Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Orleans Is A Blast Even In A Tropical Storm

Rain makes for an interesting companion during vacations. It seems that during pretty much all of our travels over the past couple years, rain has decided to come along with us. Mexico, Vancouver, Provincetown… all had some rainfall. Now we can add New Orleans to that list.

While the rain during the other vacations was more of a nuisance, like a harmless cousin that shows up at your door with luggage in hand looking for a free room to stay for the night, the NOLA rain was more like overbearing grandparents showing up just when you're about to have that hot date over for the night.

Lee Rises In The South

If you were watching the news, I'm sure you heard about Tropical Storm Lee and how it was headed straight for New Orleans. Given that it waited till Friday to start in force and was pretty much over by Monday afternoon, I might have even thought that this storm was sent just so that it could put a damper on our vacation, but if that was Lee's intention, I'm sure he forgot that us gays are more likely to have spontaneous wet T-shirt contest in the street than to run for cover when the sky just happens to turn in to an outdoor showerhead.

Friday night was a bit rough and even a tiny bit scary. Having been through a few hurricanes in my life, I started to get a little antsy, but when I realized that we were witnessing the worst of it and it wasn't likely to get much worse, I calmed down a bit. We made it back to our condo before the worst of it fell, but our condo-mate was still out around 2:30 am when the rain had turned the streets into little rivers or empty cups and cigarette butts.

The rest of the weekend was as nice as we could have hoped for given the weather reports prior to heading down there. There was a little rain here and there, we got soaked through a couple times, but overall it was fine. Like I said, we gays know how to make a fun party out of any situation, even if our hair was getting ruined. If nothing else, it provided for an endless supply of Flashdance impersonations.

A Decadent Time

Southern Decadence was everything we had hoped for this time around as well. As I mentioned, this year we knew quite a few more people than we had last year, and it was nice to see them all, but we also made time to make some new friends. One thing I love about events like this is that whenever we leave, we've made a few more new friends across the country, which gives us even more of a reason to go visit places like San Diego, Houston, or D.C.

Again, the charm of New Orleans really swept me away. There's just something magical about that city. Sure, there's the hokey factor, but more than anything the old-world feel of the French Quarter and the genuiness of the city's residents is just something you have to experience. I fall in love with it again every time I visit.

A Few New Eats

We tried a few new restaurants this year that I would be remiss not to mention, one upscale and one completely not-so-much, but both delicious. First, the higher-end place: Restaurant August. This is John Besh's place in New Orleans and features "modern French" dishes mixed with Cajun and Creole stylings. We popped in for lunch and everything from was just amazing. Our server was knowledgeable, patient, fun, and professional, the drinks were delicious and hand-crafted and the beer offered was from the best of the local breweries, and the food was perfectly prepared and unique. A friend of ours shared this recommendation with us last time we went, but it took us this second time in NOLA to make the effort to go and I'm very glad we did.

The more authentic and down-home place that I think everyone should try is a place the cleaning staff at the condo recommended: Coops Place. A few things to mention right up front, the restaurant is small, the wait staff are rude, and the bathrooms are in the scariest bowels of the building possible. That said, this could have been the best, most true-to-memory Louisiana cooking I've had in all my trips to NOLA. The fried chicken was perfectly spiced, the red beans and rice had just the right amount of pork sprinkled throughout, and the gumbo was piping hot and full up on the ingredients. Do yourself a favor, check your tourist ego at the door, and get the waiter to laugh and you'll be in for a real, authentic New Orleans meal.

We'll Be Back

Even though our second annual (hopefully more to come) Labor Day excursion to New Orleans was just a bit rain-soaked, I have to say that we probably had a better time this year compared to last. Of course, that's like saying last year was an 8.5/10 and this year was a 9/10, but still. We made some promising new friends, had some excellent food (something that was lacking last year), and even made the best of the rain and still had a blast!

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