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I loved that the hotel used actual keys instead of magnetic strip cards... though the key was a bit oversized, seen here in comparison to a 1973 nickel.

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After having stayed awake for 28 hours to get everything I needed to do done before my trip, spending seven hours in airports and on airplanes, and suffering a tire blowout on a three-lane highway in the airport shuttle van that nearly killed us all (seriously, thank God for the driver's skills and the sudden lack of traffic on that stretch of road), I made it to my hotel, seen here. It was worth the wait.

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Time for the second round!

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"I'm not a witch; I'm just seasick!"

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"Hi! Wanna stay for dinner?"

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Hey baby, how about some tongue?

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Gurgle!

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"Come play with us!"

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Boo!

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"In this town, we call home, everyone hails to the pumpkin song!"

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OK, now THIS was neat! As a fundraiser for police and fire departments who lost their headquarters during Hurricane Katrina and Rita, Blaine Kern began a huge Halloween party last year. This year they're adding a Halloween parade, and we got to see some of the floats and props.

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Doesn't this just scream "Mardi Gras" to you?

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Looks like the Fantastic Four have a few sequels planned....

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Hmmm... I wonder how much it would cost for them to recreate this for my home.

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Hobbits!

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How many people here think Felix got his nose chopped off by a light sabre? Anyone?

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"I will require one miiiiiiiiiiiilion beads!"

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And now back to our our feature presentation: "The Little Mermaid III: Prince Eric and the Tramp."

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Elvis loves Lucy.

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...and Sandy (or is that Tige from "Buster Brown"?).

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...Daddy Warbucks...

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Everything in the museum/workshop/warehouse is just scattered randomly. Though I assume they were all part of the same float at one point, I had to go to three different areas of the complex to find Little Orphan Annie...

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So yeah, some of the earliest figures were a little off-model....

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There's no place like Mardi Gras World.... There's no place like Mardi Gras World....

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That polar bear has a Dharma logo on its back! OK, maybe not... but that Dino was originally supposed to be Jeorge Garcia, I swear!

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There's no need to fear! Underdog is here! (Right behind Bugs Bunny.)

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Even the politically incorrect ones.

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Kern Studios holds the props for the annual Mardi Gras Zulu Parade.

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"Good even-ing."

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It's the souuuuuuul train!

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Just a few architecturally aesthetic shots, if I may....

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This is the court of the Louis Adam house, constructed in 1788 and restored in 1978. Just in case you were wondering.

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After the Mardi Gras World tour and a ferry ride back to Riverwalk, I spent the rest of the afternoon giving myself a self-guided tour of Disneyland's Main Street... er, the French Quarter.

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I want my mummy!

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Seriously, this is the scariest thing I've ever seen made out of Styrofoam and papier mache!

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Hey, it's Darth Maul!

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WTF?

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"Help... meeeee!"

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...and his son.

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...Dracula...

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The guests included Wolfman...

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"Hi, I'm death. Some people say I sound a lot like Dennis Miller."

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Frankie says "Relax!"

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Who says green vegetables can't kill you?

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Flame on!

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"I'm melting! Meeeelllllting!"

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And this would be the courtyard of the famous Court of Two Sisters restaurant.

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This is the entrance to the famous Court of Two Sisters restaurant. I could afford to take pictures here, but I couldn't afford to eat here....

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At Pat O'Brien's you can get the wonderful miracle drink known as the Hurricane... but more about that later.

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So I ended up paying my own way at the hotel restaurant that night. The result: a Bayou Burger! That's a hamburger with pepper jack cheese and boiled crawfish. Yummy!

 

And that's that. Ten hours later I was on a plane back to Baltimore. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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Surprise, surprise! A huge storm delayed my shuttle back to the airport, and when I got there, I found out my flight had been canceled completely, not because of the storm but because the flight wasn't full and it wasn't in USAirways' best financial interest to operate the flight that day. Thank God hospitals aren't run by the same people who run the airlines.

 

The good news is that I didn't have any plans on Friday, which was the earliest they could send me home. They put me up in the Hilton (which my mom had me take this picture of since no one in our family has ever been able to afford the Hilton before) and gave me meal vouchers, which I thought was very nice. Until I found out from every single place I tried to cash the vouchers in that no one would accept them.

 

Turns out that in an effort to save on costs, USAirways not only cut out free pretzels and started canceling undersold flights with just a couple hours' notice; they also decided to stop paying most of their bills altogether. At least that's the excuse most of the airport restaurants gave me for not accepting the vouchers....

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Then I had one of these little delicacies for dessert. But I once again had to leave fries (and some bread) on my plate to squeeze it all in!

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What a treat it was! I tried a crawfish poboy, and it was tremendous! When I first walked in, I wondered if I had made a mistake; the place just looks like a greasy lunch counter. Then I noticed all the signed celebrity photos on the walls.... When the lunch crowd started in and the line stretched out the door within 15 minutes of placing my order, I knew I had made the right choice.

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For what I thought was going to be my last meal in New Orleans, I headed to Johnny's Po-Boys, which I had read about in a travel magazine. I had tried to go there for dinner the day before, but found out they closed at 3 p.m.

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Whenever I'm on vacation by myself, I always leave the "Do Not Disturb" sign on my hotel door so I can come and go without having to worry about the maids being in there during the day. There are always more than enough towels, etc. Well, this time the maids left a bagful on the doorknob just in case!

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Story time! I had bought beads at my local Wal-Mart in case I found a *ahem* use for them in New Orleans, especially since I read the beads in the Big Easy were typically way overpriced. By the time I finished up at Krystal, I decided I just wanted to get rid of them. You have no idea how hard it is to give away beads on Bourbon Street without asking anything in return! Most of the people I tried to give them to were--understandably, I suppose--put off.

 

Within a half hour, I did finally manage to give away all 12 strands of beads, thanks in large part to the help of some very drunk young ladies who were in town for an LSU class reunion. And no, I didn't receive anything in return (though I probably could have).

 

Well, I guess karma is as good as Earl says. I was still feeling a little dizzy from the Hurricanes, so right before heading back to my hotel to turn in for the night, I stopped by one of those Lucky Dog stands. As the guy was preparing my hot dog, I saw a girl pole dancing on the lamppost next to his stand, which I thought would make a funny shot for this TR. So I pulled out my camera.

 

The girl standing immediately next to her says, "Hey, I want you to take MY picture!" So she traded places with her friend, and... well, even though there were much more risquee sights on Bourbon Street, this is the only photo from her performance that I feel comfortable posting here!

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I decided it would be best to get something on my stomach. I tried to go back to a restaurant I had seen that offered alligator bites (with honey mustard dipping sauce), but it was closing by the time I got to that end of Bourbon Street, so I figured now would be the best time to try those Krystal burgers I had seen the day before!

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Then came the Hurricanes! As I said earlier, I don't usually drink much, so after my two dinner daquaris, the mint julep and a couple of these babies, I was feeling a little lightheaded! My photos from the rest of the evening reflect that....

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During the show, I decided it would be uncivilized to leave New Orleans without trying a real mint julep, so afterward I went next door to Pat O'Brien's. For those who have never had one, they don't taste anything like their Disneyland namesake!

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The other members included Le Blanc on banjo, Elliott Callier on sax and a guest bassist whose name I didn't get (sorry, guest bassist).

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No food or drinks sold here, either (though you could bring drinks in--wish I had known that). No matter, the music more than made up for the discomfort. The evening's quintet included Joe Lastie on drums and Lucien Barbarin on trombone. Lastie played his way around the stage, drumming everything from the chairs to the door frame, during the world's longest rendition of "Tiger Rag."

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The band leader, Carl Le Blanc, made a point of noting that this sign had hung in the hall since 1968, encouraging the audience to round up for inflation!

 

I was amazed at the building's interior. It was dilapidated inside, with only enough seating for 24, and that on extremely uncomfortable, backless wooden benches. (I stood in line for 45 minutes to make sure I got one of those seats.) The rest was standing room, and since the whole complex was about the same size as my living room, people were packed in like sardines with more waiting outside.

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There was no flash photography allowed inside, but my luck held out. A documentary crew was on hand to film a web segment for some food and wine magazine. Their floodlights provided so much illumination that a flash would only have washed out the picture! Unfortunately, it also made the non-air-conditioned building excessively hot.

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But the most exciting part of my trip was still to come! Last year, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band put on a free show literally right next door to my office. Now, I got to see a live jazz show in the legendary Preservation Hall!

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At the waitress' suggestion I took a photo of the cross-section, as well. All this plus my two drinks cost... are you ready for this? Just $11 after tax and tip!

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And this lovely morsel would be the muffaletta!

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After having spent nearly $70 on food the day before, I decided today needed to be a cheap dining day. Boy, did I pick the right place for dinner! I went into this place called Maspero's because they advertised the muffaletta, a sandwich I've always wanted to try at Disneyland but never have. I made an excellent choice! I got two strawberry daiquiris for $2 (though you couldn't prove to me either of them had any alcohol in them).

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No pictures of the inside of this place! Actually, I didn't visit any of the fine strip clubs along Bourbon Street, but that's not to say I didn't see any strippers. Some of the clubs, classy establishments that they are, had girls out front in nothing but their underwear (and barely that), beckoning gentlemen inside.

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These Lucky Dog carts were all over the city. I eventually tried one of their chili dogs. Meh.

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I wish I was big!

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New Orleans was full of random artwork.

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^^^My proudest achievement was not getting a single molecule of powdered sugar on me the first time I ate there. No such luck the second time... I couldn't even see the beignets under all the white stuff that time!

 

^^Are you kidding? I hear they've modeled entire countries after some sections of Epcot!

 

^So am I!

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Having never been to New Orleans, this was a real treat. So many great tv/movie references and agreed about the fountains. (Married with Children was the first thought.)

 

The artwork for the floats and the detail in the church were both truly impressive.

 

And the food... That Bayou burger sounds great, and also a fan of Old Bay. (Makes a good simple chicken rub).

 

These gentlemen told me in order to save my soul, I needed to get away from all the alcohol and strip clubs on Bourbon Street... so I went back to my hotel instead.

 

I would have told them I'd have a beer or two and think it over on the way to the strip club.

 

Great TR!

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I have an amazing group of friends/coworkers who invited me to join them on a trip to Mardi Gras this past February. It was AWESOME, and seeing you pictures just made me grin from ear to ear. I would have loved (and since I intend to go back someday, will make it a point to visit) that Mardi Gras Museum. I can tell you firsthand the parades are INCREDIBLE and no man, woman or child goes home from a parade empty-handed unless they want to, as beads, plastic cups, frisbees, stuffed animals, etc are tossed by the ton!

 

You took in a good bit more "culture" than we did although we definitely went for the "party" (one more reason to go back), and agree about the disco music, although during Mardi Gras it was more current pop and hip hop than 70's disco (I will forever associate Flo Rida's "Low" with Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras). And we stayed at the Crowne Plaza right alongside the Krystal, sp that brought a smile to my face as well.

 

Thanks for sharing,

Shari

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Glad you had a good time, and got to eat some good food. The only thing I stay away from downtown is any jambalaya/pastalaya. I've found that restaurants down here don't do a good job; people usually do a better job making it on their own. If you come back, make sure to try some charbroiled oysters.

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^I just say "No" to oysters! My grandfather spent his lifetime shucking them, and I was forced to eat more than enough as a kid to last the rest of mine.

 

Give me some more crawfish any day, however! The closest thing I get to them is when Popeye's has a special every couple years.

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